What is the Royal Mews? Our Fun Fact Guide!

By Vanessa Teo

Discover what is the Royal Mews and explore this top London royal attraction!

If you've ever wandered along the walls of Buckingham Palace gardens, you may have passed by the entrance to the Royal Mews, but wondered what it is. An operational branch of the Royal Household, the Royal Mews is a part of Buckingham Palace that is open to the public throughout most of the year (while Buckingham Palace only opens its State Rooms during the Summer season). A stables, carriage house and garage, the Royal Mews offers a fascinating and beautiful look at this working branch of the palace, complete with all the pomp and circumstance that we've come to love about the British monarchy! Learn more about this lesser-known London royal attraction with our guide to "What is the Royal Mews" below...

What's in a Name?

The King's Mews goes back as far as the reign of Richard II and the name "Mews" comes from the fact that the royal hawks were traditionally kept at the Royal Mews from the 14th Century during their moulting or "mew" time.

Location, location

The Royal Mews has traditionally occupied two sites in London, the first set of stables was at Charing Cross on the same site as today's National Gallery. After a fire destroyed the King's Mews in 1534, the stables were rebuilt and the name "mews" stayed.

A New Home

From the 1500s until the early 1800s, the royal horses and carriages were housed between the original King's Mews location in Charing Cross and the grounds of Buckingham House. During the reign of George IV (1820 - 30), the stables transfered permanently to Buckingham Palace, the original King's Mews were demolished and Trafalgar Square was built on the site.

Famous Designer

The Royal Mews was designed by famous architect John Nash who redesigned Buckingham Palace. The designs included the existing riding school (originally constructed in 1760s), a Doric-style arch with clock tower, quadrangle, coach houses and two sets of state stables.

A Working Village

In 1855, Queen Victoria established a school in the mews for the children of families who worked at the palace and in 1859 new accommodation was built for the 198 members of staff and their families. To this day, palace staff and their families live within the mews making it a working village.

Modern Responsibilities

The Royal Mews is a working branch of the Royal house and responsible for all royal road travel, by car, horse and carriage. Additionally, this branch of the palace is responsible for the training of the Windsor Greys and Cleveland bays horses.

What to See

Although Queen Victoria hated the idea of modern cars and automobiles being housed in the Mews, the Royal Mews not only stores the royal carriages, but also houses two Bentley State Limousines, two Rolls-Royce Phantom VIs and a rare 1950 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV.

Visitors to the Royal Mews can not only see the state vehicles but also will enjoy an up-close look at a number of the Royal Household's most recognised and impressive State Coaches and Carriages. This includes the Diamond Jubilee State Coach made to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday but due to delays, became a commemoration for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee; the impressive Gold State Coach, which was commissioned in 1760 and has been used at the coronation of every British monarch since George IV and more! If you're fortunate, you may also get to see some of the royal horses enjoying their exercises or cleaning!

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Christmas At Kew: Festive And Full Of Lights

If you’ve never been to Christmas at Kew, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised. If you haven’t been to Kew Gardens before the event, you’re going to be awestruck. Suzanne Pathmanathan and Shashia Mitchell from The London Pass’ content team had the pleasure of experiencing this incredible attraction, for the first time, at its most magical. From its illuminated woodland creatures to its trailing vines of light, here’s what they thought of this incredible event first-hand. What’s the journey to Kew Gardens like? Suzanne: After bouncing around excitedly in our office chairs for the best part of the day, we couldn’t wait to start our journey. But the November tubes had proven to be busier than normal, so we left the office early to avoid rush-hour. Because of the head start, our trip up was comparatively dreamy. I also didn’t realise an actual Kew Gardens Station existed until last week, so that was nice. From the station, the Gardens are signposted and really easy to find. What’s the first thing you see when you’re there? Shashia: We were met at the gates with beaming smiles and pleasant greetings from the Kew Gardens staff. Within minutes I could see why. The delicious smell of food from various vendors filled the air: churros, hot dogs, mince pies, and so much more. We were drawn to the mulled wine, which kept our hands warm as we admired the Temperate House shimmering in the background. Then we made our way through a giant arch with the words ‘Welcome to Kew’ twinkling across it, and a rush of excitement hit me. Great story. Did you guys make it in? Suzanne: Yes. And if you think that was good, wait until you hear the rest. Can’t wait to hear the re... Shashia: I’m not one for crowds. I was once nearly hit by a Christmas light hanging from a lamp post near Oxford Street. That moment - along with the endless people rushing about the streets, trying to make last-minute purchases - summed up why I’m now more inclined to shop online for Christmas. There isn’t much opportunity to pause and enjoy the lights; to lift your spirit; to feel like it’s ‘finally Christmas’. Hand on heart, Christmas at Kew, filled me with an excitement I haven’t felt in years. Nice. How did you find the after-dark trail? Suzanne: Very easy to follow. To celebrate its seventh year, the gardens winter trail took a new route, framed by bejewelled winter trees and spotlight laser projections. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find a photo-worthy scene, so make sure you come with a fully-charged phone battery or a camera with enough space on the SD card to cope with your mad snapping. Also, like the name suggests, the trail is dark despite its illuminations. A lot of people were there with their families, so if young ones ran a bit further ahead, they were always visible, but keep a hold of hands or toddler leads if you’re coming with young kids. What were your highlights of Christmas at Kew Gardens? Shashia: For me, it was when I heard the beginnings of ‘Once Upon a December’ from Anastasia. It was one of my favourite films as a child, so the song caught my attention instantly. At that moment, a wave of light revealed dozens of illuminated mushrooms pulsing in time to the music. It felt magical - as if I’d been transported back to my youth. I wanted to absorb everything I was seeing, hearing and feeling, until the song came to a close and the mystical mushrooms dimmed to darkness once more. Suzanne: The cascading curtain of lights that fell from the Treetop Walkway and the light and water show on Palm House Pond; an innovative spectacle and the event’s finale for a reason. [embed]https://youtu.be/2vj9zItVT34[/embed] Any lowlights? Suzanne: I was a bit disappointed that one of the stalls in the street food area had run out of food by the time we’d gotten to the end of the trail. We’d gotten there relatively early, so this was a shame. But I can honestly say that was it. So is Christmas at Kew just about lights? Shashia: Not at all. If you're travelling with a young family, you can stop and enjoy a range of rides, including a Victorian carousel and helter-skelter. For people looking to do some last-minute shopping, the gift shop has the cutest Christmas collection of ornaments, books, and general gifts. Plus, the Victoria Plaza café offers hot snacks like toasted marshmallows, and you can sit down and have a proper meal at the Pavilion Bar and Grill. Any more advice for visitors? Suzanne: Wrap up warm! I was wearing the thinnest raincoat, about the thickness of a plaster, so by the end of the trail, my sense of feeling and my face had parted ways. The route is on flat ground, I noticed that people in wheelchairs and parents with pushchairs were able to navigate the terrain easily, so don’t worry about that if you’re going. Plus, there were plenty of stewards along the way to help out, should you need anything. There's the verdict - Christmas at Kew is a must-see. Of course, it's a fantastic place to visit all year round. So if you're visiting London, or call it home, come check it out. And if you're not familiar with Kew Gardens, here's everything you need to know.
Shashia Mitchell

Christmas Shopping in London - Top Tips

Looking to do some Christmas shopping in London? Find out where our favourite spots are below. Whether you're a planner or a last-minute-scrambler, Christmas shopping in London can seem a little daunting. With shops on every corner and crowds filling the streets, it can be difficult to tick things off your shopping list. But there's no need to panic, we've whittled down our top 5 shopping spots where you can find something for everyone at every budget! Oxford Street An old London faithful, Oxford Street is one of London's most visited shopping neighbourhoods and lines up flagship store after flagship store on a bustling stretch. It's always beautifully decorated around this time of year and feature heavyweights like H&M, Debenhams, Sports Direct and more, meaning there's a gift for everyone on Oxford Street. If you're visiting London and looking for souvenirs to take him, there's a number of small souvenir shops scattered about the area but be warned about the marked up prices. The only problem with Oxford Street is that you'll have too many options, which isn't such a bad situation to be in. Westfield London Beat the cold weather and slip indoors at Westfield Shopping Centre. With two locations in Stratford City and Shepherd's Bush and over 250 shops apiece, it's a mesh of luxury labels like Prada and more wallet-friendly brands like Primark to cover every budget. Once you've exhausted your credit card, there's cinemas, casinos, bowling alleys and an international food court to round off your day of hard work. Tip: London Pass holders can head to the concierge desk to acquire a V.I.P. Westfield pass, which includes discounts to over 80 of Westfield's retailers and restaurants. London Beatles Store Want to really make your loved ones twist and shout this Christmas? The London Beatles store over on Baker Street is overflowing with quintessential memorabilia, whether you're looking for a groovy Beatles-themed lava lamp for a casual fan or an autograph for the real die-hards. Located over on Baker Street, it's also right across the road from It's Only Rock and Roll where there's a feature Beatles gallery amongst other bands such as The Who, Led Zeppelin and others. Tip: London Pass holders who spend more than £5 also get an exclusive goody bag with their gift. Shoreditch Out with the old, in with the old. Shoreditch is home to many amazing vintage stores, ideal for finding a one-of-a-kind-piece that the fashion forward will eat up. Dotted around the street art and bagel bakeries are a number of places sure to catch your eye: Rokit Vintage and Beyond Retro are beloved stores with multiple branches across London and the sprawling converted warehouse East End Thrift Store is worth a visit, if you have the patience to comb through the racks. Foyles Bookshop Give the gift of knowledge this Christmas with a novel from Foyles Bookshop, a family-run independent bookstore which has seen London through the years. After revamping their flagship Charing Cross location, the store now stocks over 200,000 books and has evolved beyond a simple bookstore with a jazz cafe and art gallery introduced in recent times. With a selection that spans over 4 miles of shelving, you'll be hard-pressed to find something your friend and family won't love. Tip: London Pass holders who make purchases over £25 receive a free copy of London Unfurled by Matteo Pericoli upon presenting their pass and receipt at the Charing Cross branch.
Vanessa Teo

Top 10 London Christmas Events 2016

Our favourite London Christmas events that'll get you feeling festive! The festive season is fully upon us - London Christmas events are in full swing, with plenty of fun to be had all across the city. Whether it’s ice skating in front of famous attractions or taking a relaxed stroll around one of the beautiful Christmas markets, there’s something for everyone in London this Christmas. The city is transformed into a truly magical place full of festive cheer and here are the top Christmas events we think you’d like to hear about! Image sourced via Harrods facebook Harrods Christmas Range With its magnificent food halls, seven floors of shopping and 4.5 acres of space, it’s really not surprising that Harrods receives over 15 million customers a year. Regardless of whether you’re planning to pick up one of their famous hampers, a gift, or just browsing, the store’s enormous Christmas department could well be worth a visit. When: Now Where: 87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL Southbank Centre Winter Market The Southbank Centre Winter Market offers a wide variety of wares, such as warming mulled wine, delicious food and plenty of cute handicrafts. Each stall is housed in a quaint little chalet, along the banks of the Thames. It’s the perfect place to take in the sights and sounds of a Christmassy London. The market is just one part of the Southbank Centre Winter Festival, so look out for the funfair, roller disco, Carol singing and many other cultural events taking place nearby. When: Now until 8th January 2017 Where: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX The Lodge Clapham This festive Alpine retreat is a pop-up lodge, brought to you by the TV chef Jimmy Garcia. Jimmy is often referred to as the pop-up king and has launched different temporary eateries across the capital in recent years. In this particular restaurant you can taste delicious seasonal dishes such as roast Crown Prince pumpkin, while sipping on hot cocktails like Baked Alaska Buttered Rum. When: Now until 28th February 2017 Where: The Lodge, 409 Clapham Road, London SW9 9BT Image sourced via Winter Wonderland facebook Winter Wonderland Winter Wonderland is held each winter in Hyde Park. Consisting of a huge collection of market stalls, fairground rides, ice skating, grottos and more, it’s always popular among tourists and locals alike. It’s open daily between 10:00-22:00 and entry is free (rides and attractions are paid for individually). Winter Wonderland is ideal for all age groups: entertain the kids at the Sooty Christmas Show, go for a spin on the Munich Looping (the world’s largest portable rollercoaster) or chill out at the Ice Bar. When: Now until 2nd January 2017 Where: Hyde Park, London W2 2UH Want to find out more about London's Christmas markets? Check out our guide to the capital's best Christmas markets this year! Christmas Carols at Trafalgar Square Every December, over 50 different groups of carollers get together and sing beneath the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square. Each group sings for around an hour and raises funds for a different charitable causes, so why not join in? You’ll be hard-pressed to find more jovial London Christmas events than this! When: Throughout December Where: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN Father Christmas at the Hall Embark on a magical adventure through the Royal Albert Hall, led by the Victorian doorkeeper who knows all of the Hall’s secrets. Solve puzzles and follow clues to find the secret key to open Father Christmas’s grotto, where the little ones will receive a present from the big man himself. When: 6th-24th December 2016 Where: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP Image sourced via Kew Gardens facebook Kew Gardens Worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, Kew Gardens comes to life in the winter evenings. With a twinkling Tunnel of Lights, spectacular laser shows and more, this is an atmosphere conducive to family fun and togetherness, making it the ideal place to visit this Christmas. When: Now until 2nd January 2017 Where: Kew Gardens, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House A traditional entry in the Christmas calendar, the magical world of The Nutcracker and Tchaikovsky’s famous score are brought to life before your eyes at the Royal Opera House. Watch as young Clara embarks on a mysterious adventure - featuring the Sugar Plum Fairy and of course, the Mouse King. When: Now until 12th January 2017 Where: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD Christmas Day Traditional Lunch Cruise on the River Thames Indulge in a three-course festive lunch aboard a Thames river cruise on Christmas Day. You’ll be welcomed onto the specially decorated vessel with a glass of sparkling wine, as well as music and carols to help you get into the yuletide spirit. One of only a few attractions to open on Christmas Day itself, it’s a great way to take in the sights of London while you feast. When: 25th December, boarding at 11.30am Where: Westminster Pier, Victoria Embankment, London SW1A 2JH Ice Skating at Hampton Court Palace The Hampton Court Palace ice rink is a truly scenic spot for a skate this winter. Sessions are available during the day and in the evening, with the beautiful Tudor palace - a former home of Henry VIII - providing the backdrop. The Palace itself is hold an Elizabethan Christmas event with drama, dance and musical performances, as well as some of the Tudor period’s favourite yuletide treats from the historic kitchens. An advent experience fit for a queen (Queen Elizabeth 1, that is). When: Now until 8th January 2017 Where: Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey KT8 9AU Have you thrown your best/worst Xmas jumper on yet? Are you sipping mulled wine? Or are you halfway out the door heading to one of these activities? Tell us in the comments which London Christmas events sound the most fun to you!
Vanessa Teo

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