Royal Wedding Tours Give a Glimpse of Royal Life
The announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton's engagement has brought on a surge of business opportunities, among them a roster of Royal Wedding tours around London and the surrounding area. Some are choc full of juicy gossip, while others are classy afternoon affairs that focus on the past and present of the royal family.
Chris Ison, PA/AP
If you're already counting down the days until the April 29 royal nuptials, check out these royal-themed tours that allow you to walk in the couple's – and their ancestors' – footsteps.
A Royal Wedding tour guide from London Walks dishes on the couple.
Get the Gossip
There are two Royal Wedding tours around London that dish out all the juicy tidbits on the highs and lows of Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal relationship. The straight-from-the-rag-mag "Royal Wedding Unveiled" walking tour by London Walks is a two-hour stroll that stops at places such as the clothing chain where Kate Middleton was working when Prince William broke off their relationship in 2007. Afterward, the tour drops by the bar where Prince William fled later that evening and ran up a $17,000 bar bill (it also happens to be a rumored location for Prince William's bachelor party).
Another tour that dishes the dirt is the "Will & Kate Royal Wedding Walking Tour" put on by a team of pop culture mavens known as Celebrity Planet. The itinerary takes star stalkers to places such as the storefront of the designer rumored to be making Kate Middleton's wedding dress, as well as the jeweler where Prince Charles bought a diamond and sapphire engagement ring for Princess Diana – the ring that Prince William gave to Kate Middleton when they became engaged. The tour also drops by usual royal haunts such as Buckingham Palace, where the royal wedding reception will take place.
Tony Austin, Flickr
St. Mary's Church in Buckleberry is where Kate Middleton was christened.
Royal groupies can also head out to Kate Middleton's hometown, the Berkshire village of Bucklebury. Mortons Travel is offering a bus tour of places such as the church where Kate Middleton was christened, the houses she lived in, and the schools she attended. Another stop on the tour is the home where the prince's future in-laws still reside. Billed as the "Kate Middleton Country" tour, there is also a stop at the Old Boot Inn, where Prince William and Kate Middleton have been known to stop in a knock a few pints back. The soon-to-be-wed couple invited the pub landlord to their wedding, along with the Bucklebury butcher, postman and convenience store owners.
Lock & Co. in Mayfair has long supplied hats to the royal family.
A Warranted Tour
For those of you who want a more up-market experience, consider a glimpse into the good life on a Royal Warrant tour of Mayfair, London's most prestigious shopping district. Royal Warrants are basically stamps of approval from the royal family that enable retailers to advertise the fact that they supply to the royal family. The tour offered by London Luxury is a behind-the-scenes look into how tradesmen and retailers have secured (and sometimes lost) a prized Royal Warrant. Stops on the tour might include sites such as Charbonnel et Walker, Paxton & Whitfield and Lock & Co., the official suppliers of chocolate, cheese and hats to the Queen.
World Sense, Flickr
The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is hosting a luxurious seven-day Royal Wedding tour.
Let Royal Associates Take the Lead
Hotels have been coming up with all kinds of promotions to try to lure in travelers over the wedding weekend, but none is as comprehensive – or exclusive – as the Royal Wedding tour organized by the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Not only does the seven-day itinerary allow exclusive access to world-class museums and restaurants and a front-row seat for the Royal Wedding parade, but associates of the royal family will also lead tours of famous sites. A descendant of Sir Winston Churchill will lead a tour of the leader's former home, while a member of one of Britain's aristocratic dynasties will guide tour goers around Althorp, the ancestral home of Diane Princess of Wales. But to be treated like royalty for a week comes with a steep price tag: $18,120 per person.
Dimitry B, Flickr
Greenwich Palace, where both Henry VII and Elizabeth I were born.
Meet and Greet with the Locals
If you'd like to get led around by a local, get in touch with the London Greeters. This team of volunteer residents is looking to share their knowledge of London neighborhoods, and they are so passionate they lead tours at no charge. Although the Greeter program just launched in February, organizer Genny Fernandes says the program expects more interest in tours around the time of the Royal Wedding. She suggests visitors organize a tour in Greenwich, an area of town set to become a Royal Borough in 2012. The area is home to Greenwich Palace, where both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were born, the Queens House where the wife of Charles I lived, and the recently excavated chapel at Greenwich Palace where Hentry VIII married twice. Tours put on by Greeters are extremely flexible, allowing visitors to take their time at all the stops.
Mahiki is a favored party spot for Prince William, and is rumored to be where his bachelor party might take place.
Create Your Own
Going at it alone in London is a great idea for those who want to take their time and really get to know the haunts of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Skip the organized tour and check out resources such as Visit London, the official city guide that has pulled together an itinerary of royal attractions and has lists of Kate Middleton's favorite places and places where Prince William has lived and partied. Visit London also gives out free sightseeing maps.
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