This UK Destination Offers Visitors A Chance To Tour A Royal Family Estate

The United Kingdom's royal family has had a difficult few years with a rift between Princes, high-profile scandals, health issues, a decline in popularity among younger Brits, and Queen Elizabeth II passing away aged 96. Yet there is still much affection for the royals at home and abroad, and the Windsors still do their bit for the country. As the Sex Pistols once sang: "God save the Queen 'cos tourists are money," and the royal brand still generates millions of pounds for the British economy. One of the main money-spinners is admission to royal tourist destinations such as Sandringham House.

Sandringham is just one of 30 majestic residences the royal family has called home over the years, from the Tudor splendor of Hampton Court to the stunning Gothic castle retreat at Balmoral in Scotland. Arguably the most famous is Buckingham Palace, King Charles III's opulent 775-room official home in London. It's a major landmark and one of the city's must-see destinations for people who love the royal family. Buck House isn't Britain's most popular royal property, however. That distinction falls to the mighty Windsor Castle, which attracted over one million paid visitors between April 2022 and March 2023 alone. Further from the capital but still an easy day trip if you're staying in London is Sandringham, one of the late Queen's favorites.

Where and what is Sandringham?

The Sandringham Estate sprawls across nearly 20,000 acres of Norfolk countryside in the east of England. It's around a two-and-a-half hour drive from London, not far from the shores of the Wash and just to the north of King's Lynn. Traces of a residence on the grounds date back as far as 1296, but it didn't become a royal property until over 550 years later. 

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought Sandringham Hall and its grounds in 1862. It was meant as a country home for their son Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, getting the deal over the line in time for his 21st birthday. However, the old Hall was too small and cramped for royalty, and it was torn down and replaced by the present structure. The main building of Sandringham House was completed in 1870, and further additions were made over the next century. Queen Elizabeth II opened the House to the public in 1977, the year of her Silver Jubilee.

Sandringham has held a special place in the hearts of the royal family. King George V wrote: "Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere else in the world." It remains in the Windsors' affections to this day as a home-from-home. Traditionally, the family spends their Christmases at the 29-bedroom country pile, and King Charles chose to convalesce at the ancestral home in the wake of his cancer diagnosis in 2024.

Things to see and do at Sandringham

Six hundred acres of the Sandringham Estate is now designated as Royal Parkland, and it's a gorgeous place for a stroll or a leisurely bike ride. There is fun for the kids, too, with a lovely wooden adventure play area. While it is pleasant to just wander around, you can also give your walk some purpose by downloading the map of the Park's permanent orienteering course.

The Royal Parkland is accessible all year, but you will need to buy tickets if you wish to visit Sandringham House and its Gardens, which are only open from April through October. It is slightly cheaper booking online in advance, with full adult tickets costing £24 ($30). Children under 17 visit for free. Tickets give you access to eight rooms inside the house and 60 acres of Gardens. If you just want to see the latter, adult tickets are £14 ($18).

Plenty of other activities and events take place on the estate, from Land Rover safaris and dog training to community coffee mornings and regular concerts. You also won't go hungry or thirsty during your visit. The bright and modern Sandringham Restaurant serves breakfast, light lunches, and a selection of burgers, while the Terrace Café is a good option for snacks to take with you around the grounds. If you want the full experience, pre-book a classy Afternoon Tea (starting at £30 to $38 per adult) with fresh sandwiches and scones with clotted cream and jam.