Attractions England Jubilympics Places to Stay

Sleeping at The Palace – a Royal Visit

Buckingham Palace at night
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Sleeping at The Palace

Our post Jubilympic London mini break begins at Buckingham Palace, with a visit to The Queen. Well not an actual visit. We don’t see her, but we know she’s there. As I tuck the children up in bed just down the road at The Rubens at the Palace hotel, I tell them how lucky they are. In a decade of living in London I never got this close to Royalty… 

The Queen is at home at Buckingham Palace

I can’t help singing. Much to the embarrassment of my kids.

“They’re changing guards at Buckingham Palace. Christopher Robin went down with Alice.”

The Queen is definitely at home; her flag is flying. Mind you the guards aren’t changing. They’re just silently watching us watching them. And there’s no sign of Alice. But something is going on this dusky evening. There are flags flying and temporary railings appearing, and police hanging round, and an air of excitement that is bigger than our visit.

The Mall at Night Indonesian State Visit

The Mall at night. All ready for the Indonesian State Visit

An Indonesian State Visit is what it’s all about. Although it doesn’t begin until the morning, everyone is clearly gearing up for it and the kids pick up on the excitement. We watch as a mail van pulls up outside the front door of The Palace.

It’s the Royal Mail. In real life!” pipes up Cameron.

And we feel at home at The Rubens

At our hotel, we have mail too. On the way down Hannah wondered out loud  if The Queen wore swimming goggles when she jumped into the royal pool. I sent a tweet out asking if anyone knew and hotel staff at The Rubens said they’d make it their business to find out. On our arrival they present us with a picture of The Queen in 3D glasses. Hannah is impressed. Cameron asks if The Queen has a home cinema or just an ordinary TV?

Welcome to Rubens at The Palace

Welcome letters await us at Rubens at The Palace

The TV goes straight on in the children’s room, next door to ours. Soon the kids are absorbed in their welcome pack of colouring books, children’s maps of London and bars of chocolate while I pick up some tips about tourist London from the family newsletter written by the Director of Fun And Adventure; otherwise known as the Deputy Head Concierge. Our bed, in one of the hotel’s Royal suites is like something out of the Princess and The Pea, although obviously without the pea.

Rubens Hotel London

Through the Looking Glass at The Rubens at The Palace

I climb onto the bounciest bed in the land, furnished with cushions, downy quilt with royal inscription and fat pillows.

Rubens at The Palace Linen

Rubens at The Palace Linen

And I eat complimentary chocolates and fruit while flicking through the films. All I need is HMQ’s 3D glasses and to feel like I am in Buckingham Palace. When I finally go to check the kids are asleep the TV is off but they’re watching London, out the window. Our kids have been all over Europe but it’s the first time they’ve seen their own capital at night and it’s captivating for them. Check out Cameron’s video tour as we arrived, his excitement is palpable.

Looking out the window on London at night

London at night, from the window of Rubens at The Palace

What was good enough for OBE’s is good enough for us

Forget The Goring, this is the closest hotel to Buckingham Palace, in fact it once was owned by the palace and used for debutante balls and to accommodate OBE winners. It looks out onto the Royal Mews, where you can see The Queen’s horses and cars coming in and out.

Rubens Hotel opposite Royal Mews.

Rubens Hotel is opposite The Royal Mews

Overnight, the TV cameras have arrived. The security has multiplied. The Queen’s horses are being exercised and a man with a sweeping brush moves fallen leaves away from the main gate of Buckingham Palace. The crowd flows up to The Palace for The Changing of the Guard. And we go with the flow.  There’s still no sign of Alice but just a few thousand others have turned up to see this long standing spectacle  of pomp and music. So many in fact that we can’t see a thing. Royal cars buzz in and out for the State Visit, the band plays and the guards march on foot and horseback, and all we see are the backs of the people in front of us. But the atmosphere is great.

Back for elevenses

Watching the world go by through the hotel window is more relaxing. We sit in the military themed Cavalry Lounge and argue over who would look better dressed in all the memorabilia. After watching the smart sentries in their boxes last night, we all fancy ourselves as guards, although not many of us can stand still for more than a minute.  The ‘Director of Fun And Adventure’ leaves his place at the concierge desk for a minute to chat to us about The Rubens at the Palace and its royal location.

Concierge Rubens at The Palace

Joao Goncalves, the long serving Concierge at Rubens at The Palace

Joao Goncalves has seen just a few changes of guard in the thirty three years he’s worked here although he’s only seen one Queen. He’s also had a personal wave from Her Majesty, seen Prince Harry drinking in the bar next door, and allowed Fergie to use the loo. He tells us that Americans in particular love the hotel’s proximity to The Palace, and while the location is never quiet, he saw it at its best over the Jubilee weekend.

“I’ve never seen so many people in my life.” he chuckles. You get the feeling Joao will stick around the neighbourhood for a long as the current Queen does, “I’ve loved this hotel since day one. If I won the lottery I’d buy the Rubens.”

A walk in the park

It’s time to get some fresh air and we take a walk through the parks; first Green Park then Hyde Park and on into Kensington Gardens.  In my ten years in London I never bothered to make time to stomp through the royal leaves. It’s time to put that right.

Kensington Gardens

An autumn stroll in Kensington Gardens

“Does The Queen play in the leaves do you think?” asks Cameron as we chase a rather large oak leaf down a long winding path. Perhaps that’s why the sweepers were out this morning, clearing up her mess?”

“Tweet The Rubens and ask them,” I say, looking forward to the picture of The Queen kicking up an autumn flurry in her 3D glasses in the palace grounds.


Rubens at The Palace at Night

Rubens at The Palace at Night

Disclosure Note: Our thanks to Joao and Laura for taking time to talk with us about the history of Rubens at The Palace and thanks to the hotel for a great nights sleep. As ever, the experience, opinions and views expressed are entirely our own.


About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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