With the third season of The Crown about to arrive on Netflix, we’re settling in for a weekend of royal drama, political intrigue and sparkling tiaras. For all the opulence of the sets, you might be convinced the TV series is filmed in the actual Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, but, having been denied access to the regal landmarks, the Netflix team shot the new episodes at Elstree Studios and a number of stately homes around the UK.

The good news is that many of them are open to the public, so you can get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the lavish sets while beating the queues at the actual royal residences. Here are eight of The Crown’s filming locations you can visit in real life.

A still from The Crown season 3; Olivia Colman as the Queen and Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip are dressed in black at a cathedral funeral service.
Winchester Cathedral doubles as St Paul's Cathedral in episode 1 of the new series © Des Willie / Netflix

Winchester Cathedral

The first episode of the new season covers the death of Winston Churchill in 1965. In real life, his funeral was held in St Paul’s Cathedral, but for The Crown, Winchester Cathedral fits the bill. Located in Hampshire, a little over an hour from London, the cathedral is one of the largest in Europe at more than 160m long, and includes some of the country’s finest medieval wood carving. It is the resting place of Jane Austen, and was also the site of a number of royal weddings from Henry IV to Mary Tudor. Tours are available daily (entry £9.50).

A still from The Crown, showing the ornate red-carpeted stairway at Lancaster House leading down to a hallway where staff are standing to attention.
Many Buckingham Palace scenes were actually filmed at nearby Lancaster House © Netflix

Lancaster House

When they couldn’t get into Buckingham Palace, the makers of The Crown opted for this neoclassical mansion just five minutes away. The sweeping staircase and magnificent central hall, decorated in exuberant Louis XIV style, feature prominently throughout the new season, yet Lancaster House has its own royal history, too. It was originally known as York House, built as a private palace for the “grand old” Duke of York in 1825, and Winston Churchill held a coronation banquet for the Queen in the Long Gallery in 1953. Now managed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lancaster House is mostly used for government hospitality, but it welcomes visitors on Open House weekend, which takes place on 19 and 20 September 2020.

A still from The Crown season 3; it shows the Queen (Olivia Colman) and Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) walking in the grounds of Belvoir Castle.
The Queen (Olivia Colman) and Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) walking in the grounds of Belvoir Castle © Des Willie / Netflix

Belvoir Castle

On weekends, you’re most likely to find the Queen at Windsor Castle with Prince Philip. To recreate the iconic round tower, The Crown turned to Belvoir Castle for interior and exterior filming locations in all three seasons. Set atop a hill in rural Leicestershire, this fairytale castle is complete with romantic turrets, elegant gardens and stunning Regency architecture. The interiors are appropriately majestic, particularly the Elizabeth Saloon and the Regent’s Gallery, which have starring roles in the series. The castle is open on selected dates in November and December, and reopens in March (entry from £18).

A still from The Crown season 3, depicting Prince Charles’s investiture as the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle; Prince Charles is wearing ceremonial robes while the Queen sits in the background looking unhappy.
Prince Charles’s investiture as the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle © Des Willie / Netflix

Caernarfon Castle

The sixth episode of the new season focuses on Prince Charles’s investiture as the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in north Wales. And in this case, the real-life location served as the set: the show was filmed in the actual fortress where the royal ceremony was held in 1969. Now a Unesco World Heritage Site, the imposing medieval structure is considered one of Wales’s greatest architectural treasures, and is open year-round (entry £9.90).

A still from The Crown season 3; it shows West Wycombe House doubling as the Duke of Windsor’s home, with the ailing duke and Prince Charles sat in an elegant drawing room.
West Wycombe House doubles as the Duke of Windsor’s home © Des Willie / Netflix

West Wycombe House

This Palladian mansion in Buckinghamshire, an hour’s drive from the capital, features in the eighth episode of The Crown. West Wycombe House doubles as the Duke of Windsor’s home in Bois de Boulogne, Paris, and the vibrant yellow saloon plays host to the ailing duke, Wallis Simpson, Prince Charles and the Queen throughout the episode. Fans of Downton Abbey will also be familiar with the blue drawing room, where many of the interior shots were filmed, while the beautifully preserved rococo gardens are not to be missed. The house will reopen in June 2020 (entry £9).

Wilton House, a stone neoclassical mansion, with a garden full of frees in front of it.
Wilton House is another Buckingham Palace stand-in © Nigel Jarvis / Shutterstock

Wilton House

Another stand-in for Buckingham Palace, this country house near Salisbury was built on the site of a 9th-century nunnery, and in 1544, Henry VIII granted the buildings and land to the Earl of Pembroke. Wilton House boasts rich 17th-century interiors that offered a suitably grand backdrop for The Crown’s palace scenes, and it is open from April to September (entry £15.50). Visitors can explore the gilded rooms, with artworks by van Dyck and Rembrandt, or take to the outdoors with 22 acres of parkland and gardens.

The domed baroque Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, with a large lawn in front and the modern skyscrapers of Canary Wharf in the distance beyond.
The Old Royal Naval College became Buckingham Palace's courtyard © Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock

Old Royal Naval College

The Old Royal Naval College, Christopher Wren’s magnificent centrepiece among the ensemble of buildings at Maritime Greenwich, doubled as the courtyard of Buckingham Palace in many episodes of The Crown, and here we see the comings and goings of the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. It was originally the site of Greenwich Palace, the birthplace of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, and now features striking baroque architecture framed by twin domes — don’t miss the Painted Hall, England’s answer to the Sistine Chapel. Drop in to the visitor centre for free 45-minute guided walks, or make your own way around 18 acres of historic grounds, which are free to visit and open daily. 

Hylands House, a white neoclassical mansion with a grey roof and a large green lawn in front of it.
Hylands House gets a starring role as the White House in The Crown season 3 © Jonny Essex / Shutterstock

Hylands House

Princess Margaret is spotlighted in episode two, which follows her visit to Washington and a state dinner with President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Crown found its White House just outside London in Essex at Hylands House, a neoclassical villa with meticulously restored rooms from both the Georgian and Victorian eras. It is open to the public on one Sunday per month, when guests can browse the opulent period interiors, enjoy free guided tours and wander through the ornate Victorian pleasure gardens. 

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