Apsley House

Top choice historic building in Kensington & Hyde Park

Image by Will Jones Lonely Planet

This stunning house, containing exhibits about the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo, was once the first building to appear when entering London from the west and was therefore known as 'No 1 London'. Wellington memorabilia, including the Duke's death mask, fills the basement gallery, while an astonishing collection of china and silver, and paintings by Velasquez, Rubens, Van Dyck, Brueghel, Murillo and Goya awaits in the 1st-floor Waterloo Gallery.

The stairwell is dominated by Antonio Canova’s staggering 3.4m-high statue of a fig-leafed Napoleon with titanic shoulders, adjudged by the subject as ‘too athletic’. Another highlight is the elaborate Portuguese silver service, presented to Wellington in honour of his triumph over ‘Le Petit Caporal’.

Still one of London’s finest buildings, Apsley House was designed by Robert Adam for Baron Apsley in the late 18th century, but later sold to the first Duke of Wellington, who lived here until he died in 1852.

Grab one of the handy and informative multimedia guides, included in the ticket price; also check the website for details of occasional evening openings, when you can explore the house after dark. Recently closed for renovation, Apsley House reopened in 2017.