What the royal family's homes really look like

The royal family has a lot of residences. Ranging from cottages to castles, Britain's elite has no shortage of places to stay. The British Monarchy controls much of the historic properties throughout the United Kingdom and are managed by the Crown Estate, Business Insider explained. 

Of the revenue created by the Crown Estate (we're talking hundreds of millions), Queen Elizabeth receives 25 percent. Wondering what she does with all that cash? Buys property, it seems. From hotels to race courses, the Queen enjoys collecting property — a little ironic considering she's not a fan of Monopoly. But hey, she's the Queen.

While you may still be thinking of Buckingham Palace as the quintessential royal abode, especially for Queen Elizabeth, many other homes at the royal family's disposal are actually used equally as often. And don't tell the Queen, but some are even cooler. Here are some of the best royal homes — get ready, some are different from what you're expecting.

Buckingham Palace: Ultimate opulence

It would be remiss if we didn't at least mention Buckingham Palace. If you've ever traveled across the pond to London, you probably took a selfie outside the gates of the palace. That's as close as many commoners get to this royal residence. Nevertheless, there's a lot that goes on past those iron barriers. In the summer months, tourists are even allowed inside for a glimpse of the State Rooms, according to the official royal website. Even then, there's a lot you won't see.

Of the 19 rooms you're allowed to visit, Buckingham Palace has another 756 others you cannot view. This includes 240 bedrooms for royals, their guests, and the necessary staff. Don't forget about the throne rooms, either — a total of 78 rooms of Buckingham Palace are bathrooms. Since the palace is also often a place of business, there are offices — 92 of them. This home is literally fit for a queen.

Weekends at Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is another royal residence open to visitors. That said, there are times when the castle will close as needed by the royal family. Part gorgeous gothic home, and part fortress, this castle is actually the largest occupied one in the entire world, according to the official royal website

Queen Elizabeth uses Windsor for dual purposes: As a private residence on the weekends and an official residence when performing royal duties, whether hosting politicians or the Royal Ascot race meeting.

There's even a fully functioning chapel on the premises. Its daily church services are open for all — including commoners — who wish to worship. This chapel is considered a "Royal Peculiar" — great name, no? — because unlike many churches, its allegiance is to the Queen and is not under the direction of a particular bishop or archbishop. You may know this place of worship as St. George's Chapel — or as the venue where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are set to marry

Home for the holidays: Sandringham House

Although you would probably be content with just a palace and a castle, that's not how this royal family rolls. On the eastern coast of England, in a county called Norfolk, there sits a 20,000-acre estate called Sandringham House. A phenomenally manicured garden takes up a substantial 59 of those acres. Sandringham House is one of two properties privately owned by the royal family, and a beloved one at that.

According to the royal family's website, after inheriting the house from his father, Edward VII, in the early 1900s, King George V wrote, "Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere else in the world." 

Queen Elizabeth's father, King George VI, also loved the estate, writing, "I have always been so happy here and I love the place." It's no surprise, then, that the Queen likes it too. The royal family celebrates Christmas at this house, setting out gifts for one another and exchanging them at teatime.

You can't have but one castle: Balmoral Castle in Scotland

Windsor Castle is cool and all, but why stop at owning just one fortress? Balmoral Castle, located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, looks like something out of a fairy tale. It's also the last of just two private residences owned by the royal family, according to the official royal website. Non-royals can visit the Scottish castle four months out of the year and Queen Elizabeth spends her summer break there, often with other members of the royal family.

After the royal family shared a Twitter photo of the Queen meeting Julie Payette, Governor-General designate of Canada, from within castle walls, People highlighted some interesting details. From tons of books, to delicately worn reading chairs, to even a television, the Queen has obviously made the castle more like a cozy home than a fortress. 

Of course, this is but one room of a gigantic estate. If it's any clue to what the rest of the place is like, Balmoral Castle is basically an upscale version of your grandmother's house.

Don't forget Scotland: The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Although Queen Elizabeth is often referred to as the Queen of England, she also rules over Scotland. And you can't rule over Scotland without a palace, right? Right. 

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, located in Edinburgh, is her official Scottish residence, according to the official royal website. The Queen uses said palace for many celebrations including one summer event dubbed "Holyrood Week," which involves a lot of official engagements and, of course, a garden party. King George V and Queen Mary actually started those garden parties all those years ago and the tradition continues today. Queen Elizabeth also hosts 8,000 guests during that week — whew.

The palace is huge but is somehow not a monstrosity. Visitors can tour the palace — virtually or in person — inside and out, and gander at the ornate and elaborate decor. This palace is quite different from Windsor Castle, but you will find a church here too: Holyrood Abbey, although it sits in ruins today.

"Nott Cott" for the newlyweds

According to The Telegraph, bride- and groom-to-be Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are already living on royal property at Nottingham Cottage, a quite small house on Kensington Palace grounds. Before Harry and Meghan moved in, Harry's royal older brother, Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, lived there. 

Unlike Buckingham Palace with its ostentatious 240 bedrooms, Nottingham Cottage (or "Nott Cott") has but two. It also features two reception rooms, a bathroom — naturally — and a small yard. Not bad for a starter home.

Being on the Kensington Palace property also means the couple is surrounded by beautiful gardens, aptly named Kensington Gardens. Perhaps since there's not too much space inside, Meghan has taken to exercising outdoors. Royal expert Katie Nicholl told Entertainment Tonight how the soon-to-be royal "loves to run laps around Kensington gardens." Can you blame her? The landscaping is absolutely stunning.

Anmer Hall: William and Kate's former abode

Once Prince William and Kate Middleton left "Nott Cott," the couple moved into another home on Kensington Palace grounds called Apartment 1A in 2014. However, perhaps sharing the Queen's love of Norfolk, they later packed their bags and headed to Anmer Hall, which, according to People, is a ten-bedroom home that was gifted to them by Queen Elizabeth.

Although Amner Hall is a beautiful Georgian-style residence boasting large sash windows, the quaint town it's in is arguably even better. Gallery owner Rob Kerr told People about a time when Kate visited his shop. The experience was pretty mind-blowing, as you could imagine, but he kept his cool. He added, "She didn't come across as the type of person who would expect people to say anything like [Your Highness] to her ... She was very down to earth." Local meat shop worker, Brett Corder, further explained, "They wouldn't be able to live the same way in London."

Although that's true, Kensington Palace released a statement in 2017 confirming the couple's plans to primarily stay in London — as opposed to Norfolk — to fulfill William's increasing royal duties.

Welcome back to 1A

As Kensington Palace confirmed, Prince William and Kate Middleton left Norfolk and moved back to Apartment 1A on the grounds of Kensington Palace, a stone's throw away from Nottingham Cottage. With a simple name like "Apartment 1A," you could make the assumption that the house itself is also simple. Not quite. 

Prior to William and Kate's first stay at 1A, a renovation to the tune of £4.5 million ($6.3 million) was "needed." CNN reported that the cost was likely even higher because the couple also contributed a lot of their own money. A royal spokesperson explained that the apartment's "working kitchen" was paid for with a public grant whereas "a much smaller family kitchen [was] paid for privately by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge." That's right — two kitchens. A lot of the expenses were nevertheless necessary. About 40 percent of the home wasn't up to code as it hadn't been renovated since the late '40s.

These days, the apartment looks great. In a photo shared by Entertainment Tonight, you can see one of the rooms within 1A, complete with family photos and throw pillows. While no one could say they're just like us, the room doesn't scream "royal!"

Home of the Prince of Wales: Clarence House

Now that you know where the Queen and the most royal of grandkids live, where does that leave Queen Elizabeth's son — the next in line to the throne — Prince Charles? Much like his mother, he has a few royal residences he likes to call home. Clarence House is his official residence in London that he shares with his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles. 

The official royal website explains that although it has evolved over the past two centuries, with the addition of Prince Charles' artwork, as well as new paint and textiles being integrated, much of the home remains the same. Even centuries-old furnishings and art collections have stayed put. In fact, an original Monet from Queen Elizabeth I is still on display, a writer for The Crown Chronicles reported after privately touring the residence.

Prince Charles' renovations were tasteful and, in many ways, an ode to those who came before him. Although the library only houses two bookcases, they are completely filled with books. One houses George VI's collection, and the other, The Queen Mother's.

Prince Charles' family home

Clarence House is far from Prince Charles' only abode. According to his official website, he resides at another property called Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, England. This is the "family home" of Charles' and Camilla Parker Bowles. The house also happens to be home to an epic garden.

According to People, it features a treehouse which was originally built for Prince William in the late '80s. Landscape writer and artist Bunny Guinness recalls the young prince's words to the treehouse's designer, Willie Bertram. She told People how he wanted it to be "as high as possible" in order to "get away from everyone." Young William also added, "I want a rope ladder, which I can pull up so no one can get at me." 

Although William probably doesn't get much use out of the treehouse these days, Prince George and Princess Charlotte can surely visit their grandpa and explore the garden. 

More homes for the Prince? You bet

Llwynywermod — go ahead, try to say it out loud — is the Welsh home of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. Believe it or not, you can actually vacation there, Wales Online reported. The property features two cottages situated around a courtyard. Both cottages were renovated soon after the property was purchased in 2007 and they overlook 192 acres of both farmland and woodland — ahh

The decor is fairly understated in both cottages, but what else would you want in a cottage? With ample privacy, a wood stove, and even organic gardens, you can see why Charles and Camilla enjoy their stays here.

By the features of their Welsh home, it appears the couple is concerned about their impact on the environment. In addition to the fertilizer-free gardens, you won't find any chemical cleaners in the kitchen, and the "reed-bed sewage system" — as explained by Wales Online — "offers a natural method of filtering wastewater." You may have never imagined a day when you'd think a sewage system was cool, but here we are.

Apartment-living like a royal: St. James's Palace

The official royal website names St. James's Palace as the home to "several members" of the royal family, as well as their "household offices." Royal sisters, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, are two of the royal family members that reside there. Unfortunately for them, they don't get to stay for free as do many of their royal relatives. 

In 2012, the sisters became ineligible to live rent-free at the palace because, according to Express, they completed their education and did not take on any official royal duties. Instead, an annual £20,000 ($28,000) bill for the princesses' four-bedroom apartment gets handed over to their father, Prince Andrew. This seems like a technicality as, all things considered, that's not outrageously expensive — and they can certainly afford it. Plus, the description sounds gorgeous.

The Telegraph reported that just a few short years before, the apartment was fully renovated, including a new kitchen, bathroom, and wood flooring all throughout the two reception rooms. Plus, the whole apartment was redecorated to the girls' liking. Not bad, not bad at all.

The Northern Island House: Hillsborough Castle

In 2015, British Heritage sat down with curator Dr. Christopher Warleigh-Lack to discuss one of the coolest royal homes: Hillsborough Castle. The Georgian country home — let's be real, the castle — is situated in Northern Ireland.

Although the Queen doesn't get around to visiting every month, Warleigh-Lack says the house hosts other royal guests at least once per month. "Prince Charles was there in May with the Duchess of Cornwall. Prince Edward was there two weeks ago with the Countess of Wessex," he explained. When Edward visited, he was the first one to turn on the new fountain — a big deal, to be sure.

Warleigh-Lack explained his plans to hopefully open the castle to the public and told of pretty amazing restorations he helped to accomplish, including renovating the entrance, purchasing new furniture, and obtaining 12 royal portraits from the Royal Collection Trust. Plus, Hillsborough Castle features 90 acres of gorgeous gardens. It is certainly a beautiful property.