This is a big year for the UK. The Magna Carta is celebrating its 800th anniversary, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is turning 150, and it’s been 200 years since the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. There are celebrations and commemorations happening across the country, and some of them are taking place surprisingly close to home. The ones at Apsley House and Wellington Arch, for example.

Wellington Arch in London

Located right on Hyde Park Corner in central London, these twin landmarks are the former residence of the Duke of Wellington and the arch commemorating his victory at Waterloo. They both reopened on Saturday after being closed all winter, with new exhibitions launching just in time for the final run-up to the June 18th anniversary of the battle.

Painting in Wellington Arch in London

I’ve passed by Apsley House a million times without really noticing it. Surrounded by a giant roundabout and dwarfed by the enormity of Hyde Park, its somewhat subtle facade struggles to stand out from all the distractions. But now that I’m inside, I start to understand why this place deserves its historic address, “Number One, London”. It’s lavish.

Apsley House in London

It’s also one of the only homes of its kind to have survived the 20th century, when many others were sold off and redeveloped.

Sculpture in London

Apsley House is not only structurally intact, but also retains its impressive collection of art. The Waterloo Gallery alone has many paintings from the Spanish royal collection, including works by Goya, Velazquez, and Ribera. The oldest surviving English grand piano is here, too.

Apsley House in London

As I make my way past Canova’s larger-than-life marble sculpture of Napoleon and famous works like David Wilkie’s Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Despatch, my multimedia guide tells me about the Duke of Wellington’s annual Waterloo Banquets, held each year on the date of the victory. To commemorate the 200th anniversary, the Waterloo Gallery’s grand table is now laid out as it was when the banquets were held.

Wellington Arch in London

But to really understand how he achieved his victory, I head across the street to Wellington Arch. The triumphal monument in the center of the Hyde Park Corner roundabout is another landmark I’ve walked by many times without realizing I could go inside.

Wellington Arch in London

Up three floors is a small museum dedicated to the Battle of Waterloo. From Wellington’s sword and handwritten notes to paintings and multimedia displays, the battle between Napoleon and the Allies is mapped out and analyzed in detail. The museum even has the original Wellington Boots—the inspiration for today’s wellies—on display.

Wellington Arch in London

At the top, doors open onto a terrace with views of the Queen’s garden at Buckingham Palace and the war memorials dotted around the arch in the middle of the roundabout. Across the street, Apsley House sits peacefully as the cars and buses drive past.

View from Wellington Arch in London

Which is fitting, because the defeat of Napoleon ushered in an unprecedented period of peace in Europe much like the one we’re enjoying after a rather tumultuous 20th century. Come June there will be bigger, grander commemorations of the duke and his victory at Waterloo, but now that Apsley House and Wellington Arch are open for the year, they’re a great place to start the celebrations.

22 Comments on Lady at Apsley House and Wellington Arch

  1. I’ve been meaning to go to Apsley House, but it was still closed every time I looked into it. Good to know that they’re open now. It looks like a very interesting place to visit. And I also had no idea you could go into the Arch! Must have been a great view.

  2. Wow, look at those blue skies! I’ve seen the arch loads of times, so I guess I’ll have seen Aspley House, I’ve probably admired its handsome facade without knowing what I’m looking at!
    What a fabulous address, definitely something I’d check out, very interesting and so much history.

  3. Oooooh I’m so glad for this post! I’ve never even heard of Aspley House (bad Londoner. BAD) and this is right up my boyfriend’s street, I’m so going to take him there on our next date! Lovely photos as always x

    Jasiminne

  4. The one thing I remember about this house was the incredible painting showing the absolute terror of the poor horses going into battle and their death.. I lived across the road from there, (Wilton Row) and often inagined my gt Grandfather, an artist, standing in the middle of Hyde Park corner, painting as he must have done with his easel Hyde Park Corner, Rotten Row, etc, which depict a London sadly very much gone..

  5. Looking forward to visiting too! I pass it constantly on the bus – there just isn’t any excuse. (I hear the June celebration will involve a fight re-enactment but using vegetables so as not to scare the kids. I adore the UK sometimes.)

  6. I’m ashamed! I’ve also passed by Apsley House a zillion times and always ignored it. Thanks for showing us what we’re missing, definitely a place I’ll be checking out in the next couple of weeks. 🙂

  7. FAB blog & pictures. I love history…and you describe Apsley House with passion. My Hubby ‘s birthday is 18th June – the anniversary of Waterloo…..so he has always been fascinated by Wellington. I think, based on your blog, we shall have to have a trip VERY soon. Thank you. 🙂

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