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The Royal Yacht Britannia : A History of Queen Elizabeth II’s Favorite Palace

By Lisa Liebman

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Hong Kong during its last voyage in July of 1997.

The christening of The Royal Yacht Britannia serves as a cheeky season opener to  The Crown . Black-and-white Pathé News–style footage shows a soon-to-be-crowned Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) cheered on by shipbuilders as she launches her new 412-foot yacht. “I hope that this brand-new vessel, like your brand-new queen, will prove to be dependable and constant. Capable of weathering any storm,” she says about the royal replacement for the  Victoria and Albert III . By the series’ season finale, set 44 years later, both the sovereign and the floating palace she christened  Britannia will have hit rough seas—the cost of repairing the creaky old vessel and the modern role of the monarchy both in question. Ultimately, the yacht that undertook 968 official voyages all over the world, hosting dignitaries—including 13 US presidents—at receptions and banquets, was dry-docked near Edinburgh, Scotland, where it continues to be a popular tourist attraction. Here are some of the most buoyant facts about the palace the Queen famously said was “the one place where I can truly relax.”

The sun room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981.

The sun room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981. 

In a nod to the country’s post-war austerity, Elizabeth scaled back the design of the ship that her father, King George VI, had commissioned just two days before he died. Rather than following the opulent plan laid out by the Scottish firm McInnes Gardner & Partners, she opted for the understated elegance envisioned by architect Sir Hugh Casson, who described “running a lawn mower over the Louis XVIl adornments” in favor of simple white walls, lilac-gray carpeting, and “a bit of gilding in grand places.” Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip, were said to have personally chosen the furniture—much of it, including linens, recycled from the  Victoria and Albert —fabrics (florals, chintz, toile), and paintings. 

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on board the Royal Yacht Britannia as they prepare to depart on their honeymoon cruise...

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on board the Royal Yacht Britannia as they prepare to depart on their honeymoon cruise in 1981.

As a former Royal Navy Commander, Prince Phillip also saw to the ship’s technical details, and his Bluebottle racing yacht inspired the Britannia ’s navy-hued hull. Outer decks were made of two-inch Burmese teak. The steering wheel was reclaimed from Britannia ’s namesake, King Edward VII’s 1893 racing yacht; a wheelhouse wheel came from George V’s racing yacht; and a gold-and-white binnacle (housing the ship’s compass) was salvaged from King George III’s yacht and installed on the Veranda deck. Fittings from former royal ships were also reused. 

The drawing room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1978.

The drawing room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1978. 

The 4,000-ton yacht had a crew of 220 Royal Yachtsmen who lived on board, about 45 household staff, and occasionally a 26-member Royal Marine embarked to entertain dignitaries. The monarch often welcomed guests from the ship’s grand staircase. (Stairs leading from the Veranda to the Royal deck were sometimes transformed into a water slide for the kids.)  Britannia ’s apartments were designed like those of a first-class ocean liner. A 56-seat state dining room, where many of the gifts given to the monarch (a wood-carved shark from Pitcairn Island, a bejeweled gold statue from Bangkok) were displayed, was the scene of formal dinners with guests such as Sir Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Nelson Mandela, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. More intimate gatherings were held in the Queen’s official reception room, a smaller state drawing room with floral upholstered pieces, simple wood tables, an electric fireplace, and a Welmar baby grand piano bolted to the deck—played by everyone from Sir Noël Coward to Princesses Diana and Margaret. The teak-clad sun lounge, with rattan furniture and a toile loveseat, was Elizabeth’s favorite place—where she had her breakfast, afternoon tea, and also enjoyed her favorite Dubonnet and gin cocktails.

The Queens sitting room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981.

The Queen’s sitting room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981. 

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A ship elevator reserved for royal use moved between the Upper and Shelter Decks. The latter is where four Royal Apartments (bedrooms), including the Queen and Prince Phillip’s connecting compartments, were located. Hers featured florals, his had red accents. Elizabeth’s understated Upper Deck private sitting room, done in pastels and neutrals, served as the office where she conducted state business. Phillip used his sitting room, with its wood desk facing a model of his first command, the HMS Magpie , as his study. Below deck there was a wine cellar, as well as a cargo hold that could carry a barge, speed- and sailboats, plus a royal Range Rover and Rolls-Royce. The yacht could also be converted into a hospital (though it never was).

The Queen shed a tear at the decommissioning ceremony for thye Royal Yacht Britannia.

The Queen shed a tear at the decommissioning ceremony for thye Royal Yacht Britannia.

As depicted in  The Crown, Britannia ’s final official trip was to Hong Kong in 1997, where Prince Charles attended the handover of the territory to China. By then, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration was complaining that the £11 million a year needed to keep the boat afloat couldn’t be justified. With Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, and all of their children in attendance,  Britannia was decommissioned at a ceremony in Portsmouth, England on December 11, 1997, with the monarch seen wiping away a tear. The yacht, now docked in Leith, Scotland, is open to the public as a museum and events space. (Prior to their wedding, Princess Anne and Mark Phillips’s daughter Zara Phillips and her fiancé Mike Tindall had a celebration there.) Visitors will note that every clock on board reads 3:01, the exact time the Queen disembarked her beloved  Britannia for the final time on that December day.

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The Royal Yacht Britannia Has a Fascinating History—Here's Everything You Should Know

It doesn't get more majestic than Queen Elizabeth II's yacht.

Seventy years ago, the Britannia began its journey as the royal yacht for Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family of the United Kingdom. Over the next 44 years she’d travel more than a million nautical miles and, in all her glamour and old world elegance, served as a residence that welcomed state visits from all over the world and family holidays alike. Then and now, she was and is a majestic symbol of the British Commonwealth and the reign of Queen Elizabeth II .

“Britannia is special for a number of reasons,” Prince Phillip once said. “Almost every previous sovereign has been responsible for building a church, a castle, a palace or just a house. The only comparable structure in the present reign is Britannia. As such she is a splendid example of contemporary British design and technology.”

Although she retired from service in 1997, today the Britannia, one of many of the world's grandest yachts , is docked in Edinburgh, where she is open as a visitors’ attraction and host of private events. Below we give you all the Royal Yacht Britannia facts you might want to know, from who owns the yacht now to why she was decommissioned to how fast she is to how to get tickets to visit. Britannia was, after all, the one place the queen said she could “truly relax,” so why not see why for yourself?

queen royal yacht britannia in usa

Royal Yacht Britania Facts and History

On February 4, 1952, John Brown & Co shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland, received the order from the Admiralty to build a new Royal Yacht to travel the globe and double as a hospital ship in times of war, according to the royal yacht's website . King George VI passed away two days after, sadly, and so on April 16, 1953, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II announced the yacht’s new name as the ship was revealed.

"I name this ship Britannia,” she said. “I wish success to her and all who sail in her." Britannia was commissioned into the Royal Navy in January 1954 and by April of that year sailed into her first overseas port: Grand Harbour, Malta.

royal yacht britannia facts staircase

The queen and The Duke of Edinburgh worked with interior designer Sir Hugh Casson for the ship to serve as both a functional Royal Navy vessel and an elegant royal residence. Queen Elizabeth II selected deep blue for Britannia’s hull, instead of the more traditional black. Its Naval crew included 220 Yachtsmen, 20 officers, and three season officers—plus a Royal Marines Band of 26 men during Royal Tours.

All of them might have had to change uniform up to six times a day, so the laundry service on board worked nonstop. The yacht also engaged in British overseas trade missions known as Sea Days and made an estimated £3 billion for the Exchequer between 1991 and 1995 alone.

royal yacht britannia facts drawing room

The ship’s wheel was taken from King Edward VII’s racing yacht, also named Britannia, according to Boat International , and the 126-meter ship could reach speeds of 22.75 knots, or a seagoing cruising speed of 21 knots, according to Super Yacht Times . Other fun facts: The yacht could produce her own fresh water from sea water, and shouting was forbidden aboard to preserve tranquility, favoring hand signals for Naval orders instead.

royal yacht britannia facts dining room

Over the next 44 years, the Britannia would sail the equivalent of once around the world for each year, in total visiting 600 ports in 135 countries. Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones were the first of four couples to honeymoon on the ship in 1960, gifting them all privacy to sail to secluded locations. Prince Charles and Princess Diana followed in 1981 on the Mediterranean as well as Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips before them in 1973 in the Caribbean and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986 in the Azores.

diana and william

For family vacations aboard the ship, games, treasure hunts, plays, and picnics were organized, and on warm days the children could play in an inflatable paddling pool on the Verandah Deck.

royal yacht britannia facts sun lounge

In the Sun Lounge, the queen especially enjoyed taking breakfast and afternoon tea with views through large picture windows, a space you can see replicated in the TV show The Crown. Although no filming took place on board the Britannia for the show, researchers ensured scenes aboard it were accurate. In the queen’s bedroom, the resemblance is seen down to the decorative wall light fittings and embroidered silk panel above her bed that had been specially commissioned.

queen crying at britannia

In 1997, the ship was decommissioned after the government decided the costs to refit it would be too great. On its final day in her service that followed a farewell tour around the U.K., the queen openly wept as the Band of HM Royal Marines played "Highland Cathedral."

"Looking back over 44 years we can all reflect with pride and gratitude upon this great ship which has served the country, the Royal Navy and my family with such distinction," Queen Elizabeth II said. All clocks on the ship stopped at 15:01, the exact time the Queen disembarked from the yacht for the final time, and they would remain at that time until the present.

royal yacht britannia facts clock

How to Tour the Royal Yacht Britania

Today the yacht is owned by Royal Yacht Britannia Trus t, and all revenue it generates goes to the yacht’s maintenance and preservation. Ticketed entry allows you to step into state rooms like the Sun Lounge, the State Dining Room and State Drawing Room, in addition to the working side of the ship in the Crew’s Quarters, Laundry and gleaming Engine Room. Along the way you will see original artifacts from the shop—95 percent of which is on loan from The Royal Collection.

the royal yacht britannia

How to Visit the Royal Britania

You can visit the Britannia any day of the year on Edinburgh’s waterfront. Hours vary by season, and you can find them listed and purchase tickets on the yacht’s website . Private tours are also available, and you can visit the Royal Deck Tearoom, where the Royal Family hosted cocktail parties and receptions, for drinks, meals and scones. Additionally, the Britannia hosts special ticketed events for New Year’s and other occasions, and event spaces can be booked as well.

While you are in Edinburgh, you can also stay on the Fingal , a neighboring yacht-turned-floating-hotel, which is a seven-minute walk from the Britannia, and dine at its Lighthouse Restaurant & Bar, which serves breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner, and cocktails.

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What to Know About the Royal Yacht Britannia Featured on 'The Crown' Season 5

The Royal Yacht Britannia served as the official royal yacht of the British monarchy for 44 years

royal yacht britannia 2

The Crown is diving into royal events from the '90s in season 5 , and that includes the decommissioning of Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia, also known as the Royal Yacht Britannia.

In the first episode of the new season, Claire Foy ( who portrayed Queen Elizabeth II in seasons 1 and 2) reprises her role as the monarch as a flashback shows the yacht's official launch in April 1953.

At the time, the new yacht held special significance as it was launched by the Queen just before her own coronation in June 1953 .

Through the years, the vessel sailed over 1,000,000 nautical miles on 968 state visits with the royal family as they entertained prime ministers and presidents, per the Royal Yacht Britannia website. It also served as the venue for several royal honeymoons , including Princess Diana and Princes Charles in 1981 .

From when it was commissioned to where the Royal Yacht Britannia is now, here's everything to know about the royal yacht.

When was the Royal Yacht Britannia commissioned?

As shown on The Crown , Royal Yacht Britannia was officially launched on April 16, 1953 , at the shipyard of John Brown & Co. Ltd in Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, where Queen Elizabeth unveiled the yacht's official name.

Following Queen Elizabeth 's coronation on June 2, 1953, the Royal Yacht Britannia was commissioned into the Royal Navy on January 11, 1954, before sailing her first overseas port on April 22.

How big is the Royal Yacht Britannia?

The Royal Yacht Britannia is about 412 feet long , with a beam width of 55 feet and five decks , and weighs over 4,000 tons.

Who used the Royal Yacht Britannia?

The yacht was described as the royal family's "floating residence" during its 44 years of service. As it was used to host "magnificent state receptions and banquets, and guests ," numerous world leaders boarded the yacht over the years, including Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan and Rajiv Gandhi.

Per the Royal Yacht Britannia website, the yacht also " allowed the Royal Family some rare privacy away from their public duties and was famously described by HM Queen Elizabeth II as 'the one place I can truly relax.' "

Furthermore, the Royal Yacht Britannia was the venue of four royal honeymoons : Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. All four royal marriages ended in divorce, which Queen Elizabeth famously reflected on in her 1992 speech where she referred to the past year as her "annus horribilis ," or horrible year.

When was the Royal Yacht Britannia decommissioned?

The yacht's retirement was announced in 1994 as a result of the substantial costs needed to repair the ship. It was estimated that the cost would £17 million, which would only prolong the yacht for another five years.

On December 11, 1997, the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned during an official ceremony that was attended by most of the senior members of the royal family. It was been reported that Queen Elizabeth was seen uncharacteristically shedding a tear during the decommissioning.

"Looking back over 44 years we can all reflect with pride and gratitude upon this great ship which has served the country, the Royal Navy and my family with such distinction," the Queen said at the time .

Where is the Royal Yacht Britannia now?

Listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, people can now visit the Royal Yacht Britannia at Port of Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland. Visitors are able to see various parts of the yacht including Britannia's five decks, the state apartments, as well as the Sun Lounge, which was the Queen's favorite room in which to have her afternoon tea.

Does the Royal Yacht Britannia have a successor?

Plans for a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia first began in 2019 when it was reported that the late Sir Donald Gosling had donated £50 million to pay for the construction . In 2021, the yacht was commissioned by Boris Johnson to host trade fairs and diplomatic events and it was expected to go into service in 2024 or 2025.

However, in November 2022, it was reported by BBC that plans for the yacht were being scrapped as the government "searches for spending cuts." The new yacht was estimated to cost up to £250 million.

The Story Behind the Royal Family's Yacht, Britannia

The ship hosted four royal honeymoons in its 44 years of service.

Hmy Britannia

Often referred to as the last royal yacht, the Britannia was decommissioned in 1997, and despite some efforts , there are no signs of a new one in the near future. Though its seafaring days may be behind it (the ship now serves as a tourist attraction in Edinburgh, Scotland), the Britannia remains an important artifact and a peek behind the curtain of royal life—it even garnered a prominent place in the fifth season of The Crown . Below, a few of its most notable moments throughout history.

It was the first royal yacht designed for ocean travel.

The ship was built by John Brown & Co at the same shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland in the same location the famous ocean liners the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary were constructed. With 12,000 horsepower, the ship could travel at a maximum 22.5 knots (approximately 25 miles per hour), ideal for ocean-going diplomacy. Prior to its launch in 1953, the royal family used ships from the Royal Navy or even passenger liners for the overseas portions of the royal tour.

In its 44 years of service, the HMY Britannia traveled around 1.1 million miles.

Royal Yacht State Room

It was commissioned just two days before the death of King George VI.

The King was already in failing health by the time the designs for the HMY Britannia were submitted, and the hope was that traveling might help alleviate some of his symptoms. However, just two days after the John Brown shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland received the order the King passed away on February 6, 1952.

It would take just over a year for the ship to be completed, during which time its name remained a secret—it wasn't announced until the ship's official launch in April of 1953, less than two months before the Queen's coronation . Elizabeth cracked a bottle of English wine (in the post-war era, champagne was considered too extravagant for the launch of a ship) and announced, "I name this ship Britannia … I wish success to her and all who sail in her."

It was created to double as a hospital.

When Britannia was first envisioned, less than a decade after the end of World War II, the designers sought to make it as functional as possible, crafting a space that could be converted from an ocean-going royal residence to a seafaring hospital during any possible future wartime. The main veranda was laid out and re-enforced so that it could support a helicopter landing and the laundry was made much larger than on a standard naval vessel to accommodate the potential patients. Though the ship was never actually put to that purpose, it was pressed into service on a rescue mission to help evacuate European nationals from South Yemen in 1986.

The ship was home to a lot of history.

Long before it became a floating museum, the Britannia had an eye for history. The gold and white binnacle housed on the ship's veranda deck was originally part of the HMY Royal George , a royal yacht that served Queen Victoria . Likewise, some of the bed linens used by Queen Elizabeth aboard the vessel were originally made for Victoria's bed for one of the previous royal yachts.

Britannia's steering wheel was lifted from her namesake, the racing yacht HMY Britannia , built in 1893 for King Edward VII .

Royal Yacht Dining Room

It was redesigned to be less opulent.

Despite the sense of luxury that the term "royal yacht" inspires, the Queen and Prince Philip were actually concerned when they began overseeing the project in 1952 that the original interior design plans by the design firm McInnes Gardner & Partners were too lavish for a country still recovering from the war. The interiors were ultimately redesigned by Sir Hugh Casson and received very minimal updates throughout her 44 years of service.

But it still had homey touches—by royal standards.

Suffice to say that even low-key royal living is a fairly high class. In addition to the 56-seat State Dining Room, which hosted luminaries including Winston Churchill, Noel Coward, Nelson Mandela, and multiple US Presidents, the ship also sported a formal staircase where the Queen would greet guests, separate bedrooms and sitting rooms for both Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, and a phone system designed to match the unique configurations of Buckingham Palace's telephones.

BRITANNIA Queen's bedroom

In the early years of the Britannia's life it was also home to the Queen's Rolls-Royce Phantom V which was hoisted and lowered from a special garage compartment at port so that the Queen could drive her own car at each location. The space was ever so slightly too small, forcing the bumpers to be removed in order to get it into the garage without damage and then refitted when the car was removed. Ultimately Elizabeth began using cars provided for her at port instead and the garage was converted into a storage area for beer.

The steering crew couldn't see where they were going.

Life on board the HMY Britannia was far from typical for her crew. To begin with, due to the prestige and pressure of the position, the commanding officer of the royal yacht was always a flag officer, most commonly a Rear Admiral, although the first two to serve were Vice Admirals, and Britannia 's final CO was a Commodore.

While working, the crew reportedly used hand signals to communicate rather than shouting orders, in order to maintain a sense of quiet and calm for the royal residents. It was also the last ship in the royal navy where the crew members slept in hammocks, a practice that they maintained until 1973.

Hmy Britannia

Perhaps the most unusual element of the ship's functioning, though, was the steering. While on most ships, the steering wheel sits on the bridge, overlooking the front of the vessel, Britannia 's was on the deck below, in the wheelhouse, which meant that the yachtsmen who were actually doing the steering couldn't see where they were going. The crew got around this rather surprising pitfall by using voice pipes from the bridge to confer navigational orders.

It was a royal honeymoon essential.

No fewer than four royal couples celebrated their honeymoons in the HMY Britannia 's honeymoon suite (the only room onboard with a double bed.)

Princess Margaret started the tradition in 1960 for her Caribbean honeymoon with Anthony Armstrong-Jones , a quiet, formal affair where dinners were taken in full evening dress every night. Things didn't go quite as smoothly for Princess Anne on her honeymoon with Captain Mark Phillips in 1973—storms and 20-foot waves left the couple stricken with seasickness for the first week of their Caribbean cruise. Prince Charles and Princess Diana famously spent their 1981 honeymoon on a Mediterranean cruise aboard the yacht. The crew managed to duck the press so efficiently they garnered the nickname "the ghost ship." The final royal honeymoon aboard the Britannia was taken by Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson , Duchess of York in 1986 when the couple traveled around the Azores.

In memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, who was killed in an automobile accident in Paris, France on August 31, 1997.

And a family vacation spot.

In addition to her diplomatic duties on royal tours and her service as a post-wedding retreat, the Britannia was also a vessel for family vacations. During the summer months, the royal family would often take off on what became known as the Western Isles tour, cruising around the western isles of Scotland. During the trip, the family would play games and have barbecues on the islands. The stairway off of the veranda was sometimes even converted into a waterslide for the younger royals. The tour often included a stop off at the Castle of Mey to visit the Queen Mother, then making berth in Aberdeen so that the Queen could travel to her favorite summer home, Balmoral .

Queen Crying At Britannia

The Queen openly wept when HMY Britannia was decommissioned in 1997.

With so many memories around the yacht, it's not hard to understand why the decommissioning of the Britannia was upsetting for the royal family. Though plans were initially drawn up for a replacement yacht, the government ultimately determined not to fund the effort. After the Queen officially took her leave of it in 1997, the ship was placed in the port of Leith in Scotland where it serves as a floating museum and events venue . All of the clocks on board remain stopped at 3:01, the exact time that Her Majesty disembarked for the last time.

Zara Phillips And Mike Tindall Host Pre Wedding Party On Britannia

It was used for a reception for Zara Phillips before her wedding.

Though it's no longer used as their private vessel, the Britannia 's connection to the royal family didn't end in 1997. In 2011 on the night before her wedding, the Queen's oldest granddaughter Zara Phillips contracted the ship for a reception. Though her grandmother wasn't in attendance Zara celebrated her upcoming marriage to Mike Tindall onboard along with her mother and her cousins Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate, Princess Eugenie, and Princess Beatrice.

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Lauren Hubbard is a freelance writer and Town & Country contributor who covers beauty, shopping, entertainment, travel, home decor, wine, and cocktails.

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The Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia is the former royal yacht of HM Queen Elizabeth II which is located at the Ocean Terminal shopping centre in Edinburgh . The yacht is one of Scotland’s premier tourist attractions and visitors can explore it on a self-guided tour that takes them through the main dining hall, the royal family’s private quarters, and the engine room.

Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia first launched in 1953 was the official seafaring vessel of Queen Elizabeth II and the British royal family for over four decades. Used for state visits, royal vacations, and diplomatic trips, the vessel is now a popular tourist attraction moored in Edinburgh where it offers a fascinating glimpse into royal life.

Throughout its working life, the Royal Yacht Britannia was the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II during her overseas tours, sailing over one million miles around the world while promoting British interests abroad.

The vessel is now kept in immaculate condition by the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust and is open year-round for visitors to follow in the footsteps of world leaders as they explore the royal’s private quarters and the below-deck rooms. Self-guided audio tours will take you to every nook and cranny of this enormous ship while information panels explain what life would have been like on board the vessel in its heyday.

There’s also an excellent restaurant onboard on the upper deck as well as a gift shop in the visitor centre, and as Britannia is moored alongside Ocean Terminal you can easily visit the restaurants, shops, and cinema that the waterfront shopping complex has to offer.

Royal Yacht Britannia

The Highlights

1: The Royal Yacht Britannia served as the floating residence of the British Royal Family for over 40 years. Exploring this iconic vessel gives you a unique opportunity to delve into the fascinating maritime history of the Royal Family and discover the stories behind their voyages and state visits.

2: The Royal Yacht Britannia has been meticulously preserved since its decommissioning in 1997. As you explore the ship, you’ll be able to view the opulent interiors which include the State Apartments, the Royal Bedrooms, and the impressive Royal Deck Tea Room.

3: The Royal Yacht Britannia is located in the historic port of Leith, just a short distance from Edinburgh’s city centre. The yacht is docked permanently, allowing visitors to soak in the waterfront views while they explore the vessel. After your visit, you can take a walk to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of Leith with its charming shops and restaurants.

Visiting Tips

1: Although the tickets are a wee bit pricey there’s a lot to see so you’ll spend a good 2-3 hours on Britannia. While the tickets are expensive if you only make one visit, they allow unlimited re-entry for one year, so keep hold of them in case you decide to return another day.

2: Ocean Terminal is a nice shopping centre with a cinema and several cafes and restaurants. You could easily stretch your Britannia visit to last most of the day if you use those facilities.

3: If you want to explore the city centre after a visit to Britannia take Lothian Bus services 11, 22, 34, 35 and 36. Highlights of Edinburgh include Edinburgh Castle (obviously), Calton Hill , The Scott Monument , Holyrood Park and Holyrood Palace .

Royal Yacht Britannia

Tourist Information

The ship is entered via the visitor centre in Ocean Terminal which is situated on the top floor of the shopping mall. As you walk around Britannia’s five main decks on a self-guided tour you can listen to an audio guide that explains what life was like on board not only for the royal inhabitants but also for the Royal Navy crew that manned it during its voyages.

Starting at the bridge you pass through the state apartments, the crew quarters, and the engine room before finally reaching the racing yacht Bloodhound which is part of an interesting royal sailing exhibition.

There are many highlights of this ship that all family members will enjoy – including the huge state banquet room with its massive dining table and the gleaming Rolls Royce Phantom that used to travel on the ship along with the Royal Family.

If you fancy a wee treat you can pick up some delicious homemade fudge in the NAAFI sweet shop. but make sure you leave enough room for the Royal Deck Tea Room where you can sample top-notch Scottish cuisine as well as coffee and sandwiches. The entry ticket includes free re-admittance for one year so if you ever go back to Ocean Terminal you could always take another visit just for the restaurant.

Britannia Dining Room

Britannia was built at the Clydebank shipyards near Glasgow and successfully launched in 1953, with its maiden voyage to Malta beginning in 1954. During its time at sea, Britannia was manned by volunteers from the Royal Navy, some of whom liked it so much they served onboard for over 20 years.

Whenever royalty was on the vessel a full troop of Royal Marines accompanied them, and during this time they would have sailed around the globe several times as the royal family undertook their ambassadorial duties in almost every nation on earth. Britannia also performed services as an aid ship, evacuating over 1,000 refugees from the civil war in Aden in 1986, and was ready to be converted into a hospital ship at a moment’s notice.

Britannia was eventually decommissioned in 1997 after mounting political pressure regarding the cost of maintenance made its continued use impossible. The ship was finally tied up at Ocean Terminal where The Royal Yacht Britannia Trust was set up to look after it. Today, more than 300,000 people visit the Royal Yacht Britannia each year, making it one of the top five tourist attractions in Scotland.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Things to Do

Check out the Britannia Visitor Centre : Start your visit at the Britannia Visitor Centre located in Ocean Terminal. There, you can discover Britannia’s fascinating history through exhibits and photographs before you step aboard the yacht itself.

Explore the Royal Yacht Britannia : Step aboard the British monarch’s former floating palace and explore the state apartments, crew’s quarters, and engine room. This magnificent ship offers a unique glimpse into royal life at sea thanks to audio guides which are included in the ticket price.

Tea at The Royal Deck Tea Room : After your tour, unwind at the Royal Deck Tea Room. Enjoy traditional teas, delicious cakes, sandwiches, and spectacular views of the docks and the Firth of Forth . It’s a great way to reflect on your visit to Britannia before deciding where to go next.

Attend a Special Event : The Royal Yacht Britannia hosts a variety of events throughout the year, from Hogmanay celebrations to Burn’s Night suppers . To see which events are coming up next, head to the official Royal Yacht Britannia website .

Visit The Gift Shop : You cannot miss Britannia’s gift shop in Ocean Terminal which offers a wide range of exclusive gifts and souvenirs. From royal memorabilia to nautical-themed toys, you’re bound to find the perfect memento for your visit.

Ocean Terminal

Things to Do Nearby

Ocean Terminal . 74 Ocean Dr, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ. 2-minute walk. A large shopping centre that’s one of the first arrival points for ships sailing into the Firth of Forth. Ocean Terminal contains a collection of restaurants, coffee shops and department stores.

Leith . 8-minute walk. A vibrant and historic area of Edinburgh that is renowned for its trendy bars and restaurants. Leith is architecturally significant for the number of restored Victorian warehouses that line Commercial Street and Bernard Street. Some of Scotland’s best restaurants are located in Leith, including The Kitchin and Wishart.

The Water of Leith . Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6HE. 11-minute walk. A walkway that runs for 12 miles from the Colzium Hills outside of Edinburgh to Leith. The majority of the path is set on quiet pavement that runs alongside the river. Much loved by locals for its wildlife.

Leith Links . 4 Links Gardens, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 8AA. 18-minute walk. Informal gardens and a play park that was historically a golf course but has been revamped into a recreation area.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society . The Vaults, 87 Giles St, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6BZ. 13-minute walk. The Vaults is the main site for the SMWS in Edinburgh. Visitors can sample a range of quality single malt whiskies as well as gins and rums, along with optional expert-led tasting sessions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the royal yacht britannia berthed.

The Royal Yacht Britannia is berthed at Leith Port in Edinburgh, next to the Ocean Terminal shopping centre. Ocean Terminal is a 15-minute drive from Edinburgh city centre, and the Royal Yacht Britannia Visitor Centre is on the second floor. Address: Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6JJ.

Does the royal family still have a yacht?

No, the British Royal Family does not currently have a yacht. The last royal yacht was the HMY Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997 and is now a museum ship in Edinburgh.

Who owns Royal Yacht Britannia?

The Royal Yacht Britannia is owned and managed by the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust.

Why did they decommission the Royal Yacht Britannia?

The Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 due to maintenance costs and changing politics which meant the yacht was considered unnecessary. It was estimated in 1996 that a refit would cost £17 million and would only prolong the ship’s life for an additional 5 years.

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Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest , Facebook , and YouTube .

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  • 20th Century

10 Facts About Royal Yacht Britannia

royal yacht britannia 2

Peta Stamper

28 nov 2022.

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The 83rd and last in a long line of royal yachts, HMY Britannia has become one of the most famous ships in the world. Now permanently moored at Edinburgh’s Port of Leith, the floating palace is a visitor attraction welcoming some 300,000 people aboard each year.

For Queen Elizabeth II, Britannia was the ideal residence for state visits and peaceful royal family holidays and honeymoons. For the British public, Britannia was a symbol of Commonwealth. For the 220 naval officers who lived aboard Britannia , and the royal family, the 412-foot-long yacht was home.

Having travelled more than a million nautical miles over 44 years of service to the British Crown, Her Majesty’s beloved boat was decommissioned in 1997. Here are 10 facts about life aboard HMY Britannia.

1. Britannia was launched by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 April 1953 using a bottle of wine, not champagne

Champagne is traditionally smashed against a ship’s hull during launching ceremonies. However, in a post-war climate champagne was seen as too frivolous, so a bottle of Empire wine was used instead.

Britannia launched from the John Brown & Company shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland.

royal yacht britannia 2

2. Britannia was the 83rd Royal Yacht

King George VI , Elizabeth II’s father, had first commissioned the royal yacht that would become Britannia in 1952. The previous official boat had belonged to Queen Victoria and was rarely used. The tradition of royal yachts had been started by Charles II in 1660.

George decided that the Royal Yacht Britannia should both be a regal vessel as well as a functional one.

3. Britannia had two emergency functions

Britannia was designed to be converted into a hospital ship in time of war, although that function was never used. Additionally, as part of the Cold War plan Operation Candid, in the event of nuclear war the ship would become a refuge off the north-west coast of Scotland for the Queen and Prince Philip.

4. Her maiden voyage was from Portsmouth to Grand Harbour in Malta

She carried Prince Charles and Princess Anne to Malta to meet the Queen and Prince Philip at the end of the royal couple’s Commonwealth tour. The Queen stepped aboard Britannia for the first time in Tobruk on 1 May 1954.

Over the next 43 years, Britannia would transport the Queen, members of the Royal Family and various dignitaries on some 696 foreign visits.

royal yacht britannia 2

The HMY Britannia on a visit by the Queen to Canada in 1964

Image Credit: Royal Canadian Navy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Britannia hosted some of the 20th century’s most notable figures

In July 1959, Britannia sailed the newly opened Saint Lawrence Seaway to Chicago where she docked, making the Queen the first British monarch to visit the city. US President Dwight Eisenhower hopped aboard Britannia for part of the journey.

In later years, Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton would also step aboard. Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales, took their honeymoon cruise on Britannia in 1981.

6. The crew were volunteers from the Royal Navy

After 365 days’ service, crew members could be admitted to the Permanent Royal Yacht Service as Royal Yachtsmen (‘Yotties’) and serve until they either chose to leave or were dismissed. As a result, some yachtsmen served on  Britannia  for over 20 years.

The crew also included a detachment of Royal Marines, who would dive underneath the ship each day while moored away from home to check for mines or other threats.

7. All royal children were allocated a ‘Sea Daddy’ on board the ship

The ‘sea daddies’ were primarily tasked with looking after the children and keeping them entertained (games, picnics and water fights) during voyages. They also oversaw the children’s chores, including cleaning the life rafts.

royal yacht britannia 2

8. There was a ‘Jelly Room’ onboard for the royal children

The yacht had a total of three galley kitchens where Buckingham Palace ‘s chefs prepared meals. Among these galleys was a chilled room called the ‘Jelly Room’ for the sole purpose of storing royal children’s jellied desserts.

9. It cost around £11 million every year to run Britannica

The cost of running Britannia was always an issue. In 1994, another expensive refit for the ageing vessel was proposed. Whether or not to refit or commission a new royal yacht entirely came down to the election result of 1997. With repairs at a proposed cost of £17 million, Tony Blair’s new Labour government were unwilling to commit public funds to replace Britannica.

royal yacht britannia 2

HMY Britannia in 1997, London

Image Credit: Chris Allen, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

10. All the clocks on board remain stopped at 3:01pm

In December 1997,  Britannia was officially decommissioned. The clocks have been kept at 3:01pm – the exact moment the Queen went ashore for the last time following the ship’s decommissioning ceremony, during which the Queen shed a rare public tear.

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Britannia and beyond: a history of royal yachts

In the opening episode of The Crown ’s newest season, the drama portrays Queen Elizabeth II’s consternation as she slowly says goodbye to her beloved yacht, the Britannia . Rhiannon Davies considers the history of the royal vessel and the traditions of monarchs at sea…

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  • Rhiannon Davies
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When guessing which royal home allowed the Queen to “truly relax”, the ivy-clad Balmoral or the handsome façade of Sandringham Palace might spring to mind. However, it was another – floating – residence that the Queen felt most comfortable in: her royal yacht, HMY Britannia .

VENICE, ITALY - MAY 05: An aerial view of the royal yacht Britannia during Charles and Diana's tour of Italy along the Grand Canal on May 5, 1985, Venice, Italy (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)

This yacht features in the opening episode of the fifth season of The Crown . With the Britannia in need of a multi-million pound refurbishment, the Queen (played by Imelda Staunton) asks prime minister John Major (Johnny Lee Miller) if the government will bear the eye-watering costs. She puts forward a powerful plea, explaining: “From the design of the hull to the smallest piece of china, she is a floating, seagoing expression of me.”

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When was the first royal yacht?

The tradition of a royal yacht stretches back to 1660, when Charles II became England’s king. To mark his return to the throne, his Dutch allies gave him an extravagant gift: a yacht called the Mary .

As well as being built for speed, she was also designed with opulence in mind. “To give it the more lustre”, the ship’s exterior was “richly gilt” and “some of the best painters of the country” helped decorate its interior.

Read more about the history behind each episode of The Crown season 5:

  • The Crown S5 E1: ‘Queen Victoria Syndrome’ and a second honeymoon
  • The Crown S5 E2: Prince Philip’s ‘keeper of secrets’ and Andrew Norton’s book on Princess Diana
  • The Crown S5 E3: exiled royals and the al-Fayeds
  • The Crown S5 E4: the Queen’s “annus horribilis” and Princess Margaret’s relationship with Peter Townsend
  • The Crown S5 E5 real history: ‘Camillagate’ tapes and a “war council” for the monarchy’s survival
  • The Crown  S5 E6 real history: the Romanovs’ murder, and Philip’s “spiritual companionship”
  • The Crown  S5 E7 real history: the introduction of Martin Bashir, and a royal education
  • The Crown S5 E8 real history: Diana’s Panorama interview causes fireworks
  • The Crown S5 E9 real history: the divorce settlement between Charles and Diana

Rather than relaxing on her decks, Charles used the Mary as a racing vessel before donating her to the Royal Navy. Her career ended abruptly in 1675, however, when she hit a rock in the treacherous Skerries – a cluster of islands near Northern Ireland, where many ships have been pulled below the waves.

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Although the ship met a tragic fate, she started a tradition among the monarchy – since the Mary , there have been 82 royal yachts. As well as providing space for monarchs to relax from the stresses of ruling, they also had a practical purpose – deployment on diplomatic missions. Their role was especially important before the arrival of aeroplanes, as monarchs or British delegates could only reach other nations by sea.

Meeting between King Louis Philippe I and Queen Victoria aboard the Royal yacht Victoria and Albert, on September 2, 1843, painting of 1845 by Francois-Auguste Biard (1799-1882), oil on canvas, 148x230 cm. (Photo by M. Seemuller / De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images)

While these vessels became a time-honoured tradition, they also moved with the times. The Victoria and Albert – one of Queen Victoria ’s ships – was the first royal yacht in Britain to be fitted with a steam-propelled engine, meaning it could cruise along at 11.5 knots.

  • Read more | Queen Victoria and Prince Albert: what was their relationship like?

When Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI , came to the throne in 1936, a royal yacht that Queen Victoria had lobbied to build – also called the Victoria and Albert – was still in service. However, it was decommissioned three years later, with its bronze-and-black hull starting to crumble.

When was HMY Britannia commissioned?

In 1952 George laid plans for a new yacht to replace the Victoria and Albert . She was to be named HMY Britannia (although this name was kept secret until her launch), and could be transformed into a hospital ship if the country was again plunged into war: the laundry room could be converted into a ward, and the main veranda doubled as a helicopter landing pad.

Tragically, a mere two days after Scotland’s John Brown shipyard received the order, the king passed away . But the shipyard still pressed on with making his plans for HMY Britannia a reality. Now, though, the new monarch, Elizabeth, was at the helm. She and Prince Philip altered the original plans, which they feared were too opulent, considering Britain was still rebuilding itself after the horrors of the Second World War .

President of Tunisia Habib Bourguiba (1903-2000) walks alongside British Royal Queen Elizabeth II, wearing a floral print outfit, as they walk the red carpet alongside the Royal Yacht Britannia in Tunis at the start of the Queen's three-day State Visit to Tunisia, 21st October 1980. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

However, it still had some extravagant touches. The yacht had a bespoke garage, so Elizabeth’s Rolls-Royce Phantom V could be brought aboard. (Later, Elizabeth stopped bringing her Phantom, which needed to have its bumpers removed so it would fit into the tight space, and the garage was used to store beer instead.)

  • Read more | Where is The Crown filmed? The Netflix drama’s locations and their royal links

Elizabeth and Philip both had their own bedrooms, bathrooms and living spaces, which they designed to reflect their personal tastes – the Queen favoured florals, while Philip opted for dark timber. The couple also ensured a piece of maritime history made its way onboard: Philip had saved the teak binnacle (the housing for a compass) from one of Queen Victoria’s royal yachts, and it was incorporated into Britannia ’s design.

When did royal yacht Britannia launch?

Taking a little over a year to build, the ship was launched in April 1953 – shortly before the Queen’s coronation. With champagne still being seen as too luxurious for launching ships in the wake of the war, Elizabeth smashed a bottle of wine into Britannia ’s hull instead and proclaimed: “I wish success to her and all who sail in her”.

TheCrown_S05_Image_174

The Queen’s wish seems to have been granted. Over her 44 years of service, the Britannia made more than 700 journeys to countries in the Commonwealth and beyond, travelling around 1.1m miles. Many luminaries stepped aboard her deck, with political heavyweights from Winston Churchill and Boris Yeltsin to Nelson Mandela enjoying delicious banquets in the lavish State Dining Room.

Aside from diplomacy, the ship also became a royal honeymoon spot, with four newlywed couples choosing to take a romantic cruise on Britannia . Princess Margaret was the first to make use of the so-called ‘honeymoon suite’ when she and the Earl of Snowdon enjoyed a Caribbean cruise in 1960. Most famously, Prince Charles and Princess Diana sailed on the ship in 1981, when they toured the Mediterranean for their honeymoon – Charles brought a double bed onto the yacht during their trip, as all of the bedrooms had single beds.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a silk, floral dress designed by Donald Campbell, on board the Royal yacht Britannia as they prepare to depart on their honeymoon cruise on August 1, 1981 in Gibraltar (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

It was also the site of many family summer holidays, with the Western Isles tour being a particular favourite. This was a relaxed jaunt around the western islands of Scotland, when the royals could enjoy barbeques and play games. Sometimes one of the ship’s staircases would even be turned into a waterslide, for the young royals to splash down.

  • Read more | Royal historian Tracy Borman on the real events behind The Crown season 5

However, by the 1990s the ship was starting to deteriorate, and it was decided that “the costs were too great” to refurbish her. 1994 saw the announcement that the Britannia would be decommissioned; three years later, the Queen walked off her deck for the last time, shedding a tear at the yacht’s fate. Today the ship is a visitor attraction, docked in the port of Leith.

The Queen Wiping A Tear From Her Eye At The De-commissioning Ceremony For Hmy Britannia. With Her Are Prince Philip And Prince Charles And Behind Her Her Lady In Waiting The Duchess Of Grafton (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Although plans were discussed for another yacht to replace her, the world in 1997 was totally different to the one of 1952: air travel now reigned supreme, and Britain had lost its empire. The country was being steered in a different direction – one where a royal yacht no longer seemed necessary.

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A former BBC History Magazine section editor, Rhiannon has long been fascinated by history and continues to write for HistoryExtra.com. She has appeared on the award-winning HistoryExtra podcast, interviewing experts on a variety of subjects, from Lucy Worsley discussing Agatha Christie to Sir Ranulph Fiennes on the perils of polar exploration

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Inside ‘Britannia,’ Queen Elizabeth II’s Floating Palace

The Royal Yacht, according to Her Majesty, was “the one place where I can truly relax.”

hmy britannia

But Britannia was far more than a posh royal cruise liner. She was a showcase for cutting-edge naval engineering and the first royal yacht that could do double duty as a floating hospital in wartime, if necessary. In 1986, for instance, she rescued more than 1,000 refugees from South Yemen. Over the course of her 44 years in service, Britannia facilitated 968 official visits and traveled over one million nautical miles.

royal yacht britannia

She was also, of course, a time capsule of the best British design of the time, in terms of both technological prowess and decoration. Read on for more about the ship’s history, and where the Royal Yacht Britannia is now (hint: You can visit !).

What’s the backstory of Britannia ?

This history of royal liners goes back centuries. In fact, Britannia was the 83rd royal yacht; the first, HMY Mary, was constructed in 1660 by the Dutch East India Company and given as a gift to Charles II. Britannia ’s predecessor, Victoria & Albert III, was completed in 1901 and used by Edward II up through George VI, but was decommissioned in 1939 and eventually broken up as scrap. A new yacht was commissioned on February 4, 1952, in an effort to help King George VI’s health, according to the Royal Yacht Britannia museum, but the king died just two days later. The task to oversee the construction of the new yacht, then, fell on the young Queen Elizabeth II.

royal yacht britannia at sea

Who Built the Royal Yacht Britannia ?

Britannia was designed by John Brown & Co., the same marine engineering firm that built the RMS Lusitania and the Queen Mary. Construction on Britannia began in June 1952, and she was launched in a ceremony on April 16, 1953. The young queen didn’t reveal the name of the liner until her televised address in which she proudly stated before roaring crowds, “I name this ship Britannia .” Notably, a bottle of wine as opposed to the more traditional Champagne, was smashed across the ship’s bow during the christening—Champagne would have been much too ostentatious amid postwar austerity.

Who designed the Royal Yacht Britannia ’s interiors?

According to a technical paper presented to the Institution of Naval Architects in the spring of 1954, the royal and state apartments were to be on par with those of a first-class ocean liner. “The suitability of the decorative design and the furnishing of the Royal and State apartments has, of course, been very important,” the paper noted.

royal yacht britannia

At first, Patrick McBride of the Glasgow, Scotland–based firm, McInnes Gardner & Partners, was selected to design the interiors, but the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh rejected those plans, deeming them too lavish, according to the Royal Yacht Britannia museum. Sir Hugh Casson, the director of architecture at the 1951 Festival of Britain, was the perfect candidate, with his modern eye and lack of ostentation. The design, the architect later wrote in his diary, “was really running a lawn mower over the Louis XVIl adornments. I was going to concentrate on one-color carpet throughout, which was sort of lilac/gray, and all the walls would be white. The only enrichments would be a bit of gilding in grand places.”

royal yacht britannia

Working with Casson, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were highly involved, giving input for everything ranging from the furniture (much of it salvaged from the vessel’s predecessor, Victoria & Albert III , as another way to appear thrifty) to the ship’s blue exterior paint, inspired by the Duke of Edinburgh’s racing yacht, Bluebottle. Apartments featured a design like an elegant-yet-muted English country house, filled with floral sofas and antiques. The state drawing room could accommodate up to 250 guests. The Queen’s favorite room was the sun lounge, with its warm teak walls and rattan furnishings, and views across the veranda deck.

royal yacht britannia

“I suppose Britannia was rather special as far as we were concerned because we were involved from the very beginning in organizing the design and furnishing and equipping and hanging the pictures and everything else,” Prince Philip said in a 1995 documentary film about the yacht. “For us it was rather special because all the other places we live in have been built by our predecessors. They started building Windsor 1,000 years ago, and they built Balmoral 100 years ago, and they built Sandringham 70 or 90 years ago. So we, in a sense, had our own.”

So successful was the partnership that Casson would go on to become a dear friend of the royal family and design interiors for Buckingham Palace, Balmoral , and Windsor Castle

royal yacht britannia

Britannia was also a second home for the royal children. Each was given a member of the crew or “sea daddy” to look after them. “We found as children that there was so much to do, we expended so much energy that we couldn’t describe our time on the yacht as a rest,” Princess Anne said. Milk was delivered fresh from a farmer each day for the royal children, according to letters from the ship’s Acting Captain J. S. Dalglish. Later, the yacht would become the venue for numerous royal honeymoons and vacations, including Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s infamous 1981 Mediterranean cruise.

Where is the Royal Yacht Britannia Now?

As documented in season 5 of The Crown , the Royal Yacht was decommissioned on December 11, 1997, at a ceremony in Portsmouth, U.K., after nearly half a century in service and having traveled more than one million nautical miles. In addition to Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward all attended the ceremony. As the British ensign was lowered to the tune of a navy band, Her Majesty was photographed blinking back tears .

queen crying at britannia

Britannia was retired to Port of Leith in Edinburgh. Today, as one of the most popular tourist sites in the U.K., she serves as a museum and receives some 350,000 visitors per year who can tour the State dining room, the Queen’s bedroom, and sun lounge, as well as view the engine room and crew’s cabins. Visitors can even have tea and scones on the royal deck. The majority of the items on display are original to the yacht and are on loan from the Royal Collection.

zara phillips and mike tindall host pre wedding party on britannia

In a bizarre 21st-century twist, former British prime minister Boris Johnson announced plans to build a Britannia successor, a £250 million yet-to-be-named, taxpayer-funded superyacht to operate as a “floating embassy.” The new British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, recently torpedoed those plans in favor of building a surveillance ship.

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Anna Fixsen, Deputy Digital Editor at ELLE DECOR, focuses on how to share the best of the design world through in-depth reportage and online storytelling. Prior to joining the staff, she has held positions at Architectural Digest, Metropolis, and Architectural Record magazines. elledecor.com 

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King Charles III makes a poignant return to the Royal Yacht Britannia – his mother’s beloved home from home

By Stephanie Bridger-Linning

Image may contain Blazer Clothing Coat Jacket Balcony Building Architecture Person Adult Child and Formal Wear

King Charles III (then Prince of Wales) with Princess Diana on the Royal Yacht Britannia at the start of their honeymoon cruise

King Charles III yesterday made a poignant return to the Royal Yacht Britannia. A ‘home from home’ for Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh and their four children, the Royal Yacht Britannia held an important place in the lives of the Royal Family for more than four decades until it was decommissioned in 1997.

Some expected Prince Harry to be among the congregation when close friend Jack Mann wed in Sussex

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Family holidays, honeymoon and precious private time – the Royal Yacht Britannia brought so much to the Windsors. ‘This was the place out of the public eye, they could relax and be themselves. On board Britannia that was their family time and it was our job to make their stay comfortable,’ one former crew member recalled yesterday.

Members of the Royal Yacht Britannia make a toast with King Charles III during a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia

Members of the Royal Yacht Britannia make a toast with King Charles III during a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia

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Boarding the decommissioned yacht, King Charles no doubt would have been transported back through the decades to the countless voyages he shared with his siblings, cousins and parents – and later his wife and their young sons. During the visit – part of a busy schedule of engagements for Holyrood Week – King Charles sipped rum with sailors, met former crew members and attended a reception in the State Dining Room. ‘To all the marvellous Yotties who keep it all going, you are all brilliant,’ he said, toasting the crew.

Also known as Royal Week, Holyrood Week is an opportunity for the King and Queen to celebrate Scottish culture

By Ollie Macnaughton

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The history of royal yachts dates back to the reign of Charles II who, when he became King of England, Scotland and Ireland on the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, was gifted a yacht called the Mary by his Dutch allies. There have been a total of 82 royal yachts since. As well as providing monarchs and their families a place in which to relax, they have also been deployed on diplomatic missions; a role that was particularly important before royals were able to jet off on planes.

Prince Charles and Princess Anne with their nanny on board the Royal yacht Britannia at Portsmouth

Prince Charles and Princess Anne with their nanny on board the Royal yacht, Britannia at Portsmouth

Although it was Queen Elizabeth II and her family who enjoyed the use of the Britannia, the vessel had been commissioned by her father, King George VI , as a replacement for the ageing Victoria and Albert which was decommissioned in 1939 having been constructed during the reign of Queen Victoria.

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George VI, who reigned over Britain during the Second World War, took a practical approach when planning the new vessel, lest the nation should once again find itself in the throes of conflict, and ensured it could easily be turned into a hospital ship if needed. Sadly, the King died before construction was completed and it was his daughter and son-in-law who had the final say on its design.

The Queen and Prince Philip waving on board Royal Yacht Britannia during an official visit to Kuwait

The Queen and Prince Philip waving on board Royal Yacht Britannia during an official visit to Kuwait

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The state room on the Royal Yacht Britannia

The Britannia set sail on her maiden voyage from Portsmouth to the Grand Harbour in Malta on 14 April 1952, carrying Princess Anne and her brother Prince Charles , who reunited with the then Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the end of their Commonwealth tour. The late Queen first boarded the yacht at Tobruk in the country then known as the Kingdom of Libya in May 1954, and she famously became the first British monarch to visit Chicago in 1959 when the yacht docked in the city.

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By Isaac Bickerstaff

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It became integral to royal life. As a young boy, Prince Charles is said to have stolen pastries from the kitchen of the yacht, and was captured on film playing on the decks and swooping down a makeshift slide. Sir Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela were among those who dined in the opulent State Dining Room, while Prince Charles and Princess Diana honeymooned on board. It was also the location of fun-filled family holidays, with private home videos and photos shared from the royal archives over the years revealing how the late Queen relaxed on deck as the family whizzed down waterslides.

Season 5 of The Crown featured the Britannia towards the end of her seaworthy days. The series depicts Queen Elizabeth II (played by Imelda Staunton) tries to strong-arm Prime Minister Sir John Major (Johnny Lee Miller) into footing the bill for a sizeable refurbishment, telling him: ‘From the design of the hull to the smallest piece of china, she is a floating, seagoing expression of me.’ The Duke of Edinburgh (Jonathan Pryce) also does his best to compel Sir John to take action.

Image may contain Transportation Vehicle Yacht Boat Ferry Cruiser Navy Military Ship City Water and Waterfront

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Hong Kong

Ultimately, however, it was decided (as in real life) that the ‘costs were too great’ and, in 1994, it was announced the Britannia would be decommissioned. Three years later, the vessel that had given the late Queen so many happy memories embarked on its final voyage – a farewell tour around the UK. On the day of decommissioning, the enormity of the occasion was clear for the world to see, for Her late Majesty was photographed wiping away a tear during the ceremony; a rare public display of emotion for the stoic sovereign.

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Since her retirement, Britannia has been moored in the Port of Leith in Edinburgh and has served as a tourist attraction. It marks the final chapter in a fascinating story of the beloved floating royal residence.

Image may contain Person Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh Prince Richard Duke of Gloucester and Charles Prince of Wales

The Queen wiping a tear from her eye at the de-commissioning ceremony for The Royal Yacht Britannia

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By Isaac Zamet

Overqualified? Princess Anne, with a lifetime of royal experience, makes a first-class deputy to the King

Photos show what it's like onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, the queen's 'floating palace' that she took on lavish vacations

  • The Royal Yacht Britannia was the royal family's private yacht from 1953 to 1997.
  • It's five stories tall, had more than 240 staff, and was known as the queen's "floating palace."
  • Britannia is now anchored in Leith, Scotland, and reopens as a tourist attraction on May 12.

For 44 years, the Royal Yacht Britannia carried the queen and members of the royal family around the world.

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Source: Royal Yacht Britannia

Built in 1953, it logged more than 1 million miles and became known as the queen's "floating palace."

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The five-story ship was part royal residence and part Royal Navy ship, with a full-time staff of more than 240 royal yachtsmen and officers.

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The queen traveled on the ship for tours abroad, during which she would meet with dignitaries both on land and onboard.

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She also used it for vacations like the royal family's annual summer cruise to the Western Isles of Scotland.

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The queen once said that "Britannia is the one place where I can truly relax."

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Four royal couples used the ship for their honeymoons, including Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981.

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In 1997, the Labour government decommissioned the ship, citing costs as a primary reason. The Britannia cost about £11 million to run each year, Reuters reported.

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Source: Royal Yacht Britannia , Reuters

While the queen has yet to build a new yacht, that wasn't the end of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

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One year later, it opened as a public museum in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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The ship is set to reopen on May 12, almost six months after it closed in November due to the pandemic.

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Source: Royal Yacht Britannia , BBC

Visitors will be able to step into spaces like the teak-lined sun lounge, the queen's favorite room, where she took her breakfast and afternoon tea.

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The queen's bedroom, featuring a vanity table, writing desk, and twin bed, is also on display. The queen and Prince Philip slept separately while onboard the Britannia.

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The largest room on the ship is the state dining room, where the queen entertained dignitaries like Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher. The room could fit 56 guests.

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Nearby is the state drawing room, which served as a place for the royal family to relax as well as a reception area for guests.

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Toward the front of the ship are rooms where the staff lived and operated, like the 24-hour laundry room. Here, yachtsmen and officers would change outfits up to six times per day.

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The former royal yachtsmen, known as "yotties," now reunite annually to help maintain the ship.

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The clocks on the Royal Yacht Britannia don't get touched. They are permanently stopped at 3:01 p.m., the time when the queen stepped off the ship for the last time.

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Prince Philip once said that the ship occupies a unique place in royal history. "Almost every previous sovereign has been responsible for building a church, a castle, a palace, or just a house," he said, according to the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust. "The only comparable structure in the present reign is Britannia."

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Admissions and Discounts

Admissions and Discounts

Due to upcoming construction work at Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, certain ticket dates are not on sale as Britannia will be closed.

Important information: please read before booking.

Select a time to arrive. You can then stay on board as long as you wish within our opening hours.

Tickets will be e-mailed to the e-mail address provided during online purchase.

  • On average, a tour takes 1.5 - 2 hours with additional time should you wish to visit the Royal Deck Tearoom.
  • Tours are self-guided, available on your mobile or an audio handset and are included in the price of admission
  • Special offers or discounts are available when purchasing online (except Armed Forces or Student tickets*). Simply enter the reference number at the checkout stage. * Armed Forces, Student or Carer tickets are  only available at the ticket desk.  They cannot be pre-booked, but they  will  be able to buy tickets and visit on the day.
  • Bookings can be moved free of charge.
  • Refunds are available up to 48 hours before your visit. To request a refund, e-mail [email protected] .
  • If you have any further questions, see our FAQ page ( www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk/visit/faq/ ) or please call +44 (0)131 555 5566 (Mon – Fri, 09:00- 17:00hrs).

We look forward to welcoming you aboard!

Ticket options

  • Adult Adult £19.50 (Gift Aid eligible) 0 40 max

2 adults and up to 3 children.

  • Child Under 5 Child Under 5 Free 0 40 max
  • Call us : 0131 555 5566
  • View company information
  • Registered Company Name : Royal Yacht Britannia
  • Branch Address : Ocean Drive, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6JJ
  • Registered Company Address : C/O Turcan Connell Princes Exchange, 1 Earl Grey Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland, EH3 9EE
  • Registered Company Number : SC18547

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royal yacht britannia 2

A SENSE OF OCCASION

A red carpet welcome awaits for the event of a lifetime aboard the former Royal residence of Queen Elizabeth II.

Unobtrusive excellence

Follow in the footsteps of Royalty as you board Britannia via the Royal Brow, an entrance previously reserved for the Royal Family.

With passion and precision

There is no detail too small for our meticulous in-house team as they carefully prepare for each event.

Treat your guests like Royalty

Everything is replicated to the same high standards as when Britannia was in Royal service.

Exquisite Cuisine

Experience exceptional fine dining prepared in the original Royal Galleys.

Event of a lifetime

Host your special event on board one of the most luxurious five-star venues in the world.

A Place to do Business

Queen Elizabeth II hosted many business events on board during Britannia's 44 years at sea.

Our Hotel Fingal

Experience our new luxury floating hotel.

Visiting Britannia

Tripadvisor’s No.1 UK Attraction 2023

royal yacht britannia 2

Due to upcoming construction work at Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, Britannia will be closed 11 - 23 March.

Click on the Visit page  for all you need to know before you visit.

Step aboard to enjoy a great day out!

Fingal Hotel

Get away from the everyday aboard Britannia’s sister ship, Fingal.  Extend your visit with a stay in one of Fingal’s luxurious cabins, your own oasis by the sea. 

AA Hotel of the Year Scotland, AA five-star hotel and 2 AA Rosettes

royal yacht britannia 2

Learn more: fingal.co.uk

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PEKIN, Elektrostal - Lenina Ave. 40/8 - Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Phone Number - Tripadvisor

IMAGES

  1. Royal Yacht Britannia II

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  2. Rule Britannia 2! Designer of Cunard liner Queen Mary 2 reveals £

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  3. Royal yacht Britannia, Queen Elizabeth II's boat, could return to seas

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  4. Final designs for £200 million Royal Yacht Britannia replacement to be

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  5. A private tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia

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  6. The Royal Yacht Britannia Official Website

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COMMENTS

  1. HMY Britannia

    Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia is the former royal yacht of the British monarchy. She was in their service from 1954 until 1997. She was the 83rd such vessel since King Charles II acceded to the throne in 1660, and is the second royal yacht to bear the name, the first being the racing cutter built for the Prince of Wales in 1893.

  2. The Royal Yacht Britannia Official Website

    Britannia will be closed 11-23 March due to the redevelopment of Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre. Explore each of the five decks of The Royal Yacht Britannia, Best UK Attraction (Tripadvisor) and discover what life was like during Royal service on board Queen Elizabeth II's former floating palace. A great day out for all the family at this top ...

  3. The Royal Yacht Britannia

    The Royal Yacht Britannia: A History of Queen Elizabeth II's Favorite Palace This season of The Crown features her majesty's beloved vessel from christening to decommissioning By Lisa Liebman...

  4. The History of The Royal Yacht Britannia

    2023 Explore the rich history of the Clydebank-built former Royal Yacht of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh. Find out more.

  5. Royal Yacht Britannia

    Royal Yacht Britannia 23,384 reviews #1 of 544 things to do in Edinburgh Speciality MuseumsShips Open now 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM Write a review About Step aboard Queen Elizabeth II's former floating palace and experience this iconic attraction for yourself.

  6. Best UK Attraction

    Opening Times *Due to upcoming construction work at Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, Britannia will be closed 11 - 23 March. The Royal Yacht Britannia is closed on 1 January and 25 December. The last admission to the Royal Yacht on 24 December is 2:30pm. Tickets & Prices

  7. Royal Yacht Britannia Facts Everyone Should Know—and How to Visit

    The Royal Yacht Britannia Has a Fascinating History—Here's Everything You Should Know It doesn't get more majestic than Queen Elizabeth II's yacht. By Madoline Markham Published: Oct 26, 2023 Seventy years ago, the Britannia began its journey as the royal yacht for Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family of the United Kingdom.

  8. All About the Royal Yacht Britannia Featured on The Crown Season 5

    Following Queen Elizabeth's coronation on June 2, 1953, the Royal Yacht Britannia was commissioned into the Royal Navy on January 11, 1954, before sailing her first overseas port on April 22.

  9. The Story Behind the Royal Family's Yacht, Britannia

    It was the first royal yacht designed for ocean travel. The ship was built by John Brown & Co at the same shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland in the same location the famous ocean liners the Queen ...

  10. The Royal Yacht Britannia

    The Royal Yacht Britannia is the former royal yacht of HM Queen Elizabeth II which is located at the Ocean Terminal shopping centre in Edinburgh.The yacht is one of Scotland's premier tourist attractions and visitors can explore it on a self-guided tour that takes them through the main dining hall, the royal family's private quarters, and the engine room.

  11. 10 Facts About Royal Yacht Britannia

    1. Britannia was launched by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 April 1953 using a bottle of wine, not champagne Champagne is traditionally smashed against a ship's hull during launching ceremonies. However, in a post-war climate champagne was seen as too frivolous, so a bottle of Empire wine was used instead.

  12. Royal Yacht Britannia History: When Did The Queen Retire The Royal

    The tradition of a royal yacht stretches back to 1660, when Charles II became England's king. To mark his return to the throne, his Dutch allies gave him an extravagant gift: a yacht called the Mary. As well as being built for speed, she was also designed with opulence in mind.

  13. A tour of Queen Elizabeth II's Royal Yacht Britannia

    3.6K 273K views 3 years ago #thecrownnetflix #royalfamily #britannia Take a full tour of the Queen's yacht, Britannia. This magnificent vessel was used by Queen Elizabeth II for over 40...

  14. Inside Royal Yacht Britannia, Queen Elizabeth's Royal Cruise Ship

    Jan 29, 2023, 11:16 AM PST Practicing my royal wave. Coren Feldman The Royal Yacht Britannia was the royal family's private yacht from 1953 to 1997. The ship is now a museum open to the...

  15. Inside the Royal Yacht 'Britannia'

    In fact, Britannia was the 83rd royal yacht; the first, HMY Mary, was constructed in 1660 by the Dutch East India Company and given as a gift to Charles II. Britannia 's predecessor, Victoria & Albert III, was completed in 1901 and used by Edward II up through George VI, but was decommissioned in 1939 and eventually broken up as scrap.

  16. King Charles III makes a poignant return to the Royal Yacht Britannia

    King Charles III yesterday made a poignant return to the Royal Yacht Britannia. A 'home from home' for Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh and their four children, the Royal Yacht Britannia held an important place in the lives of the Royal Family for more than four decades until it was decommissioned in 1997.

  17. Inside the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen's 'Floating Palace'

    Apr 22, 2021, 12:37 PM PDT Queen Elizabeth II traveled the world on the Royal Yacht Britannia from 1953 to 1997. It's now a museum in Scotland. Left: Serge Lemoine/Getty Images. Right: John...

  18. Admissions and Discounts

    On average, a tour takes 1.5 - 2 hours with additional time should you wish to visit the Royal Deck Tearoom. Tours are self-guided, available on your mobile or an audio handset and are included in the price of admission; Special offers or discounts are available when purchasing online (except Armed Forces or Student tickets*).

  19. The Britannia Experience, Edinburgh

    A SENSE OF OCCASION A red carpet welcome awaits for the event of a lifetime aboard the former Royal residence of Queen Elizabeth II. 1 of 8 Famously described by Her Majesty as "The one place I can truly relax", Britannia is the only Royal Yacht in the world available for exclusive use hire.

  20. The Royal Yacht Britannia on Instagram: "Here is Queen Elizabeth II's

    158 likes, 2 comments - royalyachtbritannia on February 24, 2024: "Here is Queen Elizabeth II's Sitting Room. This space served as an office to attend to state af..." The Royal Yacht Britannia on Instagram: "Here is Queen Elizabeth II's Sitting Room.

  21. Join us for Hogmanay aboard The Royal Yacht Britannia to ...

    90 likes, 2 comments. "Join us for Hogmanay aboard The Royal Yacht Britannia to welcome in 2024 in unforgettable style. Enjoy a Champagne private tour, indulge in a sumptuous four-course dinner in the State Dining Room, witness the the pipe band performing the spectacular Beating Retreat, dance the night away on the Royal Deck with live music and countdown to midnight with the piper. It's ...

  22. How to get to Elektrostal from 5 nearby airports

    The nearest airport to Elektrostal is Zhukovsky (ZIA) Airport which is 32.5 km away. Other nearby airports include Moscow Domodedovo (DME) (54 km), Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO) (67.2 km) and Moscow Vnukovo (VKO) (75.4 km).

  23. PEKIN, Elektrostal

    Lenina Ave., 40/8, Elektrostal 144005 Russia +7 495 120-35-45 Website + Add hours Improve this listing.

  24. BETA GIDA, OOO Company Profile

    Find company research, competitor information, contact details & financial data for BETA GIDA, OOO of Elektrostal, Moscow region. Get the latest business insights from Dun & Bradstreet.

  25. Elektrostal to Moscow

    2 alternative options. Taxi • 1h. Take a taxi from Elektrostal to Moskva Yaroslavskaya 56.9 km; RUB 900 - RUB 1100 ... ˈkrasnəjə ˈploɕːətʲ) is a city square (plaza) in Moscow, Russia. It separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from a historic merchant quarter ...