This is how you’d be rewarded if you became a national war hero: You got Hyde Park as a backyard. In 1815, Arthur Wellesley defeated Napoleon and became the Duke of Wellington and later, prime minister. The mansion, still in the family (they maintain private rooms), was filled with splendid thank-you gifts showered upon him by grateful nations, including a thousand-piece silver set from the Portuguese court, but he never seemed to get his nemesis off his mind. Under the grand staircase stands a colossal nude statue of Napoleon that the little emperor despised; the Duke cherished it as a token of victory. Apsley’s supreme art stash, which was largely looted by the French from the Spanish royal family and never went home, includes a few Jan Bruegel the Elders, Diego Velazques’ virtuosic The Waterseller of Seville (you can understand why it was the artist’s favorite work, since just looking at it makes you thirsty); and Correggio’s The Agony in the Garden, in a case fitted with a keyhole so the Duke could open it and polish it with a silk hanky. The Duke and his best friend lived here together after their wives died, and the whiff of faded masculine glory pervades the place like cigar smoke. In other circumstances, the Duke and Napoleon, who both liked fancy finery and fancier egos, would have been buddies. If you’re also visiting Wellington Arch, a joint ticket will save a couple of pounds.
Our Rating Hours Apr–Oct: Wed–Sun 11am–5pm, Nov–Mar: Sat–Sun 11am–5pm Transportation Tube: Hyde Park Corner Phone 0870/333-1181 Prices £8.80 adults, £5.20 children, £7.90 seniors/students, including an audio tour Web site Apsley House
Map149 Piccadilly London
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.