Mo Farrah, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Jessica Ennis-Hill, and the honeymooning Jason Kenny and Laura Trott were all absent from the bash.
But among those attending were showjumper Nick Skelton, boxer Nicola Adams and rower Katherine Grainger.
The Queen, Prince Philip, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke of York, and Princess Anne were among the royals feting Team GB”s medal winners from the 2016 Games in Rio. Kate, 34, was wearing a McQueen outfit.
But Princess Eugenie, who had been due to attend, pulled out. Aides did not say why.
Anne, who is president of the British Olympic Association and a member of the International Olympic Committee, watched the games in Brazil and met athletes at the reception.
Team GB collected 27 golds among their medal total of 67 – two more than from London 2012 – for their best-ever haul from an overseas Olympics. The ParalympicsGB squad, meanwhile, returned from South America with 147 medals, including 64 golds.
Gold medal winners included gymnast Max Whitlock, boxer Nicola Adams, tennis star Andy Murray and Mo Farah, who became only the second man to retain the 5,000m and 10,000m titles.
On Monday, the athletes took to the streets of Manchester for a “heroes parade” – where hundreds of thousands of people came out to show their support.
A second celebration was held on Tuesday afternoon in London”s Trafalgar Square before the evening reception.
The Queen, who previously praised the Team GB squad for the “magnificent” and “outstanding” performance in Rio, hosted a similar celebration after London 2012.
William, Kate and Harry said the team was an “inspiration to us all, young and old” after their summer success.
“London 2012 was a hard act to follow, but you have made the entire country proud of everything you have accomplished,” the Duke and Duchess said in a statement released in August.
“We all know that this success does not come easy and is the culmination of years of hard work, passionate commitment, sheer grit and determination.”
Paralympian swimmer Ellie Simmonds said it was “really exciting” to be at the Palace to celebrate the athletes” success.
Simmonds, who claimed her fifth gold medal after winning the 200m medley in Rio, said: “It”s great to come to the Palace which is incredible and to be honoured by the Olympics and Paralympics – it”s amazing.”
Simmonds, who has been to the Palace on several occasions in the past, said she was hoping to meet Prince Harry this time.
“I”ve met them all apart from Prince Harry,” she said.
Gold medal-winning boxer Nicola Adams said: “It”s absolutely amazing – I”m so excited. It”s going to be so much fun meeting all the royals, especially the Queen.”
Adams was awarded an MBE by the monarch after her success at London 2012 and said the Queen wished her luck back then for Rio.
She said she thought the Queen would be “excited” to see her at Buckingham Palace with a gold medal.