Britain’s most famous home, the luxurious personal residence and workplace of Queen Elizabeth II, is open to all.
The official home of British royalty since 1837, Buckingham Palace is the epicenter of Britain’s constitutional monarchy. It’s walls have witnessed innumerable state decrees, lavish banquets and foreign dignitary receptions.
First erected as Buckingham House for the Duke of Buckingham in 1705, the palace has expanded through the centuries. Today, it’s one of the most visited sites in the world.
Cross the threshold of Buckingham Palace into the Grand Hall and admire the curving marble staircase decorated with portraits hung by Queen Victoria. Decorated with gold-accented candelabras and sovereign reds, the Throne Room is used for royal gatherings and receptions. This is the room that leads to the East Front Balcony, where Prince William and Catherine Middleton shared a kiss in front of the world following their wedding in April 2011.
While neither an art gallery nor a museum, the palace’s private art collection rivals many national museums. Discover furniture crafted for kings and heirloom artwork from masters such as Rembrandt.
The palace has more than 700 rooms. During August and September, when Queen Elizabeth II makes her annual visit to Scotland, 19 magnificent State Rooms are available for touring. These rooms showcase many pieces of art from the royal family’s private collection. There is an admission fee, which includes an audio tour, and pre-booking your visit at the Buckingham Palace web site is essential. As a guide, if the royal flag is flying atop the palace, the Queen is home.
Complete your London experience by catching the iconic Changing the Guard ceremony, which begins promptly at 11:30 a.m. on scheduled days. Most tourists have little luck in their efforts to distract the stoic soldiers. From the palace, take a leisurely stroll to Hyde Park, the affluent Kensington district and Green Park.
Alternatively, take the Underground train to the parks, all just a couple of stops away.
The Buckingham Palace is located in the city of Westminster. You can catch a bus from London, and St. James’s Park is the nearest Underground station. Guided tours of the State Rooms are available daily in August and September.