Located squarely in the center of London and a stone’s throw from the River Thames, Buckingham Palace has been the home and administrative headquarters of the British monarchy since the early 19th century. The palace started out as a townhouse known as Buckingham House, which as built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. King George III bought the house five decades later to use as a private residence. During the early years of the 19th century, it was expanded into a palace, still keeping the house at its core. Buckingham Palace officially became a royal residence after Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837.
While the palace is the primary residence of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip today, it is also the site of formal ceremonies and large banquets. Every summer, there are three large Garden Parties held on the palace grounds, with over 50,000 high-profile guests including government officials and foreign dignitaries. The palace is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in London, allowing public access to key areas.
If you want to experience the true majesty of the British Royal Family, then here is what you need to see:
The Changing of the Guard
Perhaps one of the most well-known royal ceremonies, the Changing of the Guard is a long-held tradition dating back to the mid-17th century. The ceremony is conducted at 11 am every day during the summer months, and begins with the Queen’s Life Guard marching from the Wellington Barracks to the palace gates, where the Old Guard waits in formation to hand over their duties. With colorful uniforms, a marching band to accompany the guardsmen and a grand sense of spectacle in the perfectly choreographed ceremony, this is one not to miss. Due to the popularity of the event, it’s recommended that you get there early to secure the best spot to watch the proceedings.
The State Rooms
The exquisite State Rooms of the palace are used for entertaining official guests and are renowned for their grandeur. These rooms contain some of the finest examples of fine art, porcelain and hand-crafted furniture in the world, all of which are part of the Royal Collection. Highlights include paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Vermeer, and sculptures by Canova. The most magnificent of the State Rooms is the famous White Drawing Room, which is the Royal Family’s main reception room before official functions and ceremonies.
The Throne Room
It goes without saying that if you visit Buckingham Palace, you absolutely must take a look around the Throne Room. Decorated in rich tones of crimson and gold with velvety furnishings and polished wood trim, the chamber exemplifies the very notion of royalty. John Nash, the architect who designed the room and much of the palace, was influenced by his background in designing theatre sets, which he parlayed into creating one of the most theatrical looking masterpieces in the world.
The Royal Mews
Buckingham Palace Gardens
As impressive as the interiors of the palace are, you really do want to spend some time outdoors to capitalize on the wonderful summer weather. Spread over 39 acres, the gardens contain over 350 varieties of flowers and 200 types of trees. One of the most notable features of the area is a gorgeous lake, as well as the beautiful floral border and the famous Rose Garden. The gardens also have a helipad and tennis courts. Most famously, this is the site of the Queen’s famous Garden Parties, which are usually held during the summer.
The official residence of the Prince of Wales, Clarence House is located just behind the palace. This beautiful home is where Prince William and Prince Harry grew up, and is open for one-hour tours during the summer. You can gaze upon the lovely formal gardens, the various themed rooms, and an extensive selection of 20th century art belonging to the Queen.
Images courtesy of the Royal Collection Trust Facebook page