Buckingham Palace in the City of Westminster is undoubtedly one of the most visited tourist attractions in London. It is the weekday home and administrative headquarters of the British Royal family – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip – as well as the London residence of the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. More than 50,000 people are invited to the Palace every year to take part in banquets, dinners, receptions and Royal Garden Parties.
The original building standing at the architectural core of present-day Buckingham Palace was a large house by the name of Buckingham House that was built in 1703 by architect William Winde for the Duke of Buckingham and Normanby. In 1761, King George III bought the house as a private retreat for his wife Queen Charlotte who gave birth to 14 of her children there, and thus it became known as “The Queen’s House”. In 1826, during the reign of King George IV, the house was enlarged by architects John Nash and Edward Blore who constructed three wings around a central courtyard, and made into a palace.
However, both the King and his younger brother King William IV died before its completion. It was Queen Victoria who was the first British monarch to reside in the palace upon her accession to the throne in 1837. Later, the palace was expanded with a new east wing which added many rooms to the building, including a long ballroom. The famous monumental façade of the east wing that now faces the Mall and St. James’ Park was built in 1913 by Aston Webb.
Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms (it even has a swimming pool, a cinema, its own post office and police station) and its garden is the largest private one in London. In August and September each year, when the Royal family is absent, as well as on selected days in winter and spring, tourists can visit some of the richly decorated and exquisitely furnished with French and English furniture State Rooms, for example the Throne Room, Picture Gallery, Music Room, Drawing Rooms and Silk Tapestry Rooms. In the Ballroom on display is a traditional horseshoe-shaped table, as well as the silver gilt used to celebrate the birthday of George III.
Another place of interest open to the public is the palace’s stables, the Royal Mews, where one can take a look at some royal horse-drawn carriages.
When the Queen is present at the palace, her royal flag, called the Royal Standard, is raised. It is split into four quadrants, and the two representing England encompass three gold lions on a red field. The one representing Scotland contains a red lion on a gold field; and the one representing Ireland involves the gold Coat of arms of the country on a blue field. According to flag protocol, the Royal Standard is supreme and must only be raised when the Queen is present at the building.
Right after you see Buckingham Palace you can go to:
- Big Ben
- Hyde Park
- London Eye
- Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- Westminster Abbey
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- British Museum
- National Gallery
Famous Change Of Guard Ceremony
The Buckingham Palace is guarded by five regiments of Foot Guards, dressed in red jackets and tall, furry hats called bearskins. In the Changing of the Guard ceremony, accompanied by music played by a military band, the New Guard parades towards Buckingham Palace and replaces the existing Old Guard. It lasts about 45 minutes and takes place at 11.30 every day in summer and every other day in winter.