I paid my first visit to Buckingham Palace in 2011, but for some reason never published my thoughts until now. The Palace is probably one of London’s most famous visitor attractions and is hugely popular with tourists. The State Rooms are open for visitors during the summer months only, and any ticket you buy is valid for a year provided you get it stamped before leaving. It is recommended that you buy your ticket online before you go as it does get very busy.
The entrance to the Palace is on Buckingham Palace Road, just past the entrance to the Queen’s Gallery if you are coming up from Victoria Station. After queuing to buy/collect your tickets, you pass through security, but this isn’t too much of a hassle as every single member of staff is really friendly.
Originally known as Buckingham House, the building became a palace in the early nineteenth century when King George IV decided to modify and improve it. The work was concluded by his brother William IV, but it wasn’t until Victoria came to the throne in 1837 that Buckingham Palace became the official residence of the monarchy.
During Victoria’s reign, further building work was carried out: the new East Wing, now the “front” of the Palace, was built to close off the quadrangle, and the façade was given an overhaul in 1913. Today, Buckingham Palace has over 800 rooms, and 240 bedrooms for the Royal Family and their live-in staff. It is still the home of the Queen, but is owned by the state and paid for by the Government, helped by the income from visitors each summer since 1993, when it was first opened to help pay for the rebuilding of the fire-damaged Windsor Castle. As well as acting as a Royal residence, the Palace hosts numerous state and diplomatic functions, and the “Changing of the Guard” takes place each day just outside.
Once inside the Palace, it’s best to use the audio guide to help you get around, as it is packed with interesting information about what you are seeing. The State Rooms are very impressive, with gorgeous gilt decorations and incredible artwork. The Picture Gallery in particular has paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Rubens. I liked seeing the Throne Room, familiar from official pictures of the Royal Family, and the back of the famous balcony.
The Royal Wedding was the theme when I visited, and there were some interesting exhibits about William and Kate’s nuptials. The highlight for me was Kate’s wedding dress, designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Close-up, it was possible to appreciate the detail and thought that had gone into creating the dress.
After exiting the house, you walk through the garden with impressive views of the back of the Palace. You leave the grounds via the gift shop, which has plenty of tasteful and not-so-tasteful Royal-themed memorabilia.
It’s expensive, but a visit to Buckingham Palace is worthwhile, and if you live in London it’s good to make the effort at least once. Even better, get your ticket stamped and go back the following year for free.
Address: London, SW1A 1AA
Opening Hours: Approx. 9.30am-7.30pm during summer opening
Prices: £20.50 Adult,, £18.80 Concession, £11.80 Child; under 5s free; combined “Royal Day Out” ticket available