What to see at Buckingham Palace?

What to see at Buckingham Palace?

The Buckingham Palace - located in London - is the official residence of the British sovereigns.

It is also one of the main tourist attractions of the city.

The history of Buckingham Palace

Built in 1703 for John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham and Normanby, the Buckingham Palace is at the originally a simple private country house (Buckingham House).

In 1762, King George III bought it for his wife, Queen Charlotte.

It was finally enlarged during the 19th century - by the very famous architects John Nash and Edward Blore who added 3 wings to the main body of the house - for King George IV.

It was in 1837 - when Queen Victoria acceded to the throne - that Buckingham Palace became the official residence and administrative seat of British sovereigns in London.

Current residents of the palace

The Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, live in private apartments on the north side of Buckingham Palace.

The state chambers in the main block - to the west - are used for official ceremonies.

The flag which flies on the roof of the building indicates the presence or not of the queen in the palace:

  • Union Jack: If it is the UK flag that is fluttering above the palace, it means that the queen is not present.
  • The Royal Standard of United Kingdom: if it is the red, blue and gold flag - representing the symbols of the United Kingdom (the harp of Northern Ireland, the red lion of Scotland and the 3 golden lions of England) - which floats above the palace, it means that the queen is present.

Other members of the royal family live at Buckingham Palace - in rooms on the upper floors of the north and east wings. Much of the ground floor as well as the south wing of the palace is used by staff members.

Visit Buckingham Palace

Audio guides are available free of charge at the visitor reception point.

The Queen's Apartments: The State Rooms

The Buckingham Palace has over 600 pieces - 19 of between them are open to the public:

  • The Grand Staircase: a large marble staircase - decorated with portraits of various members of the royal family.
  • The State dining Room: the dining room used by the queen for official dinners - with its collection of Sèvre porcelain.
  • The Picture Gallery: a 50m long room - designed by architect John Nash for King George IV - which houses famous paintings by Rembrandts, Rubens, Canaletto, Van Dicks, etc. - as well as a huge painting of Queen Victoria accompanied by her husband and 5 of her children.
  • The Green Drawing Room: this room brings together guests and official visitors before being received and presented to the Queen.
  • The Throne Room: used for investiture ceremonies or royal receptions, this room also serves as a backdrop for official photos of the Royal family. It also provides access to the famous balcony of Buckingham Palace.
  • The Queen's Private Gardens: 160 hectares, more than 350 species of wild flowers and a superb view of the west facade of the palace and its famous lake.
  • The Garden café: located in the interior courtyard at the back of the palace, this small cafeteria offers cold drinks, pastries and teas.

Allow at least 2 hours of visit for the 19 rooms open to the public - and 2 additional hours for the gardens and surroundings of the palace.

Security checks at the entrance to the building are similar to those at an airport.

Unlike Kensington Palace, the tour is one-way and photos and videos are prohibited - except in the palace gardens.

Temporary exhibitions

Each year for its summer opening to the public, the Buckingham Palace offers a new temporary exhibition:

  • 2015 - A Royal Welcome at Buckingham Palace: behind-the-scenes look at preparations for state visits and other formal occasions: preparation of dishes in the royal kitchen, choice of dishes in porcelain, etc.
  • 2016 - Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style by The Queen's Wardrobe: presentation of the wardrobe worn by the Queen throughout her reign and made by British designers.
  • 2017 - Royal Gifts: presentation of official gifts given to the Queen over the past 65 years.
  • 2018: Celebration of the Prince of Wales' 70th birthday.
  • 2019: Celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria.

In 2020, the summer opening of Buckingham Palace was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Buckingham Palace Shop

The Buckingham Palace Shop offers many products (jewelry, crockery, clothes, books, etc.) with emblems of the British monarchy.

Most of the products for sale are inspired by works of art from the Royal Collection.

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

The Changing of the Guard (or Mounting Guards) is the one of London's most iconic tourist attractions. It takes place at the main entrance to Buckingham Palace every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 11:30 am.

This ceremony is a tradition dating back over 1000 years.

Opening hours for Buckingham Palace

In 2021, the palace will open its doors from July 24 to October 4.

Each summer, the Queen Elizabeth II settles in Scotland for approximately 9 weeks - between the months of July and October. It is during this period that Buckingham Palace opens its doors to the public.

Tickets are only valid on the date and time indicated on the ticket.

Unlike Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace is open all year round!

Buckingham Palace rates

Ticket price includes a guided walking tour of the surroundings of Buckingham Palace and open rooms to the public - as well as access to the annual temporary exhibition:

  • Adult: £55
  • Child (5-14): £50
  • Child (under 4): free

You can also visit the palace freely - without a guide:

  • Adult: £26.50
  • Senior (over 60) and student: £24
  • Child (under 17) and disabled: £14.50
  • Child (under 5): free
  • Family (2 adults and 3 children under 17): £67.50

Tickets can be booked on the official website of the Royal Collection Trust.

Getting to Buckingham Palace

The Buckingham Palace is located between the Royal Parks St James's Park and Green Park at SW1A 1AA, London.

To get there, 3 options:

  • Train: Victoria station.
  • Metro:
    • Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines - stop Green Park.
    • Piccadilly line - stop Hyde Park Corner.
    • Circle, District and Victoria lines - stop Victoria Station.
  • Bus: lines 11, 211, C1 and C10 - stop on Buckingham Palace Road.

Near Buckingham Palace

Take advantage of your visit to Buckingham Palace to visit:

  • Westminster Abbey
  • Green Park
  • Westminster Palace
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Queen Victoria Memorial
  • St James's Park
  • Victoria Station