Buckingham Palace needs very little introduction. The grand London residence – which stands proudly at the head of The Mall – is the home and principal workplace of the British monarchy. Originally constructed as a large townhouse in 1703, it was purchased by King George III in 1761 and enlarged, finally becoming the official royal palace of Queen Victoria upon her ascension to the throne in 1837.
Every year, the state rooms – which are used for official entertaining – are opened up to the public for much of the summer. For many people in the capital, or those coming to London as a tourist, this is one of the highlights of the year. From July 25th to September 27th everyone has the opportunity to visit the home of Queen Elizabeth II, as ‘A Royal Welcome’ offers a rare and fantastic opportunity to see what goes on behind closed doors inside this iconic building.
In 2014, the royal family welcomed around 62,000 guests to Buckingham Palace at state visits, receptions, garden parties, investitures and private audiences. This year, during the summer opening of the palace, displays throughout the State Rooms will recreate the settings for these occasions. This means paying visitors can get an authentic feel of what it is like to be invited to the palace for an official event.
What to see at the palace
The 19 state rooms at Buckingham Palace are those which were designed and built as the public rooms, for the purpose of receiving, rewarding and entertaining subjects and visiting dignitaries. They largely reflect the taste of George IV, who commissioned the architect John Nash to turn what was then Buckingham House into a grand palace fit for the monarchy. The rooms are full of great artwork from painters such as Van Dyck and Canaletto, sculpture from Canova, Seevres porcelain and some of the finest furniture in the world.
This year, for the first time ever, visitors to the summer opening of the palace are able to enter the state rooms through the Grand Entrance. This is the doorway used by guests who come to Buckingham Palace at the invitation of the queen. The Australian State Coach is on display at the Grand Entrance portico, from where Her Majesty departs and returns to Buckingham Palace by carriage for ceremonial processions.
Also on display in 2015 is the knighting stool and sword used to confer knighthoods, along with a number of orders and decorations. Several dresses and items of personal jewellery worn by the queen at state banquets can be viewed, plus a number of gifts presented to her by visiting heads of state over the years.
The ballroom inside Buckingham Palace will be set up for a state banquet, with the table dressed with silver-gilt centerpieces and candelabra from the Grand Service in the Royal Collection. Visitors to the summer opening can see the careful preparations required for such banquets by watching a specially commissioned time-lapse film.
Buying your tickets
Visitors wishing to embark on a tour of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace need to book tickets in advance and specify their time slot. The rooms are open daily between 09:30 and 19:30 from July 25th to August 31st, then from 09:30 to 18:30 between September 1st and 27th.
A typical tour lasts between two hours and two hours and 30 minutes. Visitors are advised to wear comfortable shoes, as the visitor route includes a half-mile walk through the left-hand side of the garden to the exit. For disabled visitors, alternative arrangements can be made upon request.
Getting to Buckingham Palace
The nearest London Underground stations to Buckingham Palace are Victoria, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner, which are all approximately one mile away. This is roughly a 10 to 5 minute walk. London Victoria is the closest mainline rail station, while Victoria Coach Station – across the road from the station – is the stopping point for long-distance bus journeys.
In terms of local services, the number 11, 211, C1 and C10 buses stop on Buckingham Palace Road. The palace is located in London’s congestion charge zone, meaning drivers need to pay a levy to enter this part of the capital. Parking is limited in the area around Buckingham Palace so visitors to the state rooms are urged to use public transport where possible.
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