Of all the many symbols London is synonymous with, undoubtedly one of the most recognizable is Buckingham Palace. Situated in Westminster, which is the political and financial center of London, the palace plays a crucial diplomatic role, and is also home to the current monarch and her family.
While there are many reasons to visit Buckingham Palace, the best one of all has to be the upfront experience you’ll have of the pomp and splendor the United Kingdom is famous for.
If you’re asking what can you do at Buckingham Palace, the answers might just surprise you! Different opportunities take place throughout the year (more details below) but a visit to the most famous palace of all is a must do on your London trip.
And we’re here to show the best five reasons why you should pop by the Queen’s home and pay a visit.
1. The Days of Buckingham House
Before Buckingham Palace ever became known by its now famous name, it was called Buckingham House. In fact, Buck House is still used as a slang, colloquial term to refer to the palace. Built as a grand residence for the Duke of Buckingham in the early 1700s, the property first began its transformation into a palace in 1761 when it served as the residence for Queen Charlotte, penpal to Marie Antoinette of France and wife to King George III.
In the 1900s, architects Edward Blore and John Nash (who got fired after going over the budget, by a very big margin!) enlarged the property with three extra wings and a courtyard, and it was then that the building became Buckingham Palace and the London residence for Queen Victoria.
2. There is Space for Everyone
Buckingham Palace has a whopping 775 rooms! Thousands of visitors have been hosted over the years at investitures, ceremonies, garden parties and state banquets by the Royal Family. So you can rest easy in the knowledge that there’s more than enough space to go around. Out of the rooms, 52 are for the Royals, 188 are allocated as staff quarters, 78 are bathrooms and 19 are stunning staterooms.
But it’s not as roomy as you might think. Many members of the Royal Family live here and at any given time up to 800 staff members are required help out with all the duties involved to keep the palace running like clockwork.
3. Shine a Little Light
Or, in Buckingham Palace’s case, a lot. Such a sizeable building needs a lot of light, which comes courtesy of windows and lightbulbs. In total, the palace has 760 windows and they’re cleaned on a six weekly schedule throughout the year.
The famous ballroom, used for diplomatic purposes when hosting state dinners, was the first room in the palace to get electricity in the late 1800s. Within the next few years, electric lights were rolled out to the rest of the rooms in the building, and today Buckingham Palace is home to an unbelievable 40,000 light bulbs. Just imagine changing those!
4. Meet the Queen’s Guards
Once a day, a traditional spectacle takes place outside the palace. It is called the Changing of the Guard ceremony. This is when the Queen’s Guard changes over with a new infantry battalion to protect Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace.
While the pomp and splendor of the ceremony are hugely impressive and provides an insight into traditions of the Royal Court, these battalions are considered public units and therefore have a military as well as a decorative function. The guards march a specific route, and we know all the best vantage points! Join one of our tours to experience your very own Changing of the Guard moment.
5. See the Queen's Own Bat Signal
The British Royals are known and admired for their insignia, ceremony, and protocol. You can be part of this world by understanding the secret code that lets you know whether HRH Queen Elizabeth is currently in residence or not (or, another way to put it, at home) by checking the flag over the palace. If the Union Jack is flying over Buckingham Palace, the Queen is not there. If her Royal Standard flag (one of two versions designed in the 1960s and unique to Queen Elizabeth II) is flying above, it means she is.
Our Buckingham Palace tours are designed to fit with your wishes. No matter what your schedule, whether you have a few hours or a whole day to explore, your time touring Buckingham Palace is the best way to get a real feel for Britain. And the fact that you can explore so many other London attractions nearby is a wonderful added bonus!