The official London residence of the reigning British monarch since 1837, Buckingham Palace is one of the most famous royal residences located anywhere on the planet. Its lavishly appointed State Rooms have hosted a who’s-who of kings, queens, presidents, diplomats, artists, and celebrities throughout the past three centuries. The palace’s sumptuous interior is decorated with an array of acclaimed paintings, sculptures, and architectural flourishes. Guided tours of the palace are available certain times of the year, and several London tour companies operate excursions that stop at or pass near the attraction.
History of Buckingham Palace
Early details about the site where Buckingham Palace stands today can get a bit sketchy the further back in time you travel, but most royal accounts of the property begin with James I, who is said to have planted mulberry trees here in hopes of cultivating a silkworm plantation. By the end of the seventeenth century, records show that the silkworm project had amounted to nothing and instead a large house had been constructed in its place. This home exchanged hands multiple times, eventually ending up in the possession of John Sheffield, the Duke of Buckingham (whose name the palace bears today).
King George III acquired the property, then known as Buckingham House, in 1762; he promptly had it extensively renovated before presenting it to his wife, Queen Charlotte, as a gift. Finally, it was King George IV who decided he wanted Buckingham House reimagined as a royal palace. George IV hired the architect John Nash to complete this task, and though many subsequent renovations have occurred, it is Nash’s much-loved design that we recognize in the palace today. Buckingham Palace became the official London residence of the reigning British monarch when Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837.
Buckingham Palace Highlights
Buckingham Palace is one of those remarkable attractions where you’ll find yourself face to face with yet another highlight of the experience every time you enter a new room. The Throne Room, with its rich red color scheme and dramatic archways, is one of the palace’s biggest draws; here you’ll find the current Chairs of Estate, used by Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III in their respective coronation ceremonies, as well as Queen Victoria’s throne chair. The White Drawing Room is considered by many observers to be the finest of all the palace’s ornamental State Rooms, while the Ballroom is a majestic space still used today for official State Banquets.
John Nash’s monumental design for the palace’s Grand Staircase remains a standout two centuries later; royal portraits line its walls and multiple works by the legendary sculptor Antonio Canova can be found nearby. Not far from the top of the Grand Staircase are the Green Drawing Room and the Music Room, renowned for its exquisite parquet floor.
Other highlights of a visit to Buckingham Palace include the Picture Gallery, which was built to the specifications of George IV and is headlined by a charming Rembrandt portrait; the Marble Hall, where many of the palace’s greatest sculptures, paintings, and portraits are displayed; and the priceless pieces of furniture that grace nearly every corner of each elegant room in this resplendent mansion.
More to See and Do at Buckingham Palace
One of the most famous royal residences in the world, Buckingham Palace is a can’t-miss destination for many London visitors and guided tours. Keep reading for more information about what to see and do at this iconic attraction.
*If you’re intrigued by the British royal family, you won’t want to miss the chance to do some shopping at the Buckingham Palace Road Shop, the site’s official gift shop. Located just steps from the palace itself, right across the street from the Royal Mews, you’ll encounter here a regal assortment of souvenirs to choose from.
*Art lovers who find themselves touring Buckingham Palace will want to build enough time into their itinerary to visit The Queen’s Gallery. Located in a stately wing of the palace, The Queen’s Gallery features a carefully curated selection of noteworthy artworks from the Royal Collection.
*Visitors to Buckingham Palace can even catch the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony, which typically takes place at 11:00am on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Its best to join a guided tour for this as they will know when to be at the right spot for that once in a lifetime photo. For those individuals with a special interest in this particular bit of royal fanfare, nearby attractions like the Household Cavalry Museum and The Guards Museum may prove worth a visit, too.
Why Buckingham Palace Should Be on Your Must-See List
Buckingham Palace has seen kings, queens, prime ministers, and entire centuries come and go; it has survived World War II air raids and royal scandals of all shapes and sizes and still it stands today as the personal home and administrative headquarters of the British monarchy. For those London visitors with a passion for British history or a taste for all things regal, Buckingham Palace makes for a quintessential stop on your London itinerary.