From Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth, Buckingham Palace has been a home for Britain’s royalty. If you’d entered the gates 180 years ago, you might have come upon an opulent costume ball, with music conducted by Johann Strauss. Victoria was quite the party-goer. According to her journals, she had a lot to celebrate, including the love of her life, Prince Albert. When he died in 1861, she shuttered the windows and abandoned the Palace, living out the rest of her life quietly in black mourning clothes.
Today, around 50,000 guests are invited to garden parties and banquets, and that’s not including the hundreds of thousands of visitors come to see the Royal Mews, the State Rooms, and the Queen’s Gallery. The rest of the Palace is mostly made up of bedrooms and offices, as it’s the workplace of over 800 people.
The Royal Mews is a place where the stables and carriages are kept, and now that we’re in the twenty-first century, a few Rolls-Royces and Jaguars too. That’s an impressive garage. Most impressive is the Gold State Coach, used for every coronation since George IV in 1821.
The State Rooms include the Throne Room, where the Queen receives royal addresses, the Music Room, where guests are received, and the elaborate white and gold White Drawing Room, where the royal family gathers before official occasions.
While works from the Royal Collection are displayed throughout the Palace, most of them are centralized in the Queen’s Gallery. Hoping to spot the Queen herself? If the Royal Standard is flying, the queen is home. If the British Flag is flying, the queen is not home. You can still get a glimpse into her reign and the lives of those who came before her through tours and exhibits. To see all you can of Buckingham Palace, tickets cost £39.50 for adults. It opens at 9:30 and the last admission is 4:15.
But you don’t need a ticket to see one of the most popular attractions in Britain: the Changing of the Guard. It’s impossible to miss the familiar bearskin hats and scarlet uniforms as they march to regimental music. The New Guard marches from Wellington Palace and takes over as the Queen’s Guard. The Guardsmen, all soldiers in the British Army, have kept up this tradition since 1660. The ceremony begins at 11:00 and lasts 45 minutes, but if you want a good view, try to get there before 10:30; the days change depending on the season and weather.