Buckingham Palace is Her Majesty the Queen’s residence in central London and one of the last remaining royal palaces open to the public in summer when she’s not in residence. Your visit to London would be considered incomplete without dropping by this iconic landmark in the heart of the city. There are 775 magnificent rooms inside the palace, including the 19 State Rooms where guests are received and the Throne Room, which serves as the backdrop for royal wedding photos.

There have been manors and houses on the site of Buckingham Palace since the Middle Ages, but the palace in its current form was built in about 1703. Since then, there have been extensive alterations and additions, with the latest construction completed in 1913. There has been some repair work done since then, including fixing the damage caused by 9 bomb hits during the Second World War.

Buckingham Palace in London - one of the highlights of 12 Best Things to Do in London and 13 Most Instagrammable Places in London (Read all about London here)

What to see inside Buckingham Palace?

Upon entering, the Grand Staircase is one of the first views that visitors encounter. This double balustrade bronze staircase features some of the finest casting work in its details. If you take a closer look, you’ll find intricate patterns of oak, acanthus, and laurel leaves. Portraits of the members of the Royal Family line the staircase, which leads to the State Rooms.

The State Rooms are known for their lavish design and interiors, complete with fine English and French furniture, beautiful sculptures and works of art, stately marble columns, carpets, and sparkling candelabra. Royal enthusiasts may recognize this room as the backdrop of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Wedding reception – especially the White Drawing Room. These rooms are where the Queen receives foreign dignitaries.

Highlights in Buckingham Palace

Throughout the palace, you’ll find paintings by masters like Rembrandt, Rubens, Claude, Canaletto, Van Dyck, Vermeer, and Poussin from the Royal Collection. You can also find sculptures by Canova and Chantrey gracing the interior.

The Throne Room is easily the most popular as it contains the thrones used for investitures and ceremonial receptions. The room also served as the backdrop for wedding pictures of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, and of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Over the thrones are a dramatic arch and canopy, inspired by the architect John Nash’s background in theater set designs.

The centerpiece of the Throne Room is the pair of throne chairs, known as Chairs of Estate, that were designed in the late 17th-century style. These chairs were used in the coronation ceremony of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Other highlights when touring the Buckingham Palace include viewing the masterpieces of fine art in Queen Victoria’s Picture Gallery. There’s also the extensive garden grounds, which include a 3-acre lake, 200 trees, and over 350 types of wildflowers. The gardens are the site of the Queen’s annual Garden Parties.

Buckingham Palace tours

If you want to get inside the palace, you need to join the official palace tours, which are only available from July to September, when the Queen is in Scotland. You’ll know when the Queen is home by the flag that’s flown over the palace: the Royal Standard means Her Majesty is in residence and the Union Jack means she’s away. Tours run from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm in the summer months – only until 6.30 pm in September – but you need to book your ticket in advance. Note that some neighborhoods may require different tours for access, like the gardens and the Queen’s Gallery.

If you happen to be in the city when tours are unavailable, you can still drop by to admire the palace’s opulent exterior. You can schedule your visit right before the Changing of the Guard ceremony at 11.30 am, though note it can be canceled due to bad weather. Afterward, you can visit other nearby attractions such as the Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. After sightseeing, you can stop for an afternoon tea in any of the nearby teashops to complete your London experience.

Buckingham Palace in London

Location: Westminster, London SW1A 1AA, UK

Phone: +44 (0)303 123 7300

Geri Mileva | Contributing Writer