Town Guide

Buckingham Palace

The Mall, SW1
Tel: 020 7799 2331
Nearest Tube: St James Park

Buckingham Palace, London, 13K

Buckingham Palace is the main home of Queen Elizabeth II and when she is in residence the Royal Standard flies above it. There are over 600 rooms in the palace, but the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh only occupy a small number of them.

In the summer months the state apartments are open to the public, attracting huge crowds of visitors. There are over a dozen rooms that you can visit, including, among others, the Music Room, the State Dining Room and the Throne Room - but you won't get to see the Queen's private rooms. And if you are hoping for a glimpse of the queen you'll be disappointed - when the palace is open to the public the queen is never in residence.

The only other way to see the interior of the palace is if you are one of the 30,000 odd people who are invited to one of the Queen's three garden parties that are held each year. But don't get your hopes up - chances of an invite are slim to say the least.

The palace was first built in 1703 by the Duke of Buckingham, but the exterior that you see today only dates from 1913. It first became the property of a monarch when George III bought it in 1762, but it wasn't until the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) that the palace became the primary royal residence.

Nearby you can visit the Queen's Gallery to see the Royal Collection or the Royal Mews to see the cars, carriages and horses used to transport the royals during ceremonial occasions.

Changing of the Guard

Buckingham Palace, SW1
Nearest Tube: St James's Park

Buckingham Palace and Whitehall are where you can see the famous ceremony - the Changing of the Guard. This is where you can see the guards dressed in the bright red uniforms and bearskin hats of picture postcard London and where you can experience the music, marching and shouting that characterises the whole ceremony.

The Queen is colonel-in-chief of seven regiments, which are collectively known as the Household Regiments. Out of these, three Foot Guards regiments take it in turn to guard Buckingham Palace, whilst two Cavalry regiments guard the Horse Guards Building on Whitehall.

The Changing of the Guards ceremony dates back to 1660, and essentially it is when the old guard comes off duty and the new guard begins its shift (as the name of the ceremony suggests!).

Technically the name includes both the guards of Buckingham Palace and those at the Horse Guards Building, but in more common usage the name Changing of the Guard refers to the ceremony outside Buckingham Palace, whilst the ceremony that involves the Horse Guards is known as the Horse Guards Parade.

The Changing of the Guard happens daily at 11.30am from 3rd April until 3rd August, and every other day at 11.30 am from 3rd August until 3rd April. It remains one of the most popular events in the city so if you want a good view make sure you arrive early. (Please note that sometimes the ceremony is cancelled so do check first to avoid disappointment).

Other well known military ceremonies to be seen in London are the Trooping of the Colour and the Beating of the Retreat, but these only take place on a few dates during the year.

Click here for other parts of south-west London

London A-Z
London Town Guide
Travel Advice
Accommodation in London
Other Town Guides

Copyright © 1995 to 2016 Smooth Hound Systems
Smooth Hound Systems accepts no liability with regards to the accuracy of the information on this site.
Users are advised to double check information such as dates, times, prices etc.