Let’s start off things with a fact you probably will know, Buckingham Palace is one of the few remaining working royal palaces in the world. It hasn’t always been open to the public but visitors have been coming to see the royal residence for more than two decades and you can too.
If you’ve never been to London before, heading to the palace is something that you absolutely have to do. Even if you don’t have time to go inside, you should definitely see the outside and get a couple of pictures, it’s a really spectacular sight. The palace and its grounds stand out strongly against the backdrop of the rest of the city, plus it’s close to two parks; Green Park and Hyde Park, which again are excellent places for you to visit and go for a walk, particularly in the summer.
If you are going to be taking part in one of the tours, you will need to book ahead of time, as the tickets run out very quickly, months ahead in fact. You can buy these online, which is what we would recommend, as you can get a great bargain instead of buying them on the day. We’ve pulled together five things about Buckingham Palace that you might not know, so you can start your trip off before you even get there.
The State Rooms
Have you ever wondered exactly how many rooms there are in Buckingham Palace? Well, there are in fact 775 throughout the palace – we can’t help but wonder if those in residence know about all of them! Of the hundreds in the building there are 19 State Rooms and 78 bathrooms, but it’s the State Rooms that you might not know about.
The are particularly special rooms in the palace and are among the most lavishly decorated public rooms where the monarch – the Queen – receives, rewards and entertains subjects and visiting dignitaries. When people talk about having an audience with the Queen, this room is where you would be going to see her.
Not only this, but a lot of these rooms were used for the Royal Wedding reception for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton. When you take a tour during the summer, it’s the State Rooms that you get to see. Inside, you’ll find lavish chandeliers, marble columns, thick carpeting, fine furnishings, sculptures and works of art on the damask wallpaper.
The Grand Staircase
For many people – and we’re sure you will be included – the grand staircase is a highlight of the tour. This might in fact surprise you, how exciting can a staircase be? Well, this one certainly is extravagant, as it’s made entirely of bronze and was designed by architect John Nash.
He did more than the staircase though, as he was commissioned to remodel the entire palace for King George IV for five years between 1825 to 1830.
It’s the pattern on the balustrade staircase that is the most impressive, as it features intricate workings of acanthus, oak and laurel leaves. It’s known as one of the most impressive and finest pieces of bronze casting work in the world. If that wasn’t enough, the stairs are lit by an etched glass dome in the ceiling – you’ll need to check if you can take pictures of it all though.
Most tours around the world and in London are punctuated with audio guides but the one at Buckingham Palace is voiced by Prince Charles. Unlike most other guides, this one is free to accompany the tour so you won’t have to worry about paying extra once you have your ticket.
His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales Prince Charles will be taking you through all 19 of the State Rooms, as well as the special exhibition. We can’t say as to what this exhibition will be, as it changes every year, plus it’s best to leave some surprises for the day of the tour!
The palace expects visitors to come to the palace from all over the world, so there are audio guides available in around ten languages. There are also interactive family tours, so you can enjoy the experience together, and the palace can organise private tours for deaf and blind visitors.
The gardens at the palace
The gardens at Buckingham Palace are beautifully well kept to the point of being manicured, which is no mean feat, as they cover 39 acres. The gardeners of the grounds are kept incredibly busy thanks to the 350 different types of wildflowers, 200 trees and a three-acre lake. Only the best people are hired to look after the royal gardens, so if you happen to see a gardener, you should ask them some questions about the work, they’re highly knowledgeable folk.
Of course, it’s not just for appearances that the gardens are kept so well because they’re also the setting for the Queen’s annual Garden Parties. These are incredibly special and you can get a Garden Tour Ticket to be shown through this beautiful oasis in the centre of London.
These garden tickets will also get you a tour to the State Rooms in the palace, but the tour for the State Rooms won’t necessarily allow your to see the gardens, so this is something to keep in mind when you’re booking your trip. Highlights of the garden tour include the tennis courts where King George VI and Fred Perry played in the 1930s, the Summer House, the Rose Garden and the Waterloo Vase.
It’s possible to get tickets to go to the Queen’s annual Garden Parties, but they’re not as easy to come by as the standard garden tours. If you are lucky enough to get a free ticket, you should remember that there is a strict dress code for the parties, but you’ll be guided towards what to wear before you go. Hats are encouraged!
Fine art and porcelain
Buckingham Palace houses a wonderful collection of Sevres Porcelain, it’s known as the finest collection in the world. The manufacture nationale de Sevres is one of the principal porcelain companies across the globe. The company has been creating specialist and luxury objects since 1740, and its production is still largely based around the creation of contemporary objects today.
The pieces that are in the palace were mostly acquired by King George IV from the French manufacturer. He collected the porcelain between 1783 and 1830 and most of them were used for dining services in the palace. They are occasionally still used but only for special dinner and get-togethers, as they are finely painted and gilded, which makes them very delicate.
You’ll notice that all the walls of the palace are decorated with impressive fine art, including the likes of Van Dyck, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Claude, among many others. Most of the paintings you will see are going to be in the different State Rooms and among the classic artistry you’ll also notice portraits of all the past and present royals. These include Queen Victoria, George III and Queen Charlotte, William IV and of course the current Royal Family.
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