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Lonely Planet review for Buckingham Palace
With so many imposing buildings in the capital, the Queen’s palatial London pad can come as a bit of an anticlimax. Built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham, Buckingham Palace replaced St James's Palace as the monarch's official London residence in 1837. When she’s not giving her famous wave to far-flung parts of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II divides her time between here, Windsor and Balmoral. To know if she’s at home, check whether the yellow, red and blue standard is flying.
Nineteen lavishly furnished State Rooms – hung with artworks by the likes of Rembrandt, van Dyck, Canaletto, Poussin and Vermeer – are open to visitors when HRH (Her Royal Highness) takes her holidays. The two-hour tour includes the Throne Room, with his-and-hers pink chairs initialed 'ER' and 'P'. Access is by timed tickets with admission every 15 minutes (audio guide included).
Your ticket to Buckingham Palace is good for a return trip if bought direct from the palace ticket office (ask to have it stamped). A Royal Day Out is a combined ticket including the State Rooms, Queen’s Gallery and Royal Mews (adult/child £31.95/18.20).
Changing of the Guard
At 11.30am daily from May to July (on alternate days, weather permitting, for the rest of the year), the old guard (Foot Guards of the Household Regiment) comes off duty to be replaced by the new guard on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. Highly popular, the show lasts about half an hour (brace for crowds). If you’re here in November, the procession leaving the palace for the State Opening of Parliament is much more impressive.
Originally designed by John Nash as a conservatory, the gallery showcases some of the palace’s treasures on a rotating basis, through temporary exhibitions. Entrance to the gallery is through Buckingham Gate.
Indulge your Cinderella fantasies while inspecting the exquisite state coaches in the Royal Mews, a working stable looking after the royals’ immaculately groomed horses and opulent vehicles they use for getting from A to B. Highlights include the magnificent gold coach of 1762 and the 1910 Glass Coach (Prince William and Catherine Middleton actually used the 1902 State Landau for their wedding in 2011).