Fascinating Buckingham Palace facts

By Dom Bewley

Buckingham Palace with red tulips in the foreground
Buckingham Palace, London

Seeing Buckingham Palace is a must for anybody visiting London. Whether you're a massive fan of the Royal Family, or you simply want to see one of Britain's biggest historical landmarks, you'll find something to love inside its large, lavish walls.

Buckingham Palace is located in Westminster, in the heart of central London, and with St. James's Park and Green Park as its backyards. It serves as the official London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom.

The palace has a long and colorful history - it wouldn't be British without one. So, without further ado, here are some fascinating facts about Buckingham Palace you may not have known.

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When was Buckingham Palace built?

Buckingham Palace was originally known as Buckingham House, and was built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham. King George III then bought it in 1761. Construction of the 775-room palace we see today began in 1825, and it's been the official London residence for all reigning monarchs since Queen Victoria took up residence in 1837.

The Palace went way over budget

The original Buckingham House was transformed by the esteemed architect John Nash into what it is today. However, he accidentally went over budget and was fired for overspending. Take a look at the gilded detailing and it's no surprise.

Nash transformed Buckingham House - as it used to be known - into the grandest possible version of itself, rebuilding the two east wings and adding in the triumphal arch, originally for ceremonial processions into the palace. That arch now lives at Marble Arch - yes, that's the Marble Arch.

After Nash, a new architect called Edward Blore completed the work on the palace.

Which British Royal was the first to live in Buckingham Palace?

Before the palace as we know it was built, the history of the site goes as far back as the Middle Ages, when the site formed part of the Manor of Ebury. (We haven't heard of it either.) It was used for different buildings by different people, including Henry VIII back in the 16th Century. However, once King George IV's planned work was completed, he never even had the chance to call it home.

Queen Victoria moved in in 1837, and was the first British Royal to live in Buckingham Palace, followed by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Throughout WW2, the royals refused to leave the palace

London was bombed heavily throughout World War Two. And, with Buckingham Palace being the cultural landmark it is, it became a massive target.

Despite being advised to leave for their own safety, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth kept calm and carried on, refusing to leave - even though the palace was hit nine times over the course of the war. 

There are over 700 rooms in the palace

Buckingham Palace has hosted thousands of visitors throughout the years. And with a whopping 775 rooms, it's not hard to see how. 

Among the 775 rooms are 19 grand State Rooms for events, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 78 bathrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, and 92 offices for the King, Royal Family, and staff.

Of the State Rooms, the Throne Room is for ceremonial and official events - and the Prince and Princess of Wales took their wedding photos there. Most opulent is the White Room, where the King receives guests.

When are the State Rooms open?

The State Rooms are only open to the public in the summer.

Since Buckingham Palace is very much still a functioning royal residence, throwing its doors open to the public isn't always practical. That's why they only open up during August and September when Queen Elizabeth heads off to Scotland for the summer holidays.

Of course, that means you won't catch a glimpse of the Queen at any point of your visit.

What kind of art can be found in Buckingham Palace?

Buckingham Palace is home to a vast collection of masterworks, including paintings, sculptures, and other beautiful objects. Some of the most widely recognizable pieces include works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Canaletto. The Royal Collection Trust, which manages the art collection, offers tours of the palace where visitors can view many of these masterpieces

One of the highlights is the massive painting of Queen Victoria's coronation, which has to be seen to be believed.

A massive fan of the royals managed to break in three times

As a kid, little Edward Jones was pretty fascinated by the Royal Family. So much so that he managed to sneak into the residence three times. Well, at the very least he was caught three times.

He managed to steal Queen Victoria's underwear (!), as well as food from the kitchens. He even boasted to the press that he'd sat on her throne.

Without breaking in, it's possible to visit the Throne Room and see the three gilded royal seats for yourself. 

Does King Charles III live in Buckingham Palace?

As head of 'The Firm', King Charles III prefers to be based at Clarence House (also in London), but doesn't live at Buckingham Palace. He does carry out official engagements there, however.

Tradition tends to dictate that the monarch lives at Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth II and the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh lived in the private apartments on the north side of the Palace. Other members of the Royal Family have lived in rooms on the upper floors of the north and east sides.

Royal Family members, such Princess Anne, and Prince Edward and Sophie Countess of Wessex, hold private apartments at the palace but don't live there full-time. So it's unlikely you'll bump into any of them making a cup of tea in the kitchen while you're visiting!

Over 800 people work for the Royal Household, and a lucky few do live in suitably posh apartments (which are said to be lovely, but obviously not as grand as their royal bosses'). There are also staff quarters for a range of household workers, some of whom might live there too. 

 

A red, yellow and blue flag with intricate symbolic designs
The Royal Standard

There's a way to tell if the King is there

If you're passing by and wonder whether the King is in, well, you're in luck. Want to know what to look out for?

It's all to do with a flag. If the Union Flag is flying over the palace, then you're out of luck - he's not there. However, if the Royal Standard flag is flying, then he is in the building, or at least making a visit. 

Buckingham Palace is like an opulent mini-village 

Besides the Throne Room and the sprawling grounds, there's a lot going on, inside and outside of the main building.

The Royal Mews, built in 1824-1825, are home to luxurious vehicles, and horses that work during special events.

The garden alone, filled with beautiful plants and trees, covers 42 acres, making it the largest private garden in London. You'll be able to see some of it, but most of it is closed to the public.

There's also a cinema and a swimming pool, a Post Office and police station, a clinic and even an ATM.

See London's magnificent palaces and everything it has to offer

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Planning your London trip? With The London Pass®, you can explore big-name landmarks, local hotspots and epic tours, all on one pass, all for one price. Not only that, but you'll enjoy savings of up to 50%, compared to buying individual attraction tickets. 

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A Guide to the Best Ice Cream in London

The Summertime weather in London is very good at keeping the general public on their toes. Will it be warm or wet today? Umbrella or SPF 50? Either way, ice cream is always the right decision and helps to inspire the summer spirit even on the soggiest of days. The city offers many options when it comes to ice cream, and we've narrowed it down to eight. Get your spoons (not single-use. Never single-use) ready. Here comes your guide to the best ice cream in London. Milk Train Cafe This dessert cafe specialises in ice cream cones wrapped in an airy ring of candy floss (cotton candy for our American readers). Located in trendy Covent Garden, Milk Train offers Instagram-ready cones in flavours such as lavender and honey or cookies and cream. If you prefer ice cream in liquid form, they also have delicious milk teas up for grabs. The ice creams are dreamy and so is the cafe's interior, sit and enjoy your cone under a canopy of pink blossoms. It's like sitting in a 'unicorn's living room. Gelatorino If you're craving authentic gelato, then this Covent Garden and Richmond based Italian Gelateria is an exceptional choice. Gelatorino's gelato is made using natural ingredients hailing from the Piedmont region of Italy. Servers wear crisp white uniforms with chef's hats nestled on their heads ready to scoop mounds of frozen dessert onto cones or cups. Enjoy a combination of traditional flavours like Gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut), Pistachio or Val di Noto. One of the best ice cream in London, and dare we say, Italy? Creams According to their website "The Creams story is one of passion, commitment... and big flamboyant desserts." We can't help but agree that the desserts are big and flamboyant, but also delicious. Creams are an indulgent experience if the desperate need for a giant sundae arises then this is the spot to make that happen. The franchise resides throughout the United Kingdom with multiple locations in London. Menu items include, sundaes made from sour candy, M&Ms or bubblegum, plus their cookie dough options are to die for and even come in vegan versions too! Cookies and Scream The name of this Holloway ice cream shop on its own deserves a high five, but the vegan offerings are even better. This vegan and gluten-free cookie shop have a variety of drool-inducing treats, including "ice scream" shakes, free from dairy but packed with brownies and cookies blended into the mixture. Naked Dough Cookie dough is created in a magical place and Naked Dough, located in both Westfield and Camden Lock, was sent to deliver it to the London masses. Started by a French-trained pastry chef, menu items include "emoji poos" and "nak-ed sheeran," see what they did there? These safe to eat, edible cookie dough treats are amazing and available to munch in house or online, who doesn't want a pint of cookie dough delivered to their door? Marine Ices Another choice for gelato and sorbet in London is Marine Ices, this Camden Market parlour was first opened in 1931 by Gaetano Mansi and has endured to this day. Marine Ices dishes out mouth-watering and authentic gelato and sorbet and the most enticing aspect of this shop is the menu list; there are numerous flavours to choose from in both the gelato and sorbet categories. Greedy Goat This Borough Market staple serves 'goat's milk ice cream in cups or cones in all 'it's creamy glory. The brand started in the market and now distributes glass jars of ice cream through their website. Goat's milk is ideal for anyone suffering from lactose intolerance, and Greedy Goat's particular brand of ice cream comes from pedigree goats living happily on Monach Farm in Essex. Good news for animal lovers and dairy haters all over! Soft Serve Society 'Isn't that phrase fun to say? Alliteration aside, this soft serve dessert bar can be found tucked into Boxpark in Shoreditch or Market Hall Victoria. And it has a wide range of velvet swirls of ice cream to satisfy your sweet tooth. Try matcha madness, one of their sundae cups, which is a combination of matcha tea ice cream, pocky, rice cake pieces, red bean paste and oreo cookies on top. Soft Serve Society also has activated charcoal cones for anyone needed a little detox with their sprinkles. Who else needs a giant ice cream cone right now? If you liked this guide to the best ice cream in London, you'll love our blog on our top picks for afternoon tea.
Megan Hills
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Our Guide to London Christmas Markets

There's much festive frolicking to be had at the best London Christmas Markets and we're on hand to help you plan your visits! It's beginning to look a lot like we need a mug of mulled wine. There's no place better to grab one than London's Christmas markets and there are options galore this season. Whether you're keen on the traditional with the family or on the lookout for a quirky adventure with a special someone, you'll find them all here in the capital! Hyde Park Winter Wonderland Market This Christmas stalwart is in its eleventh year and has long been a favourite of families everywhere; transforming Hyde Park’s pristine landscape into something not even Santa could have cooked up. The market is undoubtedly one of the biggest with over 200 dreamily lit traditional Bavarian stalls, offering everything from decadent hot chocolate to stocking-stuffers to remember. Address: Hyde Park, London Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm Dates: 23 November – 6 January 2019 Prices: Free Southbank Winter Market As part of Southbank’s annual Winter Festival, the Winter Market takes Londoners away from the bustling high rises and into a village of wooden chalets. Nestled by the River Thames and right around the corner from The National Theatre, the charming stalls are packed with handmade gifts and merry culinary delights perfect for a mellow adventure. Pick up a little something for the tree and a mince pie to get into the Christmas feeling. Address: Southbank Centre, Hungerford Car park Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11am – 10pm; Friday – Saturday, 11am – 11pm Dates: 9 November – 27 December 2018 Prices: Free Christmas in Leicester Square Market Just up the street from The National Gallery and The National Portrait Gallery, Leicester Square is bringing a taste of Bavaria to the London Christmas market scene with bratwurst and gluhwein to spare. Fall in love with delicately crafted Christmas decorations and make ordering a grilled sausage covered in molten raclette cheese a priority. This market is ready to give the real stuff in Germany a run for its money. Address: Leicester Square Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 12pm – 8pm; Saturday – Sunday, 10am – 8pm Dates: 9 November – 6 January 2019 Prices: Free Camden Christmas Market Surprise, surprise – Camden’s taken an alternative approach to the festive market. Running every weekend from now till Christmas week, each Saturday and Sunday bring choirs, fairground games and even snow. Camden Market is also hosting a Santa’s Grotto and Gingerbread workshop, which is ticketed. Once you’re in Camden, you’re not far from London Zoo - why not go see their light show to round off the evening? Address: The Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AH Opening Hours: 1pm-6pm Dates: Saturday and Sundays, 1 – 23 December 2018 Prices: Free Christmas by the River at London Bridge City For a market that won’t let you forget you’re in London, head to London Bridge City. Browse Christmas by the River’s 68 stalls selling festive gifts, food and drinks against the backdrop of London’s most iconic landmarks, such as Tower of London, Tower Bridge and The Shard. If the stalls are not enough to get you in the Christmas spirit, you can take part in various workshops such as food tastings or arts and crafts - all with a picture-perfect view. Address: London Bridge, SE1 2DB Opening Hours: Sunday - Wednesday: 11am - 7pm, Thursday – Saturday: 11am - 9pm Dates: 29 November to 2 January 2019 Prices: Free Greenwich Christmas Market Greenwich Market is worth visiting all year round - but even more so in the lead up to Christmas. Every Wednesday until Christmas, Greenwich Market is staying open late to celebrate the festive season - allowing you more time to find that perfect gift! Expect to find handmade jewellery, scarves, cushions and artwork - and Christmas music and mulled wine, of course. Visit the market after spending a day in Greenwich, visiting the Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum, Fan Museum or Royal Observatory - just make sure you leave yourselves enough time to get that gift! Address: Greenwich Market, SE10 9HZ Opening Hours: 11am-9pm Dates: Wednesdays, (5, 12 and 19 December 2018) Prices: Free Winterville, Clapham Head south to Clapham and visit the Solo Craft Fair at Winterville. Shop for the perfect gift and choose from a range of affordable and unique art, jewellery, ceramics, and clothes. After the craft fair, enjoy the rest Winterville as to offer, with food stalls, DJs, comedy shows, magicians, a Christmas show, a fairground, roller disco, mini-golf, an adult puppet show, an ice rink and even a maze. One thing’s for certain - you won’t run out of things to do at Winterville. Address: Windmill Dr, SW4 9DE. Dates: 15 November - 23 December 2018 Prices: Tuesday – free, Wednesday – free, Thursday – £2, Friday – £2 after 3pm & £5 after 6pm, Saturday – £2 after 12pm & £5 after 6pm, Sunday – £2 after 12pm
Seren Morris
Double decker London bus crossing Westminster Bridge towards Big Ben.
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4 Days in London

The sheer proliferation of must-see attractions in London means even long-term Londoners might confess (in hushed tones) to never having been inside the British Museum or up The Shard. So just imagine what it must be like for the first-time visitor, overwhelmed by visions of Beefeaters, red telephone boxes and great stately castles, cathedrals and palaces. Four days is a solid amount of time to get a flavor of London and immerse yourself in its storied history and vibrant culture. We’ve put together a suggested itinerary which, while inevitably missing a few big hitters, nevertheless includes many of the bucket-list landmarks you came here for. Dive in for our guide to spending 4 days in London, including: Westminster Abbey Big Ben Buckingham Palace The British Museum The Tower of London Brick Lane St Paul’s Cathedral Shakespeare’s Globe The Shard The London Eye Day 1: Historic Central London There’s no better way to begin a 4-day trip to London than by stepping out of Westminster station to be met with the ear-rattling bongs of Big Ben, which stands proudly between Parliament Square and Old Father Thames. This is also where you’ll find the Houses of Parliament and, perhaps London’s greatest landmark, Westminster Abbey, a Gothic masterpiece that just oozes history. Explore its vast, hushed halls beneath dramatic vaulted ceilings, kaleidoscope stained-glass windows and tombs of such literary luminaries as Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dickens. Take time to soak it all up before heading round the corner to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard at 11am then, as the crowds disperse, make your way back along The Mall to Trafalgar Square. Ogle Nelson’s Column and its fearsome stone lions, and pop by the (free!) National Gallery to experience the very best in European art through the ages, from da Vinci to Turner. After grabbing a quick late lunch in lively Soho (trust us, you’ll be spoiled for choice!), hit up the nearby British Museum. Highlights of its eight-million-plus collection of ancient artifacts include the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, and an Easter Island statue. Heck, if you’re not all cultured out by now, you could even take in an evening show in London’s legendary West End theater district. Classics running on and around the glittering Shaftesbury Avenue include Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (over 70 years and counting), Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera. Day 2: Heading East Your camera roll is about to go into overdrive today as we head east, upriver, into the City of London. Today’s first stop is St Paul’s Cathedral. This curvaceous icon of the London skyline was born from the ashes of the Great Fire of London and has survived two World Wars and presided over countless royal weddings, state funerals and other national events. So it’s fair to say you’ll feel the weight of all that history as you step inside and take in the 17th-century Grand Organ, huge gilded altar, and cavernous crypt. A little further east, the Tower of London has served as a fortress, a palace, a prison and a zoo in the 1,000-or-so years since it was built. It’s where two of Henry VIII’s wives were beheaded (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, since you’re asking), and where the children of Edward IV – known as the Princes in the Tower – vanished without trace in 1483. Visitors can explore the grounds and castle keeps, say hi to the smartly dressed Yeoman Warders (aka Beefeaters) and check out the Crown Jewels collections, featuring more priceless royal artifacts than you can shake a diamond-encrusted scepter at. And now for something completely different. Brick Lane is one of London’s most colorful streets. And we mean that quite literally: vibrant art adorns just about every available surface here. Take a wander along this long, iconic thoroughfare, pausing to snap the ubiquitous art and shop hip indie boutiques and flea markets that heave with retro fashions, vintage vinyl records and more. Brick Lane is also an absolute mecca for foodies, so don’t miss the chance to refuel with some of the best bagels and Bangladeshi curries in England. Day 3: A Little Local Flavor London is, in effect, a series of small villages that melted together over hundreds of years to become the mega metropolis we know and love today. This is why its many districts – think Notting Hill, Greenwich and Covent Garden, for example – have such distinct and unique local flavor. Spend your third day in London getting to know one of them. For sheer variety of attractions, our money’s on either Notting Hill or Greenwich, two very different but equally alluring ‘hoods on opposite sides of town. Choose Notting Hill if laid back café culture and high-end high-street shopping are your bag. Proximity to attractions including Kensington Palace in nearby Hyde Park is also a bonus. But it’s Portobello Road – London’s premier (and most photogenic) bric-a-brac market that most visitors come here for. Follow the crowds past candy-colored houses to buzzy market stalls run the gamut from plastic souvenir trinkets to pricey antique silverware. Afterwards, stroll north to Little Venice on nearby Regent’s Canal, a fine place to relax (and survey the spoils of your spree) with coffee and a pastry as the barges bob peacefully past. Greenwich has a similar ‘village’ vibe, with independent stores and cute cafés galore, as well as an excellent covered market hawking cool local crafts and tempting street eats. And that’s before you even get to the great views from Greenwich Park, or wealth of historic attractions that includes the Cutty Sark, Royal Observatory, and National Maritime Museum. Arrive by river, cable car, train or, if you fancy something a little different, catch the (driverless) Docklands Light Railway to the Isle of Dogs and disembark (no pun intended) at Island Gardens. From here, you can stroll across to Greenwich via the foot tunnel, an awesome feat of early 20th-century engineering that spans the River Thames, 50 feet beneath the surface, emerging blinking into daylight right in front of the majestic Cutty Sark. Day 4: The South Bank The South Bank of the River Thames is home to an embarrassment of riches. Start your day with breakfast in bustling Borough Market, a sensory saturnalia of farm shops, deli stalls, fruit traders and the irresistible aroma of sizzling bacon and freshly brewed coffee. Suitably fortified, whiz to the top of The Shard, just across the road, for some of the finest views in London, then commence your epic riverside walk to the London Eye – epic in terms of what you can see and do along the way, that is; remarkably, this landmark-rich stretch is less than two miles long. En route, you’ll pass the soaring Southwark Cathedral, London’s oldest Gothic building. Then, in short order: a painstakingly crafted replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde galleon ship; the ghastly Clink Prison Museum; Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre; and the Tate Modern art gallery. Architecture aficionados and bookworms alike will be thrilled by Shakespeare’s Globe, a lovingly reconstructed replica of the bard’s 17th-century London playhouse, while the former power station that houses the Tate Modern is as much a work of art as its contents, its red-brick facade and soaring chimney stack manna for IG addicts. Ogle modern masterpieces by Pollock, Picasso, Rothko, Klee, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Monet and more inside and don’t miss the gallery-worthy view of St Paul’s Cathedral from the 10th-floor observation deck. Onwards then to the London Eye, via the buzzing cultural hub that is the Southbank Centre, a brutalist arts complex that comprises no less than three major performance venues – among them the iconic Royal Festival Hall – and the Hayward Gallery. Pause for a drink on the river terrace or take in a show, then continue to the London Eye. Europe’s largest cantilevered observation wheel towers a leg-trembling 443 feet over the South Bank of the River Thames, and its spine-tingling 30-minute takes in birds-eye views of some of London’s most iconic landmarks, best enjoyed at sunset. Save on things to do in London Save on admission to London attractions with the London Pass. Check out @GoCity on Instagram for the latest top tips and attraction info.
Stuart Bak

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