The residence and workplace of the British monarchy, Buckingham Palace is a must-see for first-timers in London. When the Queen takes her annual summer holiday in Scotland, the palace's grand State Rooms, decked out in gold trim and artistic masterpieces, welcome visitors keen to see how the royal family live, work and play.
Buckingham Palace was built for the Duke of Buckingham in the 1700s. By the time the 19th century rolled around, King George IV decided to make a few changes and turn the house into a grand palace with a hefty dose of French neo-classical style. When Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, Buckingham Palace finally became the main residence of the royal family and Prince Albert busied himself with getting the palace ship-shape. This trend continued with King Edward VII who catered to his high society lifestyle by redecorating with gusto.
Over the years various monarchs have put their stamp on Buckingham Palace, resulting in 775 rooms dressed in theatrical decor and ornate elegance. Enter the Grand Hall with the glitter of chandeliers overhead before visiting the Throne Room, best known as the setting of royal family photographs. The largest of the rooms, the Ballroom, is a sight to behold where banquets, knighthoods and ceremonies take place beneath the Belle epoque cream and gold ceiling. Other rooms of note include the portrait-laden State Dining Room and the exquisite Blue Drawing Room, each more lavish than the last.
A visit to the State Rooms generally takes around two hours. As at 2013, the admission costs are $GBP19 for adults, $GBP17.50 concession, free for children under five and $GBP50 for families (two adults and three children). A little more costly, A Royal Day Out ticket gives you access to the State Rooms, Royal Mews and the Queen's Gallery. For an even more exclusive experience, join an afterhours tour with champagne in hand and a take-home guidebook. If your travel budget doesn't stretch that far, stake out a spot outside the gate at 10:30 to see the colourful Changing of the Guard in the palace forecourt or catch the annual Trooping of the Colour procession in June.