First built on the behalf of the Duke of Buckingham starting in 1698 on top of an earlier palace, dramatically expanded starting in 1828 by architect John Nash (best known for Regent's Park), and given its current façade in 1914, Buckingham Palace is likely the best known landmark in London after Big Ben. It definitely is a must-see site for first time visitors to London.
Sometimes colloquially referred to as "Buck House" or the more cringe-worthy "Bucks," Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative building for the British monarchy, currently headed by Queen Elizabeth II.
Buckingham Palace is closed for most of the year when the Queen is in residence, but select portions of the palace — known as The State Rooms — are available to tour, but not photograph, from mid-July until early October. During this time of year, the Queen instead lives in Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Buckingham Palace sometimes is opened at other times of year as well for special events and tours, but in general, late summer is when you will be most likely to be able to see the interior. Because capacity is limited, though, it would be wise to book tickets to The State Rooms in advance.
The famous British Changing the Guard ceremony also takes place at Buckingham Palace between 11 AM and 11:30 AM, starting at St. James' Palace and Wellington Barracks in route to Buckingham Palace mostly via "The Mall" street in front. The ceremony takes place every day from April through July and on alternate days from August through March. The Household Division of the British Army provides the current month's calendar as well as the route description and a printable map with military precision. Obviously, you can stand along the route yourself, but there also is a well-regarded walking tour with a tour guide for the Changing of the Guard that might be of interest to purchase.
After visiting Buckingham Palace, it is common to see tourists head back to the Underground (or tour bus) immediately, no doubt because the wide and lifeless streets around Buckingham Palace feel isolated. However, if the weather is cooperative, travelgasm.com would suggest tolerating the couple of unpleasant blocks around the side of Bucks on foot to reach the lovely posh oasis of Belgravia, which was first laid out by Grosvenor in the 1820s and largely still is owned by the same estate.
Belgravia and the neighbourhood next door, Knightsbridge — which straddle the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea — consist of largely quiet, tree-lined streets flanked by block after block of mostly historical townhouses. With the exception of the hazard of crossing the street in front of the occasional black embassy car driven by someone who apparently either has diplomatic immunity or just stole a car from an embassy, it's a pleasant 2 km (1.3 mile) or so walk from Bucks to the famous Harrods department store. We map out our favourite route between Bucks and Harrods in green — as well as the approximate route of the Changing the Guard in yellow — below.
If you're not familiar with Harrods, it definitely has more than its fair share of incredibly expensive luxury goods, but it has plenty of more modestly priced souvenirs as well as hosts relatively inexpensive (for Knightsbridge) cafes like The Tea Room and The Urban Retreat, which offer lunch dishes for £15 or so. Of course, if you're on a company expense account — or feel like treating yourself to a posh meal — there are plenty of other quality restaurants in the neighborhood, as well.
In addition to restaurants, Harrods has a Food Hall with take away food and easy picnic options with pricing comparable to a typical upscale grocery store. If you're on a tighter budget, and it's not raining, take away from Harrods (or the slightly cheaper Waitrose grocery store down the street) to eat in Hyde Park nearby is a great option and classic London, too.
How to Get Here: Take the Jubilee (Silver), Piccadilly (Dark Blue), or Victoria (Light Blue) line to Green Park Station. Take the Green Park exit from Green Park Station and walk through the park to Buckingham Palace. If you walk through Belgravia and Knightsbridge and depart from Harrods, there is a tunnel into Knightsbridge Station, Piccadilly Line (Dark Blue), on the corner of Brompton Road and the people only walkway Hans Crescent immediately next to Harrods.
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