There’s a reason that Buckingham Palace is only open to the public for a few weeks every summer. As well as being the Queen’s London residence, ‘Buck House’, as it’s affectionately known, is a hard-working palace that welcomes around 62,000 visitors a year. From state visits by foreign dignitaries and award ceremonies, to garden parties and receptions, the 18th-century building is a veritable hive of activity.
For the first time, visitors to the annual Buckingham Palace Summer Opening (from 25 July) will enter the State Rooms through the Grand Entrance, used by those who come to the palace at the invitation of the Queen, including foreign heads of state. They’ll also be able to gain an insight into official occasions at the palace, with the Ballroom set up for a state banquet and displays of dresses and jewellery worn by the Queen at state banquets in the past. The ‘below stairs’ side of official events will be explored, too, with items used for meal preparation and table planning also on show.
There are a total of 19 State Rooms (those designed for use by the public) in the palace, including the Ballroom, most of which reflect the interior design taste of King George IV. It was George IV who commissioned the architect John Nash (also responsible for Regent Street) to remodel what had previously been just a grand house into a palace more befitting of royalty in the 1820s.
Today the State Rooms are filled with priceless antiques and works of art from the Royal Collection. One of the largest and most important art collections in the country, it comprises paintings, drawings and watercolours, furniture, ceramics, clocks, silver, sculpture, jewellery, books and manuscripts, prints and maps, arms and armour, as well as textiles. Buckingham Palace’s 47-metre Picture Gallery holds a large number of paintings, bringing together Italian, Dutch and Flemish paintings from predominantly the 17th century, including works by Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens.
Audio guides tell the story of some of the most important works of art on display, as well as introducing visitors to royal history and providing insights into traditions dating back centuries that are still honoured at the palace today. The stool and sword used to confer knighthoods are on display at this year’s summer opening, as are a number of orders and decorations given out in recognition of exceptional service. It’s a day out fit for a queen.
25 July-31 August open daily 9.30am-7.30pm. 1-27 September 9.30am-6.30pm. Adult £20.50; under 17 £11.80
Book tickets for Buckingham Palace Summer Opening here
See more London attractions here