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Visit Buckingham Palace

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published February 5th 2011

Let's face it, the Queen has a pretty nice spread. I wouldn't mind living in Buckingham Palace. Of course it's centrally located and has a lot of history and character to it, but it's also beautifully decorated with great works of art and objet d'art, and has it's own expanse of outdoor space right in the heart of London. The Queen uses it as a home office, and I think I would too. The reason I can be so sure that I'd be part of a house swap with the Queen is that I've actually viewed her place. I wasn't there with an estate agent as a prospective buyer, I was there in the summer, when the Queen opens her doors to us 'unwashed masses' so that we can feel properly jealous of her beautiful palatial home.

You might not know it, but Buckingham Palace is one of the few working royal palaces still around today. In this case the word 'working' means that it's still the home of a ruling monarch. And being able to peek inside is even more a privilege when you know that. It's also why the palace is only open for a few months in the summer while the Queen is in Scotland. The rest of the time you have to make yourself content with poking your nose though the big gates to watch the changing of the guard (daily at 11:30am), or taking photos of it from the huge, statue donned roundabout across the road.

Your ticket gets you access to nineteen royal staterooms, these are the rooms where the Queen and the rest of the royal family host their guests and heads of state. So this is where some of the finest treasures of Britain are displayed. There's art by Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin and Canaletto; sculpture by Canova; exquisite examples of Sèvres porcelain; and fine examples of some of the best of English and French furniture styles.  
The décor is 'traditional royalty' style, meaning that there's a lot of deep reds, gold and gilt. Frames and curtains are heavy and highly detailed and fabrics are so sumptuous that light seems to sink into them. In fact Prince Albert himself was responsible for some of the choices made in the design and décor of the palace.

In addition to the Queen's regular collection of art on the walls, there's an exhibition of Fabergé eggs and jewellery that's been collected by the British Royal Family. Some say that this is the world's best collection of the work of this master jeweller and goldsmith.

As well as getting you inside the palace, your ticket also gains you access to the gardens, where grow 350 different types of wild flowers, that attract all sorts of lovely birds. Some of the gardens are ordered and formal, but there are some sections, like that near the lake, that appear to be naturally lovely. Also the work of very skilled gardeners.

As we've all come to expect of our great museums and houses, there's a shop and a cafe at the end of the tour route. The cafe overlooks the gardens and is really very nice. It's a shame you can only visit it when you've paid the ticket price, but it would be quite a lot of ask of the Queen to have her house permanently open to everyone for tea.
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When: Open in 2011 from 23 July to 3 October
Where: Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA, nearest station Victoria
Cost: Adult £17.50, including audio guide
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