With Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday approaching, there’s no better time to learn about the magnificent landmarks most commonly associated with the Royal Family: Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.
Her Royal Highness’ real birthday might be on April 21st, but the public celebration always takes place on the second Saturday in June, allowing Her Majesty the privacy to enjoy her official birthday behind closed doors. This ancient tradition has been carried out by kings and queens for decades, beginning in 1748 when King George II selected a warmer summer month to celebrate his November birthday.
Whether you’re considering a visit to the Queen’s London residences or just feel inclined to top up your knowledge on the British monarchy, in honour of the Queen’s birthday, we’ve put together some of the top facts that you might not know about these two famous royal landmarks:
Everything You Need to Know About Buckingham Palace
Where is Buckingham Palace?
Located in the heart of London within the city of Westminster, Buckingham Palace is easily accessible by public transport. The nearest train station to the palace is London Victoria, and from there it’s just an 11-minute walk.
As the Queen’s official London Residence, Buckingham Palace attracts millions of tourists from all over the world and is one of the most popular sights to see in the UK.
When Was Buckingham Palace Built?
Buckingham Palace was built in 1703 as a large townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham, under its original name, ‘Buckingham House.’ In 1791, the grand building was gifted to Queen Charlotte by King George III, coining the new name of ‘The Queen’s House.’
Who Lives at Buckingham Palace?
The palace has been the home of many kings and queens over the years. In 1837, one of Britain’s most famous and longest reigning monarchs, Queen Victoria, made the palace her official residence.
These days, Buckingham Palace is the primary residence of Queen Elizabeth, though she often spends her weekends at Windsor Castle, along with many of the royal family’s staff members.
Inside Buckingham Palace
Stretching across an area of 39 acres, Buckingham Palace features a whopping 775 rooms. There are 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, 78 bathrooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, and 19 state rooms. With so many rooms comes an extraordinary amount of windows and doors – 760 windows and 1,514 doors, to be exact!
Despite her home being situated right in the heart of the big city, you won’t ever catch the Queen nipping out to the bank. This is because the palace is essentially its own self-sufficient village, containing everything from a post office and a police station to a cinema and a GP surgery. The palace even has its own ATM, provided by the royal family’s bank of choice, Coutts & Co.
Buckingham Palace Guards
A must-see is the ceremony of the ‘Changing of the Guard,’ which takes place every other day just outside of Buckingham Palace at 10:45am, lasting for around 45 minutes.
The guards are an iconic part of Buckingham Palace’s history and have been a permanent fixture at the palace since King Henry VII’s reign over 500 years ago. It’s incredibly difficult to become a palace guard, so only the best of the best will get a look-in. Soldiers must be highly trained and experienced in battle to qualify for the position.
Buckingham Palace Gardens
This monumental palace isn’t just huge on the inside—it also has the largest private garden in the whole of London. Around three garden parties take place each summer, where up to 8,000 lucky guests can check out the tennis court, lake, and helicopter landing within the garden.
Buckingham Palace Tours
From the end of July to the end of September, the Queen moves out of the palace, giving tourists and keen royalists the chance to explore the palace’s extravagant State Rooms and prestigious galleries. Tours last around two to two-and-a-half hours, giving you plenty of time to soak up the palace’s sheer beauty.
Buckingham Palace tours are incredibly popular, so make sure you book ahead through City Wonders, where you can also find tours for Windsor Castle to complete your day of Royal sightseeing.
Facts About Windsor Castle
Where is Windsor Castle?
Located in Windsor, just outside of London in the county of Berkshire, Windsor Castle is open to visitors all through the year and is conveniently located just 20 miles west of Buckingham Palace.
Travelling to Windsor Castle couldn’t be easier; simply catch a train to Windsor & Eton Riverside station before walking the 7-minute journey to reach the castle.
Who Lives at Windsor Castle?
The magnificent castle has been a royal residence for more than 900 years and is where the Queen spends most of her private weekends, as well as being her official place of residence for a month over Easter. As the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, Windsor Castle is a must-visit for both history enthusiasts and royalists alike.
When Was Windsor Castle Built?
Windsor Castle dates back to Saxon times and was built by William the Conqueror in 1070. It took a total of 16 years to complete the castle, which occupies an impressive 13 acres of land on the south bank of the River Thames.
The castle has seen many refurbishments in its time, with its most lavish features coming from King George IV, who built the grand entrance and staircase at the State Apartments.
Inside Windsor Castle
From its luxurious banquet area to the stunning crimson room, Windsor Castle’s interior is just as breath-taking as the exterior. There are over 1000 rooms and 300 grand fireplaces in total, with the floor area totalling an approximate 484,000 square feet—and that’s not all the castle has to offer.
One of the most popular rooms to explore is the room containing Queen Mary’s dollhouse. Built in the 1920s by over 1500 craftsmen, the Windsor dollhouse is undoubtedly one of the world’s largest and most elaborate miniature homes. Inside the model home, you can find running water, electricity, flush toilets, lifts, a fully stocked wine cellar and a miniature library filled with original handwritten stories.
The Grounds at Windsor Castle
Covering over 52,609 square metres of land, the elaborate grounds at Windsor Castle combine the features of a fortification, a palace and a small town. Look out for castle defences like battlements, towers, arrow loops and murder holes as you take a tour of the castle walls, and don’t forget to witness the ‘Changing of the Guards’, which usually takes place at 11:00 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Another must-visit is St George's Chapel, where you can find the graves of 10 kings, including Henry VIII and Charles I. The chapel is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England and has been the location of many royal weddings, including the marriage of Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle.
You should now have all the knowledge you need to prepare you for your trip to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle! Explore our flexible range of ticket types to find the best one for your journey, or find out more about trains to London.