Originally built for the Dukes of Buckingham, Buckingham House was acquired by George III in 1762 and converted into a full-scale palace by George IV. During the summer opening of the State Rooms, visitors have access to the Throne Room, the Galleries (with works by Rubens and Rembrandt), and the Music Room, where Mendelsohn played for Queen Victoria, among others. In the opulent White Room, the large mirrored fireplace hides a door used by the Royal Family at formal dinners. Since 2001, Queen Elizabeth has also allowed visitors into the gardens. (The Mall; entrance to State Rooms on Buckingham Palace Rd. Tube: Victoria, Green Park, or St. James’s Park, s 7839 1377. State Rooms open Aug.-Sept. daily 9:30am-4:30pm. Ticket Office in Green Park s 7321 2233. Open late July to Sept. £12, students and seniors £10, under-17 £6.)


The Palace is protected by a detachment of Foot Guards in full dress uniform. Accompanied by a band, the “New Guard” starts marching down Birdcage Walk from Wellington Barracks around 10:30am, while the “Old Guard” leaves St. James’s Palace around 11:10am. When they meet at the gates of the palace, the officers touch hands, symbolically exchanging keys, et voila, the guard is changed. Show up well before 11:30am and stand directly in front of the palace, or use the steps of the Victoria Monument as a vantage point For a less-crowded close-up of the marching guards, stand along the Mall between the Victoria Memorial and St. James’s Palace. (Daily Apr.-Oct. varies Nov.-Mar. Dependent on whether the Queen is in residence, the weather, and state functions. Free.)


The Royal Mews’ main attraction is the collection of coaches, from the “glass coach” used to carry Diana to her wedding to the four-ton Gold State Coach and the carriage horses. (Buckingham Palace Rd. Tube: St. James’s Park or Victoria. Open Apr.-Sept. M-Th llam-4pm. £5.)


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