Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Buckingham Palace

The British monarchy has been around for almost 1,000 years, according to History. But interestingly enough, Buckingham Palace is a much newer addition to the lineup of royal homes. In fact, Buckingham Palace has served as the London residence of the U.K.’s sovereigns since only 1837. But what’s inside Buckingham Palace? What would you see if you were lucky enough to take a Buckingham Palace tour? And what would you encounter if you could check out the parts of the palace that aren’t accessible to visitors? Read on to find out.

Buckingham Palace began as the much smaller ‘Buckingham House’

Buckingham Palace

Guards outside Buckingham Palace | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Buckingham Palace is huge. 830,000 square feet, to be exact. But History reports that it hasn’t always been as enormous as it is today. King James I acquired the land where the palace stands to use as a garden. There was a house on the property at the time. And in 1698 it became the residence of John Sheffield, who became the Duke of Buckingham. Sheffield had William Winde and John Fitch build a new home, “Buckingham House, “completed in 1705.

King George III purchased the house in 1761. King George IV wanted to make it his official royal residence, so he hired architect John Nash to build out Buckingham House into a large, U-shaped structure, with the wings of the palace enclosing a large court. In 1837, Queen Victoria assumed the throne and moved into Buckingham Palace. She had another architect add more staterooms and ballrooms for entertaining foreign dignitaries.

The palace has its own zip code

Travel + Leisure reports that Buckingham Palace is treated as an independent entity, and is the only building in the U.K. that has its own zip code. (SW1A 1AA.) That may seem fitting given the palace’s size. There are 775 rooms inside Buckingham Palace: 9 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms. And Apartment Therapy reports that that’s the reason why the younger members of the royal family may never call the residence “home.”

Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, characterize Buckingham Palace as “too large and costly for modern life.” Should he become king — which many British citizens don’t want to happen — Charles doesn’t plan to move into the palace. Neither does Prince William, who’s next in line for the throne and is perfectly happy in the Kensington Palace residence he shares with his wife and children.

It’s an administrative hub, but also Queen Elizabeth II’s home

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Take a look at what goes on inside Buckingham Palace, and you’ll quickly learn that it’s a working building as well as a residence. It also remains a centerpiece of the political affairs of the United Kingdom’s constitutional monarchy and serves as Queen Elizabeth II’s administrative headquarters. At Buckingham Palace, the queen hosts many events and ceremonies (which draw more than 50,000 guests each year).

But the palace is also the queen’s official London residence and has been since 1952, the year before her official coronation. The royal family has quite a history there. Queen Elizabeth II gave birth to Prince Charles and Prince Andrew inside Buckingham Palace. Prince William was christened in the palace. And, of course, Prince William and Kate Middleton shared their first kiss on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony.

You’d probably recognize Buckingham Palace’s balcony

Town and Country characterizes Buckingham Palace as “one of the most prominent buildings in the history of the royal family.” That’s in part thanks to the palace’s iconic balcony. On that balcony, Queen Victoria made her first public appearance in 1851. Since then, appearing on the balcony has become a royal family tradition.

In 2002, Queen Elizabeth II waved to the crowds from the balcony during a celebration of her Golden Jubilee. Prince William and Kate Middleton shared their first kiss as a married couple on the balcony, as did Prince Charles and Princess Diana (who were actually the first to kiss for the crowds). Plus, the royal family traditionally appears on the balcony for Trooping the Colour, the annual celebration of the sovereign’s birthday.

There are tunnels under the palace

Buckingham Palace and the Mall in London

Buckingham Palace | mikeinlondon/iStock/Getty Images

Travel + Leisure reports that for years, rumors circulated that a network of hidden tunnels sat beneath Buckingham Palace. Most people dismissed the story as a conspiracy theory. But the publication reports that “Then, in a 2006 interview with a national newspaper, the Queen Mother confirmed she had gone down to the basement to explore, and discovered a squatter who’d been living in the tunnels for years.”

The Telegraph reports that the tunnels connect Clarence House, Buckingham Palace, and the Houses of Parliament. Other features you probably didn’t know the palace had? Inside Buckingham Palace, you’ll find a chapel, post office, swimming pool, cafeteria, doctor’s surgery, cinema, and jeweler’s workshop.

You can take a Buckingham Palace tour

Want to get a look inside Buckingham Palace? Then you’ll be happy to know that you can book a Buckingham Palace tour at a few times of the year. The palace is open to the public in the summer. And a limited number of tours also operate in December and January, and at Easter each year.

As the Royal Collection Trust explains, many tourists make their way to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing the Guard ceremony. During that ceremony, one regiment of the Queen’s Guard takes over from another. But you can actually see that without paying for a tour. And there’s plenty more to see inside Buckingham Palace.

The palace houses an extensive art collection

Buckingham palace guards

Inside Buckingham Palace, you’ll see an extensive art collection. | Leon Neal/Getty Images

One of the many amazing things you’ll see if you’re lucky enough to take a Buckingham Palace tour? The royal family’s extensive art collection. U.S. News notes that a Buckingham Palace tour will give you access to the 19 State Rooms, where the queen and other members of the royal family host guests. (You’ll see the Throne Rome, Picture Room, Ballroom, Grand Staircase, White Drawing Room, and others.) According to the publication, those rooms are “opulently accented with chandeliers, candelabra, paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens, and exquisite English and French furniture.”

You can also pay extra for entrance to the Queen’s Gallery and Royal Mews. The gallery displays works by Vermeer, Rubens, Canaletto, Duccio, and Dürer. But Town and Country reports that’s what on display at any given time constitutes just a fraction of the whole royal collection. (The collection totals  7,000 paintings, 500,000 prints, and 30,000 watercolors and drawings.) And don’t miss the gardens if you do visit.

Read more: Strict Royal Family Rules the Queen’s Grandchildren Have Broken

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