Queen Elizabeth's London residence did not open to visitors last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic

By Stephanie Petit
April 07, 2021 10:48 AM
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The Queen And The Prince of Wales
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles
| Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth's royal residence in London is welcoming back visitors — with a first-time opportunity!

Although Buckingham Palace traditionally opens to the public during the summer months, the tours were called off last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Queen's London home is now preparing to open up the palace gardens to visitors.

The Royal Collection Trust announced Wednesday that for the first time ever, the public will be allowed to picnic on the Buckingham Palace lawn. They can also explore a self-guided route through the gardens and around the 3.5-acre lake.

Features in the southwest of the garden, including the Rose Garden, summer house and wildflower meadow, can be viewed through one of the guided tours that will run each day.

The historic 39-acre garden dates back to the 1820s, when King George IV turned Buckingham House into a palace. Despite its urban location, the garden is home to an array of flora and fauna, including rare native plants seldom seen in London. The garden is a rich biodiverse habitat, with more than 1,000 trees, the National Collection of Mulberry Trees and 320 different wildflowers and grasses.

The gardens' summer opening will run from July 9 to Sept. 19.

Visitors can also experience the garden in springtime on weekends in April and May with guided tours to view the primroses, bluebells, flowering camellia, magnolia and azalea shrubs in bloom.

Starting in May, special guided tours of the palace's State Rooms will also be available.

Royal Garden Party
Queen Elizabeth
| Credit: Press Association via AP Images

In addition to Buckingham Palace, several other royal residences are planning to welcome visitors this summer.  The Palace of Holyroodhouse and the new exhibition Victoria & Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour at The Queen's Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, will open in late April.

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Windsor Castle, where the monarch and Prince Philip have been staying for much of the pandemic, will welcome visitors come May.

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
| Credit: Kate Green/Anadolu Agency via Getty

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After a devastating fire at Windsor Castle in 1992 caused $62 million of damage and destroyed 115 rooms in total, there was some debate as to whether the repair work should be funded by the taxpayers or by the royal family. After a failed attempt to raise money through a public fund, the Queen decided to open Buckingham Palace, her London and primary residence, to the public for the first time in history in an effort to raise the much-needed funds for repairs to the castle.

Within one week of tickets going on sale, they had sold three years' worth of tickets. What was supposed to be a short-term plan continued until the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to break from the new tradition. Taking place during a 10-week period during the summer months while the Queen is at her Balmoral residence in Scotland, approximately 500,000 tourists pass through the famous wrought iron gates to see inside the palace walls.