This article are my tips for travelers about about the Buckingham Palace Tours: Summer Stateroom and Gardens Opening. What to see, history, tickets and must see aspects with photos and video tour
- The basis of the Palace is a house originally called Buckingham House, built in the early 1700s for the Duke of Buckingham. There had been a house on the site, but this forms the basis of the Palace today.
- It came into Royal ownership during the reign of George III. But it wasn’t until George IV’s reign that it started to be turned into a Palace. He hired John Nash to turn the house into a grand palace. Inspired by French Architecture they proceeded to spent large amounts of money and were going way over budget, much to the concern of Parliament where were funding it.
- On the death of the King, they fired John Nash and brought in a new architect (Edward Blore) who worked with William IV.
- It was only during the reign of Queen Victoria that Buckingham Palace became the Official Royal Residence. They added the 4th wing to the building creating a quadrangle. Today the East Wing that faces onto The Mall is the image one thinks of when thinking of the Palace. Including the famous balcony that the family appears on after weddings and at major events like the Diamond Jubilee.
- During the Second World War, the Palace was bombed 7 times. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed in residence all through the war, although Princess Elizabeth (the current Queen) and Princess Margaret were evacuated (as many children were during the war). In 1940 it was a daylight bombing that destroyed the Chapel and caused the most damage.
- Grand Entrance, Grand Hall and Grand Staircase. This is where official visitors enter the Palace, and where you see the Queen being “dropped off” when she returns from State Functions and Royal Weddings. In the Grand Hall is a stunning sweeping staircase that takes you up to the main State Rooms
- Green Drawing Room. This majestic room with chandeliers is where people would wait to enter into see the King and Queen.
- Throne Room. A very grand room which has 2 Thrones and was used by Queen Victoria for balls, but is now used more for smaller events. It is a room where most of the official photos are taken, most recently the wedding photos of Prince William and Catherine.
- Picture Gallery. A very long hall packed with grand paintings that had been collected by George IV including Rubens and Rembrandt.
- Ball Room. With a massive Organ as you enter, this is a vey large room and used for 20 investiture ceremonies for those who have received honours in the Queen’s New Year and Birthday Honours. It is also used for any Official State Visit Dinners were 160 people are seated at tables laid out in a “U” shape.
- State Dining Room. This room has large windows overlooking the garden, and a large dark wooden dining table that seats about 20 people.
- Blue Drawing Room, Music Room and White Drawing Room. These 3 rooms which are interconnected are very grand and intricate in design. They are used for informal events and music recitals. The Music Room is where the Royal Children were baptised, with water brought from the River Jordan. An interesting feature in the White Drawing Room is one of the large gilt mirrors with a table is actually a “secret door” that opens to allow the Queen to enter the State Rooms from her private quarters!
Exhibition: Every year there is an exhibition that focuses on some aspect of the Royal Family life. Previously, for example:
- 2009: Focus on the Commonwealth 60th Anniversary and showed 27 dresses the Queen wore on various Commonwealth Tours and gifts received on them
- 2010: Focus on the various official events the Queen and Prince Philip are involved in and showed some of the ceremonial clothes and gifts she received while undertaking them.
- 2011: Focus on Royal Faberge Eggs and also the Duchess of Cambridge Wedding Dress display.
- 2012: The Royal Diamonds, showing various crowns and jewels using diamonds, and when they were worn. This was an amazing display of items you will recognise from various formal portraits across the Queen’s reign from her Coronation to Diamond Jubilee. It also included the jewels made from the famous Cullinan Diamond which was the largest Diamond ever found until another was found in 1985 at the same mine.
- Tea Room: As you exit the Palace onto a large terrace, there is a Tea Room selling cakes, scones and food and also where you return your audio tour and collect any bags.
- Gift Shop: To the left are the toilets and then a very large Gift Shop.The shop has a huge and varied collection of merchandise including books, tea towels, china, christmas decorations, toiletries, home ware items like cushions and tea towels.
- Path: You can then stroll along a path along the side of the gardens, which also leads you after about 400 metres to the exit past the small lake. You cannot walk through the lawns and have to stick to the path.
What Tips do I have if you visit Buckingham Palace:
- Book in Advance. You must buy your tickets online via the official site (link below). It costs around £18, and you also book a timed entry.
- Opening Times: The State Rooms open at 09:45 and close at 18:30, with last admission at 16:00. A visit lasts between 2 and 2½ hours. I would recommend you book when it opens as then the Palace is less crowded. By time we were part way through we could see how packed it was behind us.
- Toilets. There are no toilets before you go into the Palace or until you head out into the garden. So be prepared!
- Audio Guide. This is included in the price and I recommend it. You can flick through easily if you want to move faster. But gives lots of history and also some fun facts (like the one about the secret door from Queen’s Private Quarters).
- No Photography, so consider the Official Souvenir Book. You cannot take photos or video from time you enter the gates until you are in the garden. You can get some great photos of the back of the Palace, so I would recommend that you consider getting the Official Souvenir Guide if you want to reflect and look again at what you saw. The 70+ page book costs £10, so is not cheap but a lot of photos and history of the Palace.
- Bags and Stuff. You have to go through an “airport style” security system (another reason for choosing a ticket at the start of the day so you do not get caught up in a line to get through that). You can take coats, cameras, handbag and umbrella but you need to check in bigger bags and rucksacks. So try and minimise what you take with you
- See Tips for Travellers Photos of BuckinghamPalace
- See other Stately Homes and Palaces on Tips For Travellers
- Official Buckingham Palace Website
- Official Royal Collection Site for Visting
- Buckingham Palace on Wikipedia
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