Buckingham Palace has been a significant British symbol for generations and every summer it opens its doors to the public. So what is it like to have a sneaky peek into one of the most famous Royal Palaces in the world?
We started our royal escapade at the gates of Buckingham Palace. These iconic gates have seen so much history, including coronations, deaths, VE day celebrations, weddings and most recently royal births. It feels special to be able to stand next to these iron gates and look through towards the Palace that you only ever normally see on TV.
At 11:30am sharp the Changing of the Guards takes place (everyday from April to the end of July and alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting) and is a fantastic sight for locals and visitors alike. On the day that we visited there was no Changing of the Guards, but we have seen the spectacle previously. Oh, and we have a pub quiz fact for you: The Royal Standard is the flag that is flown when the queen is within any of her palaces, the Union Jack is flown when The Queen isn’t in!
One of the best ways to arrive at Buckingham Palace is by walking down the Mall and past The Queen Victoria Memorial. This way you get to have the experience of walking down the union flag draped streets and take in a whole lot of English history as you pass sites such as Clarance House, St James’ Palace and the Horse Guard Parade. To do this exit the tube at Charring Cross tube station in Trafalgar Square and walk towards Admiralty Arch.
Ten minutes before our allotted tour time we headed to the side of the Palace (head toward the Queen’s Gallery) where you will be checked by security before you are allowed in. Luckily as we lined up there weren’t many people in front of us so it didn’t take long to get through the security checks.
As we entered the palace we stepped through a threshold between the pop-up security checks and the Palace rooms themselves. As soon as you step on the carpet in the Palace you know that you are in somewhere special and there is a certain smell, almost like a museum or that old book smell… if you get what I mean!?
As we entered were handed audio headsets that helped to tell the story of the Palace and its generations of residents as we embarked on our self guided tour – The audio headsets even had narration from Prince Charles himself. These audio tours took us through a maze of state rooms that are all as opulent and history rich as each other. Our favourites were the Throne Room, in which pictures are taken after big events such as weddings; the White Drawing Room in which The Queen hosts State Visits with the likes of Barack Obama; and the courtyard that you get to have a peek at as you enter the Palace.
The Royal family have a lot of art, some more famous than others. When you are walking round you may see a Rembrant or even a Vermeer which we thoroughly enjoyed as Alice in particular is a BIG art buff. Throughout the rooms you will also get to see some of the gifts that The Royal family are given from different countries around the world. It is interesting to see which pieces come from which countries – you may even see one from your own country!
The main thing to remember about Buckingham Palace is that you are not allowed to take any pictures. Hence why this blog post is lacking in images of the luxurious rooms. However, when you reach the back of the Palace, in the garden, you are then allowed to take pictures.
The year that we visited Buckingham Palace there was an exhibition about the Royal Childhood. Every year, the Palace features a special exhibition. This year’s exhibition, ‘Fashioning a Reign’, will celebrate The Queen’s 90th birthday with a display of outfits worn throughout her lifetime! This exhibition will be part of some of the last rooms in the tour so make sure you see everything the you want to see before heading to the gardens as you wont be allowed back in once you have stepped outside.
Once we had finished our tour of the Palace we decided to have some lunch at the pop up cafe that is right next to the Queen’s gardens. While the food is pricey it was delicious and immaculately presented. Everything, including the cutlery, plates, food and drinks, had a crown image imprinted on to it, which we thought was a nice touch. We were also treated to a great view of Her Majesty’s vast gardens that look absolutely beautiful, even on an overcast summers day – So imagine what they are like on a warm, blue skied day!
Buckingham Palace’s Summer opening times are available from from July 23rd 2016 to October 2nd. The tickets for the Summer openings are always in high demand and sell out quickly, so booking in advance is recommended.
What would you most like to see inside Buckingham Palace?