Buckingham Palace opens every summer to allow us peasants to troll through the State Rooms of the Queen’s official London residence, and this summer it was my turn! Now this year they are taking advantage of all the tourists for the Olympics being in town and have two openings, one from 30 June – 8 July (when I went) and one from 31 July – 7 October. And it’s only the State Rooms, not any of the Queen’s quarters or anything secretive like that. But still, the State Rooms, where the Queen receives guests on official occasions, are a sight to behold. I have never been to a palace or other historic location that is more breathtaking, and I’ve been to Kensington Palace, Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Blenheim Palace, and Windsor Castle before this. What makes it even more special is that it is still in official use throughout the year by the Royal Family and other special people, so all of the amazing furniture and decor and staircases and dining tables for 40 are still being used.
After you buy tickets (I highly recommend doing it online, otherwise it will most likely be sold out when you show up), you choose a time to arrive. Ours was at 3:45 pm and we arrived just on time to join the group leaving in a few moments. After you pick up your tickets from the ticket office, you head to the entrance and get shepherded into one of two enclosures that dictate which ‘tour’ you will be in. We got herded into the left track and were told that we were going to go through airport-style security and to remove anything metal from your pockets, and also don’t take any pictures. So that’s why I don’t have any of the interior of course, but TRUST ME, it is absolutely worth going to see yourself.
After security you pick up your free audio tour guide and headphones and then head off on your own. You can take as long or as short as you like in each location, and the audio guide is superb. It gives a lot of detail about each room and the history behind it, but not too much detail to where you get bored. You could also choose options to hear more about certain things like paintings and the WWII bombings around the alace.
The insides are GORGEOUS. Every room is more opulent than the next. The grand staircase is an understatement, and the intricate details of the architecture is stunning. I can’t imagine being a child and having run of that place, like certain royal princes did not too long ago. Hide and Seek would be epic.
As a special treat this year in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, there is a display of royal diamonds and other jewels that are absolutely amazing. Like the worlds largest pink diamond, three of the five largest diamonds from the largest diamond ever found (Star of Africa aka Cullinan Diamond), including the broach that the Queen wore on her diamond jubilee boat event, and lots and lots of tiaras. The crazy thing is that the diamonds are so big, they look fake…but they’re not, which is even crazier.
Once you finish the tour, you head outside to the Buck Palace Gardens (like what I did there?) to the rear of the palace grounds. And yeah, garden is not what it is, it’s more of giant, 42 acre, perfectly manicured and landscaped lawn. There is a cafe for tea and cakes on the back veranda, but I couldn’t wait to get out and walk the garden paths, which they amazingly allow you to do. You can also take photos once you’re outside the building, which is a nice little bonus.
There’s me in the middle! Not sure why my feet look so big.
Now as you start down the garden path you will notice the not-so-inconspicuously placed gift shop. I am not a fan of the gift shop and almost never go into them as I think they are tacky and annoying, but something about this one was different. This one was very nice and they even sold Buck Palace champagne (‘scuse me, sparkling wine). Being the American that I am, I couldn’t pass up some truly authentic and good quality mementos, so I got an some hand and face towels embroidered with Buckingham Palace, some hand soap, and even a cheesetastic apron. All extremely useful 🙂