Buckingham Palace, the London residence and administrative headquarters of the reigning monarch.
The palace has 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms.
It’s one of the world’s few remaining working royal palaces, and serves as the venue for many royal events and ceremonies. Every summer, the palace opens its doors for State room tours.
There are no photos allowed of the State rooms, but they’re truly stunning. They’re virtually unchanged since the original architect, John Nash, transformed Buckingham from a family home to a palace in 1826.
Each year, the additional exhibition is a bit different. This year, it included Royal Gifts, a showcase of more than 200 official gifts from around the world given to the Queen during her reign. And, to mark the 20 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, there’s an additional display in the Music Room in tribute of the princess’s commitment to her duties.
Whether you’re heading to the State rooms this season or the next one, these three tips will help make your visit a bit smoother.
Reserve your tickets online ahead of time, and consider seeing the Royal Mews as well
Online booking for both the State rooms and Royal Mews is easy. If you reserve online ahead of time, you’ll just need to show your tickets at ticket collection via email confirmation.
We loved the State rooms, and I’m already itching to go back and see the Royal Mews- I’ve heard the carriages are quite lovely.
If you live in England or think you’ll be back to London, you can have your tickets signed as you leave to allow re-entry for up to a year after your visit. You can also buy discounted tickets for Windsor on your way out. The tickets are good for several months after you buy them, so if you think you’ll be visiting in the future, it’s worth purchasing. Not only do you get a discount, but they also allow skip-the-line access, which we were grateful for a few days later at the castle.
Come prepared for a 2-3 hour tour
The tour is go at your own pace via a great multimedia headset program. In some rooms, you may want to sit for a bit and linger to take it all in, so be sure to buffer your visit time wise. We ended up spending nearly 2 hours at the palace, but were also conscious of the time since we had London Eye reservations afterwards.
Also, there’s no food or drink allowed until the end of the tour, so make sure you eat beforehand. And, the only bathrooms are located at the end of the tour as well. If you need to use restrooms beforehand, there are free ones at Euston Station, a ~10 minute walk from the palace.
Visit other sights in Westminster before or after your visit
If you’ve never been to the palace, you’ll be delighted to see it’s in a prime spot for additional sightseeing. Located in the City of Westminster, you’ll be close to St. James’ Park, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the London Eye.
When we visited the State rooms, it was my sister’s first time to London, so we allotted extra time to see some of the surrounding sights afterwards- everything is easily walkable.