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Guide to visiting Buckingham Palace including inside tour and tickets

The British Royal family often comes to mind when you think of Britain. After all, they are the world’s most famous royal family. Thanks to the media, they are frequently in the news and often making the headlines. So, it’s no wonder the Royal Family is Britain’s most famous global brand!

Buckingham Palace has been the official home of the British monarchs in London since 1837. Today, it’s a world-famous British icon. Having said that, a visit is on the bucket list for many first-time visitors to London. Yes, Buckingham Palace is open for tours at certain times of the year. But still, an inspiring visit even if it’s only from the outside.

Besides a tour of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, this guide also includes optional visits to the Palace Garden, Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews. It has all the key info and tips including what to see, how to get here, opening times and tickets. So here’s what you need to know for a visit to Buckingham Palace.


About Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace in London, England.
Buckingham Palace | David Iliff

St James’s Palace was the London home of kings and queens from 1531 until 1837. The first building where Buckingham Palace is now was a mansion named Goring House. A fire destroyed the mansion in 1674 and in 1703, the Duke of Buckingham built a new 3-floor mansion on the site and named it Buckingham House.

King George III purchased Buckingham House in 1761 for his wife and children and renamed it the Queen’s House. In 1826, King George IV engaged John Nash to expand the mansion into a palace as the new royal residence. But King George died in 1830. The new King William IV then hired Edward Blore to complete the work.

The first royal resident was Queen Victoria, crowned in 1837. More construction continued during her reign. After Queen Victoria, King Edward VII had the interiors redecorated during his reign (1901-1910). Today, it’s not only a royal residence but also the administrative headquarters of the reigning monarch.

This stately home is certainly colossal. There are over 750 rooms! These include the State Rooms, offices and bedrooms for the Royal Family and guests. There are also bedrooms for staff working here. Not to mention nearly 80 bathrooms. Behind the palace is the Palace Garden, the largest private garden in London.

Buckingham Palace is more than a royal home. It’s the focal point of the British monarchy. The palace is the venue for many royal occasions including state ceremonies, receiving dignitaries and garden parties. There are also national and royal celebrations, not to mention the famous King’s Guard on sentry at the palace.

Buckingham Palace from the Outside

Unless you get a royal invitation, the only way to tour the palace is to pay an admission fee. Then again, you can always visit and see the palace from outside the gates and it won’t cost you a penny. For most visitors, a view from the outside is a good enough reason to visit Buckingham Palace. Here’s what you get to see for free.

What to See

Buckingham Palace in London, England
Visitors at Buckingham Palace | Daniel Jo

It’s certainly a huge palace from outside the gates. Most of the architecture is Neo-classical, inspired by designs from Ancient Greece and Rome. The East Front faces The Mall, the ceremonial road leading to the palace. And on the East Front is the balcony where the Royal Family greets a cheering crowd on those special occasions.

Watch the King’s Guard guarding Buckingham Palace. You can’t miss them in their striking red tunics and imposing bearskin hats. But in winter and on rainy days, they wear a grey cape over their uniforms. Each guard does 2 hours of sentry until another marches to replace them. The guards are not just ceremonial but elite infantry soldiers.

The Victoria Memorial is devoted to Queen Victoria. Unveiled in 1911, this intricately carved monument proudly stands 25 metres (82 feet) in front of the palace gates. At the four corners are larger-than-life bronze figures. And at the top of the pylon in the centre, stands the gilded Winged Victory. The focal point is a statue of Queen Victoria herself.

Changing the Guard

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, London
Military band at Changing the Guard | CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Changing the Guard takes place when the King’s New Guard (new batch of soldiers) replaces the Old Guard (ending their shift) at Buckingham Palace. It’s a dazzling 45-minute military ceremony centred in the palace courtyard. For visitors, it’s a spectacular (free) event you have to see when in London.

The ceremony takes place daily in May, June and July. But Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays for the rest of the year. There may be changes, so check the Household Division of the British Army website. The event always draws a large crowd and you can count on the police officers to ensure a safe and smooth event.

It begins at 10:45 AM when the Old Guard forms and waits at the courtyard in front of Buckingham Palace. The New Guard marches from Wellington Barracks to the courtyard where the formal handing over begins. This British military tradition is complete with splendid military parades and a marching band.

There’s no spot where you can watch the whole event. The best place is outside the gates in front of the palace courtyard. Another spot is the Victoria Memorial in front of the palace. Other locations include the courtyard at St James’s Place, the Wellington Barracks and The Mall (between Marlborough Road and Buckingham Palace).

Inside Tour of Buckingham Palace

King's Guard at Buckingham Palace in London, England.
The King’s Guard at Buckingham Palace | Sarahhoa

Unless you get an official invitation, it’ll cost you a ticket to enter Buckingham Palace. The ticket lets visitors go on their own for a self-guided tour of the State Rooms, the official rooms used for royal occasions. The self-guided tour is only available for 10 weeks in summer (July-October) from Thursday to Monday.

There’s no formal dress code to tour the State Rooms. After all, you won’t be meeting a member of the Royal Family or attending a formal occasion. Smart casual wear is fine to blend in with the crowd. There’s an airport-style security check when you arrive though. You can carry a handbag but not a large bag. And no photos inside the palace.

There are 19 State Rooms if you want to see them all. They are the heart of the palace and are used for official occasions such as royal receptions, state ceremonies and receiving dignitaries. No, the tour doesn’t include a visit to any of the bedrooms, offices, toilets or kitchen. If you need to answer the call of nature, the toilet is at the visitor’s entrance.

The visit begins by walking up the Grand Staircase, an elaborately designed stairway adorned with paintings and sculptures. Much of the State Rooms were inspired by King Edward VII. The rooms are graced with classic furniture, fine chandeliers, candelabras, exquisite carpets and to say nothing of the priceless paintings and sculptures.

The Picture Gallery is the main reception and home to many masterpieces from the Royal Collection, the largest private art collection in the world. They include paintings by famous masters such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, Vermeer and Van Dyck. There are also fine collections of Chinese and Japanese porcelain.

The Grand Marble Hall is directly below the Picture Gallery. The hall is also a display of exceptional paintings, sculptures and furniture. Visit the Throne Room, the setting for many court gatherings and royal photographs. The focal point is two throne chairs once used by the late Queen Elizabeth for her coronation in 1953.

The Ballroom is the largest of the State Rooms and is used for state banquets. This enormous room is luxuriously furnished and decorated with magnificent chandeliers. The Guard Chamber is home to lovely sculptures associated with Queen Victoria and her family. And there’s a statue of Prince Albert wearing a classic suit of armour.

The Blue Drawing Room features stucco columns, blue flocked wallpaper, designed carpets and fine paintings. The White Drawing Room is where the monarchs receive important guests or dignitaries before moving to the other State Rooms. The room is richly furnished and adorned with paintings, sculptures and porcelain.

Opening Times for Visitors

Buckingham Palace is open for self-guided tours for only 10 weeks in summer, between July and October. The following are the typical opening times. There could be changes at short notice, so check the Buckingham Palace website for updates. Special guided tours and family tours are also available in spring and winter.

  • Opening hours (Jul-Aug) – 9:30 AM to 7:30 PM. Last entry at 5:15 PM
  • Opening hours (Sept-Oct) – 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM. Last entry at 4:15 PM
  • Typical visit – 120 minute

Tickets to the State Rooms

You can buy tickets on the day near the visitor entrance. It’s a popular tour and tickets are limited. It’s easier to book online in advance from the Royal Collection Trust, which manages all public openings to the palace. Besides, it’s cheaper to book online than to buy tickets at the entrance.

Here are the prices for tickets purchased in advance from the Royal Collection Trust for 2023. Family discounts are available and children below 5 years enter for free. The tickets come with a very informative multimedia guide.

  • Adult (25 years +) – £30.00
  • Young person (18-24 years) – £19.50
  • Child (5 – 17 years) – £16.50
  • Disabled – £16.50
The Queen's Gallery in London, England
The Queen’s Gallery | Firebrase

The Queen’s Gallery is part of Buckingham Palace which is outside the main building. It’s the main public art gallery of Buckingham Palace. The art on display here is some of the finest from the Royal Collection. The entrance is on Buckingham Palace Road, near the southwestern front of the palace building.

The Royal Collection is the largest private art collection in the world and spreads across 13 royal residences in the UK. And one of them is the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. Collections are not the personal property of the King but are held in trust by the monarch on behalf of the nation through the Royal Collection Trust.

The Trust has a vast collection but only 450 works of art are on display at a time. Exhibits are regularly rotated, so there’s always something new to see. It’s not only paintings but also sculptures and drawings. Not to mention decorative art, rare furniture, porcelain, jewellery and images from the photograph collection.

There are also special exhibitions. From May to October 2019, the Queen’s Gallery held an exhibition of drawings by the famous master Leonardo da Vinci. From April 2022 to March 2023, there’s an exhibition spanning 300 years of exchange between Britain’s Royal Family and Japan’s Imperial Family.

You’re allowed to take photos and videos for non-commercial use at the Queen’s Gallery. You’re even encouraged to post them on your Twitter or Instagram account. There’s a nice gift shop offering souvenirs to take back home including chinaware, homeware, bags, jewellery, postcards and even “royal” chocolate treats.

Opening Times for Visitors

The Queen’s Gallery opens year-round from Thursday to Monday. Occasionally, the gallery may close at short notice for various reasons such as for the installation of new exhibits. Please check the Queen’s Gallery website for updates. Here are the museum’s usual opening hours.

  • Opening hours – 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM
  • Last admission – 4:15 PM
  • Typical visit – 60-90 minutes

You can buy online tickets to the Queen’s Gallery from the Royal Collection Trust. The entry fee also comes with a very informative multimedia guide. The following are prices for single tickets for 2023. Family discounts are also available on the website. There’s no charge for children below 5 years.

  • Adult (25 years +) – £17.00
  • Young person (18-24 years) – £11.00
  • Child (5 – 17 years) – £9.00
  • Disabled – £9.00

You can also buy tickets issued by the Royalty Collection Trust from third-party travel sites like Get Your Guide. Prices are the same but you can book now and pay later, 72 hours before the visit date. Besides, it offers a full refund if you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. If you have the London Pass, there’s no need to buy a ticket.

Visit the Royal Mews

The Royal Mews in London, England
The Royal Mews | Crochet David

The Royal Mews is a branch of the Royal Household responsible for arranging all road travels for the Royal Family. There’s a working stable, a carriage house and a garage, which are part of Buckingham Palace. The Royal Mews is open for visits and the entrance is on Buckingham Palace Road, next to the Palace Garden.

You’ll see an extensive display of historic horse-drawn carriages and stately cars used by the Royal Family. They are not just exhibits, some are still used for state and ceremonial occasions. There are also 30 horses at the stable but your chance to see them depends if they are not on exercise, training or used for duty.

The highlight of the Royal Mews is the Gold State Coach. Built for King George III in 1762, this royal carriage is the grandest of them all, completely painted in gold. It’s been in use for all coronation ceremonies since King George IV in 1821. The coach weighs 4 tons and is so heavy that it takes 8 strong horses to pull!

Another famous carriage is the Glass Coach, built in 1881, used to carry the monarchs for Trooping the Colour (a military ceremony) performed by regiments of the British Army. Another is the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, which requires 6 horses to pull. The coach was first used by Queen Elizabeth during the opening of Parliament in 2014.

All official cars used by the monarchs are painted black over claret. On display is a rare 1950 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV, only 18 were built. Other prestigious cars include the Rolls-Royce 1978 Phantom VI and 1986 Phantom VI. There are also two Bentley State Limousines, given to Queen Elizabeth in 2002 to mark her Golden Jubilee.

Opening Times

The Royal Mews generally opens to the public from March to October. Opening days are from Thursday to Monday. It’s a working branch of Buckingham Palace and may close at short notice. Please check the Royal Mews website for updates. Here are the usual opening hours, when the Royal Mews is open to visitors.

  • Opening hours – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Last admission – 4:00 PM
  • Typical visit – 60-90 minutes

Tickets to the Royal Mews

Online tickets to the Royal Mews are available from the Royal Collection Trust. Besides entry, the ticket price also includes a descriptive multimedia guide. The following are single ticket prices for 2023. Family discounts are available and there’s no charge to enter for children below 5 years.

  • Adult (25 years +) – £15.00
  • Young person (18-24 years) – £10.00
  • Child (5 – 17 years) – £9.00
  • Disabled – £9.00

Nearby Attractions to Visit

Besides the Queen’s Gallery and Royal Mews, there are a few more attractions near the royal palace. Places to visit include the Household Cavalry Museum, Guards Museum, St James’s Park and Green Park. Though not part of the Royal Collection Trust, they are certainly part of the Buckingham Palace neighbourhood.

Household Cavalry Museum

At the Horse Guard Parade in London, England.
The Horse Guards | Tristan Surtel

The Household Calvary Museum is at the historic Horse Guards building, formerly the headquarters of the British Army. It’s a living museum and you can see troopers tending their horses at the stables. There are also fascinating exhibits including ceremonial uniforms, regalia and weaponry from the illustrious history of the Household Cavalry.

Two mounted troopers guard the Horse Guards building. You can watch the daily takeover of the troopers ceremony on the parade grounds at 11 AM but 10 AM on Sundays. If at 10:30 AM you’re at the Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, you can watch the daily inspection ceremony on the parade grounds at 4 PM.

The museum is 15 minutes walk from Buckingham Palace on Horse Guard Road. You can pre-book tickets at the Household Cavalry Museum website. Tickets cost £10 for adults and £8 for children (5-16 years), seniors (60 years and above) and students with a student ID. But you can enter without a ticket if you have the London Pass.

The Guards Museum

The Guards Museum in London, England.
The Guards Museum | Basher Eyre

The Guards Museum is a small yet interesting museum devoted to the Foot Guards, the 5 regiments that form the King’s Guard at Buckingham Palace. Explore 400 years of history, from the English Civil War to the present. There are displays of uniforms worn through the centuries as well as weapons, memorabilia and photographs.

The museum is on Birdcage Walk at the Wellington Barracks, the headquarters of the Foot Guards. And a short 5 minutes walk from Buckingham Palace. Tickets at the entrance cost £8 for adults, £5 for seniors (65 years and above) and free for children 16 years and below. That said, you can enter without a ticket if you have the London Pass.

St James’s Park

St James's Park in London, England
St James’s Park | GillyBerlin

St James’s Park is across the road from Buckingham Palace. The 23-hectare (57 acres) park is the oldest of the Royal Parks of London. The area once kept exotic animals like camels, crocodiles and an elephant during the reign of King James I (1603-1625). In the 17th century, King Charles II turned the area into a park for the public to enjoy.

It’s a charming park and tranquil place in the heart of a regal neighbourhood. The focal point is a scenic lake surrounded by lush greenery. It’s home to various waterfowls including a colony of pelicans introduced in the 17th century. The Blue Bridge over the lake offers a magnificent view of Buckingham Palace in the distance.

Green Park

Green Park in London, England
Green Park | Txllxt TxllxT

Green Park is across another road from the royal palace. This triangle-shaped green space covers 16 hectares (40 acres) and is the smallest of the Royal Parks of London. The area was once a haunt for highwaymen and thieves as well as a duelling ground. In 1820, John Nash landscaped and transformed the area into a charming park.

Unlike St James’s Park, Green Park has no scenic lake but does have a unique charm of its own. It’s a simple and tranquil park, featuring hundreds of mature trees over a natural landscape of grassland. There are also no flowerbeds here but in spring, Green Park is a sprawling sight of beautiful yellow daffodils.

Neighbourhood Walking Tour

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace in London, England.
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace | km30192002

You can easily go on your own on a self-guided walking tour around the Buckingham Palace neighbourhood and visit all the attractions. It’s a wonderful walk admiring the regal sights and a must for any first visit to London. But if you want to know more about the area and the attractions, consider a walking tour with a local guide.

There are various walking tours around Buckingham Palace from several operators. Many are listed on travel sites like Get Your Guide and Viator. The tours are led by locals giving insights that you’ll never get if you were to walk on your own or from a guidebook. You’ll appreciate the sights more besides making the best of your time.

The guided tours typically last 2-3 hours. So, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. Costs range from £20 to £70 per person, depending on the itinerary. At the higher end of the price range, in summer, many walking tours include a visit to the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace.

How to Get to Buckingham Palace

St. James’s Park Station in London, England
St. James’s Park Station | CVB

Buckingham Palace is in Westminster, an area of Central London. It’s a few minutes walk from the London Underground’s St James’s Park Station (District and Circle Lines), Victoria Station (Victoria, Circle and District Lines) and Green Park Station (Victoria, Jubilee and Piccadilly Lines).

Buses on routes 11, 211, C1 and C10 stop nearby the palace on Buckingham Palace Road. Most hop-on hop-off bus tours also stop nearby. If using the London Pass or Go City Explorer Pass, save your money and use the hop-on hop-off buses provided. Sure taxis are expensive but with 3-4 people in a cab, you may want to consider.

Nearby Hotels to Stay

The Goring Hotel in London, England.
The Goring Hotel | Matt Brown

London is well-connected by Underground trains that you don’t have to stay close to Buckingham Palace to visit. But the area is a pleasant part of London and offers visitors a range of hotels. Besides, it’s easy to get from here to other nearby attractions such as the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Tate Britain to name a few.

Below are some options if you want to stay near Buckingham Palace. It’s not a complete list and you can click the following for more hotels near Buckingham Palace. The ones mentioned below have been picked for their favourable guest reviews and average guest rating scores ranging from good to excellent.

  • Stanley House Hotel ⭐⭐ – A budget hotel in a quiet and pleasant neighbourhood of London. Rooms are clean, comfortable and have television, free WiFi and private bathroom. Complimentary breakfast is served daily in the dining room.
  • Enrico Hotel ⭐⭐ – This budget hotel is located nearby many conveniences including supermarkets and restaurants. Rooms are clean, have modern furnishing and are equipped with a range of facilities for a comfortable stay.
  • Comfort Inn Victoria ⭐⭐⭐ – The hotel is a charming 19th-century Georgian townhouse but the interior is modern. Deluxe double rooms with kitchenettes for self-catering are also available. Room rates include free continental breakfast.
  • Belgravia Rooms ⭐⭐⭐ – A mid-range hotel in the posh neighbourhood of Belgravia. There are shops, cafés and restaurants in the area catering to all budgets. Rooms include single, twin, triple and even rooms for up to 5 guests.
  • The Z Hotel Victoria ⭐⭐⭐ – The hotel is 10 minutes from Buckingham Palace and a hop away from Victoria Railway and Underground Stations. Rooms are compact with contemporary furnishing including plush beds and under-bed storage.
  • The Clermont London, Victoria ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – A grand hotel with a Victorian flair of the aristocracy. The rooms have all the modern comforts and amenities. There’s a fitness room for guests and a restaurant that serves modern British cuisine.
  • Grosvenor Gardens by CAPITAL ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – The 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments are generously large. The apartments are comfortable and lavishly furnished. Each has a fully equipped kitchen, separate dining area and sitting area.
  • The Goring ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This luxury hotel wins high praise from guests for its warm personal service. Each room is luxurious and individually designed. Hotel facilities include a fitness room and an elegant fine-dining restaurant.