For ages I have been meaning to go to the Summer opening of Buckingham Palace, and this year I finally got round to it! Space is limited so I would advise booking to avoid disappointment, or a long wait. There is no booking fee and you can collect tickets on arrival. Adult tickets for the State Rooms only cost £20.50, or for £36 you can visit the Queen's Gallery and Royal Mews also. This would make a long day, as the Palace alone is 2-2.5 hours.
You will have airport style security checks before you go in - large bags will be taken through to the end for you to collect. The tour is done by an audio/multi-media guide.
There are a few videos to watch, and coloured photographs to look at, to help you match the topic with a particular piece of art (for example). there are 16 room which are discussed with a brief talk - usually about a minute - and sometimes supplementary talks/videos of a similar length. There is nothing too long so you don't get bogged down, but it is completely up to you what you choose to listen to.
The summer 2015 exhibition is about State Visits and the work that goes into preparing for a state banquet - table plans, plates, menu choices. It was very interesting and it was nice to see the room laid out as if for a banquet.
There is a Garden Cafe, lavatories and a shop in the gardens.
If you are thinking of going I would advise planning ahead, garden tours for this summer are already sold out so planning your visit is a good idea. The palace staff were lovely - polite and friendly, and happy to help anyone, and do what they can for less able visitors. I had a lovely afternoon and hope to have a return visit for a different exhibition next year.
Until recently I have always been proud to declare myself a Republican. I still fiercely object to being called a subject. I'd much rather be seen as a citizen. But since the Diamond Jubilee my position has softened. I don't mind saying that I think the Queen has done - indeed continues to do - a good job. With the exception of completely misjudging the sense of the nation when Princess Diana died, I don't think she's put a foot wrong. So I was not totally adverse to a friend's suggestion that we go to the summer opening of Buckingham Palace and see the 60TH anniversary of the Coronation exhibition.
My friend booked on line - http://www.royalcollection.org.uk. You have to select the date and time of your visit and we picked 2.15 today.
An adult ticket costs £19.00 + £1.25 booking fee which I think compares pretty favourably with entry into other stately homes - for example tickets for Blenheim Palace are £22. There are concessions a over 60/ Student ticket is £17.50, its £10.85 for under 17s and under 5s go free.
How to get there
The nearest underground stations are Victoria, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner. There are also a number of buses which stop pretty close to the entrance which is at the side of Buckingham Palace on Buckingham Palace Road. I work in Westminster so walked up from Westminster Abbey and the walk took about 15 minutes.
When it is near your booked time slot, you are let in through the gates and stand in a covered holding area. The website says that if you miss your allotted slot, you will not be allowed in. Luckily we arrived just about on the dot of 2.15 and so were ushered straight in.
At this stage you are warned that there are no toilets until the end of the tour which typically lasts 11/2 hours. Therefore if you think you might need the loo, the advice is to leave the queue and go to a nearby public convenience! Luckily neither of us needed to go!
After a few minutes, the queue began to edge slowly forward. It took a time to get through the airport-style security checks. Bags are screened - the couple in front were surprised to find a kitchen knife in their bag which of course had to be handed in - and you go through the usual metal detector gateway. I of course set this off as my raincoat has metal decoration. You are also told to switch off all smartphones, ipads etc as photography in the State Rooms is strictly verboten. Large items of baggage, backpacks and pushchairs have to be checked in but we just had reasonably small handbags and one umbrella between us.
Included in the tour is the use of an audio guide - this saves on the £4.95 colour guide. This audio guide is really good and I would definitely recommend you take advantage of it if you visit. It explains all the different State Rooms as you walk through the tour and you have the option of listening to additional bits of information - details of various works of art for example - if you are particularly interested in something. There are also lots of guides positioned on the route who can answer any other questions you might have.
~ What you see ~
The tour takes you through the main 'State Rooms' of the Palace - that is the public rooms that are used for ceremonial and official occasions. Because it is a working Palace, it feels a lot less sterile and formal than other stately homes and somehow has a good feel about it. They are of course all very impressive - absolutely magnificent ceilings, fantastic candelabra, wonderful drapes and of course exquisite furniture. A lot of the rooms seemed very familiar - I guess we've had so many glimpses in the Palace on tv and films. I have to admit I was impressed.
~ The Art ~
One of the rooms that particularly impressed me was the Picture Gallery. Like most of the other rooms, it was created by John Nash in the 1820s when Buckingham House, as it was then, was made into a palace for George IV. The gallery is really a long 47 metre corridor which is used to display some of the best art from the Royal Collection. And what a Collection! Apparently the pictures are changed regularly - I imagine the Queen has quite a stock to choose from. At the moment it features a lot of old masters. Some fantastic paintings by Canaletto, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck and the like. There's even the earliest surviving painting by Caravaggio - a portrait of a boy peeling fruit thought to have been painted in 1592.
~ Coronation stuff ~
After the Picture Gallery, you enter the main Coronation exhibition area. There are references to the coronation before you get this far - particularly in the Throne room where there are some of Cecil Beaton's portraits and a video showing the full Royal Family getting into position for being photographed. The main part of the exhibition starts however with a short film showing all the preparations for the great day. You can sit down at this point to watch the film which is a well put together video montage. Back on your feet you walk through to the main exhibition area and en route see a film of the Coronation itself.
The next area is dedicated to the Coronation outfits. For me this was the most impressive part of the exhibition although I have to say it was really too crowded to make it a pleasant experience. You had to fight your way through to get a close look at the displays which was rather annoying. I did manage to get a good look at the Coronation dress and robe which was designed to by Norman Hartnell - absolutely gorgeous and what we did notice was how the narrow the waist looked! So much detail in the embroidery. The robe alone took over 3,500 hours to stitch.
Nearing the end of the tour, the displays in the state dining room are set out to commemorate the two Coronation state banquets. They had to hold two because there were so many guests who had to be invited - over 8000!
The end of the tour takes you out to the Buckingham Palace Gardens and the Garden café. What a welcome sight! You are warned to wear comfortable shoes and indeed I had done so but boy was I ready to sit down and have a nice cup of tea!
The café was pretty busy. Notices ask politely that you do not bag a table until you have bought your refreshments. Inevitably people mess up the system by ignoring this advice but we were still able to find somewhere to sit down and enjoy our tea. Naturally this is all done very nicely. Staff are on hand to ensure the queue moves quickly and efficiently and we were soon faced with an array of delicious looking goodies. We had a cup of tea each and shared a smoked salmon bagel and a huge scone packed with fresh strawberries and cream. This set us back £14.95 but was really good. There were all sort of lovely looking cakes too, some decorated with little chocolate buttons embossed with cute gold crowns.
The Gift Shop
Once we had devoured our afternoon tea and had a good old natter, we set off towards the souvenir shop. I wasn't convinced by the £7 Buckingham Palace shower cap but again all very well done with a wide range of gifts to choose from. Of course some were very expensive but there were plenty of less expensive items too. I bought a box of marzipan fruits for just under £7 which is what you would expect to pay elsewhere but of course this box has a pretty Buckingham Palace ribbon. My companion managed to fill her shopping basket and got a free hardback book on the Queen's Jubilee wardrobe as she had spent more than £50. Although it wouldn't feature very high on my books I must read list, I'm sure it will look very nice on her coffee table!
To the exit
Before we could spend any more money, we felt it time to get on our way. There is a nice walk through the garden towards the exit and as you leave you can get your ticket stamped (so long as you have bought the ticket directly from the Royal Collection Trust) which converts it into a 1 year pass. I'm not sure that I will choose to go back next year but it's nice to have the opportunity.
For those of you who may fancy going this year, you'd best get your skates on. The summer opening of the State Room and the Coronation exhibition ends on 29 September. Personally, I think it is worth a visit. We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon at the Palace and the only reason I am giving it a 4 instead of a 5 is the overcrowding.
The idea to visit Buckingham Palace was initially a bit of a throwaway remark. I expected it to be ridiculously expensive, but we had our trip to London booked which included my birthday and I was just browsing around the internet for possible things to do. When I reached the "Royal Collections" website and saw that the State Rooms tour was £19 per adult, it suddenly became a real possibility, which rapidly (i.e. booked in minutes!) became a firm date.
The website is clearly laid out with a large "visit" tab at the top, which offers the options of State Rooms, Royal Mews, Queens Gallery and Clarence House. Clicking on "State Rooms" you are taken through to the book tickets page where there is also a wealth of information about the visit including the all important ticket prices. Concessions are available at £17.50 for over 60's or students, under 17 £10.50 and under 5's free. A family ticket (2 adults plus up to 3 children) is available at £50.00. There are further options if you wish to incorporate a visit to the mews and/or garden tour.
Having decided to book, the next stage is to book your date and time. There is a calendar showing availability, and we booked about 3 weeks in advance and found plenty of availability for all times on our chosen day. Following on from that it is a standard "add to basket - checkout" format, including the option to giftaid your payment if you wish. The booking process took about 5 minutes (that's taking out the 20 minute debate about what time of day we wanted!) and the tickets arrived in a posh looking envelope through the post in 3 days. If you book close to your date of travel you can arrange to collect your tickets on the day.
The day got off to an amazing start when we discovered that it was "changing the guard" on the day we went - this is only done every other day, at 11.30am, and our visit was booked for 1pm. Unsurprisingly, the changing of the guard attracted thousands of spectators, so the area was absolutely packed. I was getting pretty edgy having heard a few scare stories about queuing times, people being asked to come back later etc so although an hour early we decided to find out where we would need to go to see if we should start queuing early.
The entrance and ticket office is to the left hand side of the Palace, clearly marked, and there were staff members standing around who were really helpful. We were assured not to worry, just come back at the time stated. Sure enough, by 1.00 the crowds had significantly thinned out around the area and we walked straight in having passed our tickets over.
Under some huge marquee style covering there are some waiting benches where the timed group gather and at 1.00 another staff member appeared to talk us through the ground rules. Primarily these were no photography or mobile phones, we were told the length of the visit (2-2.5 hours) and that there are no toilets in that time and no opportunities for sitting. Obviously if either of those things were a problem, they said to approach the staff for assistance, which would be given. This chat lasted just a few minutes, and we were off. We were a group of around 25-30 people I guess.
The next phase is an airport-style security check, scanners for pocket contents and bags before walking through a metal detector style 'doorway'. Once through there we were asked to leave our rucksack for collection at the end, but it was fairly big, and any sized handbags, carrier bags etc were fine to take through the tour. The rule is that if your bag is small enough to pass through the scanner it will be ok to take in.
Finally, you collect your audio tour. There were 4 members of staff giving the units out, which consisted of a small walkman style unit with a neck band and a pair of headphones which were soft and comfy to wear.
I'm not going to say anything specific about the tour because I wouldn't have wanted to have known anything about it before I went; I loved the surprise of it all.
For us the tour took 2 hours start to finish, it could have been done quicker and equally it could have lasted a little longer. The displays can take as long as you like to look at, and there are parts which may be of less interest which you can move quicker through. The beauty of the audio tour is you can really take your time, you press a key to move on when ready, no one is hurrying anyone along at any time. The audio guide contains lots of information on a huge range of areas, but this year (2013) it is all geared towards the Queen's coronation, so presumably it differs each year.
Part way round there is one opportunity for sit-down, in a short film show area. There are lots of steps and staircases, but the Palace is accessible for everyone and there are numerous staff around in every room, and walking around. All of the staff I encountered were really cheerful, friendly and approachable, asking if people were ok with their audio guides, or just saying "hello".
When it's all over...
At the end of the tour you emerge overlooking the huge Palace lawns at the back. There is a desk to return the audio guide, and another alongside to reclaim your bags. This was seamless and there was no wait at all. To the right hand side there is a large Palace Tea Room, which we didn't visit, but would make a lovely spot for a welcome cuppa and probably a slice of cake, overlooking the gardens.
The toilets are in a temporary building around 50 yards away along the path to the left, there are plenty of toilets and they are clean and modern with plenty of basins and hand-dryers too. After the toilets is the gift shop, which is another experience on its own! There is a "Palace" version of every household item and gadget, food item, toy, clothing - you name it, as well as books and other souvenirs. All the prices are predictably ridiculous, we spent about 10 or 15 minutes browsing in the shop and eventually we bought some tea bags in a Buckingham Palace embossed tin, for a bargain £7. Once again the staff were plentiful, friendly and efficient - no queues.
Finally you take a walk around the outer edge of the gardens to the exit. This is stated as half a mile, although it didn't feel like that far, it was a pleasant, flat walk which took maybe 10 minutes of a slow walk. The path goes through some interesting plants and trees and it's just nice to finish off imagining the royal family walking around the paths and gardens where you're walking.
Right at the end is the last hurrah from the Palace - by completing your details on the back of your entrance ticket you can have it stamped to enable you to return again within 12 months free of charge. This is great if you have had to rush your visit for any reason, and is a gesture they don't need to make, a good touch I think.
My visit to the Palace was a fantastic experience. I'm not an enthusiastic Royalist, although I do like the Royal Family, but for anyone with any interest in royalty, British heritage or history, there is a wealth of material for everyone. My partner isn't particularly interested in royalty at all, but he said that it was great value and thoroughly enjoyed the visit.
The audio tour is superbly done, and there is so much to see that I have recommended it to everyone who has had the misfortune to bump into me (or now read my review) since!
While on a recent visit to family in Surrey, we decided that Buckingham Palace had long been at the top of our list of 'haven't seen and must see' attractions. One fine Saturday in August, we went at last. My wife had tried unsuccessfully to book online first thing that morning, and having presented ourselves (including myself, a party of six aged between 83 and 4) at the ticket office soon after 10.00, were told that all available tickets (which are timed) had been sold for that day. Could we return tomorrow? After seeing the looks of dismay no our faces, the steward went back to check and told us that there would be sufficient slots at 5.30 that afternoon. Without a second thought, we purchased tickets and then went to St James' Park to plan the next few hours in the city until then.
At present admission prices are £19 (adult), £17.50 (over 60, or student, on production of ID), £10.85 (under 17), or free (under 5). Family admission was £50 (two adults and three under 19). The prices were not cheap, but we had decided beforehand that this would be our major treat of the holiday this year - well, in addition to an excellent lunch at a Wetherspoons in Charing Cross that road on the same day.
Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the monarchy, and has been almost ever since the then Buckingham House was purchased by King George III in 1761. King William IV disliked it and refused to live there during his seven-year reign, but Queen Victoria enjoyed it and was the first to live there regularly. The state rooms are open to the public for a limited period each summer, this year being 27 July to 29 September.
A quick look at statistics - the building has 775 rooms altogether, but don't let that put you off. You have no chance of seeing 756 of them, as that figure includes 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms. (Before you ask, the public loos are in a tent outside, so don't expect gold-plated seat or hand basins). They have over 350 working (non-digital) clocks, one of the largest collections anywhere, and two full-time horological conservators are employed to maintain and wind them.
Having returned at the appointed hour and presented our tickets, we filed in through a vestibule where we were informed that 'airport security' would apply, where we had to remove cash, mobile phones, keys and the line to be put into an electronic scanner after which they were handed back. The announcement was made on a not very good p.a. system - the kind where you can make out one word in five if you're lucky, if your hearing is like mine and if there is a general buzz of chatter at the same time. We also obtained a 72pp. guide book (£4.95), which is illustrated in colour throughout and provides a full history as well as description of every room, and were offered but declined an audio tour.
ROUND THE PALACE
The first exhibit we passed was a set of drawings by Feliks Topolski, a coronation frieze in 14 sections, nearly 30m long. I find Topolski's rather rough-and-ready style not really to my liking, and I much preferred the full-length portrait of the Queen in her coronation robes by James Gunn alongside.
Next, in a room overlooking the quadrangle, was a brief exhibition on the history of the palace, its previous ownership and subsequent alterations between the time of its acquisition by George III and the early 20th century. One notable change was the removal of Marble Arch, which was built there but taken down in 1850 and moved to its present position at Cumberland Gate, on the edge of Hyde Park.
After that we were in the palace proper. The Grand Hall is the entrance where guests arrive for garden parties and evening receptions. Next, up the Grand Staircase, which is deliberately decorated in lighter colours, in order to create a contrast with the Hall, and flanked with royal Victorian portraits to form a kind of welcoming committee. Not surprisingly Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, or rather their likenesses, dominate much of the Palace, and next we reach the Guard Room where there are vast statues of them.
At last we come to the first of the really impressive furniture, to be found in the Green Drawing Room, with a wonderful 18th century decorated cabinet and several pieces of Sevres porcelain. Next is the Throne Room, where the Queen receives loyal addresses on special occasions such as jubilees, and where the formal photographs after the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were taken in 2011.
If art is one of your passions, and it is of mine, the Picture Gallery will delight you. Created by John Nash to show off the collection of King George IV to advantage, it is strategically placed so it could also double as one of the principal reception rooms for guests, a role it still performs today. Whatever George IV's faults, he was perhaps the greatest and most discerning collector in the British royal family of all time, and acquired some excellent pictures. Here you will find Dutch paintings from Rembrandt, Rubens, Cuyp, Caravaggio, Van Dyck and others. I was particularly struck by Claude Lorrain's 'View at Tivoli' with a very attractive pink sunset sky. My wife looked at the landscape part, which was very dark, and said she thought it was awful. In fairness I think it merely needed cleaning; far more detail was discernible if you looked at the smaller reproduction on the laminated information boards in front.
The East Gallery has more very fine and very large portraits, including one of Queen Victoria at her coronation, the famous family group by Winterhalter of the Queen, Prince Albert and their five eldest children, and one by Van Dyck of King Charles I on horseback.
At a special exhibition mounted for the 60th anniversary of the Coronation, a film of the ceremony, which has been on TV several times, is shown, as well as shorter films on replica black and white TV sets as it would have been seen at the time. (Try playing your DVDs on one of those...not). Accompanying exhibits include the anointing canopy, the throne chair, the coronation dress and its long purple train, and dresses which were worn by members of the royal family.
Another gallery takes you to the State Dining Room, used since Queen Victoria's time for dinners on special occasions as the name implies, flanked by full-length portraits of the Hanoverian monarchs.
The Blue drawing room has portraits of King George V and Queen Mary, and also another very striking piece of furniture, the 'Table of the Grand Commanders'. Made between 1806 and 1812 from hard paste Sèvres porcelain with gilt-bronze mounts, it was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, remained in the factory until after his defeat in 1815, and was presented to George IV by Louis XVIII of France (a little ironically, you might think) in gratitude for the allied victory over Napoleon.
The Music Room is used for private recitals and also royal christenings. My wife, a professional musician, was slightly disappointed that there was no real evidence of music in here, apart from one piano. After this are the White Drawing Room, with more superb furniture and a large portrait of a rather gaunt-looking Queen Alexandra. The little Ante-Room was decorated with Winterhalter portraits of four of Queen Victoria's daughters.
Next is the Ministers' Staircase, providing alternative access to private and state rooms, and Marble Hall, designed for the display of sculpture. Many of the pieces displayed here, mainly portrait busts, were brought from Osborne House by order of Edward VII in 1902 after it ceased to be a family home on Queen Victoria's death.
Finally there is the Bow Room, which was originally intended as a library. Instead it became a waiting room, which is used for those being received in private audience by the Queen, in particular overseas diplomats.
The entire circuit took us about 90 minutes. I've always had a fascination for royal portraits - so if I've dwelt on these at excessive length above, sorry - and was regularly left behind by the others while I indulged myself. We were free to linger in any particular rooms as long as we wanted, and the fact that entry numbers are restricted means that the place is never too crowded for comfort (in stark contrast to if you are waiting outside or trying to watch the changing of the guard) - so there is no likelihood of being moved on in a hurry.
We then had a cup of tea in the café, and a browse in the gift shop at the array of souvenirs, fine bone china, chocolates, tea towels, toy corgis, DVDs and fine wines. These did not come cheap - in particular, the fine bone china teapot, which carried a £125 price tag.
A walk through part of the gardens led us out. At the final post was a steward who validated our tickets, converting them into a one-year pass (free re-admission within twelve months of issue), though as the Palace is open for only a couple of months each year, it pays if you are living close at hand. I have read elsewhere that this does not apply to tickets bought online, but only those obtained in person at the booking office, an anomaly which could be addressed.
For disabled visitors, there is access through the front of the Palace, with a lift upstairs.
We were all very pleased with our visit. Having read up a certain amount beforehand, online and elsewhere, we had a good idea of what to expect, and none of us were disappointed. Even 4-year-old step-granddaughter was captivated throughout (and was treated with a toy corgi at the gift shop afterwards). Illustrations can only give you some idea of the grandeur of the place, and most of the rooms and galleries were much larger than we had imagined. Admission prices, we thought, were probably comparable with similar attractions. For anybody not interested in history it would doubtless seem grand, overpriced and boring - but I very much doubt if anybody would consider a visit to the Palace without a clear idea of what to expect.
I have been to the Buckingham Palace for numerous occasions, mostly to see the Changing of Guards with friends/family who come for a visit, but it took me as long as three years to actually get myself a ticket and see the State Rooms for myself! I have visited several other residences including the Palace of Holyrood House and the Windsor Castle, and I will have to say that this is probably my favourite -- a visit to the Buckingham Palace is a very relaxing (albeit short) visit that makes you intrigued about the mechanics of this working residence of the Royal Famiy.
I believe there are two main tickets that gain you entry into the Buckingham Palace - the normal one that includes the State Rooms, the Buckingham Palace and the special exhibition Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration (during a visit in Aug 2012), or the Royal Day Out ticket that gives you admission to not only the State Rooms, but also the Royal Mews and the Queen's Gallery. Discounts are available for students and for those under 17, 5 and for families. A normal adult ticket would set you off by 18 pounds -- quite an expensive entry ticket I would say, considering that there are many London attractions that you can do for free. These tickets can either be purchased from the Royal Collection directly or from other vendors online, but if you buy them from the Royal Collection directly, you can convert your ticket into a 1-year pass at the end of the entire tour, and enjoy free re-admission for a year! Definitely worth it, if you intend to come back to visit numerous times.
Admission into the Buckingham Palace is at 15 minute intervals, and you will be allocated one when you enter. I had a normal adult ticket set for 12:45 pm, which was quite a good time because you can essentially come early, stay and watch the Changing of Guards (at 11:00, schedules can be found online), pop over to Green Park or St James Park and have a short picnic, before heading into the Palace. A relaxing day out indeed!
THE TOUR ITSELF
The entrance into the Buckingham Palace is to the left of where you would be if you were watching the Changing of the Guards. There are usually people around whom you can ask anyway. When the tour begins, you will be first briefed as to certain rules including no chewing gum, no use of cameras or mobiles, etc. Do take note that there are NO toilets inside the Palace - only at the garden after you are done touring the Palace's 19 State Rooms. You are then given an audio guide, and the tour begins. The tour should last approximiately 1-1h30 although the actual length will really depend on how long you spend wandering around, admiring the objects/paintings.
All in all I found the tour sufficiently informative (it doesn't bombard you with loads and loads of information, but neither does it tell you a whole lot - so I would consider the tour to be pretty light-hearted and enjoyable for most peoples. As mentioned in the guide if you do have any questions there are always very friendly members of staff around whom you may approach; and from what I seee they seem very willing to help and very knowledgeable as well!
In my opinion, the rooms in the Buckingham Palace are truly astonishing. The Grand Stairs has got to be my favourite - the way it is placed and the way it kind of lies at an intersection between two pathways , with its beautiful large portaits and fine carpet simply looks too stunning. You really have got to visit the Palace -- it's amazing to see the kind of grandeur and comfort that state visitors are granted when they are invited by the Queen to the Palace, and I think you will come to agree with me that everything there is so well-planned out and immaculate.
It is also nice to look at the galleries where there are some very fine work of art by great artists including Raphael and Jan Dyck, some of which are accompanied by commentary by experts in the audio guide.
After leaving the Palace, you are then allowed to walk through the Southern edge of the garden, which is quite a pleasurable and relaxing walk through the greenery. At the end of the tour, you will then find a rather large souvenir shop where you can get absolutely everything related to Buckingham Palace. As mentioned there are also toilets as well. Before you leave, do not forget to get your ticket stamped if you wish to get a year's of free re-admission on your ticket.
All in all, although the ticket price may be a bit expensive I think that this is an attraction that one should not miss while in London! The Changing of Guard is quite interesting, but be sure to actually head into the Palace and get a glimpse of how Buckingham Palace functions as a working residence. Unlike many other palaces in the world where monarchy no longer exists, this setting is actually functional and being used on a regular basis to receiving high-levelled guests from all over the world, into the humble and welcoming abode of the Queen. And compared to the other royal residences in England, this has got to be the most awe-inspiring in terms of interior design and architecture.
I recently visited Buckingham palace making this my fifth visit to the palace taking relatives or visitors to the palace when they have stayed with us. On this occasion it was a special treat for some friends who had never been and had wanted to go. You might think that it would not be interesting having been a few times. Nothing could be further from the truth. The first time visiting the palace you are absolutely in awe of the interior and the opulence that is contained within the palace walls and you fail to notice the finer details. Each time I have visited I have noticed more and more things which I had not noticed from the times before.
The front of Buckingham palace is probably one of the most recognisable views associated with London alongside the houses of parliament and Stonehenge. It is the official residence of the British Monarchy in London. This review is pretty long but there is so much more unsaid about the Palace lots more information that I have omitted, that is for you to discover! For example did you know that there is in fact a river that runs underneath the palace right under the Quadrangle?
The history of Buckingham Palace.
There have been three houses built on the site of Buckingham palace the first being called Goring house which was built in 1624 and burnt down in 1674. In its place a second grand house was built called Arlington house. In 1703 the Duke of Buckingham needed a town house in London and had the house built in the style of a main residence with two wings on either side. Eventually the Dukes descendent sold it to George III who intended it to be the home of Queen Charlotte. Of their fifteen children 14 of them were born in the house. It became known as the Queens house.
In 1820 King George IV decided to expand the palace and employed John Nash as architect however the King died before the work was completed. Renovations continued under the eye of King William IV however he was never to live in the palace and died at Windsor castle in 1837.
Queen Victoria was the first British Monarch to live in Buckingham palace and on her succession at the age of 18 she moved from Kensington Palace into Buckingham Palace. Although the state rooms were gilt and colourful the actual living quarters or as they were known as the queens apartments were drab and cold. The chimney system in the palace was such that it filled the palace with smoke. The gas supply was such that there were grave concerns that people living in the palace could be overcome by gas and die.
In 1840 the queen married Prince Albert who took to reorganising the palace and making it more habitable and by 1847 as their family increased the house became too small for the growing family. He then employed another architect to design and build the front wing which enclosed the palace and created the quadrangle courtyard. The front wing is the view of the house that most people are familiar with and it is on the Balcony of the front wing where members of the Royal family come out to wave to the crowds after state occasions and after the Royal weddings.
Directly in front of Buckingham palace stood Marble Arch but once work started on the East wing it had to be moved and was moved to its current site. It was designed by John Nash. The Victoria Memorial is directly in front of the Palace forming a roundabout at the end of the Mall. The Mall is a ceremonial route to the palace from Admiralty arch up to the Victoria Memorial. The road is a reddish colour due to the iron oxide in the material which is supposed to give the impression of a red carpet running the length of the Mall.
Come with me as I walk you around the palace.
Entry to the palace is by timed ticket. I pre booked our visit for 12:45 the plan being to watch the changing of the guard but unlucky for us it was absolutely belting down so we missed this even so we still were drenched going into the palace. You need to be in the queue to enter the palace at least 15 minutes before the allotted entry time so that you can go through an airport style security check where your bags are put through an X-ray machine you also have to walk through a metal detector. Here you are issued with an audio device to guide you around the palace on your visit.
Entry is via the Ambassador's entrance, up a few stairs and along a corridor around the perimeter of the quadrangle. You are not rushed and can stop and take your time at your leisure to look at and admire the fine works of art and anything else that catches your eye. The courtyard looks very impressive even when it is pouring down with rain.
On this occasion the entrance to the palace itself was via a side door beside the Grand covered entrance whereas before it was through the entrance into the large ornate reception room where the Queen meets her guests. There are large Chinese urns dotted around this area and a few chairs. The carpet is all red and it certainly sets the scene of grandeur of the State rooms of the palace.
To the left hand side is the grand staircase which looks directly up towards the state apartments however half way up the central staircase the stairs bifurcates splitting in two going up in a circular direction so that you come back on yourself to reach the first floor and the state rooms. The staircase is all gold gilt and there is a kind of parapet that overlooks the staircase. Around the walls are large paintings of close relatives of Queen Victoria. At the top of the staircase there is a frosted glass dome that helps flood the staircase with light. Each pane has been acid etched and there are angels at the base of the panes.
Entering through the first room which is a small guard room there are marble statues either side of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert dressed in Roman clothes after which you enter the green room.
The Green Room.
The green room is decorated in green with matching furniture and large wall to ceiling windows leading out to a small balcony. The ceiling is vaulted and adorned with gold leaf against a cream background. There is a massive crystal chandelier in the centre of the room. This room acts as an ante chamber for people waiting to enter the next room which is the throne room.
The Throne Room.
The next room you enter is the throne room which is decorated in red with two chairs ahead of you on a small raised dais. The two chairs have the initials ER and P embroidered in gold against a red background and the royal insignia which were specifically made for the Queen for her coronation. There are also chairs in this room that were made for Queen Victoria and King George V and the Queen Mother. On the walls either side of the throne chairs are four gold trophies that belonged to King George IV and were brought to Buckingham Palace from Carlton house in 1795.
There is an exceptionally large chandelier in the centre of the room and four smaller ones in each of the four corners. The ceilings are cream with gold shields representing the United Kingdom of Scotland, Ireland and England. There are also gilt roses representing the war of the roses. Around the top of the room there is a white frieze of various battles. The throne area is separated by two columns at the top of which are marble angels.
The wall paper is red and so are the curtains with gold braiding along the edges of the curtains. In the centre of the room is a large marble fireplace with a gilt mirror above it. In front of the mirror is a large gold coloured clock from 1800. Queen Victoria used it for balls and entertaining. Its current use is for official photographs following State occasions, weddings and christenings and investitures.
The picture gallery.
After coming out of the Throne room you enter the picture gallery which is 50 meters long. The walls are bestowed with precious works by Canaletto, Rueben and Van Dyke. There are fireplaces along the corridor which have electric bar fires in them. Electric sockets are hidden under discs that are the same colour and texture of the wall paper. This room is splendid and is nice and bright due to the frosted glass ceiling which lets in natural light. Right near the end of the long gallery to the left hand side is a display room displaying the Faberge pieces.
The Faberge exhibition.
A special viewing room has been set up in an anti room which is painted black and contains approximately ten glass display cabinets. In the cabinets are pieces of jewellery acquired over the years from various auction houses throughout Europe. Some of the pieces were given as gifts to the Royal family by the Russian Royal family prior to their assasination. The Queen and Prince Charles own some exquisite pieces such as flowers, small animals such as frogs. There are cigarette cases, small boxes and trinkets, enamelled and jewel encrusted picture frames. The colours are absolutely fabulous bright burgundy; Azure blues. There are some Faberge Eggs one of which contained a small elephant that is automaton. It moves its legs and its head moves from side to side. When you consider how small and fine the jewellery work is it's no wonder many of the fine jewellers were practically blind in later life. It is so worth seeing these things often unseen by others and remains part of the Queens private collection.
The East Gallery.
The East gallery takes you across to the rear side of the palace passing into the Ball room and passing a large painting of Queen Victoria's coronation.
The Ball room.
The ballroom was added to the palace by Queen Victoria and was at the time the largest room in London. It was here that grand balls are held and investitures. At one end of the ballroom there is a large organ. It is in this room that the dress of the Duchess of Cambridge is on display. It is displayed behind a black net and is finely embroidered. At the top of the dress is the veil and the Tiara loaned to the Duchess by the Queen for the wedding. In a separate cabinet are the shoes and the bouquet. State banquets take place in the State ballroom due to its size and it is able to accommodate up to 150 guests.
The State Dining room.
The state dining room is beautiful the walls being covered with red embossed paper whilst around the walls are paintings of senior members of the royal family including George III, Queen Charlotte, George IV amongst others. There is Sevres pottery on dressers around the side of the dining room as there are also in other rooms. This year the wedding cake is on display. Although there is a cut in the cake the cake was actually not cut up. It consisted of 17 separate cakes and the workmanship in this cake as absolutely stunning. Such fine icing, lattice work, flowers to represent Scotland the thistle, Shamrock for Ireland, roses for England and Lilly of the valley. It really is a masterpiece.
The Blue Drawing room.
Prior to the building of the ballroom this room was used to hold balls. There are thirty columns in this room which were originally a raspberry colour the walls were covered in crimson damask and the curtains were red. Queen Mary insisted that the room be re decorated and the thirty columns were painted to resemble onyx and the walls hung with Blue flock wallpaper. In the centre of the room there is a large marble fireplace with a massive clock on the mantle. Either side of the fire place are life size paintings of Queen Mary and King George V. There are four large crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. At the top of the walls are plaster casts of figurines and the ceiling is indented with gold leaf.
The Music room also known as the Bow Room.
The music room is where Royal christenings have taken place notably that of Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince William and Harry. Prince Edward was christened at Windsor castle in the private chapel. The room overlooks the gardens at the rear. It has columns that are painted to resemble Blue lapis lazuli. The ceilings are domed and ingrained in blues and gold leaf. The floor is a marquetry wood and there is a grand piano in the room.
The final State room is the white drawing room.
This has to be one of the most beautiful rooms in the palace. The decor is bright and airy and the furniture is yellow and gold. It is in this room that the Queen will meet distinguished guests. The room has four ebony veneered cabinets two at each end of the room. Above each cabinet there is a large mirror. One of the cabinets is a concealed doorway through which the Queen makes her entrance mostly unbeknown to her guest. It is quite a dramatic entrance and certainly would be a talking point. There is also a large writing bureau in this room which is very ornately decorated.
This concludes the tour of Buckingham palace. You leave the state rooms via a staircase which brings you to the long corridor at the rear of the house which has more paintings and marble heads on pillars along the passage way. You then go into the lovely bow room which is directly under the music room with fine dinner services in display cabinets then out to a patio area and the gardens at the rear where you hand your audio machine back. There are toilet facilities at the rear a cafe on the patio and a very large shop selling nick nacks although I cannot see any reason to buy some of the things for sale. It would be rather tacky in my opinion to buy overpriced mugs or china or a dinner service with the Royal coat of arms plastered across the plate or Buckingham Palace printed on them. There was a small carriage clock for sale for £1500 and generally I thought the prices were quite expensive for the items on sale. The tented shop is much larger than on previous years.
In total there are over 755 rooms in Buckingham Palace of which 19 are state rooms, 52 are Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 Staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Over 800 people work in the palace ranging from jobs as housemaids to office assistants. Two people are employed to wind up the 300 plus clocks every week.
Compared to the state apartments the queen lives quite frugally in the North wing of the palace and is often seen going around the palace switching off lights.
Would I recommend a visit to Buckingham Palace?
Yes I would if you are interested in stately homes and historical places. It is absolutely stunning and the pieces of art on display are absolutely beautiful. You are not hurried or rushed to get around the palace and you can take as much time as you like. We were there for approximately three hours before we came out of the palace. Throughout the review I have described details that I have observed which may or may not be totally accurate because I am not a good judge of colours but generally I think you will get a very good idea of how beautiful it looks inside. A lot of the antiques and valuables and art work have been moved around the palaces to adorn the palace. Many pieces came from Brighton Pavilion which Queen Victoria detested. Many of the gifts and furniture belong to the Nation. You are not permitted to take photographs inside the palace but you may do so once you come out into the gardens. The exit is quite a long walk through the gardens of the palace which brings you out into Buckingham palace road.
There is so much more to learn about Buckingham palace which I find absolutely fascinating.
In 2012 the year of the Queens Diamond Jubilee to mark her 60th Year on the throne the exhibition will be based on Diamonds belonging to the Queen and the Nation which should be a spectacular exhibition.
My one criticism on this visit was the connecting doors between the wings were left open. These doors are mirrored which makes the palace seem even bigger. I found it a bit off putting that you could see into the other rooms which distracted your attention from the room you were actually in. There are several guides in each of the rooms who are quite happy to answer any questions you may have. I was bemused to see that some of the paintings were quite glossy and I noticed that at the top they seemed to be matt. I asked a guide about this and it seems that they are covered in plastic to prevent any damage from members of the public as they are priceless. Once the season is over they will be removed.
I booked our tickets up on line through the Royal collection web site which contains all the information you need for booking.
Admission is £17 and for pensioners £16. Once you have visited you can get your ticket stamped which will give you free admission again whilst the palace is open up to one year from the date of admission. I think that £17 is good value for money as you are not rushed or hurried during the tour. I absolutely love Buckingham palace it is well worth a visit although I would add that it is probably not suitable to take young children as they would probably get quite bored by it. For those who are wheelchair bound it is rather special in that you can gain entry to the Palace through the front of the palace after obtaining your tickets which is on the right hand side of the palace and a special lift is available to take you upstairs.
Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Queen. It is in full use and a busy place most of the year, but in summertime she moves to Balmoral Castle, and so the State Rooms of the Palace are opened to the public. Generally this summer opening runs from the end of July to the end of September but can vary slightly - the 2010 dates are 27th July to 1st October.
Admission prices are not cheap. £17 for adults and £15.50 for concessions can make it a pricey day out. I recently visited with my mum; my dad decided not to come with us as he wasn't interested enough to pay another £15.50. As I was pushing my mum in a wheelchair, I had free admission as an access companion, meaning entry cost us £15.50; had all three of us visited without a wheelchair, it would have been a whopping £48.
Entry is timed. When you buy your ticket you are given a time to enter the Palace, in order to control numbers. You can book online in advance to guarantee your entry time. On the busy day we visited, we had to wait 45 minutes for our entry time, having not thought to book in advance.
As disabled visitors, we had a slightly different experience to the average visitor. We used a different entrance, and followed a very slightly different route in order to use lifts and avoid the stairs, but we still saw everything.
The visit started off in grand style. Instead of using the entrance at the side of the palace which has stairs, we had to go in the front gates where we were taken by golf buggy into the quadrangle. We used the same driveway as important visitors and the Queen herself! Although I suspect she does not use the golf buggies, it was an interesting experience; the last time I saw this entrance on TV was when David Cameron visited to form the government.
The rooms which are open to the public are the State Rooms. These are the rooms used for official functions and visits, so don't be thinking you're getting to see the Queen's apartments! There are a number of rooms open, including several drawing rooms, the picture gallery, the ballroom and the throne room. An audio guide is provided, which tells you a bit about the history, features and current uses of the room. There are plenty of things to see in each room, priceless artefacts and paintings. I enjoyed seeing the portraits of past monarchs, such as Victoria and her descendants. Interestingly there were no portraits of the Queen on display - perhaps protocol is that there are none on display while she is reigning.
My impression of the rooms we saw was that they were very ornate and rather spangly. There was a lot of gold, and a lot of intricate carving on the walls and ceilings. Buckingham Palace is not very old, as Victoria was the first monarch to live there, and so the decoration is perhaps more modern than the likes of Windsor. We visited the Queen's country retreat of Sandringham just over a month before we visited Buckingham Palace, and the contrast was huge. Buckingham Palace is part of the face of the monarchy; it is everything that the public and visitors would expect from royalty. Sandringham is more somewhere that the Queen can relax and take some rest from her duties.
Each summer there is a special exhibition for the opening of the State Rooms, and this year it was The Queen's Year. This aimed to give an insight into the duties the Queen performs throughout the year, and show some items associated with these duties. It was interesting and enjoyable in itself, however the room it was located in was such a bottleneck that it was not a pleasant place to be. We visited on the Saturday of the August bank holiday weekend, and the Palace was very busy. The exhibition room was a place where people were moving slowly and all trying to crowd round the same things. It was hot and cramped. People were in general very considerate to my mum in her chair, moving so I could get her close to the exhibits, but they were strangely inconsiderate to me! They saw the wheelchair but not the person pushing it. I was constantly being jostled and pushed, and spent the whole time pressed against the back of the wheelchair. I was glad when we exited into the ballroom.
There was also part of the exhibition in the ballroom, but there was more space here. We saw the robes the Queen wears to the state opening of parliament, along with the ceremonial sword and sceptre, dating back to the 17th century. Very impressive.
One thing I have to comment on is the staff. They were incredibly polite, friendly and couldn't do enough to help. They were bending over backwards to ensure that disabled visitors got as much out of their visit as everyone else. I was thoroughly impressed. While my mum does not necessarily like the attention, I felt it was just right, not too over-the-top as some places can be in trying to help disable visitor, and it was so nice to see people working so hard. Every member of staff was very professional, and I can't rate them highly enough.
Once we had visited all the rooms, we went out the back of the palace to the cafe. This is a new addition for summer 2010, located outside under a large canopy, which I had read about before visiting. Refreshments are served in paper cups and plates with a pretty Buckingham Palace design on them - not china as too many people would be tempted to nab a souvenir! However, with the paper ones the cafe staff will give you a clean cup to take away if you ask nicely.
The cafe was mobbed. My mum sat on a bench beside the entrance while I went to get food. I bought a coffee, a small cup of Sandringham apple juice (lovely!) and a brie and cranberry sub sandwich. It totalled £8.65! Insane prices. Sandwiches are £4.99 each, cakes are £3.99. The sandwich was nice and just what I wanted, but not worth that money at all.
The exit from the Palace is not in the same place as the entrance, but rather right at the back of the gardens - you stroll through the gardens to get there. There is a shop in a tent that you pass, which stocks the usual fare we have come to recognise from the royal palaces - souvenirs, jewellery, branded food and china. Every time we are in one of these shops my mum and I admire the china but never buy any - a cup and saucer at £35 is a bit steep.
There is another mini-shop within the Palace just for disabled visitors, as the main shop is accessed either by a short flight of stairs from the back of the Palace, or by going right back to the entrance and taking the golf buggy round to the back. It has a very small selection of gifts, but what really struck us was that everything had been thought of for visitors. Of course, I'm sure they were thinking of shop revenue when they put in the mini-shop, but it was still nice to see everything considered for disabled visitors.
I really enjoyed visiting Buckingham Palace, having wanted to for some time. It was a very interesting and enjoyable place to visit, and I'm still impressed by the consideration of the staff. However, it may not be for everyone so think before you visit, given the high entry prices. I do not think it would appeal to children for example, so may not be a good family day out.
Buckingham Palace 9th August 2010
When the Royal family finally decided that they were going to open the doors of this beautiful building to the paying public for two months each year to help pay for its upkeep we decided it would be a very interesting visit one day.
Many years later in 2010 and we finally got around to booking this visit on lastminute.com. It cost us £17 for me and my husband got a concession and paid £15. Just be aware though if you buy your ticket on line or through an agent then you can only use the ticket once. If you buy it from the ticket office at Buckingham Palace you can convert it into an annual ticket at no extra charge and use it all that season. They don't tell you that on line and we only discovered this when we got to the ticket office at Buckingham Palace. All that we got from llastminute.com was a voucher which had to be taken to the ticket office and changed into a proper ticket with 2 cannot be converted into an annual pass" stamped on it. The official opening hours are 27 July - 1 October 2010 and tours go almost constantly from 09:45-18:00 with the last admission at 15:45
There are several ways to get to the palace
By train: London Victoria and then walk
By underground: Victoria, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner.
By bus: Numbers 11, 211, C1 and C10 stop on Buckingham Palace Road.
By road: Buckingham Palace is situated within the London Congestion Charge zone and heaven only knows where you would park unless you were staying at a hotel nearby so I would not think this would be a great option unless dropping off someone with a mobility problem.
By coach: Victoria Coach Station is a ten minute walk from the Palace.
We were booked for the 3pm session and so we arrived, as we always do, with oodles of time to spare. We had enjoyed a picnic of our Subway sandwich in St James' Park and then made our way to the palace. It was a gloriously sunny summer's day and so it looked especially photogenic from the front. After we had taken as many photos as we felt were necessary we headed to the left hand side of the palace to the ticket office area. There were many rather confusing signs and it was not especially clear what you were meant to do. We showed one person our voucher who told us we had to go to the ticket office to change it to a proper ticket. That was relatively painless as we were fast tracked past all the other people waiting to purchase tickets and so it took about 5 minutes to do this. Should you want to buy tickets from here I would suggest you buy them a day or so before you need then just to make sure as they do get very busy at times.
Armed with our correct tickets we found we still had some time to fill so we went and had a wander down the road past the Royal mews. We had planned to walk around the block of the palace but hadn't realised quite how far this was and time was getting closer so we turned around and headed back to the palace ticketing area.
They allow you in to the waiting area only minutes before your tour departs. Once through the waiting area where you go through a security check similar to that at an airport then you are handed your personal audio guide and pointed in the right direction. No photography is permitted in the palace but you can take photos for personal use only in the garden area. Mobile phones must also be switched off all the time you are in the actual palace. The tour is a self guided one using the personal audio guide which was actually very efficient and an interesting commentary.
Initially you are taken to the point where you can see the private quarters and the business section of the palace across the courtyard. Then you are turned and taken into the State rooms and more public areas of the palace. These are the areas used for meeting and greeting dignitaries and also the sections where those invited for the garden parties at the palace pass through. Although these are not private quarters they are not open to the public at any time it is only during August and September when The Queen makes her annual visit to Scotland that the Palace's nineteen state rooms are open to paying visitors.
Everywhere is really sumptuous. The rooms are enormous and the decor is elaborate to say the least.
The paintings were like a gallery with examples from Holbein Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin and Canaletto to name only those I remember there was a sculpture by Canova and so many fantastic examples of Sèvres porcelain.
The furniture was amazing with some similar to those I saw in the palace of Versailles and obviously of French origin while others were some of the finest English furniture I have ever seen. I suppose they don't get used as such and they are really being preserved as museum and collectors pieces. It must all be worth a fortune.
I was really interested in seeing the room where the queen performs the ceremony of knighting people. The sword used for the purpose on also on display. It is actually quite small but then she is tiny so it couldn't be too big. At one end there were the throne chairs where the Queen sits prior to performing the ceremony.
My favourite rooms were those overlooking the beautiful gardens. One was an enormous dining room with huge table and quite a lot of this elaborate porcelain on display. The ceilings were not just blank canvases either. These were decorated with many designs and painted with crests and emblems and some embellished with gold trimmings too.
Apart from the experience of the state rooms we were also able to see a special exhibition which was a first this year which went through the Queens's year and gave a good insight into the principal national and ceremonial events in the Queen's year.
This Display showed ceremonial robes, gifts, uniforms, dresses and jewellery of the Queen. I couldn't get over how tiny she must be as her dresses were minute. There was also some very interesting archive photography and film You got a very good idea of the pageantry, tradition and ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament, the historic Garter Day ceremony at Windsor Castle which I had never heard of before this exhibition. There was a recording of a high ranking officer explaining how proud soldiers were when they were invited to take part in the Trooping the Colour. As I am not a big Royal family follower and I am not very well informed about all the pomp and ceremony that goes along with the Royal family I did find this was quite interesting.
Once you leave the actual palace and arrive at the terrace café area you are requested not to hang around on the steps. You can go into the café which is on the West Terrace overlooking the Palace's famous lawn and lake. This is where those lucky enough to get invited enjoy the wonderful garden parties while dressed in all their finery. For the paying visitor there is the opportunity to enjoy this view from the café while sipping your cup of coffee or afternoon tea. The Garden Café is open throughout the Palace's visiting hours, 09:45-18:00 with the last admission to the café at 15:45.
If you choose not to visit the café or after you leave the café you head down the stairs and past the Lavatories and baby-care facilities which are in marquee type buildings. The inevitable shop selling hugely overpriced stuff is also here. We watched one couple with two baskets full of things which cost all at least £30 and often well up in the £100s. There were cups and tea pots as well as other expensive items we reckoned there must be about £1500 worth of stuff. I queued up with my £3 postcard purchase just behind them. So if you feel you are going to want to buy a souvenir then bring your credit card or a bulging wallet.
On leaving the shop you then walk along the path through the gardens and passed several benches where you can sit and admire the gardens or people watch or enjoy an ice cream from the ice cream from the kiosk situated about half way along the path as you leave the palace gardens.
For visitors with disabilities or pushchairs
Baby prams and pushchairs are not allowed in the palace and must be left at the entrance and reclaimed at the exit. And there are baby-carriers are available for loan.
If you have trouble walking then I would suggest that this tour could be hard work. You walk a long way and there are several sets of stairs to climb up and own. They are not steep but that is the only way of passing through the palace state rooms. There are quite a number of rooms and they are huge. Once out of the palace you have to walk quite some way though the gardens before you leave the grounds. Most of the walking is on flat ground and is wheel chair friendly and of course you can get your pushchair back for the garden area to make it a bit easier if you have carried your baby around all the rooms.
Wheelchair-users are asked to book through the Ticket Sales and Information Office by telephoning 020 7766 7324. This is so that they can organize assistance and not have too many at one time.
For those with hearing difficulties there is a BSL video tours of Buckingham Palace are now available. You need to reserve your tour in advance of your visit by contacting the Specialist Sales team on 020 7766 7324 or e-mail email@example.com.
For 2010 there was a special BSL Interpreted and Lipspeaking Guided Tour of this year's special exhibition, The Queen's Year which was on Saturday, 4 September at 17:00. Presumably this will also happen in future years on a specific date should you wish to use this service.
At the front of the Palace
If you have come to London to visit the palace and have not ever watched the Changing of the Guard then this is a must see event and it takes place at 11:30 daily from May until the end of July and on alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting. The times are a bit flexible but they are usually posted somewhere to the side of the palace on a board. In 200 the times and days are in August on odd numbered dates (1, 3, 5, etc) and in September on even numbered dates (2, 4, 6, etc)
It is quite a site as the new guards arrive at the front of the Palace at 11:30 and they come from the Wellington Barracks. The journey takes about 5 minutes and the soldiers are accompanied by a band. The ceremony takes place on the Palace forecourt and the whole thing last about forty minutes and what is more is that the whole thing is free. If you want a good view then you need to get there early and fix your nose to the railings as it can get quite crowded. If you have small children especially you need to get there so they can be near the front otherwise they will not see much.
Is it worth a visit?
I would say a resounding, yes. The Royal family is struggling financially and they need all the £15+ they can get. Seriously though, it is an amazing place and well worth the visit. It really is not that expensive compared to similar places like Chatsworth and you get a good half days entertainment for the price. The visit was a good couple of hours and we didn't hang around as we were driving back to Derbyshire that evening. We didn't have a drink in the café which would have been nice but we were very aware of the fact that we had to get the bus back to Putney and then drive back home so we didn't feel we had the time. You could sit in the garden which would have been lovely as it was a really beautiful sunny day when we had our visit. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and found it all mind blowingly opulent and worthy of Royalty. It is well worth a visit once but I would not feel the need to go again.
Thank you for reading and I hope this has been of some interest to you. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
This is a review of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace.
In less than a month I will be moving away from London and this was possibly my last weekend here so a friend and I decided that we must do something very touristy. I looked up Buckingham Palace on the internet only to discover that it is very expensive and you only get to visit the state rooms, not the actual living area. So we decided we would go to Tower Bridge instead. On our way to Tower Bridge we had to change trains at Green Park where we discovered that the line we wanted was closed. Fate obviously wanted us to visit the Queen and who are we to argue with fate?
-Arrival and Admission-
When we arrived at the palace we soon discovered that commoners such as ourselves were not admitted through the front of the palace (this was quite a relief due to the presence of armed police officers) so we followed the signs to the side of the palace. The signposting was quite good and we found the entrance without any problem.
In order to get access to the palace you have to queue up to buy tickets, then go back out of that tent and into another to wait to be admitted. This seemed like a lot of hassle but I'm sure they had their reasons (even if they weren't evident to us).
Buying the ticket was easy enough but I was not impressed by the woman who sold it to us. I found her to be really rude. When I refused to gift aid my ticket price (I thought you could only gift aid donations anyway), she demanded to know why I wouldn't, stating the reason that her manager would want to know. I explained that there were things I would rather my tax money went on and she replied that it doesn't go to the queen which I was of course quite aware of. I wouldn't have minded this so much if it had been accompanied by a smile or if she had been less aggressive but overall I thought she was extremely rude.
We were then pointed in the direction of another tent and asked to sit down and wait for our turn to go into the Palace. After this we had to queue up for airport style security checks and then finally we were in!
This is by far the most trouble I've had to go to just to get into an attraction and by this point I wasn't feeling overly enthusiastic. There's something about queuing, waiting around and then queuing again that dampens enthusiasm.
-The Audio Guide-
The price of admission includes an audio guide. I thought that this was excellent because so often you have to pay extra for the audio guide. It also means that you can wander around the palace at your own pace and control if and when you hear information and how much information you hear. The audio guide is very easy to use and the guide talks you through all of the settings and gives you instructions as you go around the palace. Throughout the tour you have the option of selecting additional information or skipping it if you're not interested. There were a few things that I wasn't interested in and was finding quite boring so I was quite pleased to be able to skip them.
The information provided by the audio guide is excellent. I was very interested in the history of the palace and the audio guide gave a good amount of information regarding this without overloading you with facts. At times it was necessary for me to pause the audio guide because it was going too fast for me to be able to take in my surroundings while listening but I guess that's the point of having a pause button.
There was one part of the audio guide that I found unintentionally amusing. During the part of the tour that's about the commonwealth the audio guide plays the Queens Commonwealth day message. During this message our unelected head of state discusses the common beliefs that all commonwealth countries have of "freedom, democracy and human rights; development and prosperity." (http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/default.asp?action=article&ID=30) I had promised myself that I would put aside any political views that I have so that I could enjoy a day out at the palace and I really did try but when the Queen starts describing the commonwealth as having common beliefs in freedom, democracy and human rights it is difficult to ignore. The commonwealth that includes countries with awful human rights records, all of them headed by the Queen who is of course not elected and most certainly not a symbol of democracy. And her comments about prosperity make me wonder if she really has visited the commonwealth countries.
The palace was absolutely beautiful. When we first entered I wasn't overly impressed, it was nice but nothing more than any other historic house I have ever visited but then you go to the actual state rooms and they're just breathtaking. Each room you enter is more lavish and extravagant than the last. The audio guide informed me that some of the rooms were set up so that when the visitor enters the first room they are given a taste of what is to come and then the next room is larger and grander. The point was to impress visitors and it certainly impressed me.
I don't think I could pick out a favourite out of all of the state rooms, they were all really interesting and I was far more interested in the history of the palace than the way that the rooms looked. The throne room was probably the most beautiful but I found the history of the drawing room to be much more interesting (the information provided on the throne room was more about the current monarchs and of little interest to me).
Throughout the palace there are bits of information provided on boards. I think it would have been better if instead of having the information on the boards they had it on the audio guide because it was difficult to read the information with so many tourists and I found it much more pleasant to be able to look at things while someone was telling me about them rather than reading something and then looking.
The only room that I really wasn't interested in was the Picture Gallery. I'm not particularly interested in art and there weren't any pictures in it that I was attracted to so it held no interest for me. For those who are interested in art you have the option on the audio guide to hear more about specific paintings, the numbers for each painting were underneath the painting and you could just tap the number into the guide.
I think that there is a new exhibition every year so this will only be relevant to you if you are visiting the palace in 2009.
The exhibition was about the Commonwealth and focused specifically on the Queen's visits to commonwealth countries and the gifts that they gave her. I found this exhibition to be mostly boring. A lot of the display seems to be dedicated to dresses that the Queen wore on visits to commonwealth countries. It was interesting to find out that some of the dresses were specifically designed with the country in mind and the symbolism of certain aspects of the dress but there were a lot of dresses on display that weren't mentioned and really you only need a few examples. It seemed more like they were trying to fill the space than anything else. Some of the gifts that the Queen was given were quite interesting too but again only a few of them were mentioned in the guide. It's possible that there was something written about them but it was so crowded that it was impossible to see. For the most part this was pretty dull. I would have been happy just to spend a minute or two looking at her dresses and the gifts but I stayed, listening to the audio guide, in the hope that I would learn something about the commonwealth countries. I didn't. I do know what colours the Queen wore on a visit to India, I do know that she has spent more time visiting other countries than any other monarch and I do know that the commonwealth was originally founded by her father, but I still know very little about the actual commonwealth countries which is unfortunate, but I guess really the display was about the Queen, not the commonwealth so I shouldn't complain, it just wasn't to my taste.
Unfortunately you can't leave the palace by the same exit, which resulted in me and my friend getting a little bit lost but eventually finding our way to a tube station. To leave the palace you take quite a long walk through the garden. As you would expect the gardens are lovely and very well maintained. If it wasn't for the sound of sirens in the background it would be entirely possible to believe yourself in the country. It had a very tranquil feel to it and my friend and I enjoyed sitting for a couple of minutes in the garden, enjoying the peace.
-Café, Shop and Toilets-
I wasn't particularly impressed with the café. It was outside, and I hate eating outside, even in the summer (or maybe especially in the summer with all those insects). I also found it to be very cramped and the chairs were uncomfortable, certainly not fit for a queen! We didn't eat (we had had a huge afternoon tea a couple of hours before) but we did get some drinks. A bottle of pepsi costs £1.50 and a bottle of water costs £1.25 which isn't too bad for a tourist attraction.
We didn't buy anything in the shop because it was expensive. Even a cheap looking fridge magnet costs nearly £4! I was disappointed to find that a lot of the merchandise was royal family related rather than palace related. I was quite impressed the range of products that were available to buy, you can buy pretty much everything from pens to towels to jewellery but probably at ten times more than it's actually worth.
With around seventy bathroom's in Buckingham Palace I was disappointed to have to use a bathroom located in a tent! I wouldn't usually bother to comment on toilets but I found these ones to be quite dirty so I think it's worth noting.
Buckingham Palace is accessible to wheel chair users, although the path leading out of the palace is quite bumpy so depending on your chair you may want to ask for an alternative route out (but I would recommend that if possible you don't because the gardens are lovely).
I believe that there are tours available for deaf people.
At the end of the tour there is a family room with activities for the children but throughout the tour there is nothing for children at all and I can't imagine that many children would be interested in the audio guide. I certainly wouldn't take my nine year old sister here because I think she would be completely bored.
I paid £16 for my ticket which was incredibly overpriced for an attraction that only takes around an hour and a half to go around. This certainly isn't a day out, you could perhaps stretch the visit to two or two and a half hours if you spend a long time in the café or shop.
They do tell you that you can get free entry for a year included in the ticket price but then you realise that Buckingham Palace is only open for 2 months and you would just be seeing the same thing again.
Concessions are available.
I'm giving Buckingham Palace three stars. It's an interesting way to spend a couple of hours but certainly not worth the money you pay for it. I loved looking around the state rooms but found the art gallery and the exhibition to be quite boring.
For more information please visit http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/default.asp?action=article&ID=30
Buckingham Palace is one attraction in London which is often high on many tourists list when coming to visit London and I had walked past a few times and found myself in awe of the beauty of the building. On a to London last year I decided that enough was enough and I was going to visit the Palace and experience it's true splendour and beauty for myself.
The nearest tube station is Green Park and this is where we departed. The Palace is well signposted and took just five or ten minutes at an average walking speed (read - slow).
Buckingham Palace stands amazingly tall and is one of the most instantly recognisable landmarks in the world. It has 828,818 square foot of floorspace and it is absolutely gigantic! It is visited by around 50,000 invited guests each year who attended the Summer Garden Parties, Dinners, Lunches, Breakfasts and is currently open to the public for 60 days in the Summer (26th July - 30th September this year), however, this will be increasing in the future due to the increase in Government funds being granted for palace repairs.
There are several ways to book tickets for a visit to the palace and there are two types of tickets available. Tickets can be booked on the day from the ticket office on Buckingham Palace Road, on the website www.royalcollection.org.uk (£1.25 booking fee applies) or by calling 0207 766 7324 if you are a wheelchair user or want to book one of the BSL Interpreted & Lipspeaking tours.
Visit The State Rooms (Free Audio Guide):
Over 60 + Students (Valid ID required) £15.00
Under 17 £9.50
Under 5 Free
Family (2 Adults & 3 Under 17's) £44.00
Royal Day Out (State Rooms, Royal Mews & Queens Gallery)
Over 60 + Students (Valid ID Required) £26.50
Under 17 £16.50
Under 5 Free
Family (2 Adults & 3 Under 17's) £78.00
The palace is open from 09:45 - 18:00 (last admission 15:45).
The visit that we went on was the State Rooms only and as there were just two adults it cost us £33.00 which for the time we spent exploring was quite reasonable.
We purchased our tickets on the day and each ticket is printed with an allocated start time (in 15 minute increments) and you must attend in your time slot or you will miss out on your visit.
There was a short queue to go in and then we went through metal detectors and were checked if we had any metal bits on us (I did!).
Once this had been done we were all handed complimentary headsets which were very easy to use and as we walked through the rooms it told us when to play the next bit as it explained each of the rooms to use. Also, under many of the paintings on display there were codes which could be input in to the headset and then individual guides on that painting would begin. I found this audio guide to be fantastically informative and it was very easy to work. I believe that less tech savvy people would be able to operate these as well. As well as the audio guide there are guide books available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese & Russian.
We spent around 2 and a half hours browsing around the State Rooms and looking at all the equisitive decor & artwork. I was amazed by how luxurious some of the rooms really are and it was fantastic to imagine that the Queen has been in these rooms and had guests here. Everything was immaculately clean and although I looked hard to spot crumbs or dust I was duly disappointed.
Once the State Rooms had all been seen we headed out in to a small area of the Queen's vast gardens. Here there was a small cafe type area to purchase ice creams & bottles of water, as well as a gift shop, toilets & baby changing facilities. However, if you do take a baby to visit the State Rooms you must book your pushchair in at the beginning and retrieve it at the end of your visit.
It is possible to visit the State Rooms for only a short time if you want to rush through as there is no restriction (besides opening & closing times) on how long your visit can take. Also, if you want to see the changing of the guards this is currently taking place at 11am at the front of the Palace and lasts for around 40 minutes. We did not see this on this occasion but I intend on go back in a couple of months to see this.
The gift shop was quite a nice visit and contained the usual London style souvenirs as well as some Palace souvenirs, some at a reasonable price, some not.
Overall we had a lovely afternoon visiting the State Rooms & a small area of the garden. It was fairly nice weather without being unbearably hot and I was kept nice and cool inside the Palace without being frozen by air conditioning. I hope that we will return again in a years time and take a few friends or relatives with us.
Also, if you want to visit the Palace outside of these opening weeks then you can always just so and stand at the gates for the changing of the guard or to see if the flag is up indicating that the Queen is in residence.
A trip to Buckingham Palace is highly recommend but it's probably not the most ideal place for babies or young children because they will find it boring and I saw a few younger children trying to touch things and just generally acting very bored and making a loud racket, also, who wants to be the parent that everyone else is tutting at? This is my reason for voting 4/5 but I would definitely recommend it as the perfect places for adults to visit, especially if you get a slightly rainy day and want somewhere gorgeous to shelter worst learning something new.
On the Sunday of our recent stay in London we were at the London Dungeons and then the one thing that my fiancé had been winging to see all day was Buckingham Palace. Basically we had to rush there to take a look before catching the train home. I had been before but Dave hadn't and he loved it. This is why Buckingham Palace should be on your sight seeing tour if you go to London.
So why Buckingham Palace? Well Buckingham Palace is the home of the British Monarchy and that is all there is to it. This enough guarantees millions of visitors per year to the Palace in hopes of seeing some royalty when they are entertaining or even just to stand and stare at the enormity of the building.
Now it is very easy to find and we took the London underground to St James Park and then Buckingham Palace is sign posted and it is very easy to find. It takes about 10 - 15 minutes to walk there and it is so huge that you cannot miss it. The walk is quite nice too as there are some stunning views and lots of greenery which is nice so if it is pleasant weather it is nice.
For us it was raining but we still had a great time. So you walk up to the palace and the first thing you notice is how big it is. It is a regal brown / gold colour which looks very nice and you can see the many windows of the palace and if you see the flag flying above that means the Queen is home so you can imagine what room she is in looking out at all the people (come on you would do it if you were her).
There are huge gates around the palace which keeps everybody well away and the Guards are very entertaining to watch. Everybody must know what they look like now with their red jackets and big black helmets (I can't remember what they are called). Ok so we all know it is fun to try and get their attention as you know it is impossible to make them laugh. I have to say though that their concentration on their marching is amazing and I have to say I couldn't do it as I think I would be bored sick within one hour.
You can watch the changing of the guards which happens around 11am and this is good if you get chance to see it. We didn't on this occasion but I have seen it before.
Also at Buckingham palace you can take a look at the gardens which are acre upon acre and are beautiful. They are right by the palace but we didn't get chance to go this time but they looked great.
Also just in front of Buckingham palace is a huge fountain which is absolutely spectacular. This is the Victoria Memorial and is stunning to see. It is very tall with a massive gold sculpture on top and the detail is stunning.
Buckingham Palace is worth going to see but if I am being honest with you I could not spend a while there. I was bored after five minutes as although it is beautiful to see you can just look and that is about it. My fiancé Dave loved it though and spent 15 minutes and if we were not rushing for the train he would have spent a while longer.
All in all I will give Buckingham Palace five stars purely because it is something you have to go and see event though you may not spend long there. It is in a great part of London and is truly stunning so a must see!!!
Thanks for reading.
My husband and I visited Buckingham Palace this past weekend and I definitely have to recommend it, it is well worth a visit and makes you quite proud to be English when you are there.
As we all know Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the British Monarch. In recent years they have taken the decision to open up some of the state rooms to the public to keep up with the times and promote themselves as a forward thinking monarchy. This only happens in summer (this year, 29th July to 29th September) as the rest of the time the family still live there. Buckingham Palace is one of the last working palaces in the world.
My visit first started out with the purchase of tickets. I decided to do this online as I know it gets very busy and wanted to make sure that I was able to get tickets without having to queue up on the door. The official website can be found at www.royalcollection.org.uk. Tickets are £15.50 for adult and there are concessions for students/OAP's etc. To book online I also had to pay a £1.25 per ticket service charge. I only booked about a week before so the tickets were not sent to me, I had to pick them up when I got there. The closet tube to Buckingham Palace is Green Park and it is then very well signposted. Picking up the tickets was a bit annoying. I had to get them from the Buckingham Palace Road Shop which was located down the road from the Palace. I was told this when I booked the tickets but did find it strange that we had to go to a shop to get them and not the actual ticket office at the Palace. The tickets I bought were the cheapest selection and allow access to tour 19 of the State Rooms that form the heart of the working palace and are used regularly by the Royal Family for official entertaining and State functions. You can buy other packages that give you access to the Royal Mews and The Queen's Gallery but these are more expensive.
Anyway, we got the tickets and the joined the queue (well, it wouldn't be an English tourist attraction without a queue!). The tickets have a timed entrance, 15 minutes apart to keep the flow of people going. This worked fairly well as, yes it was busy but not so overcrowded that you couldn't see anything. We went through some metal detectors and then into the Palace. Each guest is given a complimentary headset with an audio tour that talks about royal history, the history of the Palace and includes interviews with Royal Household staff about the working Palace. This was a really good comprehensive tape and I definitely learnt a lot about the Palace and found it very interesting. The tape machine itself was very easy to use and told you when to play the next section when you entered the different rooms. What I found really helpful was when we were in the portrait galleries there was a number under certain painting that you could key into your machine and then hear about the painting and what to look out for. Some of the paintings they talked about included Rembrandts and Van Dyke's. The guide book had pictures of these but it does not do it justice when you have seen the real thing.
In my opinion the palace is absolutely stunning and you really get a feel for it from the rooms you are able to visit. What you see though is only a tiny portion of the actual Palace, for example in total she has 78 bathrooms (imagine having to clean those!!), but the rooms are beautiful, from the decorations, the art and furniture collections and such a national treasure that it must not be missed.
This year for the first time they have a Ballroom which is set up for a State Banquet. All the china, plates and glasswear are on the table as well as the flowers etc and it is truly an amazing site. The tables are laid 3 days before the dinner so they get them just right and everything is measured on the table so it is all uniform. If you look down the line of the table you can see this and it is amazing. It is so unreal to actually see this and know that this is the place where the Queen sits and entertains her guests and you get a feel for the way they are treated during the dinner.
The visit is at your leisure but in total it probably took us about and hour and a half and we did listen to the extras on the tape. I like that you are able to go at your own pace and stop in certain rooms and take more time if you wish. At the end of the tour you give back the headphones and then walk a little way through the gardens. Apparently she has about 30 acres and it feels like you are not in London at all when you walk through them but as we were on one side you could hear the traffic although I assume further in it would be quite peaceful. There is a porta-cabin at the end of the tour with toilets and a little café set up but the café is really just a little stall and doesn't have anywhere to sit so anyone hoping to sit down and have "tea with the Queen" will be disappointed. You are then lead in to the shop which has a wide variety of souvenirs to buy, commemorative china, guide books, gifts for kids, gifts for dogs, etc.
All in all a great day out and one not to be missed!
NAME OF LOCATION: Buckingham Palace, perhaps the most famous building in the world, one of the London homes of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her consort, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.
BACKGROUND: Buckingham Palace State Rooms have been open since the early 1990s. My parents went to see them during the Golden Jubilee year celebrations and I had tried to get on Gee Vee Travels next trip that year, but it was fully booked. However, I fully intended to book a trip as soon as I saw it being offered again. Which is why, I booked this in January! The trips were available on several dates but we chose to go on the last Saturday available: 25 September as it was just a few weeks after Roberts 30th birthday!
State Rooms: Open Daily from Open 31 July - 26 September 2004, when the Queen is at one of her other homes (Balmoral). A timed-ticket system is operated, with admission every 15 minutes. 9.30am - last admission 4.15pm.
Changing of the Guard: The Guard Change takes place daily from April until the end of June at 11:30am. For the rest of the year, weather permitting; it is on alternate days at the same time.
The Queens Gallery: This is an art gallery and gift shop on Buckingham Palace Road itself almost opposite the Rubens Hotel, which Robert and I have stayed in overlooking the Royal Mews and stable blocks.
TRANSPORT: We went by coach from Chesterfield to London, which dropped us off at Buckingham Palace, on Buckingham Palace Road, for a guided tour then picked us up and dropped us off again at the Eye.
Tube: Nearest underground stations: Victoria or Green Park
Train: Nearest train station: Victoria
PRICE: We paid £40 in total (each). However, this included entrance fees for Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and transport to and from Chesterfield.
2004 prices from the website www.aboutbritain.com/Buckinghampalace.htm :
Adult £12.95; Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £11.00; Under 17 £6.50; Under 5 Free, Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £32.50. Tickets may be purchased from the Ticket Office at Canada Gate in Green Park, open 09:00-16:00. If buying a ticket in advance : book online or telephone (+44) (0) 20 7766 7300. A booking fee of £1.00 per ticket applies. All major credit cards accepted.
The coach group were booked in for a 1pm tour but due to their not being much traffic we arrived at 12noon. Our driver did try to get our tour altered to an earlier one but because it was pre-booked was unable to do so. This meant that we had an hour to ourselves in London.
As Calvin, Roberts mate had not been to London before we decided to walk round to the front of the Palace so that he got a good look at the balcony, guard huts, and the Victoria memorial. We also pointed out to him The Mall and the Arch (believed to be Wellington Arch) at the far end. As the boys had not had their lunch on the coach, we then entered St James Park and had a quick wander round before settling on a bench for them to eat their lunch.
We then returned back to the drop off point via the grand gates of St James Park and walked over the Mall, pointing out the Serpentine, and where the Cabinet War Rooms were. He then went into the Queens Gallery looking for a toilet
A few minutes later, we then rejoined the rest of our party to start the tour. The coach driver took us to the gate and we were then made to wait under some canopies until our turn came. We went in a few minutes later than our scheduled time, but the reason for this soon became clear.
A security guard told us to remove all metal objects from our pockets and handbags and remove our coats before we got to the metal detector. I removed my coat and placed my handbag and coat onto the conveyor belt for it to be scanned by the lady. Another lady gave me a bowl to put my metal objects into before I walked through the detector she passed this round to me after checking the bowls contents.
Unfortunately, I forgot to remove my metal medic alert necklace and of course set the detector off. I am stupid arent I? I was then directed to a male guard who had to scan me with a hand held device I realised what I had done and explained to him. He scanned me, and only my necklace beeped, so he accepted that I was safe to continue.
We had been advised that mobiles and cameras were not allowed inside the palace so we had left them on the coach. However, I noticed that if you did try to take them inside they were taken off you and at the end you were reunited with your belongings on the steps where Princess Diana showed off her engagement ring.
We then walked through into a shop and were directed to the audio issuers. We were all issued with an audiotape machine and earphones. The issuers gave us quick instructions and placed the machine over our heads. We could at this point have bought a guidebook I didnt and regretted it later.
Robert and I are used to visiting places of interest that use audio tapes to guide you round. However, Roberts tape was set to Japanese or Chinese and he had to ask a guide how to change it. She was very helpful and changed it very quickly for him. He was not the only one who received a guide in the wrong language this spoiled the image of a well-organised tour slightly.
The audiotape gives instructions as you go through the house and the first part of the tape gives you instructions on how to change the volume, pause it, stop it, etc.
The guided tape explained places and rooms as you went through them and literally guided you through the Palace with instructions such as turn left into the ballroom and would then advise you to press the green button to continue when you are in position. There were several places where you could listen to extra material. I tried to listen to them all. Robert raced on as usual. Calvin kept a similar pace to myself for most of the tour.
However, I eventually noticed that Calvin was out of sight and I didnt recognise anyone from my tour either in front of me or behind. As we were on a strict timetable for the London Eye (see A Werewolf in London Part 1), I stopped listening to the extra bits and continued on the tour as normal. I caught up with Robert and Calvin in the gardens.
The garden itself is cordoned off so that you cannot go onto the grass but you can go on the grass if you attend a Garden Party I know, I received my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award from Nick Gillingham, Olympic swimmer, on that very grass! I also had the opportunity to speak to HRH Duke of Edinburgh on that same extremely hot afternoon. He was very pleasant, not at all like he is portrayed in the media, if you really want to know.
After visiting the toilet block, which was very clean and had plenty of toilets for the ladies at least, I visited the shop and was astounded by the prices! However, I did purchase a guidebook and a Palace in the Park DVD, which was to celebrate the Golden Jubilee. The attendant cashier asked me where I was going to watch it, which at the time sounded like a stupid question. I replied at home, but it had clicked that she meant where as in country, so I added in England. She then explained that they had the DVDs in different formats for the various countries. This intrigued the American stood at the side of me, who seemed interested that he might be able to buy a copy himself. The shop accepted Visa and American Express credit cards, so I believe that they probably accepted other credit or debit cards.
· Going in almost on time
· A guide in nearly every room, so that you could ask more information if you needed/wanted to.
· Good descriptions in the audio tour of both the items you could see and also which way to go.
· Prices in the shop
· Only toilets were in the garden and none in the waiting area
· Lake area was covered in algae
· Wrong language on audio tape
Robert had lost sight of Calvin who he believed had gone to the toilet but we had waited ages and he hadnt surfaced, so he doubled back to the steps area. However, a guide asked him why he was going back apparently there is only one way out through the gardens and they dislike anyone doubling back. He explained that we had lost a member of our party and was allowed to go back to look for Calvin. I noticed that the guide stopped a few others who were going back from the toilet area to the steps. Calvin had gone back to the steps area, but he had evidently been in the shop before returning to that area. When we were all reunited, we all went in the shop which is when I bought the items described above.
We went through the gardens to get out and the lake looked terrible, it was covered in green algae and looked as if it had never been cleaned.
When we got back on the coach, we discovered that we were not the last ones which was my main worry and we ended up having to wait a least a quarter of an hour. We had got back to the coach about 3pm so we had been in the Palace about 1hour and a half but we could have been in a lot longer. Leave plenty of time for this experience. It is not to be missed.
MORE INFORMATION FROM:
www.royal.gov.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or www.aboutbritain.com/Buckinghampalace.htm. Please note that the first 3 websites given are in the Buckingham Palace guide book and I have not checked them out personally. However, the last one (above), I have checked out and got the current prices for the Palace from it.
Apologies for the length of this op, but I think it deserved a proper full-length review explaining all the features that I could.