Can You Visit Buckingham Palace? Getting Into The State Rooms And Elsewhere

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 12 months ago
Can You Visit Buckingham Palace? Getting Into The State Rooms And Elsewhere

It's one of the world's most famous residences — but how exactly do you get into Buckingham Palace? We've listed the ways you can experience the official London residence of King Charles III  — and the good news is none of them involve climbing in through the window al la Michael Fagan.

Visit the State Rooms

An opulent green room with chandeliers and old paintings
The best way to see Buckingham Palace is to visit the State Rooms during open season. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023.

For a proper snoop around the heart of Buckingham Palace, you'll want to visit the State Rooms. For 10 weeks every summer (14 July-24 September 2023), visitors are invited to wander up the Grand Staircase, and into the Throne Room (where official photos are snapped), the Ballroom (where for some reason Donald Trump was once hosted on a state visit), and the White Drawing Room (with its 'secret' door into which Elizabeth II would sometimes vanish — especially when Donald Trump was around). A pretty good audio guide leads the way, dropping little vignettes and titbits as you go. It lasts about 90 minutes, and adult tickets are £30 (which includes whatever exhibition is on at the palace at the time).

Visit Buckingham Palace:  Shelves of stuffed corgis
How much is that doggy in the window? £25 actually. Image: Londonist.

For our money, the most memorable part of the State Rooms experience is having a coffee at the cafe out the back of the palace, overlooking the lawns. You get to see another side of the palace (quite literally), and there's also a gift shop, which will meet all your stuffed corgi needs.

Personally guided (and frankly spendy) tours are offered March to May, and sell out quickly.

Visit the Queen's Gallery

Visit Buckingham Palace: Rich red walls and huge gold framed painting hung up on it
See how the other half live, at the Queen's Gallery. Image: public domain

Part of the Buckingham Palace complex, the Queen's Gallery invites you to bathe in the cultural riches of royalty: Queen Charlotte's tortoiseshell and gold notebook; absurdly ornate furniture; an embarrassment of priceless paintings by the ilk of Canaletto and da Vinci. There are changing exhibitions, enlightening lectures, and it's easier to access than the State Rooms — because it's open all year (although not on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and special occasions). Again, if you're a tax paying Brit, you might hope that you could visit without paying a penny, but that's not the case — adult tickets are a kingly/queenly £17. Still, those ornate gold frames don't pay for themselves...

Visit the Royal Mews

If you like your set of wheels to be golden, stately, and pulled by a bunch of horses with manes more coiffured than Rylan, the Royal Mews is for you. Here, in these working stables you can ogle the various carriages that have whisked the royals through the streets of London and beyond. Whereas you might expect this kind of thing to be part of a visit to Buckingham Palace, like the Queen's Gallery, it's a separate attraction, with adult entry setting you back a not insignificant £15.

Watch Changing the Guard

Visit Buckingham Palace: People taking photos of the guards through the railings
Changing the Guard is a quintessential way to see Buckingham Palace. Image: Londonist

A quintessential (and free) way to experience the pomp and circumstance of Buckingham Palace, the Changing (of) the Guard ceremony takes place on Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday (check dates though, because it's doesn't always happen). It sees the Old Guard at Buckingham Palace form outside the palace (10.30am), joined by the Old Guard at St James's Palace (10.45am) before both are relieved by the New Guard, who arrive from Wellington Baracks (11am), blasting out music. With all the red tunics and bearskin hats, this is a favourite with tourists, who often arrive early to press their faces against the railings and snap hundreds of photos.

Despite the stuffy formality, Changing the Guard has its joyous moments; especially when the band does a pop number:

A few years back we spoke to people who'd gone to watch Changing the Guard.

Get invited to a garden party

A sprawling lawn and the back of Buckingham Palace behind it
The Buckingham Palace they didn't want you to see (well, it's the back of Buckingham Palace, anyway) Image: Londonist

More people than you might think get invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace — they throw three a year, inviting a good few thousand people each time. Unfortunately, there's no ballot for such a thing, neither can you 'encourage' an invitation by slipping one of the King's Guards a £20 note. Guests at these garden parties tend to be members of various societies, government departments, religious setups and the like, so if you're especially keen to eat cucumber sandwiches with Camilla, better join a worthy organisation and hope for the best. Bit of a long shot, perhaps.

Go on a virtual tour

Visit Buckingham Palace: The virtual tour page on the opulent red and gold throne room
The official virtual tour is limited, but the BBC has a better one. Image: Royal.uk

Infinitely more realistic, this one — in fact you can do it right this second. The Royal Family's official website leads you through three of the State Rooms you'd see if you visited as a tourist, picking out items of interest along the way, such as Victoria and Albert's grand piano. It's a shame you can't see more of the palace — except that, with this 3D BBC video, you can. Huzzah!

We'll also point you in the direction of our own articles: A Brief History Of Buckingham Palace and 13 Secrets Of Buckingham Palace

Last Updated 28 April 2023

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