Buckingham Palace tours

Highlights of a Buckingham Palace Tour

Who wouldn’t want to have a snoop around her Majesty’s London home? Buckingham Palace tours are a must for any visitor, or - if you’re out of season - stop for the Changing the Guard.

  1. White Drawing Room
  2. Throne Room
  3. Picture Gallery
  4. Ballroom
  5. Grand Staircase
  6. Garden
  7. Changing the Guard

Whatever you make of Buckingham Palace’s appearance - some think the Queen’s home is plain ugly - it’s still esteemed as the symbol of Britain’s royalty. If the flag is flying above the palace, it means that the Queen is in residence. In summer, when the Queen’s away, you can book a tour to peek around the State Rooms and garden, which are opened to the public. Here are some of the highlights.

1. White Drawing Room

Literally dripping in gold, the White Drawing Room is one of the grandest rooms on show. This decor here is the stuff of Disney fairy tales - from the gilded grand piano to the gold furniture, roll-top desk, hanging portraits and dazzling chandeliers. Breathe it in.

Official use: Royal reception room for official occasions.

Don’t miss: The marble sculpture of Ancient Greek poet Sappho, created by William Theed for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

2. Throne Room

Move aside Game of Thrones, here's the real deal. In the Throne Room - you guessed it - are the pair of chairs used for the coronation of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh back in 1953. What else? It’s very red. The chairs are red, the walls are red, the floors - surprise, surprise - are red. You’ll be dreaming in red and gold after your visit to the Throne Room.

Official use: Where the Queen conducts court ceremonies and official entertaining.

Don’t miss: Queen Victoria’s Throne, dating from 1837.

3. Picture Gallery

Did you know that the Queen is an avid art collector? So too were those that came before her. Together, the British monarchy has amassed an exquisite Royal Collection, much of which can be seen on Buckingham Palace tours. The art on display is top-notch, with several van Dycks, two Rembrandts, multiple Canalettos, a de Hooch and a wonderful Vermeer hanging in the Picture Gallery (though works are sometimes moved or loaned).

Official use: As a reception room for the Royal Family to receive guests recognised for outstanding achievement.

Don’t miss: The artworks are broken up by marble fireplaces. Marvel at the white scagliola doorcases, too.

4. Ballroom

The honour of being the largest of the State Rooms goes to the ballroom. It was completed under Queen Victoria and was originally used for royal concerts - note the organ in the musicians’ gallery - as well as for epic costume balls. Flare up your imagination and picture the room full of the aristocrats of yesteryear in their glad-rags, waltzing around - it's quite a scene.

Official use: State banquets and investitures.

Don’t miss: A collection of William Steed sculptures top the triumphal art. Look for the sphinxes at each edge.

5. Grand Staircase

True to its name, this might just be the grandest staircase in the world. It was designed - as was much of the palace - by architect John Nash, who drew inspiration from his work in London’s theatres. On the upper reaches of the staircase hang full-length portraits of Queen Victoria’s family.

Official use: As the entrance to the State Rooms.

Don’t miss: At the top of the staircase is a fine statue of Perseus and Medusa.

6. Garden

The Palace gardens cover a staggering 16 hectares - that’s a whole lotta space for a city backyard. Highlights include the summer house, rose garden and Waterloo Vase - a 15ft Carrara marble urn that’s been a showpiece here since 1906. If you’re looking for London holidays, why not book a hotel with its own garden for you to enjoy.

Official use: Hosting the Queen’s garden parties in summer.

Don’t miss: The Palace tennis court, where King George VI perfected his backhand with Fred Perry in the 30s.

7. Changing the Guard

If you come to London outside the 10 summer weeks when Lizzie decamps to Scotland, you won’t be able to look around on one of the Buckingham Palace tours. But fear not - you can still catch a show on this hallowed ground. Watch Changing the Guard instead, in which a detachment of the Queen’s Foot Guards marches to appropriate martial music from St James’s Palace and Wellington Barracks to the palace forecourt (unless it rains, that is).

Official use: Ceremony for the Queen’s Guard to hand over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace to the new guard.

Don’t miss: Pipers occasionally take part, so keep your eyes peeled.

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