Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Buckingham Palace State Rooms Tour

There are three sights that require admission when visiting Buckingham Palace.

- State Rooms to tour the monarchy's official residence.
- Queen's Gallery to view Queen Elizabeth's person collection of art.
- Royal Mews to visit the working stables.

You can pay for each separately or buy a combo-ticket. However most visitors are interested in the Changing of the Guards (takes place 11:30am daily from May-July and alternate days the rest of the year) or to simply view the east front of palace from the gates, both of which are free.

Buckingham Palace has been Britain’s royal residence since 1837. When the Queen is at home, the royal standard flies (a red, yellow and blue flag), otherwise, the Union Jack flaps in the wind.

Absolutely no photography is allowed. Numerous personnel hover in each room to be sure that cameras are tucked away or the lenses capped. With that said, the palace is lavish and immense. There is a grandeur about walking the opulent rooms and staircases. The tour takes you through 19 of the palace's 775 rooms. Be glad. My legs were tired after the self-guided tour. Pick up a copy of Buckingham Palace: Official Souvenir Guide online or at the gift shop for photos of all of the State Rooms and palace history.

Since this is the first time I happened to be in London during the State Rooms opening, this was my first opportunity to take the tour. An audio guide is provided and it is better than others I have listened to. The guide descriptions are brief but informative as you examine each room and its objects. Other guides go on and on to the point of disinterest.

Incidentally the palace is property of the British state and not the monarchy. The palace was opened in 1993 to generate funds for the restoration of Windsor Castle after fire damage and there was nothing Queen Elizabeth could do about it. However the months of opening is when the royal family is not in residence. The palace continues to be open today to fund restoration of palace itself.

Once you exit the palace, return your audio guide and enjoy the Garden Café and take as many photographs as you want of the palace from this point. A gift shop on your way out will satisfy your palace souvenir needs.

Admission to the State Rooms is £17 (includes audio guide) or you can buy a combo-ticket for £29.50 that includes the Queen's Gallery and Royal Mews. £14.50 is the admission for only the Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews. The palace is open daily Aug-Sep 9:45am-6pm; only 8,000 visitors a day allowed by timed ticket entry. Visitor entrance opens at 9:15pm or book ahead. Entrance on Buckingham Gate and expect airport like security. More info at Tube: Green park, Victoria, Hyde Park Corner.

Selection of products at the gift shop in the palace garden.


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