Get a 'Royal Welcome’ by taking the Buckingham Palace tour

Date Posted: 28/07/2015

Ballroom at Buckingham Palace

This summer’s opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace reveals what it’s like to have a ‘Royal Welcome’. Rob Yandell took the tour.

Ever wondered what’s on the other side of that iconic façade at the end of The Mall in London? How about enjoying afternoon tea gazing across those famous ‘tea party’ lawns? 

London has much to offer but a group visit to Buckingham Palace is very special and offers a privileged peek inside its State Rooms each summer as The Queen escapes to Balmoral in Scotland.

Gazing across the internal courtyard of the palace is a little surreal upon your first visit as you begin your touchscreen audio tour, which includes video, photos, interviews and extras should you want them.

Starting at the Grand Entrance is apt considering the 'A Royal Welcome' theme of this year’s Summer Opening brings together the elements that make an official visit to the palace so special. Into the entrance and past the Australian State Coach you make your way at your own speed through 19 State Rooms where, this summer, you will see the work that goes into welcoming the tens of thousands of guests who come to the palace each year for receptions, State Banquets, garden parties and other official engagements.

This summer is the first and only time visitors on a Buckingham Palace tour will be able to enter the State Rooms via the Grand Entrance we have all seen so many times on television.

Australian State Coach at Buckingham Palace Grand Entrance

Pictured: Rob poses in front of the Australian State Coach at Buckingham Palace Grand Entrance.

Highlights of the Royal Welcome tour include the Ballroom, which is set for a State Banquet and dressed with silver-gilt centrepieces and candelabra from George IV’s Grant Service; all measured and laid out to absolute perfection. See where The Queen sits and the array of glasses that facilitate the flowing Champagne, fine wines, ports and more. These little touches, menu examples and even short films you can sit down and watch give you a glimpse into this exclusive world.

Various behind-the-scenes displays show us the work and preparation that goes into entertaining and events at the palace. These displays include a dresser’s workroom, the palace kitchens, pantries and wine cellars. Dresses and outfits worn by Her Majesty at various occasions are also on display, as are items of personal jewellery.

See various gifts from heads of state who have been entertained and welcomed, where secret entrances are hidden and enjoy snippets of information at your leisure; where else would you find out that there are 350 clocks in the palace looked after by two full-time horologists?

This tour is not just interesting, but one you feel privileged to be taking. The amount of work and detail throughout is quite extraordinary although perhaps unsurprising given where you are. 

Dresses worn by Her Majesty during State Visits and for State Banquets - credit Royal Collection

Pictured: Dresses worn by Her Majesty during State Visits and for State Banquets - (photo credit: The Royal Collection).

The conclusion of the tour is very pleasant indeed, with a café overlooking the lawns where you can enjoy a range of hot and cold drinks, or nibble on something savoury and/or sweet.

Not that the café is technically the conclusion as you are ushered past the shop, which has to be included on any itinerary of course. Buckingham Palace tea towels or fine jewellery have all bases covered so be prepared to spend a few pounds.

Whether you experience the ‘Royal Welcome’ this summer or plan ahead to take a group to tour Buckingham Palace next year, this is more than just another tour, it’s something you’ll be bragging about to the neighbours. 

Group rates and tour options

Group bookings get a discount if you book a minimum of 15 people with prices £18.50 for adults, £16.90 for overs 60s/Students, and £10.60 for under 17s/disabled. The price includes the audio tour and the anticipated length of your visit is two and a half hours. Group organisers can also arrange to add on a Garden Highlights Tour for up to 26 people.

It goes without saying that pre-booking is needed and note that there is no coach parking near Buckingham Palace. However, coaches can pick up passengers after they exit the palace on Grosvenor Place.

Front of Buckingham Palace

Although the opening of the State Rooms only takes place during the summer months, you can arrange a visit to The Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews (Feb – Nov) at other times of the year too. At The Queen’s Gallery there are changing exhibitions and audio tours so you can see a variety of paintings and works of art from the Royal Collection. The Royal Mews is a working stable and responsible for all road travel for The Queen and members of the Royal Family. It’s here that you can see the Gold State Coach and combination tickets for the Mews and Queen’s Gallery are available.

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