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Buckingham Palace is one of the most iconic sights in Europe, and touring it should be on your London bucket list!
It is home to the British Royal Family and has been since 1837. While you normally can only see the outside of the palace, you are able to take a Buckingham Palace tour during the summer.
The palace is normally open form mid-July to mid-September, and you can find specific dates at the Royal Trust Collection website. You can sometimes take a Buckingham Palace tour in the winter months depending on whether the Queen will be in residence of not. You can find information regarding winter dates on the Royal Trust Collection website. It is open every summer when she is in Scotland though.
Taking a Buckingham Palace tour is exciting! You get a glimpse into how the British Royal Family lives, and it is an experience like no other. It is a super fun way to spend a few hours, but there are some things you should know before you go! These five tips will help you plan your trips, easily get into Buckingham, and follow the rules, so you don’t get kicked out!
1. Book Your Tickets Online in Advance
You should purchase your tickets online in advance. As far in advance as possible! Buckingham Palace tour tickets are extremely popular and normally sell out in advance.
You are able to select an entrance time when you purchase tickets online. The earlier you purchase tickets, the more likely you are to get an entry time that suits you. You run the risk of getting an entry time that is inconvenient or overlaps with other plans if you do not purchase tickets in advance.
You must arrive for your Buckingham Palace tour at the time listed on your ticket. It is not possible to enter the palace if you’re late, so make sure to be there on time!
I purchased my Buckingham Palace tour tickets five months in advance. My first choice in time slots on the day I was going was sold out, so I had to select my second choice. Obviously it isn’t a big deal to get a ticket for a half hour later, but that was five months in advance! You will have a very limited selection if you purchase only a few weeks before your tour.
You have the option of purchasing a combination ticket when you purchase your Buckingham Palace tour ticket. Combination tickets allow you entry to multiple attractions run by the Royal Trust at a slightly reduced fare.
You are able to get a combination ticket for other attractions such as the Royal Mews and The Queen’s Gallery.
You should consider purchasing a combination ticket if you plan on visiting multiple royal attractions. It won’t save you a lot of money, but you will save some!
2. Arrive Early
Since you’re not able to enter the palace if you’re late for your time slot, you want to get to the palace early. It is better to be a bit too early than to be late! It would be horrible to miss your tour and waste your money just because there was a delay in getting to Buckingham Palace.
You have an entry time on your ticket, but you should arrive at Buckingham Palace 15-30 minutes before your entry time. There is always a long queue to scan tickets and a security procedure that takes quite a while.
There are two sides to security in a tent after you scan your ticket. One side is for the current time slot and the other for the next time slot. You will be told what line you should join when your ticket is scanned.
The security guards are well-trained, so as long as you’re there with enough time to spare, you will have no problem getting to the proper security queue or getting into the palace on time.
3. The Entrance is on the Right-Hand Side of Buckingham Palace next to the Queen’s Gallery
The entrance for the Buckingham Palace tour is not at the front of the palace where the changing of the guards takes place. If you are facing Buckingham Palace with the Queen Victoria statue at your back, the entrance for the tour is to the right around the corner.
The entrance is part-way down the street when you turn right. If you reach the Queen’s Gallery, you have gone too far.
From my experience, there is normally a long queue of people waiting to enter Buckingham Palace and take their tour. You will likely come across the queue shortly after you turn right at the end of the palace. People often don’t believe the queue is for the Buckingham Palace tour because it is so long, but it is.
There will be a security guard walking up and down the queue occasionally calling for people with specific entry time tickets. If you’re at the back of the queue and you’re time gets called, let the security guard know, and s/he will bring you to the ticket scanning area.
People often show up to the tour way too early for their tour and will stand in the queue even if their tour isn’t for an hour. I guess people think they can get in early if they are there, but they can’t, so they end up standing around waiting for their time slot.
You should only leave the queue if you’re time slot is called, and you’re told to go to the front.
Closest Underground Stations
The London Underground is the most common and efficient way to get to your Buckingham Palace tour. It may be more efficient to walk to Buckingham Palace depending where in London you are staying, but, for the most part, you will likely take the Underground to the palace. Don’t forget to get an Oyster card to make using public transportation in London a breeze!
The 3 Underground stations that are closest to Buckingham Palace are:
- Green Park
- St. James’ Park
They are all relatively close and are less than a 10 minute walk from Buckingham Palace.
The station furtherest from the palace is St. James’ Park, but it has the most scenic walk. You walk through the gardens at St. James’ Park, and it is a very nice way to get into the mood for a royal Buckingham Palace tour. If you have the extra few minutes, I would recommend getting off at St. James’ Park.
4. Know What You’re Not Allowed to Bring on Your Buckingham Palace Tour
You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are quite a few things that you aren’t allowed to bring into Buckingham Palace.
Items You Can’t Bring into Buckingham Palace
- Pen Knives
Items that are not allowed into the palace will either be confiscated or checked and returned to you when you exit the palace.
Items such as food and drinks will be confiscated and items like luggage and backpacks need to be checked.
The security process goes a lot quicker if you have already gone through your personal items to ensure there are no banned items inside them. I had a protein bar, and it was confiscated, so the security guards take their job seriously and are through when they inspect your bags.
Other Banned Items
- You are not allowed to smoke or vape on your Buckingham Palace tour. Being caught smoking in the palace or in the gardens is grounds for removal from the property.
- I visited Buckingham Palace on a very rainy day. People with large umbrellas were asked to check them and retrieve them when they exited the tour. I had a small umbrella that fit in my purse and had no problems. You should make sure to have a small umbrella that can easily be put inside a small bag, so you don’t have to go through the hassle of checking it and retrieving it when you leave the palace.
5. How the Buckingham Palace Tour Works
The Buckingham Palace tour works the same as all the other Royal Trust tours. You get an audioguide that has in-depth information about the palace, and the tour is self-paced.
The tour is self-guided in the sense that there isn’t a tour guide personally showing you the palace. But there is a designated route you have to follow during the tour, and you can’t deviate from it or go back to another room you have already visited.
There is a lot of information provided on the audioguide, so you will be standing around quite a bit in each room. It is worth listening to all the information and not rushing through the tour. You paid a lot of money for the tour, so you should take advantage of every piece of information they give you!
There are also secondary parts to the audioguide. In every room you have the choice to go more in-depth on a specific item and learn more about it. The items are normally pieces of art or furniture.
You can skip these parts of the audioguide if you’re not interested in it. The core of the information is contained in the main portion of the audioguide.
You get to see a very limited number of rooms on the tour. The rooms you get to see are mainly common areas and banquet halls. You don’t get to see any personal rooms so don’t expect to sneak a peak into the Queen’s bedchamber!
The rooms you are allowed to tour are spectacular and well worth the ticket cost.
The Buckingham Palace tour is the perfect option for any royal fan that is visiting London during the summer months. It gives you a small peak into how the royal family lives, and you leave with a lot more information than you had before you entered.
You need to make sure you follow the palace rules and arrive early to make the most out of your tour! You will also have a much more enjoyable tour if you purchase your tickets online months in advance. It would be a shame to not be able to take the tour just because tickets were sold out!
All in all, I would highly recommend the Buckingham Palace tour for any royal fan! It is truly the height of royal tourism and worth every pence you spend on it.