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10 things to see and do at Buckingham Palace

What better way to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s historic Platinum Jubilee year than a visit to Buckingham Palace? While we can’t guarantee a chaotic tea party with Paddington Bear, we can offer the ultimate royal experience at the home of the British monarchy!

The Palace doors swing open to the public from 22 July to 2 October 2022 and, whether you have just popped into London for an afternoon or journeyed from the other side of the world on a bucket-list trip of a lifetime, we can’t wait to welcome you in and make some magical memories together.

There is so much to see and do in and around Buckingham Palace, so we have put together a list of ideas to inspire you!

Inside the State Rooms

The nineteen State Rooms are the main reception chambers of Buckingham Palace, used by The Queen and members of the Royal Family for all kinds of ceremonial, official, diplomatic and personal occasions. There are many famous, must-see moments within these spectacular rooms, like the red-carpetted Grand Staircase, The Queen's throne and the breathtaking Ballroom. With so much royal history and splendour it is possible to walk straight past some amazing treasures, so here are a few to look out for.

 

1. View a Vermeer

Painting by Vermeer, 'Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman'

The Music Lesson or Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman by Johannes Vermeer | RCIN 405346 ©

Come for the majesty, stay for the masters! A visit to the State Rooms is also a chance to see some of the finest paintings by some of the biggest names in art history. The Picture Gallery that runs through the spine of the Palace hosts works by Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt and Canaletto, but a highlight has to be the mysterious Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer. We see a young woman playing for her music tutor – or have we interrupted a more delicate conversation? There are just 5 Vermeer paintings in the whole of the UK and only 34 in total anywhere in the world, so this is a rare opportunity to see the Dutch Master first-hand.

 

2. Be dazzled by the Diamond Diadem

 

The Diamond Diadem

The Diamond Diadem ©

Well, it wouldn’t be Buckingham Palace without a crown or two, would it? In the Ball Supper Room you will find a special display of works relating to The Queen’s Accession in 1952, including the glittering, elegant Diamond Diadem, worn by Her Majesty on the day of her Coronation. You may be more familiar with the Diadem than you realise, in fact you may have looked at it thousands and thousands of times before – this is the crown The Queen is shown wearing on the face side of most UK coins. Be prepared to be dazzled by the real thing!

 

3. Notice Napoleon

A round table made mostly of porcelain known as the Table of the Great Commanders

The Table of the Great Commanders in the Blue Drawing Room | RCIN 2643 ©

Each of the drawing rooms you will visit in Buckingham Palace has its own unique style – and matching set of Sèvres porcelain – but for sheer drama it is hard to rival the Blue Drawing Room, with its textured flock wallpaper, elaborate wall columns, and plasterwork reliefs of Shakespeare and Milton. Not to be overlooked, however, in the corner of the room, sits a beautiful round table made for the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. It is called the Table of the Great Commanders because it features likenesses of famous leaders from classical history such as Alexander the Great, Hannibal and Julius Caesar. Perhaps Napoleon thought it would inspire him to victory, but after his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, the table was gifted to King George IV and became one of his most prized possessions instead. What’s more, the table is almost entirely made of… Sèvres porcelain!

 

4. Marvel at the marble

A marble statue of the Roman gods Mars and Venus

Mars and Venus by Antonio Canova | RCIN 2038 ©

Don’t miss the chance to enjoy the exquisite beauty of Italian maestro Antonio Canova’s sculptures in the Marble Hall of the Palace. Canova is considered to be one of the greatest artists of his time, breathing life into his marble by somehow creating flesh that seems soft, facial expressions that look real, and a finish that sparkles and glows in the light. Canova visited London in 1815 and created three masterpieces for King George IV, including the sublime Mars and Venus – an embrace between the Roman gods of war and love, alluding to the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe – which was carved from a single block of stone and sits at the foot of the Ministers’ Stairs.

 

After the State Rooms

You may have been through all the State Rooms, but the Buckingham Palace experience is not over just yet! You exit the building into the Palace garden, where there is plenty more to see and do. For security reasons, photography is not permitted inside, but out here you can snap away with the lawn, the lake and the Palace's garden front and its honey-coloured Bath stone as your backdrop.

 

5. Treat yourself on the terrace

Cakes and pastries on plate in Buckingham Palace Garden Café

The Garden Café ©

Could there be a more quintessentially British welcome than tea at Buckingham Palace? We didn’t think so, so we have set up the Garden Café on the West Terrace so you can enjoy a cuppa with a view over the famous lawn. It is a moment to rest your weary feet and reflect after the State Rooms tour, and perhaps indulge a little: as well as tea, we also serve coffee, cold drinks, sandwiches and sweet treats. If you prefer a pick-me-up on the move, there is also an ice-cream stand on the garden path.

 

6. Keep the kids keen

The Family Pavilion at Buckingham Palace ©

While our free multimedia guides have a children’s version, where Alice the footman and Rex the corgi help to keep young minds and spirits active during the State Rooms tour, that’s not the only helping hand for parents at the Palace. Be sure to visit the Family Pavilion, set up on the terrace outside just as you finish the tour. There are activities and spaces to play to help burn some of that energy! See our family page and highlights page to discover more.

 

7. Get guided through the garden

Group of people being taken on Buckingham Palace garden tour

Garden Highlights Tour ©

Ever wondered what was on the other side of those Palace walls? You can find out this summer by booking a Garden Highlights Tour. Unwind after the State Rooms with a leisurely 45-minute stroll around the private side of Buckingham Palace Garden with a guide to fill you in on all the stories. Soak up the colour in the Rose Garden, spot London’s most exclusive tennis court, and learn about the amazing biodiversity of this little oasis in the middle of the city.

Outside the Palace

Even more royal spectacle awaits outside of the State Rooms tour, with Buckingham Palace's art gallery and working stables both open for visitors, and of course the world-famous Palace façade, with the balcony, the gates and the guards!

 

8. Catch the Coronation carriage

The Gold State Coach at the Royal Mews

The Gold State Coach at the Royal Mews ©

Sometimes, all that glitters really is gold! One of the stars of the Platinum Jubilee pageant was the magnificent 260-year-old Gold State Coach, fitted for the day with a hologram of Her Majesty as she looked when taking the short hop to Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953 for her Coronation ceremony. This carriage is a spectacular, living part of British history, having transported every king and queen to their Coronation since 1821 and is also, according to every single one of them, one of the most uncomfortable experiences they ever had to endure! Come and see the gilded wonder for yourself this summer.

The Gold State Coach is on display at the Royal Mews, the working stables of Buckingham Palace. You can visit the Mews separately or purchase a Royal Day Out combined ticket.

 

9. Salute the Samurai

Armour in display cases at the Japan: Courts and Culture exhibition

Japan: Courts and Culture exhibition ©

If you thought the Gold State Coach was the oldest royal treasure on offer this summer, wait until you feast your eyes on this sublime samurai armour – it was gifted from the Japanese shōgun to King James I & VI over 400 years ago. It is just one of a wealth of incredible and intricate Japanese works of art in the Royal Collection, shown together for the first time at a special exhibition in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace.

You can visit the Gallery separately or purchase a Royal Day Out combined ticket.

 

10. Greet the Guards

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace © Ian Jones

No trip to London is complete without experiencing the world-famous Changing the Guard ceremony where the New Guard replaces the Old in front of Buckingham Palace, complete with incredible pomp and circumstance, colour and live music. Changing the Guard takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 11:00, weather permitting, and is organised by the soldiers of the Household Division of the British Army. Dates and times can change though, so we recommend checking the Household Division website for further details and arriving well in advance of the ceremony to find a good vantage point, as the area around the Victoria Memorial, St James’s Park and the Mall can become exceptionally busy at these times.

 

So what are you waiting for, book your tickets to Buckingham Palace now!

Plan your visit

Click or tap the icons below for more details on what to see and how to book tickets

Gates at Buckingham Palace
London
Buckingham Palace

Open from 22 July

The Gold State Coach at The Queen's Platinum Jubilee Pageant
London
The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace

Open Thursday - Monday

Screens in Japan: Courts and Culture
London
The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Open Thursday - Monday