There’s no denying the thrill of walking up The Mall as Buckingham Palace emerges ahead of you, or watching the centuries-old Changing the Guard ceremony taking place on the other side of the palace gate. If only that pesky gate wasn’t locked all the time. But the doors to Buckingham Palace are now within reach, as everyone can visit the State Rooms at the annual summer opening (21 Jul–30 Sep, 2018).
This tradition began in 1993 to raise funds for the repair of Windsor Castle, which had been badly damaged by a fire the previous year. The original plan was for Buckingham Palace to open to the public every summer until 1997, but it proved so popular that it is now a top tourist attraction, which is of no surprise.
The State Rooms represent the most public areas of the Queen’s home, where the Royal Family welcomes visitors during State and official occasions. These rooms don’t uncover Her Majesty’s most private moments but do reveal her most grandiose.
A highlight of your visit is the ballroom, the largest State Room, decked in a deep red and gold décor, with paintings on the walls and boasting a soaring ceiling with immense chandeliers. The Throne Room is used by the Queen for court ceremonies and was the wedding setting for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (AKA Wills and Kate). Just off the ballroom is the 47m-long Picture Gallery, which is filled with exquisite paintings sourced from the Royal Collection. This summer, however, it is due to display even more art than usual.
To celebrate the 70th birthday of Prince Charles, the "Prince and Patron" exhibition displays his favourite pieces from the Royal Collection, such as a dramatic wool, silk and silver-thread cloak, taken from Napoleon following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. These treasures are exhibited alongside artworks by young artists, each of whom has benefited from arts charities founded by the Prince.
As you might imagine, the State Rooms are also filled with priceless pieces of furniture wherever you look, including Queen Victoria’s gilded mahogany grand piano, made in 1856 by France’s Sébastien Érard. The tour ends as you walk through the beautiful garden which includes a lake, tennis court and café.
Tickets to the State Rooms sell quickly, so we don’t recommend waiting until the day of your visit. You can book a day and time to visit via the Royal Collection website, where you have the option to also arrange a 45-minute Garden Highlights tour.