Walk around Buckingham Palace (Self Guided), London

Buckingham Palace, the British monarch's official residence, is a must-see for anyone visiting London, but so are the adjacent royal establishments that give a unique window into the royal way of life. On this self-guided walk, along with Buckingham Palace, you will visit the St. James's private royal residence, the wonderful Queen's Gallery, and drop by the official Buckingham gift shop to find a piece of royal memory to bring home.
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Walk around Buckingham Palace Map

Guide Name: Walk around Buckingham Palace
Guide Location: England » London (See other walking tours in London)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Author: Xena
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St. James's Royal Palace
  • Clarence House
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Queen's Gallery
  • Buckingham Palace Gift Shop
  • Royal Mews
  • The Guards Museum
  • St. James's Park
1
St. James's Royal Palace

1) St. James's Royal Palace

On Pall Mall to the North of St James Park, you will find St James Royal Palace, which is one of the oldest working palaces in the capital.

The palace was commissioned in 1536 by King Henry VIII and is still an official residence of the monarchy, even though no king or queen has lived there since 1837, when Queen Victoria made Buckingham Palace her official London residence.

The palace was built on the site of a sanatorium for lepers, dedicated to St James, hence the name of the palace. Built in the Tudor style of red brick, the palace has four courtyards and a gatehouse at its North end. The gatehouse is one of the few parts of the building that date back to Tudor times, along with a couple of rooms and the Chapel Royal. The main part of the palace was destroyed by fire in 1809, during the reign of King George III.

King Charles I was born there but during the Commonwealth Period, Oliver Cromwell had the place transformed into a prison and barracks. King Charles II restored the palace in 1680 and his brother James II lived there during his short reign as king.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were married in the Chapel Royal, which is open to the public. The heart and bowels of Queen Mary I are buried in the chapel. In front of the gatehouse you can have your photo taken next to the Guard from the Household Division.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Clarence House

2) Clarence House

Clarence House is a British royal residence. It is attached to St James's Palace and shares the palace's garden. From 1953 until 2002, it was home to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. It has since been the official residence of Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Clarence House was also the official residence of Prince William from 2003 until April 2011, and of Prince Harry from 2003 until March 2012. It is open to visitors for approximately one month each summer, usually in August. Although lack of the glamorous of other royal palaces, this unassuming four-story house is well worth a visit if you come to London during this time of the year. Here you will have a chance to get an insight to private royal living.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Buckingham Palace

3) Buckingham Palace (must see)

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the British monarch. Prior to becoming a palace, it was Buckingham House - a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. In 1761, King George III acquired this property as a private home for Queen Charlotte. It finally became the official royal residence under Queen Victoria in 1837. It was also Victoria who started the tradition of the royals showing up on the balcony, when she appeared there for the first time during the opening of the Great Exhibition at Hyde Park in 1851.

The oldest part of the palace, dating back to 1760, is the wine vaults located below the west wing. During the 19th century, the palace had three wings added around a central courtyard. Eventually, Victoria realized that the palace wasn't big enough for official receptions, so she ordered that the Marble Arch, once set in front of the palace, be moved to the north east corner of Hyde Park, and then used the vacated space for the construction of the palace's fourth wing.

Buckingham Palace boasts the largest private garden in London, 39 acres. It is also home to the National Collection of mulberries. The Palace itself is built on a site once used by King James I for a mulberry garden planted in an attempt to rear silkworms in the 1600s.

Within the garden there is an oldest helicopter pad in London. The very first helicopter landed there just before the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. Half a century later, in the year 2000, an official helipad was built there to prevent the lawn from damaging. Instead of concrete, though, which didn't look too appealing, the Royal helipad is paved with a layer of matting underneath the grass.

Inside the palace itself, other than 775 rooms and various amenities, there is a Court Post Office run by Royal Mail, an ATM machine, and reportedly a swimming pool, doctor's office and a movie theater. Rumors also suggest there's a branch of the Post Office Railway running right beneath the palace and the underground tunnels linking Buckingham to various parts of London including the Whitehall and Houses of Parliament.

Why You Should Visit:
It's amazing to see parts of an actually working Palace, though you don't get to look around all its 700 rooms.

Tip:
If you don't bring a packed lunch thinking you can have some food in the local shops, you will be astonished at the prices.

Opening Hours:
9:30am-7:30pm, between the 22nd of July and 31st of August
4
Queen's Gallery

4) Queen's Gallery (must see)

Everyone visiting London these days feels obliged to go to Buckingham Palace, as the matter of must, to see the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony. Few realize, though, that the palace is also renowned for its Queen’s Gallery which is very much a “must see” attraction in its own right. Interestingly enough, at some point, Buckingham House that once stood on the spot occupied by palace today, was considered a potential site for the British Museum, but was eventually discarded as too expensive.

During the Blitz, in 1941, the palace’s chapel was destroyed by a bomb, and when the reconstruction began, it was decided not to rebuild the chapel but to create a Royal Museum so that people could see items from the Royal Collection.

The Gallery was opened to the public in 1962. In total, it has over 450 items displayed at any given time, on a rotational basis: clothing, decorative art, furniture, paintings, photographs, porcelain, and sculptures. NOTE: if you wish to see the Crown Jewels, you have to go to the Tower of London! Also, if you visit with kids, you may want to take advantage of the Family Activity Bag which is designed to help the young ones understand the exhibits in a fun way.

Taking photos or filming inside the gallery is strictly forbidden and visitors are asked to turn off their mobile phones.

Tip:
You can get your ticket stamped at the end for a free return to other exhibitions within the next 12 months.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5:30pm
5
Buckingham Palace Gift Shop

5) Buckingham Palace Gift Shop

The Buckingham Palace Gift Shop is just a stone's throw away from the Queen's residence, selling the official merchandise for Her Majesty the Queen and the rest of the royal family. The store is a must visit for people who love all things royal during their trip to London.

There are lots of products to choose from, and the items are the closest anyone can get for a taste of living like a royal. One can find there Queen's favorite chocolate, royal shower caps, royal hand cream, and many other items used by the British royal family. The Queen's favorite breed of dog, Corgis, is also a prominent theme in the shop.

Whether you want to bring home a piece of royal memory or a gift for friend, the store has something for everyone.

Business Hours: Monday - Sunday: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
6
Royal Mews

6) Royal Mews

The Royal Mews is a mews (combined stables, carriage house and, in recent times, also the garage) of the British Royal Family. In London the Royal Mews has occupied two main sites, formerly at Charing Cross, and since the 1820s at Buckingham Palace. The first set of stables to be referred to as mews was at Charing Cross at the western end of The Strand. The royal hawks were kept at that site since 1377 and the name derives from the fact that they were confined there during moulting (or “mew”) period.

The original building was destroyed by fire in 1534 and rebuilt as a stables, keeping its former name while having acquired this new function.

The present Royal Mews is in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, to the south of Buckingham Palace Gardens, near Grosvenor Place. In the 1760s George III moved some of his day-to-day horses and carriages to the grounds of Buckingham House, which he had acquired in 1762 for his wife's use, but the main royal stables housing the ceremonial coaches and their horses remained at the Charing Cross. However, when his son George IV converted Buckingham Palace into the main royal residence in the 1820s, the whole stables establishment was moved.

The Royal Mews is regularly open to the public. The state coaches and other carriages are kept there, along with about 30 horses, together with their modern counterparts, the state motor cars. Coachmen, grooms, chauffeurs and other staff are accommodated in flats above the carriage houses and stables. On display there is also the carriage Princess Diana rode in to her wedding.

Mews are open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm (last admission 3:15 pm). Please keep in mind that a typical visit lasts 1 hour.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
The Guards Museum

7) The Guards Museum

The Guards Museum is a military museum near Buckingham Palace. The museum first open in 1988 and houses a stunning collection of artifacts from the five regiments of Foot Guards (the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, and Welsh Guards). It provides a fascinating insight in to the history of the regiments it represents, from the 17th century to the present day. The displays include many samples of different Guards uniforms, (chronicling the evolution of the five regiments' dress over time) as well as paintings, weapons, models, sculptures, and other related artefacts, such as Mess Silver – vividly presenting to the visitor the history of the regiments and what it's like being a guardsman.

The Museum operates seven days a week from 10 am to 4 pm (last admission at 3:30 pm).
8
St. James's Park

8) St. James's Park (must see)

St. James's Park is a 23-hectare park in Westminster, and is the oldest of the Royal Parks of London. Both, the park and the surrounding area are named after a leper hospital dedicated to St. James the Less, the Bishop of Jerusalem, that stood here from around the 1180s up until 1531 when it was demolished for the construction of St James’s Palace. To the west of the park is Buckingham Palace. For that reason, St. James's is never short of visitors coming to see the royal residence.

The park has a small lake, called St. James's Park Lake, with two islands - Duck Island and West Island. A bridge across the lake offers a remarkable view of Buckingham Palace framed by trees and fountains, plus a view of the main building of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, framed just as cutely, to the east. St. James's park is the easternmost of the near-continuous chain of parks comprising Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Why You Should Visit:
Lots of green space to lay around, and lots of wildlife.
You may also find live music, events, or other fun things occurring.

Tip:
Allow time to walk all the way through and hop the tube on the other end!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 5am-12am

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