Walk around Buckingham Palace, London

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 walking tour, along with Buckingham Palace and its memorable fountain, you will visit the St. James's private royal residence, the wonderful Queen's Gallery, and also drop by the official Buckingham gift shop to find a piece of royal memory to bring home.

Other highlights include the Royal Mews where, aside for the horses not on duty, you can get up close and personal with the Royal carriages, cars, and even a sleigh. Besides being an informative “behind-the-scenes” glimpse at what it takes to execute the pomp and circumstance, it kind of feels like you’ve been dropped into a fairy tale!

From there you can walk into the Guards Museum and stop off at St. James’s Park for a sit and picnic as well, making the most of being outdoors. And, finally, next to St. James’s Palace, you’ll be able to spot Clarence House, home to Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. Oozing class, it’s one of the last remaining aristocratic houses in London – a must for all London visitors.

For an excellent day out around Buckingham Palace, follow this self-guided walking tour – perfect for individuals, couples and families alike.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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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: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: Xena
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Queen's Gallery
  • Buckingham Palace Gift Shop
  • Royal Mews
  • Wellington Barracks & The Guards Museum
  • St. James's Park
  • St. James's Palace
  • Clarence House
Buckingham Palace

1) Buckingham Palace (must see)

If Buckingham Palace were open year-round, it would undoubtedly rank as the most frequented tourist attraction in Britain. However, it welcomes the public for most of August and September and on some days in winter and spring.

A tour here encompasses the palace's 19 State Rooms, featuring magnificent gilt moldings and walls adorned with priceless Old Masters' artwork. The Grand Hall, followed by the Grand Staircase and Guard Room, astonish with their marble grandeur and opulent gold leaf decor, complemented by colossal, sparkling chandeliers. Other noteworthy stops include the dramatic Throne Room, housing the original 1953 coronation throne, and the Ballroom, where the Queen wielded a sword to confer knighthoods and other honors with a gentle touch on the recipient's shoulders. The State Dining Room is adorned with royal portraits, while the Blue Drawing Room dazzles with its resplendent beauty. The Music Room, designed in a bow-shaped layout, boasts lapis lazuli columns framing floor-to-ceiling arched windows, while the White Drawing Room's alabaster and gold plasterwork makes an imposing statement of affluence and authority.

The Changing the Guard ceremony remains one of London's most captivating free spectacles, culminating in front of the palace. To the accompaniment of live military bands, the old guard proceeds up The Mall from St. James's Palace to Buckingham Palace, followed shortly by the new guard from Wellington Barracks. In the forecourt, the captains of the old and new guards symbolically exchange the keys to the palace. Arriving early is advisable for the best vantage point.

Reasons to Visit:
Fascinating opportunity to explore portions of a functioning palace, even though access to its full 700 rooms is restricted.

Travel Tip:
Visitors gain entry via timed-entry tickets, with slots available every 15 minutes throughout the day. It's highly recommended to complement your visit with a guided tour of the extensive palace gardens, which can also be explored separately. Allocate up to two hours to fully appreciate the experience.
Queen's Gallery

2) Queen's Gallery

In today's London, it's almost a rite of passage for every visitor to make their way to Buckingham Palace to witness the renowned Changing of the Guard ceremony. However, what many may not realize is that the palace also boasts a remarkable attraction – the Queen's Gallery – which is a must-see in its own right. Interestingly, it's worth noting that at one point in history, Buckingham House, which once occupied the same location as the palace does today, was considered as a possible location for the British Museum. Ultimately, this idea was abandoned due to cost considerations.

During the Blitz in 1941, a bomb destroyed the palace's chapel. When the reconstruction efforts began, the decision was made not to rebuild the chapel but instead to create a Royal Museum, allowing the public to view items from the extensive Royal Collection. Surprisingly, this collection is three times larger than the National Gallery!

The Queen's Gallery was opened to the public in 1962 and currently hosts temporary exhibitions spanning seven rooms, showcasing pieces from the aforementioned collection, which includes a stunning array of artworks by renowned artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Holbein, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Vermeer, Van Dyck, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Canaletto. It also boasts the world's largest collection of Leonardo drawings, unique Fabergé eggs, and an abundance of Sèvres china, jewels, ceremonial weapons, and textiles.

Please note that photography and filming are strictly prohibited inside, and visitors are requested to turn off their mobile phones.

Pro Tip:
Don't forget that you can have your ticket stamped at the end of your visit for a complimentary return to other exhibitions within the next 12 months.
Buckingham Palace Gift Shop

3) Buckingham Palace Gift Shop

Just a short distance from the Royal residence, this gift store offers official royal merchandise, making it a must-visit for those with a penchant for all things regal during their London trip. You'll find a wide array of high-quality products, including porcelain and textiles, offering visitors a close-to-authentic experience of living like royalty.

Among the items, you'll also discover the former Queen's preferred chocolate, royal shower caps, regal hand cream, and numerous other items used by the British royal family. Notably, the shop prominently features the Queen's beloved Corgis, her favorite dog breed. The staff is exceptionally welcoming and helpful, providing clear guidance and recommendations.
Royal Mews

4) Royal Mews

Explore an opulent display of royalty by paying a visit to the Royal Mews. Designed by John Nash in 1825, the stables and coach houses house the royal family's state carriages, along with their distinctive horses, ridden by postilions wearing red-and-gold attire and wigs. For families with children, there are activities to enjoy, and from April to October, complimentary guided tours are offered.

The Mews boasts a vast assortment of coaches, motorcars, and carriages, including Queen Victoria's Irish state coach, acquired for the State Opening of Parliament; the 1902 royal landau, an open-top carriage used to provide the public with a prime view of newlywed royal couples; and the glass coach, also employed in royal weddings. The most recent addition is the 2012 Diamond Jubilee State Coach, an elegant black-and-gold creation featuring a concealed camera for filming during processions.

The collection's crowning jewel is the Gold State Coach, a mobile masterpiece created for George III in 1762. Adorned with 22-carat gilding and embellished with panel paintings by Cipriani, this four-tonne behemoth is supported by axles featuring four life-sized Tritons blowing conches. Eight horses are required to pull it, and the experience reportedly left Queen Victoria feeling quite queasy; as a result, it has only been used for coronations and jubilees since.
Wellington Barracks & The Guards Museum

5) Wellington Barracks & The Guards Museum

Accessed via Birdcage Walk, a name originating from James I's former aviary on this site, this museum resides beneath the parade ground of Wellington Barracks, which covers more than half of its expanse. Constructed in 1833, this barracks functions as the central command center for the five Foot Guards regiments and showcases a Neoclassical frontage.

The museum itself showcases the resplendent scarlet-and-blue uniforms donned by these five regiments of the Foot Guards during ceremonial duties and provides insights into their intricate histories. Additionally, it offers a concise overview of the nation's military history from the English Civil War (1642–51) onwards. Among the exhibits, you'll find a diverse array of war spoils, ranging from Dervish prayer mats looted from Sudan in 1898 to items seized from an Iraqi prisoner of war during the first Gulf War. The collection even includes articles worn by the former Queen Elizabeth II, as she held the formal position of commanding these regiments.
St. James's Park

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

Many years ago, a royal once asked a courtier about the cost of closing Saint James's Park to the public. The courtier's response was, "Only your crown, ma'am". This park, bordered by three palaces—Buckingham, St. James's, and the governmental complex of the Palace of Westminster—is among London's most enchanting green spaces. Furthermore, it holds the distinction of being the oldest, as it was originally marshland acquired by Henry VIII in 1532 to serve as a deer nursery. Later, during the reign of James I, the land was drained, and an aviary was installed, giving rise to the name Birdcage Walk, along with a zoo that featured crocodiles, camels, and an elephant.

Upon Charles II's return from exile in France, where he was greatly impressed by the magnificent gardens of the Palace of Versailles, he redesigned the park into formal gardens, complete with avenues, fruit orchards, and a canal. The lawns became home to goats, sheep, and deer. In the 18th century, the park took on a different role as a hunting ground for affluent individuals seeking nighttime companions. A century later, John Nash revamped the landscape in a more naturalistic, romantic style. When gazing down the lake toward Buckingham Palace, you could easily imagine yourself on a country estate.

At the east end of the lake, there is Duck Island, home to a large population of waterfowl, including pelicans, geese, ducks, and swans that belong to the Queen. From March to October, you can find deck chairs available for a fee, filled with office workers enjoying lunch while being serenaded by music from the bandstands at midday. One of the most enjoyable times to stroll through the park's leafy walkways is in the evening, with Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament rising above the floodlit lake.

Why You Should Visit:
Ample green areas for relaxation and abundant wildlife.
Additionally, you might encounter live performances, events, or other enjoyable activities.
St. James's Palace

7) St. James's Palace

Constructed in the 1530s by Henry VIII, who also laid out the hunting grounds that eventually became Saint James's Park, Saint James's Palace marked the first royal dwelling on this particular parcel of land, located to the south of Piccadilly and to the north of The Mall. Following the devastating fire that engulfed Whitehall Palace in 1698, all of London's attention shifted to this palace, which assumed the role of the new royal residence. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the surrounding area grew into a prestigious residential district, leading to the disappearance of older estates as mansions sprouted and streets were carefully planned for the aristocracy.

In 1952, Queen Elizabeth II delivered her first address as monarch from this historic location, and foreign ambassadors continue to hold official accreditation to the Court of Saint James's. While the palace houses various royal chambers and administrative offices, it remains off-limits to the general public. Nevertheless, the unassuming Tudor facade is worth a brief detour from The Mall, and the Friary Court in front provides an impressive backdrop for Trooping the Colour, a component of the Queen's official birthday festivities.

Visitors often seize the opportunity to capture a photo of the guardsman in scarlet attire standing watch outside the imposing Tudor gateway. It's worth noting that the Changing the Guard ceremony at this location occurs solely on days when there is a changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Clarence House

8) Clarence House

Clarence House, which served as the Queen Mother's London residence for nearly five decades until her passing in 2002, is now the home of Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his spouse, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. This Regency mansion, constructed in 1828 by architect John Nash for the Duke of Clarence (who later became King William IV), was built because the Duke found the nearby Saint James's Palace too cramped for his tastes. However, post-World War II renovations have resulted in little of Nash's original design remaining.

If you wish to visit Clarence House, you must book a guided tour in advance (as they are in high demand), and be prepared for security checks and restrictions similar to those at airports. Besides getting a glimpse behind the scenes of a functioning royal residence, the primary attraction is the display of 20th-century British paintings by artists such as Augustus John and Walter Sickert.

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