There's no icon more British than the Queen (though Stephen Fry must be a close second), so no wonder we're all so interested in visiting her gaff. Buckingham Palace is more than 300 years old and has 775 rooms, and although only 19 of these are available for the public to explore there's always a photo (or three) to be taken in front of its impressive facade and stoney-faced guards. Here's our guide to planning a trip to the royal homestead.
Buckingham Palace tour and opening times
As it's our royal family's home, Buckingham Palace isn't always open, but during summer you can visit the interior while they're off on holiday. Don't expect to get a nose around the Queen's knicker drawer; you'll only get to access the State Rooms. These are the 19 rooms in the palace built as public rooms, so are ordinarily used to host audiences with the Queen and official visits, but are open daily to the public from 9.30am until 7pm during August, and from 9.30am until 6pm September 1-29. A typical visit lasts just over two hours, so last admissions are two hours and fifteen minutes before closing.
Tickets start at £19, including an audio tour and access to this year's exhibition (The Queen's Coronation 1953), and it's best to book in advance. If you'd like to explore the palace's greenery too, you can add a Garden Highlights Tour to your trip (tickets from £27.75).
Where is Buckingham Palace?
The palace is south of Green Park, at the west end of St James's Park, and is a ten-minute walk from Victoria Rail Station. The closest tube stations are Victoria, Hyde Park Corner and Green Park, and bus routes 11, 211, C1 and C10 all stop on Buckingham Palace Road.
Buckingham Palace shop
This is your chance to buy the sort of London memorabilia that has serious 'Antiques Roadshow' potential. The Garden Shop stocks china, homewares, jewellery, toys, books, postcards and even clothing, so you can don the royal kit in tribute to the Windsors.
The Garden Shop at Buckingham Palace is only open during their summer opening dates, but if you want to buy souvenirs out of season then you can shop online at www.royalcollectionshop.co.uk.
Changing of the Guard
Kids and adults alike will be delighted by the drama and silly hats of the Changing of the Guard; it was Christopher Robin's favourite day out, after all. The process takes just over half an hour, and starts at 11am every day except Sunday, when they switch an hour earlier. Drums, horses and the smartest of uniforms should charm younger family members, while the military precision and straight faces are plenty enough to impress elders. For more detail about timings and routes visit our Changing of the Guard listing.
Dining at Buckingham Palace
Discover how the Queen likes her dinner table, which guests made it to the top table at the coronation banquet, and why there's nothing more special than a royal pineapple.
The Buckingham Palace dress code
We explore The Royal Collection Trust's exhibition 'The Queen's Coronation 1953' in all its finery, with a special look at the Queen's coronation dress and why it's covered in embroidered plants.
Overheard at Wilton’s: ‘My uncle died, up in Anglesey… he was a baronet.’ Walk into the most intimate of London’s grand-old-institution restaurants, founded 1742, and you can think you’re entering the world of PG Wodehouse, or, for more classy literary allusions, Anthony Powell. The snugly luxurious style is timeless; besuited gents, some almost certainly peers of the realm, occupy most of the tables for lunch.
Hidden away in a leafy enclave near Victoria Station lies the bastion of British hospitality that is the family-owned Goring Hotel. An exemplar of well-maintained Edwardian architecture and decor, it was the world’s first hotel built with en-suite bathrooms throughout. The spacious dining room, redesigned by David Linley, is a serene, almost heavenly space of ivory and white, with custom furniture – even the waiters’ uniforms are in tune with the decor.
The Vincent Rooms is staffed, front of house and in the kitchen, by students training at Westminster Kingsway College, but they are overseen by experienced chefs and maître d’s, and they operate in a sophisticated, beautifully appointed venue with its own entrance. Sit at one of the well-spaced, plain wooden tables and look through picture windows on to Vincent Square, where the gilded youth of Westminster School have their playing fields.
Angela Hartnett’s Mayfair outpost will confuse anyone who’s looking for a purely Italian restaurant. The splendid wine list has more from France than from Italy, and the cooking too owes a great deal to France. But don’t let that deter you. At £25 for two courses or £30 for three, the set lunch menu looks like one of London’s greatest bargains given the luxurious table spacing, coolly elegant decor, and precise but cosseting service – and especially the food.
This historic Mayfair hotel has built a reputation as a great place for afternoon tea – and with good reason. Everything is done to a high standard, making it a consistently excellent all-rounder, yet it manages to remain relaxed and unstuffy. Guests are seated in one of three adjoining wood-panelled front rooms, all of which are comfortable and softly furnished – one even comes with a piano player tinkling the ivories.
Brasserie Chavot is the first venture of the award winning and critically acclaimed former 2 Michelin starred Chef, Eric Chavot since his return to the UK. Brasserie Chavot is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. The food service and decor is reminiscent of a French Brasserie. With a preparation bar where Chef Chavot and his team will prepare an array of items such as oysters and caviar right in front of you whilst you sit at the bar sipping Champagne.
‘Cicchetti’, like ‘sliders’, ‘confit’ or ‘fondant’, is one of those abused culinary terms that has moved so far from its starting point it’s now near-meaningless. Originally, the expression applied to tapas-like snacks served in the wine bars of Venice; from there the word, if not the dishes, migrated to the US, where Italian-Americans turned it into something more sophisticated than mini portions of sandwiches, olives or boiled eggs.
Ramen’s not new to London: this dish of thin wheat noodles in broth is a staple at Wagamama, for instance. (Hell, it’s also what a Pot Noodle is, essentially.) But several restaurants have popped up here recently that are dedicated to it. Run by the same people as the Japan Centre across the road, Shoryu is an authentically Japanese experience. They’ve even shipped in a chef from Hakata, the Japanese district best known for the tonkotsu ramen that Shoryu specialises in.