The State Rooms open annually while the Royal family is on their summer hols. It's difficult to imagine what it would be like to attend one of the state, ceremonial or official occasions for which the rooms that visitors have access to are used, protected as they are by Perspex and seasonal staff – but it's fascinating to see them, all the same. The Grand Hall resembles an upmarket hotel foyer and the thrones are surprisingly modest but the Music Room, setting for many royal christenings, is charming, there are some glorious Nash ceilings and among the paintings in the Picture Gallery are Rembrandts, Rubens and Vermeers. The visitor route includes a 450-metre walk along the west side of the palace garden, which offers views of the garden, palace and nineteenth-century lake.
Included in the admission price is the 'Royal Childhood' exhibition. Find out what it's really like to grow up in London's flashest pad in this exhibition of toys, outfits and treasured family belongings.
Some of the exhibits date back as far as 250 years, and many were the prized possessions of our monarchs-to-be, such as a set of dolls made by a young Queen Victoria, and little Queen Liz's rocking horse. You may recognise Prince William's page boy sailor suit from the Duke of York's wedding in 1986, and there will be plenty of familiar faces among the photographs and film footage, much of which is previously unseen. Multi-media guides for children aged five-to-twelve will be available, as well as a family tent on the palace's West Terrace. Tickets should be booked in advance.