For the girls birthday my treat this year was tickets to go inside Buckingham Palace and see how a real princess lives, a Royal day out. With an entire year of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rapunzel and then the Frozen sisters Anna and Elsa I knew I was on the right track.
I wanted them to start learning about our British history and about the Royal Family too. They have spotted ‘baby George’ on the TV and in newspapers so the discussion has begun.
I found various Buckingham Palace tours on the Royal Collection Trust website and opted for a tour of the State Rooms and Garden Highlights tour. For 1 adult and two children under 17 the total cost was £63.75 and I think it’s important to note that most of this money goes into the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity, find out more where the money goes here
Our time was set for 11.45, in hindsight I wish I had chosen a later time as the Changing of the Guards starts daily at 11.15, it would have been great for the girls to witness that beforehand, however we did get a glimpse of the guards as they made their way to the palace and it was stunning.
I would advise getting there at least 15 minutes early, we got held up by the Changing of the Guards and I had to run the last bit and queue to collect tickets.
On entering the palace all bags are scanned and checked, my rucksack was kept and taken to the end of the tour for me to collect later. NO PHOTOGRAPHY is allowed inside the palace or on the Garden Highlights tour either.
Then, if you wish you can collect an audio guide. We went for the Family Audio and the girls loved it. It gives a great description of each room and on the guide you can touch ‘Rex’ the resident corgi who will tell you lots of extra secrets about the rooms you pass through. There is also a section with games and extra buttons to touch to find out about the art, or gilding or other objects of interest that you see around you.
I loved spotting where the Secret Door hides in the White Drawing Room which the queen uses from her personal quarters, closed to the public into the State Rooms. It’s very clever and you have to look hard to see it.
We stopped half way through the tour to sit and watch a brief film made from the Royal Family’s personal videos, this year the focus is on Royal childhood and there are lots of toys, prams, clothes and more from various members of the Royal family.
We arrived in the Bow Room which is also the end of the tour of the State Rooms at around 1pm. The girls were in need of a drink and something to eat and I was disappointed to discover there was no where to eat a packed lunch.
I took them to the Palace cafe and ordered a scone, some water and a cup of tea to tide us over.
We also visited the Family Pavilion which was air conditioned and had tables laid out with sheets to do some drawing or dot to dots on. There was a box of clothes to dress up in and an area to play in. There was also a blackboard where the children were invited to write on, every day pictures are taken and shown to the queen so she gets to see every message left. Whilst we were there the board was wiped clean and set up for a new set of young visitors but I was assured the photo had been taken.
At 2.15pm our Garden Highlights tour commenced. Again no photos were allowed which I was really disappointed at as it was one of the major reasons I had chosen this tour. Our guide was Alan Lion and he led us along a very interesting walk through the private gardens passing the Royal summer house and a beautiful rose garden. There are trees centuries old planted by many royals including Prince Albert and I learnt lots of facts, like Queen Charlotte kept an elephant in her back garden. That the garden had been home to a giraffe and a zebra in it’s time and that the pesky fox have killed off the flamingo population.
8 gardeners look after the 36 acres of land and we walked around one side ending up at the bottom.
We decided we wanted to see the shop so we back tracked up the path and I was pleased to see there were a few ideas in there that were in pocket money reach but mainly above.
A beautiful pink Faberge egg caught my eye and the price tag £9,995.00 made me gasp but I guess that’s what they cost these days? I’m not sure what husband’s reaction would have been if I had returned with it?
The tin tray costs £7.50 from this year’s Limited Edition, the crowns above were around £10 and the cushions start at around £35.
The girls each chose a Princess Alice at £12.95 and I treated them to the book ‘Does the Queen wear her crown to bed?’ which we all read later that night and will act as a great reference book too.
Top Tips for a Royal Day Out
1. Keep in mind the Changing of the Guard at 11.15 when booking tickets, the roads are closed and it is busy, if you want to add this into your day get there for 10.15 – 10.30 for a good place.
2. If going with children I think leave out the Garden Highlights tour and maybe add on the Royal Mews for a visit to the Royal Carriages instead.
3. No food or drink can be eaten in the palace and there were no facilities to eat outside either, we had to hang around for the Garden tour but opposite the palace is St James Park with lots of green space to picnic on and a play area for children to let off steam.
4. If you go to St James Park take some bread to feed the ducks but only in the designated gravel area.
5. Don’t forget to get your tickets stamped on exit so you can return one more time within 12 months to see the same tour.
6. Nearest tube St James Park or Victoria; we walked from St James Park through the park.