What are three things that come to mind when you think of London? For me, it was always Harry Potter (duh), Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. Of course, there is so much more to London than that, as I would quickly discover during our visit. So much, in fact, that it has me longing to go back and explore all of the hidden treasures we missed sitting in plain sight.
When researching things to do during our trip to London, I knew I wanted to see Buckingham Palace. Apparently it isn’t open to the public year around, only during the summer from the end of July through the end of September. Luckily, we caught it just in time.
You can get tickets yourself online here, where you would pick your own date and time. However, we opted to get tickets through Musement. I liked this option because even though you met at a general location and rode over (in a, open top double decker bus, which was cool), once you got your tickets you were free to wander through the staterooms at your leisure. The cost also included Afternoon Tea, which is why I chose it, figuring it would be a great way to end our last day in London.
Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the Royal Family and has been since 1837, starting with Queen Victoria. It boasts a total of 775 rooms, however, the 19 staterooms are what are open to the public for 8 weeks each year.
Upon entering the Palace, you go through a few security check points. You are also asked to turn your phone off and store any other electronics. It is completely forbidden to take any photographs or video during your visit through the staterooms. If you are caught doing so you can be fined upwards of a couple hundred pounds.
The inside of this massive structure is breath taking, as if time had stopped from the day Queen Victoria moved in. The victorian style designs envelope you as you walk The Grand Staircase, and through such rooms as the State Ballroom, the Picture Gallery and the Throne Room, just to name a few. It is truly a sight to behold. Even without a camera to save the scene, I don’t think these rooms will be wiped from your memory quickly. There is also a dedication to Princess Diana and her life’s work, which I enjoyed reading. But, out of all the intricate details and commissioned art work, it was the almost wall length painting of the Queen with her Corgi’s that will forever be my favorite part of the interior.
When you are finished walking through the rooms, you are taken out to the Garden in the back, where the Queen hosts her Garden parties. I’m sure it’s a much bolder scene during those times, but just touring the area, the Garden is rather bland. It is beautifully manicured, but completely roped off with a path taking you out of the Palace area.
Around the Palace
You don’t need a ticket to explore the surrounding areas of the Palace. This includes St. James Park, which is a beautiful little area with a picturesque pond, complete with a backdrop of Whitehall and the London Eye. There are colorful flower beds and many different birds. We even saw a few white swans! It’s a lovely place to walk around if you have some time.
The front of the Palace is also where the famous Changing of the Guard happens and is free to watch, given you are there at the right time and the weather permits. You can find all of the information on it here.
Although we weren’t there in time for the Changing of the Guards, while we were walking around St. James Park, we did walk through an area and on the other side of the fence was the Guard’s Museum. There, a number of Guards were working on routines and even ended up doing some marching band numbers (they played a Beatles song, y’all!). It was a great moment to stumble upon. I’d suggest walking that route at one point to see if they are out.
As I mentioned before, our tour ticket included Afternoon Tea. This took place at the Grosvenor Hotel. I liked that this was also an “at your own pace” type of thing. As long as you arrived by the time on your ticket, you didn’t have to go with a group of people.
The Grosvenor is a beautiful hotel down the road from Buckingham Palace. After arriving in a lounge room, we presented our ticket to the waiter who brought out an array of tea flavors, two small kettles of hot water, a bowl of sugar cubes and a terrine of milk. I typically insist upon a pure cup when it comes to tea, and don’t like anything in it. But the sugar cubes were so tempting that I had to try it. They didn’t disappoint. I’m not sure what it is about them that makes it better than regular sugar, but it was delightful.
A few minutes later we were brought out a three tier serving dish with an assortment of sandwiches, scones and deserts. Wow! It was to die for! Now, this was both mine and Anthony’s first time having afternoon tea, so we didn’t have anything to compare it to. But the experience at the Grosvenor and the food that came with it was one that I definitely recommend.
But, if you want to go your own way, there are many, many different places that do afternoon tea. There is also an Afternoon Tea Bus Tour in a double decker bus that takes you around the city. I originally tried to get on that before we booked with Musement, but they were sold out. So be sure to look in advance if it is something you, too, are interested in. I’m not disappointed though. We had our own great experience.
So tell me, did you go to Buckingham Palace while you were in London? Are you planning on going and being there when the staterooms are open? What was your experience with Afternoon Tea? Tell me in the comments!
If you’re planning your trip to London, be sure to also include some magical Harry Potter sights listed below during your stay!
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