Buckingham Palace ★★☆
London's Royal Residence, from the State Rooms and royal gardens to the Queen's Gallery and the (yawnfest) changing of the guard
Far more interesting is to tour the palace itself—when that option is available.
Visiting Buckingham Palace
You can join the other 400,000 summer visitors and take a spin through the 775-room Buckingham Palace—but only when the Queen's not at home. The Royal Family typically decamps to Balmoral Castle in Scotland in late summer (Aug-Sept), and she sometimes takes off again over the winter (Dec–Feb).
If the flag's a-waving, Elizabeth II is inside and you cannot go in. (Also, if there are four sentries standing guard, she's in; if there are only two, she's off shopping or something.)
There are actual several sections to tour, and you can get tickets to one or more:Tickets
To tour it all takes a good 2–3 hours, though you could see just the State Rooms in 90 minutes or so.
It is something of a London vacation tradition: To make faces at, catcall, tease, jeer, make rude gestures towards, or otherwise try to ruffle the stoically unresponsive (and long-suffering) guards flanking the Buckingham Palace gates.
The idea is to try and make them break ranks, break their stiff at-attention stance, or even just break a smile.
Please don't. That's just mean.
Let me put it this way: The Palace Guards are all British military, drawn from five infantry and two calvary regiments. A posting here tends to be relief duty for those who have seen action overseas.
Yeah. Nearly all of the guards are active duty soldiers and war veterans. So go ahead. Act like a jerk at them.
If you want to visit all four Buckingham Palace attractions (and it's August or September so you can), first buy the "Royal Day Out" ticket.
Given the locations of the entrances and edits and the way the timed entires work—the Queen's Gallery has timed admissions every 15 minutes, and you will also be issued a timed entry to the State Rooms that starts 2.5 hours after your Queen's Gallery entrance—do them in this order:
If you are seeing all the Buckingham Palace sights, aim for the morning, for two reasons:
You watch the Changing of the Guards from the traffic circle in front of the main gates, at the west end of The Mall where Constitution Hill meets Buckingham Gate and The Birdcage Walk (yes, in London those are all street names).
The public entrances to all of the individual palace sights are along Buckingham Gate, which runs around to the south (left) of the main forecourt of the palace.