Buckingham Palace 2016

Each summer you can visit the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace while the Queen is away at Balmoral (Scotland).

And each year there’s a special exhibition. This is year it’s Fashioning the Reign and is all about the Queen’s dresses.

2016 Changes

Previously, the tour route took you halfway up the Grand Staircase and then turned to see the State Rooms, but this year you get a sweeping entry straight up the Grand Staircase to the special exhibition.

Do you remember the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony? This is the route James Bond took to meet the Queen.

Grand Staircase Buckingham Palace
Walk up the Grand Staircase like James Bond!

Ball Supper Room

This is the room before the main ballroom and where the special exhibition starts. There are ten dresses on display around the edge of the Ball Supper Room with rows of seating in the middle to watch the video projected on the wall. This was another welcome change this year as there is a lot more seating – some in nearly every room.

Ball Supper Room Buckingham Palace

In this room my favourite outfit was the Coronation dress the Queen wore to her parent’s Coronation when she was 11 (with a matching outfit for her 7 year old sister).

Already, at the start of the tour I could tell it’s unlikely to feel as crowded as previous years. There’s a lot of space to sit in this room (rows of bench seating), lots of space around each of the dresses and plenty of space to walk between them. It won’t be a ‘single line shuffle’ as we’ve had in the past as you can stop and watch the video projections and then walk over to any of the dresses; no-one says you have to see them in chronological order.

Royal telephone

The Ballroom

The Ballroom display has three areas: military uniforms, millinery (hats) and then a lovely selection of the Queen’s dresses. Do approach staff to ask for more information as they often know lots of useful extras.

We enjoyed seeing Queen Victoria’s Military Tunic before entering the Ballroom Annexe to see the millinery. You will wonder what the occasion could have been for some of those hats!

And then in to the main section of the Ballroom where you can admire the stunning wedding dress with its 9ft full court train attached at the shoulders.

The Queen's wedding dress
We learned from the audio tour that the dresses with heavy beading can’t be stored vertical or left on hangers or the fabric would get damaged, which is why this dress is displayed at this angle.

 

Queen's dresses

 

Queen's colourful dresses
Queen’s colourful dresses

 

Queen's dresses

From here, the tour continues through the West Gallery and into the Blue Drawing Room.

Blue Drawing Room

The wallpaper is now somewhat faded blue but still very grand. If you think the columns are marble you’ll be mistaken it’s scagliola as the columns are actually wooden and hollow, covered in marble dust and polished to look like marble.

On the family audio tour we discovered that all of the menus at the Palace are in French. We played a fun game to try and design a menu but we made some terrible mistakes. Petrol soup, anyone?

Buckingham Palace family audio tour menu game
Buckingham Palace family audio tour menu game

Music Room

In this room we learned more fun facts and did a quiz which was a good reason to stop and recap what you’ve learned to far. it’s a clever addition to the family audio tour which would allow parents to see the room for longer.

We also found out there are 350 clocks and watches in the Palace and two people are responsible for keeping them all to time. And that stale bread was used to clean soot off the chandeliers!

White Drawing Room

Do admire the cheeky monkeys on the restored piano before looking for the secret door to the Queen’s private apartment. It’s hidden well so do ask staff if you can’t spot it.

The Tour Continues…

The tour continues through the Picture Gallery (lots of new seating on offer down the centre), and into the Green Drawing Room before the Throne Room. Take in the drama in this room as John Nash designed theatres before the Palace.

Then it’s down the sweeping staircase and through the Marble Hall to the Bow Room which is the final room before the gardens. Look off to the right before leaving to see the 1844 Room – a small room where the Queen has private visitors.

Hand in your audio tour and take a well-earned stop for tea at The Terrace Cafe, overlooking the Palace gardens.

Tea and scones at Buckingham Palace

Family Pavilion

Even if you don’t bring kids do stop for the cool #BFGatBP photo opportunity outside the Family Pavilion.

The Family Pavilion has space for babies, wall puzzles for bigger kids and dressing up for everyone. We stayed to do colouring and chatted to other visitors.

BFG at Buckingham Palace

There’s a large gift shop in the gardens and then you get to walk along the peaceful path to the exit on Grosvenor Place.

Top Tips

This year seems to be a much better visitor experience and we stayed considerably longer than usual. We did spend a long time in the Family Pavilion yet overall, we stayed for 5 hours including tea and a scone on the Terrace overlooking for the Palace gardens.

It’s a different route this year and there’s much more seating so you don’t feel rushed. Take time to look at the details (on the fireplaces, on furniture, vases, statues, etc) as this is a very ornate building.

It’s good to chat to ‘gallery attendants’ as they often know some great tips about the rooms. In the White Drawing Room a wonderful member of staff even had extra photos he could show us to see the ‘secret door’ open.

Even without kids I’d recommend the family audio tour as it explains the use of each room clearly and gives more reasons to look closely around you.

The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open until 2 October 2016. Buy your ticket direction from Royal Collection and it can be used as a 1 year Pass meaning you can visit again this year and see next year’s exhibition too.

Quick March

You can compare this year’s visit with my report on the 2015 Buckingham Palace State Rooms opening.

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