Visiting Buckingham Palace for kids was so much more fun than I expected.
In all David and my past visits to London we had never been there in the July to September period when the Buckingham Palace State Rooms are open. And to be honest I thought it might be a little dull.
But, being the big fan of the Queen that I am, our trip to Buckingham Palace in London was an absolute highlight of our most recent visit. The kids were highly engaged, keen and interested due to their entertaining multimedia guide and it felt like such a privilege to be able to wander those sumptuous halls.
Buckingham Palace only began opening to the public in 1993 after the devastating fire at Windsor Castle meant funds were required for rebuilding. Lucky for us!
- 1 Plan your Buckingham Palace visit
- 2 Visiting Buckingham Palace for kids
- 3 State Rooms and Mews, Buckingham Palace
- 4 Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
- 5 Buckingham Palace facts for kids
Plan your Buckingham Palace visit
When you’re planning a visit to London and hoping to get inside Buckingham Palace, the best place to start is the official website. Check whether the State Rooms are open during your visit on the Buckingham Palace website.
Buckingham Palace tickets can be booked direct or there’s a great range of walking tours with or without Palace entry here. The Buckingham Palace entrance fee for the State Rooms is about £64 for a family of two adults and three kids.
Where is Buckingham Palace located?
Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. It is located in the Westminster area of central London.
Green Park and St James’s Park are the closest tube stations to Buckingham Palace.
Or take the easy, flat 20 min walk to Buckingham Palace down The Mall from the Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square. Much of this walk can be done through the lush, green environment of St James’s Park. Along the way take a little detour down to the tranquil lake to see the ducks and other birdlife.
Where to stay near Buckingham Palace
The Victoria area, being at the rear of Buckingham Palace and therefore a little further from central sights like Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden, is a more affordable option.
Click to see the closest hotels to Buckingham Palace.
Visiting Buckingham Palace for kids
Kids are most welcome to visit Buckingham Palace and we were pleasantly surprised at how welcome we were made to feel by the kids’ fun multimedia guide (a bit like a smart phone) and the Family Pavilion full of dress-ups and games.
There are four areas of Buckingham Palace which are open to the public from time to time –
- The State Rooms
- The Royal Mews
- The Queen’s Gallery
- The Garden
The State Rooms are the 19 public rooms in the Palace where the Queen and members of the Royal Family receive and entertain their guests on State, ceremonial and official occasions. The Royal Mews is where the horses, carriages and cars are kept, The Queen’s Gallery is an art gallery and The Garden is the Queen’s backyard, which is accessible as part of The State Rooms tour.
When is Buckingham Palace open to the public?
The best way to see inside Buckingham Palace is to visit The State Rooms. However these are only open from July to September plus selected dates in December to May. This is a working palace and, as such, generally the only time of the year that you can go inside is when the Queen is away on her annual holiday to Balmoral in summer.
State Rooms and Mews, Buckingham Palace
There’s no photos allowed inside the State Rooms, but as you can imagine they are breathtakingly opulent. There are some glorious photos on the Palace website here. The Throne Room and Ballroom are particular highlights.
I especially enjoyed wandering through rooms like the Ballroom, which I have since recognised on TV when an official function is reported on the news. But the thing that impressed me the most was how awesome the kids’ multimedia guide is. They have gone to a huge amount of effort to create something incredibly entertaining, which makes families feel so welcome.
Getting into the State Rooms is organised with military precision and high security (take as little as possible) and the surroundings are so formal, that I was really surprised with the fun that the kids were having. I tended to rush through the rooms a bit, because I didn’t want to be there hours, but it was the kids who were begging me to stop.
Their multimedia guide had a small touchscreen which allowed them to rub away one photo to reveal another underneath. For instance showing what a room looked like 100 years ago, or showing the Ballroom when it’s set up for a function. It also sent them on quests to find small details in a room, like an angel carved into a door arch.
If you’re finding your audioguide is a bit heavy on detail and history, switch to the kids one. It’s super entertaining!
You need to book a specific entry time for the State Rooms, but you can then tour through independently with your audioguide at your own pace. We only took about an hour to get through the 19 rooms, but I regretted how much I rushed. I was overly concerned with the kids getting bored. I would take it a little slower next time, although still not listening to every section of the audioguide, and I expect it would take about 1.5-2 hours.
The entrance to the State Rooms is about a 5 minute walk down the left side of Buckingham Palace when looking at the front.
The Family Pavilion
The Family Pavilion is a wonderfully hands-on area for kids of all ages. It is located just inside the Palace, on the left as you head outside after your tour of the State Rooms.
Dress up as a king or queen and have a photo on the famous balcony, like my kids did in the photo at the top. Learn how to lay a royal table, getting all the plates and cutlery in the right places or use iPads to discover the royal family tree. Learn about some of England’s most famous kings and queens, like Henry VIII with his six wives, or his legendary daughter Elizabeth I.
I recommend giving the Garden Cafe a miss. It’s very expensive and not particularly kid-friendly. Instead, enjoy a traditional English afternoon tea at the Cafe in the Crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square.
There is also an art gallery, the Queen’s Gallery, that we skipped.
Buckingham Palace souvenir shop
This is THE place to get your royal souvenir.
After you exit the palace it is a short walk around the lawn to the souvenir shop.
There are so many fabulous souvenirs here that I recommend sending uninterested family members outside to wait while you browse. They are beautiful quality with gorgeous designs like the Andy Warhol tray below, which is now home to our TV remote controls.
Buy a replica piece of jewellery, some delicate china or a tea towel or key ring. The Christmas decorations are exquisite and many are soft so can be safely transported home in a corner of your suitcase.
Buckingham Palace Gardens
The Queen’s backyard is a divinely peaceful oasis of lush rolling lawns, graceful swans swimming serenely and every shade of green imaginable.
Have a wander through after your tour of the State Rooms.
The Royal Mews Buckingham Palace
The Royal Mews is home to the Queen’s horses, carriages and luxury cars. The Mews is open from February to November, is very kid friendly and not expensive to visit. Get your skip-the-line tickets here.
The Royal Mews is situated on the palace grounds. When facing the front of Buckingham Palace you walk down the left side of the property for almost 10 minutes to reach the entrance gate.
Say hello to the Queen’s beautiful horses, follow the free audioguide tour or the regular free guided Royal Mews tours and marvel at the assortment of gleaming carriages and luxury cars for every occasion.
Kids can sit in a carriage, learn about the bridle, reins and other leatherwork, or dress up as a royal footman.
Don’t miss the massively over-the-top Gold State Coach, built in 1760, which is only used for coronations. You’ll need to find some seriously vintage video footage of the Queen’s coronation to see that one in action.
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
If you’re visiting London when the State Rooms are closed, then watching the Changing of the Guard at the front of Buckingham Palace is the next best thing.
Crowds can be massive though, so get there early or, if you have the opportunity, watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Windsor Castle instead. This smaller, more intimate ceremony is in Windsor, about an hour on the train from central London. Windsor is a picturesque town and is home to the magnificent Windsor Castle, the largest inhabited castle in the world, and LEGOLAND, a brilliant theme park for kids 12 years and under. Read more about what to do in Windsor here.
The Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace takes place, weather permitting, at 11am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday and daily in the summer. The schedule is subject to change, so check here.
Make sure you arrive at the front of the Palace about 45 min beforehand to get a good spot.
Buckingham Palace facts for kids
How old is Buckingham Palace?
Buckingham Palace was built in 1703, so is over 300 years old.
How many rooms are there in Buckingham Palace?
There are 775 rooms, including 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, 78 bathrooms, 52 principal bedrooms, and 19 state rooms. It also has a post office, cinema, swimming pool, doctor’s surgery and jeweller’s workshop.
How big is Buckingham Palace?
The palace measures 108m by 120m, is 24m high and contains over 77,000m2 of floorspace. The floor area is smaller than the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Papal Palace and Quirinal Palace in Rome, the Louvre in Paris, the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, and the Forbidden City.
Find more interesting facts here.