How to get tickets to the hidden quarters of Buckingham Palace

The Centre Room in the newly reserviced East Wing of Buckingham Palace, which is to open for public tours for the first time
The Centre Room in the newly reserviced East Wing of Buckingham Palace, which is to open for public tours for the first time

This summer the East Wing of Buckingham Palace will open to the public for the first time.

The East Wing forms the front of Buckingham Palace, meaning the general public will have the chance to see the famous balcony where members of the Royal family greet crowds during jubilees, coronations and other ceremonies. Previously, only the State Rooms were open to the public.

The opening of the East Wing comes after five years of works, part of a wider renovation programme across the palace designed to update the building’s infrastructure, improve access and to preserve its treasures for future generations. The introduction of East Wing tours comes as the Balmoral Estate in Scotland announced guided tours of its interiors for the first time.

Previously, only the State Rooms were open to the public.
Previously, only the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace were open to the public - Getty

The new Buckingham Palace tours will take place from mid-July to the end of September. Only a small number of tickets will go on sale, but royal fans can increase their chances of securing them by signing up to an exclusive (free) mailing list.

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the East Wing of Buckingham Palace this summer, plus information on other ways to explore the royal residence including the State Rooms, the Royal Mews and the King’s Gallery.

What will you be able to see on the tour?

The East Wing of Buckingham Palace is the front section of the building, as viewed from the main gates, incorporating the famous balcony where members of the Royal family have appeared for special occasions since 1851.

Led by a tour guide, visitors will learn about the history of the East Wing, which was commissioned by Queen Victoria to make space for her growing family; previously, the plot was a horseshoe-shaped courtyard. The construction of the East Wing was financed through the sale of George IV’s Royal Pavilion in Brighton, in 1850, after which some of its Chinese-inspired furnishing and decorations were transferred to the new wing.

The tour will lead visitors to rooms on the Principal Floor including the Principal Corridor, which runs the length of the wing. Many artworks and antiques from the Royal Collection decorate the rooms, including paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Thomas Lawrence. There is also a spectacular painting by John Charlton showing Queen Victoria arriving at St Paul’s Cathedral during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

In the Yellow Drawing Room, decorated with restored hand-painted Chinese wallpaper dating from the 18th century, visitors can peruse fine features including the Kylin clock, featuring two Chinese lions, and two hexagonal, nine-tiered porcelain pagodas.

The tour concludes in the Centre Room, which leads to the famous balcony where some of the most iconic royal photographs have been taken. Within the room there are two Chinese 18th-century imperial silk wall hangings, presented to Queen Victoria by Guangxu, Emperor of China, to mark her Diamond Jubilee, plus a newly restored glass chandelier shaped like a lotus flower and a set of beautiful Chinese porcelain vases.

What happens on a State Rooms tour?

The State Rooms are the public areas of the palace where the Royal family entertain guests during state or ceremonial occasions. There are 19 rooms in total, featuring treasures from the Royal Collection, fine English and French furniture and artworks by Van Dyck and Canaletto. Visitors can roam these rooms – including the White Drawing Room (the royal reception room), the Throne Room (the work of architect John Nash) and the Ballroom, where state banquets take place – on a self-guided tour.

Visitors to the State Rooms can buy a combined ticket incorporating the highlights of the Palace Gardens (described as a “walled oasis in the middle of London”), led by an expert warden.

When will the East Wing tours take place?

Self-guided tours of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace will run from July 11 to September 29. The East Wing Highlights Tours will start from July 15. For the first time since 2019, Buckingham Palace will be open for visitors seven days a week in July and August but only five days a week (Thursday to Monday) during September.

How do I book tickets to Buckingham Palace?

Tickets for the East Wing Highlights Tours will go on general sale on April 10. However, subscribers to the Royal Collection Trust newsletter will be given priority access to tickets 24 hours before general sale, on April 9; you can subscribe to the mailing list here.

The Tapestry Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace as prepared for the Empress Eugénie, James Roberts, 1855
The Tapestry Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace as prepared for the Empress Eugénie, James Roberts, 1855 - Royal Collection Trust

Admission to the State Rooms costs £32 in advance or £35 on the day. A State Rooms and Garden combined ticket costs £47 or £50 on the day. The East Wing Highlights Tour must be purchased alongside a visit to the State Rooms, costing £75 in total for adults. You can book tickets on the Royal Collection Trust website.

Other things to see at Buckingham Palace

One of the most popular (free) royal attractions in London is the Changing of the Guard, also known as the Guard Mounting, which takes place outside Buckingham Palace every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from 10.45am, lasting 45 minutes.

You can also visit the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace (£17 for adults). Here you can witness what happens behind the scenes at the working stables, and take a close-up look at the 260-year-old Gold State Coach, used during jubilees and coronation ceremonies.

The King’s Gallery (formerly the Queen’s Gallery) has changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection (£19 for adults); the current exhibition is Holbein at the Tudor Court, which ends on April 14. The next exhibition, Royal Portraits: A Century of Photography, begins on May 17 and charts the evolution of royal portrait photography since the 1920s.

Where to stay nearby

There is an entire suite of top-class hotels within a mile of Buckingham Palace. The pick, naturally, is The Goring, where Catherine, Princess of Wales and her family stayed on the night before the royal wedding in 2011. A fleet of footmen provide a butler service for suites, and all rooms come with complimentary do-it-yourself cocktails – much more fun than boring old champagne (rooms from £623).


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