To explore the Royal Parks of London is not simply to experience the verdant green soul of the city, but also to glimpse the royal playground of centuries past. These vast green spaces, the centers of royal recreation; from hunting to horticulture, have tracked the transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one, eventually becoming public spaces, beginning with the opening of Regents Park in 1845. On this Buckingham Palace and Royal Parks Tour, we'll trace the history of these green spaces and how they've reflected not only the changing role of royalty in England, but the state of the nation itself, before ending up at Buckingham Palace, where our docent will leave us with tickets for self-exploration and a rich understanding of this crucial landmark to guide our time there.
Due to seasonal scheduling at Buckingham Palace, this experience is only available for a limited period each summer. For the 2019 season, Buckingham is open to visitors from July 20 to September 29.
Royal Parks Tour
Our tour will begin outside The Jewel Tower, built around 1365 to house Edward III’s treasures and only one of two buildings from the medieval Palace of Westminster to survive the fire of 1834. Here, we'll introduce the overarching themes of our tour—how the Royal Parks and Buckingham Palace have reflected the shifting tides of British monarchy, which in turn reflects the progression of British culture. We'll proceed onward from here to the Horse Guard Parade, where we'll examine the grounds on which the yearly Trooping of the Colours takes place, as well as discuss the role of the Household Cavalry—offering a unique look at the work that goes into the ceremonial and armored reconnaissance role of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms.
St. James's, The Mall, and Green Park
Following our time at the Horse Guard Parade, we'll amble through St. James's Park. Once Henry VIII’s deer park, we'll take in St. James’s Palace and Clarence House, today home to Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, while discussing how the park went from private hunting grounds to a space where royals and the public could freely mix, and how pelicans came to happily reside in its lake. Next, we'll stroll down The Mall, an important thoroughfare that's seen wedding processions, Jubilees, Olympic events, and more, to reach Green Park. An impressive, expansive showcase of Romantic-era English garden design, we'll visit the recently-opened RAF Bomber Command Memorial before heading to the main event: Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace Tour
As we approach Buckingham Palace, our docent will introduce us to the history of the icon—from the site's original houses, to the current building's first inception as a private retreat for Queen Charlotte, to its ascension to royal residence under Queen Victoria as a means of escaping her mother and the "Kensington System." We'll consider the oscillating public opinion about the palace over the years, the establishment with Albert of the modern idea of “The Royal Family” as a kind of domestic ideal, and the Royal Family today, as well as their place in British society and culture. Due to the palace's restrictions, our docent will not be able to join us inside; however, they will have imparted upon us a deep, rich understanding of the structure's significance (as well as our tickets for entry), allowing for a greater appreciation of our time inside, during which we will take the provided audio tour.
Wrapping up our time in Buckingham Palace and the surrounding Royal Parks, we'll have developed a richer understanding of the history of the British monarchy, and how its rich traditions and evolving conceptions have reflected the changing tides of British society.
Please note, like for all Royal Palaces, no one is allowed to guide in Buckingham Palace. Included in your ticket is an audioguide, and your tour will give you an introduction to the Palace before leaving you at the entrance and handing you over the tickets.
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
The walk begins in the Westminster neighborhood and ends at Buckingham Palace, where you will leave your docent. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map, and emergency phone number.
Do we go inside Buckingham Palace?
Yes, unless you've removed tickets from your cart. The walk includes an audio guide visit inside Buckingham Palace and the State Rooms. Docents are unable to add commentary inside but will leave you after 2.5 hours with your tickets to enter separately and explore independently.
How long will we be with the docent?
The docent will be with you for 2.5 hours before parting goodbye at the entrance to Buckingham Palace. Visitors spend anywhere from 2-2.5 hours inside the Palace. The tour is listed as 3.5 hours to factor in this time frame.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your docent will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
Is this a walking intensive tour?
This walk covers about 3 miles overall.