Many first-time visitors to London visit Buckingham Palace to catch a glimpse of its exquisite façade through the gates, to view the beloved Changing of the Guards, or, if they time their trip for the summer season, to go on a tour of the State Rooms.
But there’s still more to see at this London icon. Venture to The Queen’s Gallery, and you’ll be rewarded with a range of fascinating temporary exhibitions that draw their exhibits from the Royal Collection. And with a roster of private viewings, group tours, and talks on offer, it’s well worth dropping by on your next trip to the capital.
About The Queen’s Gallery
Located on the west front of Buckingham Palace, The Queen’s Gallery has been open to the public for some 55 years. Its origins are perhaps surprising: the exhibition space occupies what was formerly Queen Victoria’s private chapel, which suffered damage from wartime bombing in 1940 and was subsequently refurbished.
The Queen’s Gallery made its public debut in 1962, following the recommendation of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, and quickly attracted flocks of visitors.
Following a subsequent renovation timed to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee — the most significant expansion project to take place at Buckingham Palace in over 150 years —it reopened to the public in 2002, with three-and-a-half times the exhibition space it had previously, as well as a number of new architectural flourishes, from a Neoclassical entrance space to two friezes that symbolise Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.
Today, The Queen’s Gallery remains a fascinating must-see for art lovers, history geeks, and anyone who wants to spend more time at this iconic British landmark — and, unlike the rest of the Palace, it’s open to visitors for most of the year.
What to See
While there is no permanent collection at The Queen’s Gallery, its rotating exhibitions spotlight different priceless treasures and artworks held by the Royal Collection “in trust for the nation.” This means that it’s worth making repeat trips, as you’ll have the chance to see new masterpieces on each visit.
Beyond the exhibitions themselves, The Queen’s Gallery hosts a number of special events and experiences. For those travelling with children, pick up a free family activity bag, which will complement your wanderings with playful group activities. A series of group talks and private evening viewings are another way to discover the stories behind the artworks on display.
And don’t forget to pop into The Queen’s Gallery Shop while you’re at it. Pick up one-of-a-kind royal souvenirs, from jewellery to housewares, and let kids blow off some steam in the children’s play area (which comes complete with golden thrones).
After the Gallery
If you’re anything like us, you’ll wind up spending a long time in the gallery. All that walking and beautiful artwork will work up an appetite. We recommend a pit stop at the Rubens Hotel for lunch in a stunning traditional English setting. This four-star hotel is situated on Buckingham Palace Road and provides one of the most lavish lunch experiences in the city. We can’t recommend it enough.
One last pro-tip: The Queen’s Gallery can attract long queues, especially during the summer months, when Buckingham Palace is open to visitors. If you don’t want to miss out on the artwork (and you certainly shouldn’t), leaving some extra time is wise.