London
The State Rooms, Buckingham Palace

Visitors on the Autism Spectrum: Buckingham Palace

General Information  for a Visit to the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace

A visit to Buckingham Palace lasts approximately three hours. Visitors see the State Rooms at their leisure, using the free audio guide, before exiting through the garden via a half-mile walk. All visitors who require an access companion to visit with them are entitled to a complimentary ticket for that companion. There are people in uniforms (Wardens) who can help with any questions during the visit.

Arrivals and Admission

The visitor entrance to Buckingham Palace is on Buckingham Palace Road, there is a sign marked ‘Ticket Holders Entrance’. There is a large, noisy waiting area under large tent-like covers. Background noise, from people and traffic, can make hearing difficult.

If you, or someone in your party, is on the autism spectrum and finds queuing difficult, please ask to speak to the Admissions Supervisor who may be able to arrange a quicker entrance.

Security

All visitors to Buckingham Palace must go through a security search. This security area is located just after the covered Admissions area . It is a bright, noisy space that can get busy and often involves queuing.

The flooring is decking and squeaks in many places; there are several ceiling fans which may or may not be on and the space is manned by a Policeman.

All visitors must follow the instructions of the wardens. Visitors will be asked to put their bags through an x-ray machine and all metallic items – keys, coins, mobile phones etc. –  must be removed from pockets and put into your bag. Visitors will be asked to walk through a metal detecting arch. The metal detecting arch makes a loud noise if it detects something metal. If that happens, staff will use a hand-held detector and wave it around your body to find out what set-off the alarm. The detector should not touch your body. Often a watch or metal belt buckle will have caused the alarm to sound.

Once visitors have passed through security they are asked to place any large pieces of baggage or backpacks into the cloakroom. If you hand-in baggage, the warden behind the desk will give you a ticket.

Give this back to them at the end of your visit, and they will give you your belongings. If you are not sure whether your bags are too large to carry round with you, you can ask the warden at the cloakroom desk.

Audio issue

Visitors exit the security area and walk along more decking to the audio tour desk. The audio tour tells you about the history of the Palace, the role of The Queen and her use of the State Rooms and about a number of the works of art on display. You can stop and restart the audio tour at any point. If you listen to all of the tour it will take you about one hour . The audio tour can be used with or without headphones. If used without, you should hold it like a mobile phone.

Inside the Palace

As you enter the main building visitors walk along a narrow corridor where there is potential for jostling. The space echoes and there can be background noise from the audio tour. Visitors exit outside again onto more decking flooring in the Quadrangle of the Palace, before re-entering into the Grand Entrance.

The Grand Entrance

Visitors go up steps to enter the Grand Entrance before a slight downward slope inside the building. On bright days there can be a significant contrast in light levels from light to dark. Visitors must follow the route and go up the Grand Staircase – there is a red rope barrier at the end of the space to prevent you from going in the wrong direction.

The Grand Staircase

Visitors walk up the first flight of stairs and then turn either left or right to curve up to the first floor – it does not matter which direction you take. At the first landing, where the staircase curves, there is another red rope barrier to prevent visitors from continuing up the staircase and going in the wrong direction. 

Along the sides of the staircase perspex barriers reflect details and patterns from the stairs, this ‘visual noise’ can make climbing the curving staircase, with narrow steps, more difficult.

Throughout the State Rooms

The route through the State Rooms is one way and more red rope barriers are used to prevent visitors from going in the wrong direction. Perspex covers protect doors from being damaged.

The light levels change throughout and range from quite bright to very dim. Flooring is mostly carpet, some of which is heavily patterned – there are floorboards at the entrance to some of the rooms and these are often squeaky.

Windows may be opened or closed and background noise can drift in from outside.

Seating is available in all rooms by asking a warden. There is a large amount of red seating available in the Ballroom, about half way along the tour. This seating can be difficult to see as it matches the colour of the carpet.

Towards the end of the tour in the White Drawing Room visitors briefly re-enter the Picture Gallery before going downstairs to the Marble Hall. The stairs are carpeted red and can, due to the light levels, be difficult to see. The Marble Hall echoes and is a darker space with flickering lights that have an orange tone.

Exiting the Palace

Visitors exit the Palace through the Bow Room where, on certain days, there can be an intense forward light and blasts of air from outside. There are three doors which all exit onto the same terrace. On the terrace visitors have the following options:

  • Pick-up bags from the cloakroom – the cloakroom collection point is located on the left-hand side of the terrace.
  • Return audio tour – the audio tour return is on the left-hand side of the terrace. Visitors are asked to separate the headphones from the player.
  • The Garden Café – on the right-hand side of the terrace. Offering a selection of refreshments, including tea, coffee, juice and a choice of cakes and sandwiches. The flooring in the Café is hard gravel and there can be a lot of background noise.

There are steps down from the terrace that take visitors into the garden where you follow the path along the South side to the exit near Hyde Park Corner.

The garden path is gravel.

The path takes visitors past the lavatories and the Garden Shop (which has lino flooring).

Lavatories

Lavatories are available at the end of the visit, in the garden. The flooring is decking and may squeak. The hand-dryers are loud and omit a bright blue light along with the hot air blast. If you require a lavatory at the start of the visit please speak to a uniformed warden.