It is often said that one hasn't truly experienced London until you've seen the Changing of the Guard ceremony with your very own eyes.
The Changing of the Guard (also known as the “Guard Mounting”) is a ceremony during which The Queen's Guard (the detachments at St. James's Palace and Buckingham Palace) are replaced by The New Guard as they march to Buckingham Palace from the Wellington Barracks.
The Queen's Guard have been protecting St. James's Palace since 1689, and Buckingham Palace since 1837, and are typically dressed in traditional black bearskin hats and red tunics during the spring, autumn and summer months, or long grey coats during the winter months. The Guard consists of five different regiments (The Scots Guard, The Welsh Guard, The Irish Guard, The Coldstream Guards and The Grenadier Guards), and also post outside Windsor Palace and the Tower of London.
The ceremony officially begins at 11 a.m. (or 10 a.m. on Sundays) when the detachments at St. James's Palace, Buckingham Palace and the Wellington Barracks all start lining up in formation. The Old Guard then marches down The Mall around 11:15 a.m. to join up with the rest of the Old Guard waiting in the forecourt at Buckingham Palace, while the New Guard (led by the Regimental Band and Corps of Drums) leave the barracks in Birdcage Walk.
By 11:30 a.m. the New Guard should be entering the Forecourt via the North Gate of Buckingham Palace, and will then march in front of the band and promptly “halt” facing the Old Guard. The band will then start performing The New Guard's Regimental Slow March as they make their way towards the Old Guard, while they both give a “symbolic handing-over” of the keys to Buckingham Palace. Afterwards, the Old Guard leaves for the Birdcage Walk barracks, and the St. James's Palace detachment of the New Guard start marching up The Mall to take their posts.
Where to Watch the Changing of the Guard
The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place in three different locations (Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace and the Wellington Barracks).
Getting a good spot to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony can be tricky, especially if you are visiting London during the summer and/or touristy seasons. However there are some areas that offer better views, and although you may have to head to these spots extra early, it's well worth it if you want to get the best view possible for the ceremony.
The Victoria Memorial (outside Buckingham Palace) is perhaps the most desired spot to watch the Changing of the Guard, as you can grab a spot on its steps and watch the ceremony from an elevated level. However, you will need to arrive super early (as in as early as 9:30 a.m. or perhaps even earlier during the summer months).
Most people tend to flock around the gates of Buckingham Palace, which means it can get incredibly busy during the summer months. If you don't want to stand amongst a big crowd you may want to avoid the area altogether, and try and get a good spot along The Mall; (the long stretch of road leading to the palace), or as close to the Horse Guards Parade as possible. That way, you can watch the procession make their way down the entire length of The Mall before they arrive at the gates of Buckingham Palace. (That being said, during the winter season you'll probably be able to get a good view from the Buckingham Palace gates when it's less crowded).
- If you missed the Changing of the Guard ceremony, you can always snap a photo of the guards standing outside the main entrance of St. James's Palace
- For more information on the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, download the 69p app Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Prices and Hours
There is no admission cost for watching the Changing of the Guard ceremony.
The ceremony officially starts at 11 am. (or 10 a.m. on Sundays) and usually lasts for 45 minutes.
The ceremony takes place every day between the months of April and July, and on alternate dates for the remainder of the year; (for more information be sure to visit the official website, which has a detailed calendar of the ceremony dates).