Changing of the Guard in London: Dates, Route and Where to watch

By Vinay Bhardwaj

The Changing of the Guard is a ceremony...

…in which the Old Guard in charge of the security of Buckingham Palace is relieved of their duties by the New Guard. This spectacular parade is a free event, that takes place in the morning and is one of the most important and famous attractions in London.

During the Changing of the Guard you’ll see regiments of guards on both horseback and on foot. They will be wearing the traditional red robes and the famous bearskin hats. The military musical band performs alongside the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard. They play both military music and more contemporary hits – which often surprises visitors when they play songs that you wouldn’t expect!

What is the Changing of the Guard in London?

The Queens Guard is responsible for the security of two palaces in central London: Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace. Located within 5 minutes of each other, the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard can be seen at both these two places: Wellington Barrack (at Buckingham Palace) and St James’s Palace.

Horse Guards is the official entrance to Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace. Horse Guards is situated between the beautiful park of St. James’s and Whitehall, the road that takes us from Trafalgar Square to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. There are mounted guards at Horse Guards, and these guards also switch over at 11am. This means that we will see mounted guards passing by Buckingham Palace twice – first at 10.45am, when the new mounted guard pass by towards Horse Guards, and then at 11.37am when the old mounted guard go back towards Buckingham Palace.

At 4 pm every day there is a dismounting ceremony at Horse Guards. This is known as the four o’ clock parade. The mounted guard that has been guarding Horse Guards from 11am is then relieved from duty at 4pm, by guards on foot. An officer will inspect the incoming Royal Guard, and after a long day of guarding the Queens’ Palace, the horses are taken to the stables to rest.

So, when we talk about the Changing of the Guard, we have to cover the following four key places:

• Buckingham Palace
• Wellington Barracks
• Palace of St James
• Horse Guards

The schedule of the Changing of the Guards – In Detail

The Changing of the Guard in London is held on specific days of the month, and the exact dates are normally confirmed a month in advance. We would advise that you check the dates of the changing of the guard a few days before you travel to London.

Top tip: Many people think that the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard is held every day at Buckingham Palace, but in fact, this is not the case. So, some days you´ll find that there are people waiting even if the Changing of the Guard is not scheduled to take place.

10.30 am: The new Guard of both detachments (Wellington Barracks and Palace of St James) get ready. At Wellington Barracks the new guard form up in the square of the barracks for inspection. They are accompanied by a military band that start playing a selection of music. The Royal Guard from the Palace of St James is not always accompanied by a musical band, but when there is a musical band, you will be able to hear it very clearly from Marlborough Road, when the procession starts heading towards Buckingham Palace.

10.43 am: St James´s Palace detachment of the Old Guard set off for Buckingham Palace.

10.45 am: The mounted guard (Household Cavalry) ride past Buckingham Palace on their way to Horse Guards.

10.57 am: The new Guard leave Wellington barracks for Buckingham Palace.

11:00 am: Official start time for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

11:10 am: The new guards leave Buckingham Palace for the Palace of St James’s.

11:25 am: St. James’s Palace contingent, of the Old Guard, leaves St. James’s Palace and head towards Buckingham Palace.

11:37 am: The Old Guard that was on duty at Horse Guards rides past Buckingham Palace.

11:40 am: Old Guard who was on duty at Buckingham Palace leaves Buckingham Palace towards Wellington Barracks.

11:45 am: St. James’s Palace Detachment of The Queen’s Guard leaves Buckingham Palace..

Where to watch the Changing of the Guard in London

This is one of the attractions in London that tourists flock to see. To make sure that you don’t miss a thing during the Changing of the Guards, we would firstly recommend arriving early, and secondly, know where the best spot to stand is.

Most people will crowd right in front of Buckingham Palace at the gates, to see the changing of the Guard. There are more places from which the ceremony can be seen, but just bear in mind that the whole ceremony cannot be seen from just one spot.

Gates at Buckingham Palace: If you can get to the front row, just in front of Buckingham Palace at the gates, you will have a great view of the ceremony, but you won´t see the Household Cavalry very well.

Victoria Memorial: Just in front of Buckingham Palace you will see the Victoria Memorial, and standing on these steps will offer great views of the ceremony. The steps on the Victoria Memorial are probably one of our favourite spots to see the Changing of the Guard in London.

Green Park entrance: You could stand at the Green Park entrance which is on the right of the main entrance of the Palace – but we would not say that this is the best option to be honest, as you will not see the actual Changing of the Guard, but you will get to see the Household Cavalry as they go by.

Gates at Buckingham Palace: if you can get to the front row, just in front of Buckingham Palace at the gates, you will have a great view of the ceremony, but you won´t probably see the Household Cavalry very well.

The Mall: This is the main road that leads up to the main entrance of Buckingham Palace. We would recommend standing at the junction with Marlborough Road. You will be able to take brilliant photos from here.

Wellington Barracks

If you are not that interested in seeing the ceremony itself, but you want to take some cool pictures of the Guard walking or riding towards Buckingham Palace, we would recommend waiting at The Mall, which is the street that goes from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace. More specifically we would recommend that you stand at the entrance of Marlborough Road.

The Changing of the Guard Calendar in London:

The Changing of the Guard ceremony in London begins at 10.30 am with the relief of the guards happening at 11am at Buckingham Palace. The ceremony lasts approximately 30-45 minutes.

The Changing of the Guard will normally take place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday of the year. During the months of April, May and June the Changing of the Guard also takes place on Saturdays. During the summer it takes place every day of the week.

However, although this is generally the schedule, there can always be exceptions, with the exact dates usually confirmed one month in advance. Therefore, it’s so important to check the dates just before coming to London.

Cancellation due to rain

You have probably heard the rumours, it does occasionally rain in London… The bad news is that the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard in London can be cancelled last minute without any notice due to bad weather. If the ceremony is cancelled, it will not be rescheduled for a later time or date. However, in our experience it needs to rain a lot for it to be cancelled, and a few raindrops won’t stop it from happening!

Walking tours of the Changing of the Guard in London

A great option is to join one of the walking tours of the Changing of the Guard. A tour guide will tell you about the history and curiosities of this fantastic ceremony, but you will also get the opportunity to walk alongside the Queen´s soldiers. There is also access to a platform where you will get a perfect view of the whole thing.
More information: Changing of the Guard Walking Tour.

What to do after the ceremony

Once the ceremony is over, we would suggest that you go explore the nearby areas by foot. You will be close to tourist hot spots like St James’s Park and Trafalgar Square.

Visit Buckingham Palace

Not many people know this, but you can visit different parts of Buckingham Palace. The spectacular Royal Mews are one of the finest working stables in existence. Here you will be able to see the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, the Gold State Coach, and the carriage horses. The Royal Mews are open all year round to the public.

The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open during the summer. We highly recommend doing this if you are looking to do something special during your visit to London.

The Queen’s Gallery has been a gallery for the Royal Collection since 1962, and it hosts a programme of changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection. It is open to the public all year round.

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