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BUCKINGHAM PALACE CHANGING OF THE GUARD – ULTIMATE GUIDE

INSIDE: Everything you need to know about the Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard Ceremony in London. 

Watch the Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guards with kids for British Pageantry at its’ finest!

Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace in London is the ceremony where the Old Guard sentries hands over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace to the New Guard sentries.

The Guards themselves are immaculately dressed, in distinctive scarlet tunics and bearskin caps.

If you delight in colourful spectacle, British pageantry, pomp, and splendid military ceremony, the Changing of the Guard in London should go at the TOP of your London itinerary.

Take a look below for details.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, we may receive a small commission at NO extra cost to you. Main image: Gabriel Villena via Flickr CC 2.0 

Image credit: Ana Ray via CC BY- 2.0

Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard Ceremony

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace ceremony begins on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace at 11:30 sharp.

It follows a march by a detachment of the Old Guard, with musical support, from St. James’s Palace, and the New Guard led by a Regimental Band from Wellington Barracks.

The ceremony lasts about 45 minutes.

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace usually takes place:

  • daily from April until the end of July, and
  • on alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting.

RELATED: Ultimate Guide of Things to do in London with kids

Changing of the Guards London – Check Before You Go

Check the dates for this year here

Do check before you go, as the details of the ceremony do change from time to time.

You can also keep up to date on the Changing the Guard London facebook page.

Hot tip: While you are here, visit the Buckingham Palace Gift Shop on Buckingham Palace road. It’s just around the corner. Pick up all your Queen Elizabeth memorabilia & Buckingham Palace souvenirs too. 

Image credit: Samm via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Changing of the Guards London Times

While London Changing the Guard official start time is 11.00am,  you need to be in place at Buckingham Palace much earlier than that to even get a tiny look in at the Changing of the Guards ceremony through the bars. 

The official word is to arrive by 10.15 but we’d say at least 9.30am to be sure.

We’ve some tips below of what you can do with kids instead of lining up at the palace gates for hours on end.


Image credit: Samm via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

See the Buckingham Palace Guards up close

The Changing of the Guards IS one of London’s most popular attractions.

Immaculately turned out guards, precision drill and bands playing stirring music all combine to make Changing of the Guard a spectacle for which London is famous.

 There are three locations to see elements of the Changing of the Guards ceremony taking place:

  • Buckingham Palace
  • St. James’s Palace and
  • Wellington Barrack

Walking between these locations lets you see more of the Guards and Bands, taking part in the ceremony, plus a chance to get some great photographs.

Image credit: Samm via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

London Changing of the Guard Ceremony Facts 

The Change of Guards ceremony at the Buckingham Palace includes a number of guardsmen.

Here’s a few facts:

  • The Queen’s Guard is normally provided by one of the five regiments of Foot Guards from the Household Division.
  • Musical support is provided by a Regimental Band or Corps of Drums with pipers occasionally taking part in the ceremony.
  • The Guardsmen taking part in the ceremony are highly trained infantry soldiers, who in addition to their combat role (most of whom will have seen action overseas) undertake ceremonial duties.
  • The Queen’s Guard consists of the St James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace detachments

Source

Changing of the Guard Meaning

For those who are interested, the Changing of the Guard happens when soldiers (or other officials) guarding a major government building or state residence such as Buckingham Palace in England, are replaced by a new shift. 

It’s an awful lot of pomp and ceremony for such a simple thing, isn’t it!

Image credit: Jim G via Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Best Place to View Changing of the Guard Buckingham Palace

Where to Stand for Changing of the Guard ceremony

Here’s the best tips for watching Changing of the Guard. 

No.1: Next to the railings in front of Buckingham Palace

Next to the railings in front of Buckingham Palace is the spot many head for, to watch Changing of the Guard, but you will find it hard to get good pictures of the ‘Guards’ as they march to the Palace.

(If you do want to stand at the railings, take a bottle of water because if you leave for a drink or a toilet stop, you will not get back to the front of the crowd).

No.2: The steps of the Victoria Monument

The steps of the Victoria Monument provide a reasonable view of the ceremony, (and is our favourite).

Standing here lets you see the Guards and Bands arriving and departing, as well as watching the Household Cavalry pass on their way to and from Horse Guards, where they change the Queen’s Life Guard every day.

Arrive here very early – it’s a very very popular place to stand.

No.3: Spur Road 

Spur Road, on the left facing the Palace, gives a limited view but an opportunity to watch the New Guard and band marching up Birdcage Walk on their way to Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

If want to avoid the gigantic crowds at Buckingham Palace, and are are happy enough seeing the ‘The Queen’s Guard’ march past, head to the Wellington Barracks at 10.15am.

Watch the preparation of the New Guard forming, and hear them play a few songs before they depart for Buckingham Palace. 

Image credit: Alexander C.Kafka via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Insider Tips for Watching Changing of the Guards with Kids

Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard Route for kids

Try this Changing of the Guard timetable alternative with kids to avoid tantrums and nervous  breakdowns.

  • Make your way to Wellington Barracks, at the Buckingham Palace end of Birdcage Walk, for about 10:45, to see the New Guard being inspected. While they are waiting for their Regimental Colours, the Band play a selection of music.
  • At 11:27 the New Guard led by a Regimental Band will march out of Wellington Barracks, and turn left for Buckingham Palace. Follow them to the Palace.

Take a little rest break during this lull where not much happens at the palace for kids to see, and head across to St James’s Park, over the bridge, where you will find toilets and a refreshment kiosk.

Plan to be on The Mall, at the junction with Marlborough Road, for 11:55.

  • First the St James’s Palace relief, will march up the Mall towards you, on their way to relieve the sentries who have been standing Guard during the ceremony.
  • Then at 12:15 the St James’s Palace Detachment of the New Guard, led by a Regimental Band, will come marching straight down The Mall towards you.

Common Questions about Changing of the Guard in London

No.1: What time is Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard?

11.30am sharp.

No.2: Where is Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard?

It starts outside Buckingham Palace.

No.3: Is it worth the time to see the Guards change at Buckingham Palace?

If you are a fan of English Royalty and ceremony, then YES.

Don’t miss it.

For everyone else, it’s still a sight to behold, and not one you see everyday.

Image credit: Tony Kent via CC BY- 2.0

No.4: When you watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace are any of the royals in attendance?

No.

Unfortunately not.

No.5: What is the Nationality of the Buckingham Palace Guards?

The Queen’s guards and Queen’s Life Guards at Buckingham palace are serving members of the British army.

No.6: Do the Buckingham Palace guards actually do anything?

They provide sentries during the day and night, and during the later hours, they patrol the grounds of the Palace.

All Foot Guards are highly trained infantry soldiers who also play an important part in military operations worldwide.

Many of them will have been on active service in recent times who in addition to their combat role undertake ceremonial duties.

No.7: Does the Changing of the Guard happen on rainy days?

When it’s wet and rainy,  the Changing of the Guard ceremony may be cancelled.

This cancellation can happen at the very last minute.

While the Palace updates their website and facebook straight away, it may not happen before the crowds arrive.

They apologise to everyone who is on route to the Palace when this happens.

No.8: What is the origin of Buckingham Palace guard hats?

Standing up to 45cm tall and weighing 1.5 pounds, (453 grams), Bearskin hats are worn by the Grenadier, Welsh, Irish, Scots and Coldstream Guards.

British Grenadiers in the Foot Guards have worn black bearskin caps since 1815 when they defeated the French in the Battle of Waterloo.

The hat became a symbol of their triumph.

Since that time, British soldiers have adopted the wearing of the bearskins when taking part in ceremonial duties such as Changing of the Guard, or when guarding the royal places of residence.

No.9: Why do the guards wear Bearskin hats? 

Bearskin hats are worn to make the soldiers appear taller and more intimidating.

Made from the pelts of culled Canadian black bear, the material is warm and also water resistant which is very important as water-logged fabric adds considerable weight to carry.

Due to concerns raised by the public about the culling of Canadian brown bears, synthetic alternatives are being sought by the Ministry of Defence but as yet, no suitable material has been found.

No.10: What rules do Buckingham Palace guards have to follow?

The ground rule is that the Guard must stand still, but only for 10 minutes at a time.

To break the monotony and stretch their legs, the Guards come to attention every 10 minutes, and can march up and down in front of the sentry box four to five times.

They will then shoulder the arms and stand at ease.

Guards spend two hours on duty, then four off.

Orders for sentry duty read out before each two hour ‘tour of duty’, make it clear to each individual that: “you may not eat, sleep, smoke, stand easy, sit or lie down during your tour of duty”.

The Queen’s Guards at Buckingham Palace are armed with the standard issue weapon of the British armed forces – the L85A2. (Otherwise known as the SA80)

No.11: How many guards are on duty at Buckingham Palace?

The Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace consists of 3 officers and 40 men, when the Sovereign is in residence, otherwise it will comprise of 3 officers and 31 men.

When Her Majesty The Queen is in residence you will see four sentries at the front of Buckingham Palace.

At other times there are two sentries.

Image credit: Yortw via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Option 2: Changing of the Guards Horse Guards Parade (Queen’s Life Guard)

Another option, especially for children who love horses, is to head for Horse Guards Parade where the Queen’s Life Guard change, at 11:00 Monday – Saturday and at 10:00 on a Sunday.

Smaller crowds and no railings between visitors and the men and horses taking part in the ceremony make for happier children.

The Life Guard mounted on immaculately groomed Household Cavalry horses with their swords drawn and breastplates shining in the sun present a stirring sight as they ride through the streets of London to Change the Guard on Horse Guards Parade.

Image credit: Nicki via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Household Division Changing of the Guard

The Queen’s Life Guard is normally provided by men of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

The Mounted Regiment consists of a Squadron of The Life Guards, who wear red tunics and white plumed helmets, and a Squadron of The Blues and Royals with blue tunics and red plumed helmets.

  • The New Guard leaves Hyde Park Barracks at 10:28 weekdays and 9:28 on Sundays to ride to Horse Guards Parade via Hyde Park Corner, Constitution Hill and The Mall on their way to the guard change ceremony.
  • Mounted sentries change every hour, in very cold weather they change every half hour, during the day until 16:00 when a Dismounting Parade, takes place in the forecourt of Horse Guards.

Did you know?

Life Guards have stood guard at Horse Guards, the official entrance to St James and Buckingham Palace, since the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660.

Option 3: The Household Cavalry Museum

Combine watching the Changing of the Guards ceremony, with a visit to the Household Cavalry Museum.

This is where kids, big and small, can dress up in the uniform of a Life Guard or Blues and Royals trooper, as well as see the horses being worked on in their stables, through a glass partition.

Visiting the Household Cavalry Museum after watching the Horse Guards Parade Changing of the Guards will be a horse lovers’ ideal day out.

Remember to visit the Household Cavalry Museum shop for awesome London souvenirs.

RELATED: Ultimate Guide to the Best Unique London Souvenirs & Gifts for family and friends

Image credit: Luke Ellis via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

TJE INSIDE SCOOP: London Changing the Guards at Buckingham Palace

Correct at time of publication on Roam the Gnome. Please check with venue for updates. We apologise in advance if there have been any changes we are unaware of. All prices in British pounds, unless otherwise stated

Where is Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard?

Address: Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA is where the Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place.
Do I need Buckingham Palace changing of the guard tickets?  No, it’s free of charge and tickets are not required.

Changing of the Guards Start Time?

  • To get a good spot we recommend arriving at Buckingham Palace no later than 10.00, but earlier if possible.
  • If the Palace gates are already crowded, head to Wellington Barracks on the Birdcage Walk to see the guards inspected before the change ceremony.
  • In wet weather the Changing of the Guard ceremony may be cancelled at the last minute. When this happen we recommend heading for Horse Guards Parade to see the Household Cavalry mount.

How to get to Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard Location

By Underground: The nearest tube stations are:

  • Victoria – About 15 minutes. District, Circle & Victoria line
  • Green Park – 10 minutes walk. Piccadilly, Victoria & Jubilee line
  • St James’s Park – 10 minutes walk. District & Circle line

By Train: The nearest mainline train station is London Victoria, about 15 minutes walk

By Bus: Numbers: 11, 211, 239, C1 & C10 stop on Buckingham Palace Rd.

By Car: Not recommended, Buckingham Palace is in the congestion charge zone. Parking is difficult to find and expensive.

Image credit: Glen Scarborough via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Map of Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard

Toadstool Rating: London Changing of the Guards

Hot tip: Did you know you can also see a similar ceremony in Copenhagen? You can. Check out our guide to this magical experience in a blog post coming soon. 

buckingham palace changing of the guards reviews

Looking for MORE FUN Things to Do in London with kids?

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