Why is there no changing of the guard in April?
Changing the Guard, at Buckingham Palace review (Jun 2012)
This is an old review Read my most recent review here
Changing the Guard is #1 in my London Bucket List
I finally got around to doing Changing the Guard this week (and last week). I had to go two weeks in a row because I messed it up the first time -- I got there too late! But it turned out okay in the end because it meant that I got to film both inside and outside the gates (see video).
Changing the Guard is one of those things that all the tourists do the first day off the plane, but when you speak to people who have lived in London for years, they have never bothered to do it. Its too touristy to bother with. It seems a bit twee. That's the camp that I fall into. I must have passed Buckingham Palace at least a billion million times in my life, but never at noon. And now I think I know the reason -- it's packed! I was always under the impression that it wasn't that busy. I was expecting a crowd about 4 or 5 deep at the gates, assembling about 30 minutes before it starts... but boy was I wrong!
The first soldiers arrive about 11:15, and the actual ceremony doesn't take place until 11:30, so last week I got there about 10:30 -- plenty of time I thought. That would give me nearly an hour to pick a plum spot. But let me give you a bit of advice -- 10:30 is way too late if you want a place by the gates. It was already 4 or 5 deep by that time. Maybe it was especially busy because it's summer, right at the start of the tourist season, with the Olympics coming up in a few weeks. But based on my experience today, (when I turned up even earlier to get a spot right up against the railings), you need to arrive before 10 AM -- at least. 10 AM is the absolute latest that you should aim to be there, in my opinion. But don't worry too much if you arrive later, because there are plenty more good spots to stand. If the gates are already full by the time you arrive then take a place on the Queen Victoria Memorial instead (up the steps). You can see people standing on the Victoria Memorial in the video below. And failing that, take a spot on the road that leads from Birdcage Walk to Buckingham Palace (where i'm actually filming the first part of the video). Even these two other spots were full up the first time I came -- the crowds were literally all around the Victoria Memorial, all around the roundabout, and as far back as the junction with The Mall. That is how busy it was!
Wherever you stand though, you won't be able to see the whole parade, so in a way it was lucky I came twice. Because I got to see the whole thing from two different spots. The first soldiers march from St. James's Palace, down the Mall, and through one of the side gates onto the Palace forecourt. Apart from a piddly little group of about ten soldiers that precedes them, these guys have a full marching band. The next group comes from their barracks in Birdcage Walk, along the road that links it to the Palace, past the Victoria Memorial, and through one of the side gates. (You can actually go and watch these guys forming up on their own parade ground at Wellington Barracks if you like, on the far side of St. James's Park.) These guys also have a full marching band with them, and are quite impressive. If you can't manage to get a spot up against the gates then don't worry -- because if you take my second suggestion then you will have the perfect view of these guys as they march down the road.
After all of the soldiers have assembled on the forecourt you get the ceremonial change over, along with a few tunes by the band. The soldiers will then parade back out of the gates again (the central one this time), back the way the came, towards Wellington Barracks and St. James's Palace.
The whole thing takes no more than 45 minutes from start to finish (11:15 to noon), but seems a lot longer when you're standing at the gate for an extra hour and a half beforehand.
So is it worth doing? Of course! Just remember to take a can of coke with you and be prepared for lots of waiting around.
What do you think?Please leave a comment
Here are some other parades and ceremonies I’ve been to…
Guest 19 Mar 13, 17:03
Why is there no changing of the guard in April?
Admin 19 Mar 13, 19:38
There will be. They just haven't released the schedule yet (it will either be the odd days or the even days). From May throughout the summer it will run every day.
Guest 13 Dec 13, 15:45
I saw the changing of the guard on Dec 6th 2013 and was wondering about the multiple ornate carriages entering the gates as well as what music was played at the end?
Craig 13 Dec 13, 16:39
I think that was probably the Queen you saw in the carriages. She had an engagement at Westminster Hall (Houses of Parliament) to view the new stained glass window that she was given for her Diamond Jubilee, so maybe she went by carriage.