Changing the Guard is No.2 in our list of things to do for free in London, and No.2 in our list of the best places to take a photo
Strolling down to Buckingham Palace and watching the 'Changing the Guard' ceremony is one of the Top 25 must-do events in every tourist's stay.
There are actually two detachments of the Guard that need changing -- the one at Buckingham Palace and one at St. James's Palace, a short walk down The Mall. The St. James's Palace detachment begins first, marching to the Palace at 10.45 AM (a few will remain behind, until they are replaced by the New Guard). They will then form up on the Buckingham Palace forecourt. Meanwhile, the New Guard will march from Wellington Barracks in Birdcage Walk at 10 AM, complete with trumpets and drums, ready for the ceremony to start at 11 AM. (You can go and stand outside the iron railings of Wellington Barracks before the ceremony starts, if you like, and watch the new guard being put through their paces.)
The ceremonial changeover will then take place on the Buckingham Palace forecourt, and the New Guard will head towards St. James's Palace at 11.10 AM -- which then frees up the contingent that was left behind to head to Buckingham Palace at 11.25 AM. Finally, the Old Guard will leave the Palace at 11.40 and head back to Wellington Barracks again, followed by the St. James's Palace detachment at 11.45. You will then have to stand around for five minutes waiting for the the crowd to disperse. Phew!
A word of warning: Changing the Guard is the most popular military parade in London, and it gets extremely busy. You will most likely find yourself wedged inside a crowd of several thousand people. If you want to bag yourself a spot right up against the Palace's railings then we recommend getting there no later than 9.30 AM (and preferably a lot earlier if you want the very best spots). If you find that the railings are already full, then try and stand on the Queen Victoria Memorial instead. If that is full as well, then stand on the linking road between Birdcage Walk and the Palace, as the military band from Wellington will march straight past you.
But whatever you do, make sure you have a read of Craig's review of Changing the Guard before you go, because he tells you all you need to know about the timings, the best places to stand, the size of the crowd, and it will give you a feeling for what the ceremony is like to attend. Feel free to ask him a question about the ceremony on his blog.
You can also talk about Changing the Guard on the forum, or maybe share your own experience -- let us know what you thought of it!
Note: You might also see some other soldiers marching down The Mall whilst the ceremony is going on -- but they are taking part in Changing the Guard ceremony at Horse Guards instead (which is also worth a visit). You might also enjoy the Dismounting Ceremony at Horse Guards, and the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. You can see the entire list of daily parades in London here. Or maybe you'd prefer some military events and exhibitions instead?
Vannatta – “Right, the changing of the guard is one of the most busiest attractions in London for sure.”
grajack18 – “Following your advice we decided to view the Changing of the Guards today. As others have mentioned, it was wall to wall people, but highly recommended.
It might be worth mentioning the timing is 30 minutes earlier than suggested in your post. Luckily we arrived early, as you suggested.
Corrected times are available online. (Not able to include the link)
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Craig’s review – “Important note: The timings have changed since I wrote this review. Everything now takes place 30 minutes earlier than I say below
This is what the final five minutes of Armageddon is going to be like, with everyone crushed up against the Pearly Gates with their heads wedged between the metal bars trying to get a look inside. To say this place gets packed would be a… continued”
Read Craig’s review of this event
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