Visit Horse Guards Parade

Horse Guards
Horse Guards map location

Horse Guards address and telephone

Horse Guards is located at: Whitehall, Westminster,
London SW1A
Time required:
A typical visit to Horse Guards lasts 15-20 mins (approx)

How to get to Horse Guards

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Horse Guards Easy to get to? Good for kids? Value for money?n/a Worth a visit?303

 From Horse Guards Westminster

 From Horse Guards Westminster

See all events at Horse Guards


History of Horse Guards

Horse Guards Parade consists of two sections: a large parade ground that faces St. James’s Park, and a smaller courtyard on Whitehall. This second section is usually guarded by two cavalrymen from the Household Division – a throwback to the road’s distant days as a Palace, even though all that remains of Whitehall Palace today is Banqueting House across the street.

Visiting Horse Guards Parade ground

The parade ground is bordered by old military and government offices, and a brown brick wall along the side of Downing Street. It is also home to some cannons and statues of military generals, including Lord Kitchener (Your Country Needs You!) and the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten (killed by the IRA in 1979).

Household Cavalry

Horse Guards still has a barracks that houses around forty mounted sentries from the Household Cavalry, which can be used to defend the Queen at the other end of The Mall. You can see part of their stables inside the Household Cavalry Museum.

Household Cavalry Museum

The Household Cavalry is made up of two different regiments: the Life Guards (with a red coat and white-plumed helmet), and the Blues & Royals (with a blue coat and a red-plumed helmet). You can see them on either side of the entrance gate, and watch them change around every hour during the Changing the Guard ceremony. You can also watch the horses retire for the night during the Dismounting Ceremony.

The most famous parade in London is Trooping the Colour in the summer, which marks the Queen’s official birthday (her real birthday is in April). It first took place in 1755 and has been a regular event since 1805.

Horse boxes outside Horse Guards, Whitehall

Its origins lie in the parading of the troop’s colours (their flags) in front of the soldiers, so they would know what to look for on the battlefield.

Craig’s review of Horse Guards

This review originally appeared in his London blog

Horse Guards is in two bits. The parade ground is the main bit, but there’s also a smaller courtyard that faces out onto Whitehall. This is the bit where all the tourists gather to have their photo taken with the mounted sentries. Let me tell you about that bit first…

Horse boxes in Whitehall

If you want to have your photo taken with the mounted sentries then you need to get there between 10 AM and 4 PM, because if you arrive outside of these times then all you’ll get is a couple of foot soldiers instead. That’s who I had this morning. The first Foot Guard can be found on the righthand side of the courtyard, and he just marches back and forth in his gold plate armour and clutching his two-foot sword. I got there nice and early today so it was literally just me and him.

He’s usually surrounded by about a million billion tourists, who take turns walking up and having their picture taken. This goes on all day, every day. Just a million tourists and him, snap snap snapping away on their cameras. But it was just lonely me and him today. I even asked him if it was alright to take a pic, because it felt rude to otherwise. He was just standing there minding his own business. The soldiers aren’t allowed to say anything or interact with anyone, so he just gave an almost imperceptible nod, I snapped, thanked him, and left him alone.

Foot Guard in Horse Guards Parade

The second sentry can be found underneath the arches. He marches back and forth between each end of the tunnel, but spends most of his time hidden in the middle, in the dark. But why are they there, you might wonder? Are they just for the tourists? Well actually they are not. The Household Cavalry still has a barracks in the building which houses their horses, so they are proper soldiers, guarding their property.

Visiting Horse Guards in London

If you get there after 10 AM then you will be able to see the mounted sentries instead. But if you leave it too late they’ll have swapped back to the Foot Guards. (That’s what the Dismounting Ceremony does, at 4 PM.)

Horse Guards parade ground

Once you’ve had your photo taken with the guards head through the central arch into the parade ground. This is one of the best views in London, I reckon. It looks pretty fantastic if you walk into the parade ground and then turn around in the middle. Starting from the left, you will see the red-coloured Admiralty Building which used to house the Navy offices during the wars, but you can’t go in there, unfortunately.

The Household Cavalry Museum, London

Carrying on round to the right, before you get to the central building, is the brigade headquarters of the Life Guards and Blues & Royals (ie. the Household Cavalry). They’ve got a museum in there which you can visit if you like. You can even see them mucking out the horses in the stables.

Carrying on round to the right there’s a load more government offices, none of which are particularly interesting for a tourist. But on the far righthand side, before you hit the road, is probably the most interesting brick wall in Westminster. It’s that dark brown brick wall with a big black gate in it. You will probably also see a couple of big machine gun coppers standing nearby as well, because on the other side of that wall is the garden for No.10 Downing Street. You’ve probably seen them do a few interviews in the garden on the 10 o’clock news… well, that’s where it is. On the other side of that wall.

Changing the Guard ceremony at Horse Guards

Craig’s London blog> Read Craig’s latest review of Horse Guards  “When people talk about Horse Guards they usually think of the gravel parade ground where the military bands do Beating Retreat, but the best part is actually the small courtyard that faces onto Whitehall. That’s where you’ll find all the horses and soldiers. Everyone loves a horse. Especially when it’s got a soldier on top. If you put a soldier with a shiny sword on top of a horse then you can keep the tourists happy all day. When the horses are out between 10 AM and 4 PM this place is packed full of happy, snapping, camera clicking visitors, all taking it in turns to tiptoe up to the horse and hoping it doesn’t kick them in the… continued.”

Craig’s London blog> Read Craig’s review of the Household Cavalry Museum  “If I told you that there’s a museum 500-feet from Downing Street with some horses and a stable inside, then you’d probably think that I was mad. Well, I’m not mad. (Well actually, I am mad – but that’s beside the point.) Even most of the locals don’t realise that there’s an 18th-century stable down Whitehall. They all know where Horse Guards is, but they rarely stop to think who the actual ’horse guards’ are – they’re soldiers from the Household Cavalry, made up of two different regiments: the Life Guards and Blues & Royals. The mounted sentries that occupy the horse boxes are from the Household Cavalry… continued.”

Changing the Guard on Horse Guards Parade

Craig’s London blog> Read Craig’s review of Changing the Guard at Horse Guards  “Not a lot of tourists know about Changing the Guard at Horse Guards which is a shame, because in some respects it’s better than the one at Buckingham Palace. But I don’t mean better as in better better – the one at Buckingham Palace is definitely better. The backdrop is better, the crowds are bigger, and you get some marching bands as well. But if you’ve got some little kids with you, or you’re trying to cram as many attractions as you can into a very short stay, then it’s worth thinking about Horse Guards because you don’t have to turn up two hours early. The only downside is that the action takes place in two different locations… continued.”

Craig’s London blog> Read Craig’s review of the Dismounting Ceremony  “You’ve done Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace… posed for a photo outside Horse Guards… seen the Ceremony of the Keys and Remembrance Day Parade… tried Trooping the Colour and the State Opening of Parliament… so what have got left? Well, you’ve forgotten this one (everybody forgets this one). This is the Dismounting Ceremony, or 4 O’Clock Parade. Compared with the other daily ceremonies in London this one is just a sideshow. It’s extremely short and not a lot happens, but it’s quite handy if you’ve done all your sightseeing for the day and just need to fill up a quick thirty minutes before dinner… continued.”

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You might like to time your visit to Horse Guards so you can see these two daily parades. The first one is the Changing the Guard ceremony on the parade ground, and the second is the Dismounting Ceremony (or 4 O’Clock Parade) in the courtyard. The Churchill War Rooms is just down the road as well, and Admiralty Arch is just around the corner.

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  • glenking – “Definitely worth a look, as its close to trafalgar square and buckingham palace, but its really just a big empty courtyard. There's nothing actually in it, just some nice buildings and architecture around the sides. I’ve never been there when there's been anything on, like trooping the colour, and I can imagine how that would be quite a sight, but if you go on a cold rainy day in November like I did, then expect to stay just a few minutes before you move on. A tip: dont forget the little walkway under the arch that leads onto whitehall where the soldiers stand. It's in the middle, and its a good little shortcut otherwise you have to go around to admiralty arch.”
  • londonlover – “I had a walk past horse guards the other day and its all closed up for a beach volleyball tournament. I know it sounds daft, but they are tripping tonnes of sand into it so they can play this game. I think horse guards is where they are holding volleyball tournaments in the olympics, so it's probably a dry-run for that. Horse guards is going to be closed until the end of August until they finish this tournament. Its probably still worth a look though. Ive seen beach volleyball on the telly a few times and there's lots of things to look at (if you know what I mean ).”

> Events on Horse Guards parade ground

  From Horse Guards WestminsterChanging the Guard at Horse Guards is similar to the ceremony at Buckingham Palace, but is usually a lot less crowded.

  From Horse Guards WestminsterThe Dismounting Ceremony (or 4 O'Clock Parade) is a short ceremony that takes place every day at the Horse Guards.

   Horse Guards WestminsterTwo weeks before they celebrate the Queen's birthday at Trooping the Colour, they hold the Major General's Review.

   Horse Guards WestminsterOne week before the actual 'Trooping the Colour' parade, they hold a second rehearsal called "The Colonel's Review".

   to Horse Guards WestminsterBeating Retreat is a floodlit pageant of military music and drill on Horse Guards Parade, ending with a salute to the Queen.

   Horse Guards WestminsterWatch a parade of soldiers and bands marching down The Mall in 'Trooping the Colour', to celebrate the Queen's birthday.

While you’re visiting Horse Guards Parade, you might like to visit these other places as well…

> Household Cavalry Museum The Household Cavalry Museum tells the story of the Queen’s official guard, and houses the stables.
> Guards’ Memorial The Guards’ Memorial commemorates the First Battle of Ypres and other battles of World War I.
> St. James’s Park London’s most prestigious park – St. James’s is bordered by the Mall and Buckingham Palace.
> Whitehall See the Horse Guards standing outside Banqueting House, and the Remembrance Day Parade.

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