Their are two different ceremonies at Horse Guards -- both of which are usually forgotten by the tourists. The first one is the Changing the Guard ceremony which takes place in the morning (10.45 AM Monday to Friday, and 9.45 AM on Sundays), and the second one is their daily inspection at 4 PM.
Known as the 'Dismounting Ceremony', or 'Four O'Clock Parade', this very short ceremony takes place in the courtyard behind the horseboxes (on the Whitehall side). The mounted sentries trot into the courtyard and are joined by a line of Foot Guards from the barracks, who are then inspected by a very vocal officer. He walks around the front and back of the line to inspect the soldiers uniforms, and then does exactly the same thing for the horses, before ordering them into the stables for the night. The whole thing takes no more than fifteen minutes from start to finish.
The horseboxes on Whitehall will then be closed for the night, and the courtyard will tbe guarded by a couple of Foot Guards instead. The horses will return the next morning at 10 AM.
This is probably the least visited ceremony in London and hardly any tourists know about. The guidebooks all focus on Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace and hardly ever mention this one. And whilst it is very short and not a lot happens, Craig still thinks it's well-worth a visit -- especially if you have kids. The biggest downside to Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace is the size of the crowd. Being wedged inside a crowd of a thousand people for an hour with young ones is not much fun. But this is a great way to show your kids some pageantry without having to wait around all day. And it handily takes place at 4 PM too -- so you can squeeze it in between some other attractions and your evening's entertainment.
Read Craig's review of the Dismounting Ceremony before you go which includes a lot more pictures and goes into detail about the best place to stand, and the best time to arrive etc. Feel free to ask Craig a question about the Dismounting Ceremony as well, or write your own review on the forum.
You might like to visit our page about other military parades in London as well.
Craig’s review – “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. Compar… continued”
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace – 1 Oct to 30 Nov 2018 – The 'Changing the Guard' ceremony at Buckingham Palace is one of the must-see events for every tourist's itinerary.
Changing the Guard at Horse Guards – Every day – Changing the Guard at Horse Guards is similar to the ceremony at Buckingham Palace, but is a lot less crowded and takes place every day
Moments of Silence — Imperial War Museum – 21 Sep 2018 to 31 Mar 2019 – Moments of Silence uses recordings of the silences captured at Remembrance Services at 11 AM on 11th November
Renewal — Life After The First World War – 21 Sep 2018 to 31 Mar 2019 – An exhibition of black and white photos showing the rebuilding and changes that took place after World War I.
I Was There — Room Of Voices – 21 Sep 2018 to 31 Mar 2019 – Hear the personal stories of the soldiers, civilians and children who lived through the Armistice at the end of World War I
Mimesis — African Soldier – 21 Sep 2018 to 31 Mar 2019 – An exhibition to commemorate the often unheralded role that African and colonial soldiers played during the First World War
Poppies — Weeping Window – 5 Oct to 18 Nov 2018 – A display of ceramic poppies at the Imperial War Museum by the same people who created the poppies in the Tower of London's moat
Check out our guide to all the daily parades in London
Here are some more free events in London if you want a cheap day out
If you enjoy Horse Guards then you might like to visit Downing Street (you can walk it in less than 3 mins), Parliament Square (you can walk it in 6 mins) and St. James’s Park (you can walk it in 6 mins)
Disclaimer: Event details can change at short notice and you should reconfirm everything before making plans