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 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
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace – 2 Jan to 27 Feb 2019 – The 'Changing the Guard' ceremony at Buckingham Palace is one of the must-see events for every tourist's itinerary.
Major General’s Review, at Horse Guards – 25 May 2019 – Two weeks before they celebrate the Queen's birthday at Trooping the Colour, they hold the Major General's Review.
The Colonel’s Review, at Horse Guards – 1 Jun 2019 – One week before the actual 'Trooping the Colour' parade, they hold a second rehearsal called "The Colonel's Review".
Beating Retreat, on Horse Guards Parade – 5 to 6 Jun 2019 – Beating Retreat is a floodlit pageant of military music and drill on Horse Guards Parade, ending with a salute to the Queen.
Trooping the Colour, at Horse Guards – 8 Jun 2019 – Watch a parade of soldiers and bands marching down The Mall in 'Trooping the Colour', to celebrate the Queen's birthday.
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
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