A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London’s Buckingham Palace

London’s magnificent Buckingham Palace is more than just the home to the British monarchy, it is one of the most visited attractions in the city. Its public art gallery, picturesque statues and ornate gates that surround the royal residence are a big draw. But, the major event happening all year round and attracting the biggest crowds is the Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard ceremony.

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace


A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London’s Buckingham Palace


What is the Changing of the Guard

This is a formal procedure performed by the guards where the old guard protecting the palace hands over responsibility to the new guard. It’s hyped up activity is accompanied by music from the various energized bands (they played Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’ when we were there!).

In an interesting twist of things, the old guards wait at the Buckingham Palace to hand over, whilst the detached old guard marches from St. James’s palace to the Buckingham Palace in a bid to hand over too. Meanwhile, the new guards’ procession marches from the Wellington Barracks up to the Buckingham Palace too, to take over a new shift. After all the formalities at the Buckingham Palace are complete, the new guards remain at the Buckingham Palace and the other new guards walk back to the St. James’s Palace to assume duties. The old guards then quickly stroll back to the Wellington Barracks.

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

About the Buckingham Palace Guards

Divided into five different regiments, one fascinating thing that makes the foot guards look outstanding is their signature black bearskin caps that stand tall (the caps are generally 18″ tall and 1.5 pounds!). Any of the five regiments of the British Army may be present at the changing and are identified by the plume on there bearskin cap, grouping of buttons on their tunic and color badgeThough their uniforms may seem exactly the same, making it hard to differentiate the different regiments, having an eye for detail may do the trick. Here is a quick breakdown of the regiments:

  • Welsh Guards – left side, white & green in color
  • Irish Guards – right side, blue in color
  • Scots Guards – none
  • Coldstream Guards – right side – red in color
  • Grenadier Guards – left side – white in color

This is a Welsh guardsman, which is known by the green and white plume worn on the left side of his bearskin cap:

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

Best Place to Watch Changing the Guard

There are three main points to view the epic Buckingham Palace changing of the guard event. They are the Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace and the Wellington Barracks. The Buckingham Palace area gets crowded, so you may take a more realistic approach and walk around the St James’s Palace and Wellington Barracks locations to have a better, less crowded view of the processions from there.

Don’t worry if you don’t catch the guards marching to the Buckingham Palace, you can also catch them on their way back from the Buckingham Palace to St. James’s Palace and the Wellington Barracks. Since there is a lot of to and from between the three points, you are at the least assured of a peek at some point of the uniformed guards.

At 10:00, I was able to get get front row standing at the palaces gates. A half hour later the front gates were a half dozen people deep and hundreds of people cluttered Queen Victoria!

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace Guard Change Time & Schedule

The current schedules are every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 11.00 each day at the Buckingham Palace. Prior to the ceremony at the Buckingham Palace, you can also head over to the Wellington Barracks at 10.30 as the guards prepare to leave for Buckingham Palace. At about 10.43 you can choose to be at the at the St. James’s Palace where the old guard sets off for Buckingham Palace. The schedule is very elaborative and will give you an insight on what role each regiment will play for the day.

Point to note is that every month there is a new updated schedule rolled out and it is advisable to re-check online before confirming your trip. Keep in mind that cancellations can occur anytime especially due to bad weather conditions or other events overlapping. If it is beyond the Palace’s control especially when it comes to the weather, the cancellations can even take place a few minutes before the start of the ceremony. Always keep yourself up to date with the regular notices on the palace’s website.

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

Changing of the Guard Location & Directions

The best way to get to the parade is by catching the Tube to the Green Park underground station and it’s a walking distance to the St James’s Palace. Leave the station via Piccadilly South exit and get yourself to the end of St. James’s street, where you will then see the gate to St. James’s Palace. Once here you can walk your way around the other two locations and derive the best from the Buckingham Palace changing of the guard ceremony.

Related: 12 Tips for Navigating the London Underground

INTERESTING LONDON TOURS: There is so much to see and do in London, booking ahead of time may be beneficial for you.

WHERE TO STAY NEAR BUCKINGHAM PALACE:
Luxury: The Goring | Moderate: The Nadler Victoria | Budget: The Z Hotel Victoria

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

The Story of My Changing the Guard Experience

We arrived to Buckingham Palace at 9:00. The early arrival did give me the opportunity to photograph the exquisitely ornate gates and the one guard stationed at his post. The official British Monarch coat of arms, The Royal Coat of Arms, adorns the front gates to the palace. I had never seen such spectacular iron and stone work.

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

By 9:45 we felt comfortable enough to step away from the front of the gates to inspect the statues that surround the palace. The impressive Victoria Memorial which stands directly in front. The structure is made of 2,300 tons of marble. The massive memorial is seemingly protected by a few surrounding statues; Angel of Truth, Angel of Justice and Charity. There is a similar monument for her husband, Prince Albert, that we saw while strolling through Kensington Gardens. Both are equally as grand.

Queen Victoria Statue at Buckingham Palace

Statue: A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

By 10:00, we were ready to pick our viewing location and though there were a couple dozen people there already, we still got front row at the iron gates. By 10:30 the front gates were about six people deep.

After waking up early, and waiting an hour & a half sardine packed, the events of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace started just before 11:30 AM.

The horse and carriage were followed by the marching horses. The folks who crowded the Victoria Monument had the best view of this. But then a beautiful horse and carriage sauntered by and then the Changing of the Guard began with one guard pacing while the other sternly kept his posture and expression. Dozens of guards the marched into the gate doors, not a smile in the bunch. Being that these guards are actual serving soldiers of the British Army, they meant business. You have to respect them as they are known to be some of the most elite and skilled.

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

The band arrived and set up just to the left of the gates doors, this is the position I would opt for next time. The crowd was silent as we waited to see what was in their musical repertoire. They started their set with Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’, followed by Sinatra’s ‘Mack the Knife’. Completely unexpected, and awesome.

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

We decided to leave our front row standing position a tad early in order to avoid the crowds. We headed towards St. James Palace on our way to catch the tube and got a second show—standing guard on Stable Yard Road was one Irish guardsmen. Perfect for photo opportunities. We continued one block up to Marlborough Road and were struck by the band marching, returning back to their headquarters.

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London's Buckingham Palace

If you find yourself in London this would definitely be one of the must do tours to include in your itinerary and to make your trip memorable. There are not many palaces in the world still functioning up to date, that still embrace their old culture, so expect this to be a unique experience.

Remember London is known to be a busy city, therefore ensure you give yourself sufficient time allowance to get to your destinations on time. Whether you are traveling alone or with family this is also a kiddy friendly tour, so you need not worry about the little ones. Another great appealing thing to note is the Buckingham Palace changing of the guard attraction is free of charge to the public!

A Guide to Changing of the Guard at London’s Buckingham Palace


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2018-12-06T14:56:09+00:00March 12th, 2018|Categories: England, Europe, TOP PICKS, TRAVEL|Tags: , |

48 Comments

  1. Jeremy Branham May 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    Nice photos.  That's quite a lot of people.  I wonder if it is always like this for the Changing of the Guard.  I will have to check Part 2 to see the rest of the photos.  You definitely got good "seats" for the show so I will remember to get there early if I want to see this. 

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm - Reply

      We were actually there during off-season. It’s hard to imagine, but I bet there are more people when it is actually warm out.

  2. avikingtravels May 21, 2012 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    Just came across your blog and I am absolutely in love with it. Your writing is great and encouraging! I'll be back (to say it with Arnold Schwarzenegger's words)

  3. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures May 22, 2012 at 7:04 am - Reply

     

    What awesome shots!

  4. Alyx May 22, 2012 at 11:14 am - Reply

    What a cool experience! I have never been to Buckingham Palace, but I would love to go someday! 

  5. jardness May 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Oh my.. don't know when I'll ever afford to go there. hu hu hu

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey May 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      I never thought I would even go to London! But, I have learned to never say never 🙂

  6. ashley May 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    How cool is that! I would love to be able to see this in person.
    – ashley

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey May 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm - Reply

      It was really cool, I hope you are able to see it one day!

  7. Nisha May 23, 2012 at 2:57 am - Reply

    I knew there are always many people, mostly tourists waiting for the change of guards, so that's not a surprise. 
    Waiting for part 2 to see some more amazing photos. This place has always eluded me. 🙁

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey May 23, 2012 at 6:44 am - Reply

      I knew there would be a lot of people, but since we were there in off-season I thought there would be less than what I saw. Silly me 😉

  8. Vanessa May 23, 2012 at 10:24 am - Reply

    I've been to BP but in the winter time only. The guards were wearing thick grey coats instead of red ones and I was very disappointed. On my next trip to London I'll make sure to see the Changing of the Guard

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey May 23, 2012 at 11:10 am - Reply

      I can’t imagine how cold the guards must be in the winter!

  9. Melissa May 24, 2012 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Great shots.  I saw the changing of the guard for the first time last year when my mom came to visit me and then again earlier this year when a friend came to London.   Oh also I don't think London really follows 'off seasons', there are tourists here ALL the time.

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey May 24, 2012 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      I bet there are plenty of tourists there all year long, but not as many as are going to be there for the Olympics! I’m sure all of the attractions will be doubly packed.

  10. Amanda @ Adventures All Around May 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Wow.. I had no idea how many people now turned out to watch. I saw it years ago, when I just happened to be pottering past, and there was hardly anyone else there. Maybe because it was a such cold day? Or last century? Who knows… but now I'm feeling lucky to have seen it by chance one morning.

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey May 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      I think I’d rather see it with hundreds of people when it’s warmer, then freeze my butt off 😉

  11. Hoellenzwang May 29, 2012 at 7:21 am - Reply

     
    Changing of the guards
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv3UUW32KS0

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey May 29, 2012 at 9:20 am - Reply

      Very cool!

  12. Arianwen June 12, 2012 at 8:18 am - Reply

    I can't believe I've lived in London 6 years and still haven't seen the changing of the guard! And it looks so cool from your photos! Something needs to be done about this! 🙂

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey June 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm - Reply

      Gasp! You absolutely have to go!

  13. […] ingest some of the deliciousness that was seen, we got caught up with the excitement of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and time slipped […]

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    […] ingest some of the deliciousness that was seen, we got caught up with the excitement of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and time slipped […]

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  21. Andy May 14, 2013 at 6:33 am - Reply

    Great pictures and a real insight for anyone planning to turn up at the Palace ten minutes before the ceremony thinking they will get near to railings or on the steps of the Victoria Memorial.

    • Annette White May 14, 2013 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      I am happy we got there early!

  22. Andy June 4, 2013 at 12:37 am - Reply

    Should you get back, contact me through changing-guard.com and I will send you ‘walk with the guards, a walk that lets you see a lot more of the ceremony and some great photo ops.

    • Annette White June 4, 2013 at 7:36 am - Reply

      That would be great! I’ll let you know if I make it back.

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  27. mat rasi March 17, 2018 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

  28. usaine March 20, 2018 at 8:12 am - Reply

    i am so desperate to be the part of this event once in my life because the action here really take you to the another world

  29. travelouts April 2, 2018 at 12:44 am - Reply

    What a interesting blog post! This is a great post and place you visited. Lovely pictures.

  30. Lisa Scott April 17, 2018 at 6:11 am - Reply

    Loved this post, I never knew these things before like plume identification, superb photography and well detailed. I wish I have read this before going there  because our timing and place was not good. But now on the next tour, I will take care of it,

  31. Rost @ Migration Expert United Kingdom September 6, 2018 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    It is surely fun things to see; now I am excited to watch it soon. Thank you for sharing.

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  33. Joanne | Travel Visa UK November 20, 2018 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Interesting to watch, I sure everyone will enjoy it. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  34. Farespapa November 21, 2018 at 12:01 am - Reply

    London is definitely going to my bucket list. Thank you for sharing this. The pictures that you have included are simply mind-blowing.

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