Changing of the Guard in London: the 2020 guide

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Where to see the changing of the guard?

Where to see the changing of the guard?

Changing the Guard or Mounting Guards is one of London's most iconic tourist attractions. It is a military parade during which a regiment of the famous queen's guards takes over from another.

The best-known Changing of the Guard is that of Buckingham Palace - but it is possible to witness other, more intimate, changing of the guards which take place in very beautiful monuments of the city!

This ceremony is the unique opportunity to see the Royal Guard in motion.

You can consult the calendar of ceremonies on the official website of the British army.

Shifts are generally canceled on rainy days.

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

The Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the British Royal Family in London since 1837. The Queen Elizabeth II and her husband - the Duke of Edinburgh - reside there.

The changing of the guard ceremony takes place at the main entrance of the palace. It is accompanied by a military band, the Royal Guard Marching Band, which plays a modern, rich and varied repertoire - a mix of military and contemporary music, particularly popular with tourists.

Parades have already taken place on the soundtracks of the James Bond films, Star Wars and the Game of Thrones series!

The guards

The Queen's Guards are dressed in the traditional red tunic in summer - or a long gray coat in winter - and the famous helmet in bearskin.

Guard from Buckingham Palace (Buckingham Palace)

These guards are part of the five infantry regiments of the Household Division:

  • The Grenadier Guards
  • The Coldstream Guards
  • The Scots Guards
  • The Irish Guards
  • The Welsh Guards

And two cavalry regiments of the Household Cavalry:

  • The Life Guards: with red tunics and white mane helmets.
  • The Blues and Royals: with blue tunics and red mane helmets.

The main differences between each regiment are the plumes of their helmets and the number and patterns of the buttons on their uniforms.

The Queen is the Colonel in Chief of all the regiments of the Household Division.

The ceremony

To the sound of the marching band, the soldiers whose turn it is to guard begin the ritual of succession by regrouping at Saint James's Palace and at the Wellington Barracks from 10:30 am, then head - on foot or on horseback - to Buckingham Palace, passing through Birdcage Walk and Spur Road.

They join the soldiers already present and begin the official march past the main entrance to the palace - located near the gates of Green Park (Canada Gate). Once the new guard is in place, the old guard leaves the palace to join Wellington Barracks - located right next to St James's Park.

If Queen Elizabeth II is in the palace (the British flag flies above the palace) four guards stand in front of its doors - compared to only two guards if she is not present.

It is a rather long and monotonous ceremony.

In summary

Days and times

From May to July: every day at 11:30am.

The rest of the year: every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 11:30 am.

Directions

From Saint James Palace and Wellington Barracks to Buckingham Palace.

Duration

About 45 minutes

Price

Free

Plan to arrive at least 1 hour before the start of the parade and try to stand near the palace gates or barriers placed along the road - or on the steps of the fountain of the Victoria Memorial!

Tube stations: Green Park, Hyde Park Corner and Victoria Station | Bus lines: 11, 211, 239, C1, C10

The Changing of the Guard at Horse Guards

The guards

The Horse Guards Parade or Changing The Queen's Lifeguard is provided by the two cavalry regiments of British Army (Household Cavalry):

  • The Life Guards: with red tunics and white mane helmets.
  • The Blues and Royals: with blue tunics and red mane helmets.

Horse Guards Parade

The ceremony

The new guard departs daily from Hyde Park Barracks at 10:28 am Monday through Saturday or 9:28 am Sunday.

It goes back on horseback towards the Horse Guards esplanade at Whitehall Palace, passing through Hyde Park Corner: Wellington Arch, Constitution Hill and The Mall - to gather with the horses of the old guard.

Another changing of the guard takes place simultaneously on the other side of the barracks - it is not possible to observe both ceremonies at the same time.

Between 10am and 4pm, the entrance to Horse Guards is guarded by two sentries on horseback, with a relief every hour.

In summary

Days and times

Monday to Saturday at 11am and Sunday at 10am

(whatever the season or the weather!)

Location

At Horse Guards

Duration

About 30 minutes

Price

Free

A good alternative to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace because it is less crowded!

Tube stations: Charing Cross, Embankment and Westminster | Bus lines: 3, 11, 12, 159, 24, 3, 453, 53, 87, 88

Review of the troops at Horse Guards

The Four O'Clock Parade or Dismounting Ceremony also takes place at Horse Guards, in the small courtyard behind the horse boxes. The foot and horse guards are inspected one by one by a senior officer, then the mounted guards return the horses to the stables for the night.

Guards at Horse Guards

After the inspection, two guards will remain on duty until the doors close at 8pm. Another guard will remain on duty until 7am the next day, when the doors open.

Days and times

Every day at 4pm

Location

At Horse Guards: in the small courtyard behind the horse boxes.

Duration

About 15 minutes

Price

Free

Tube stations: Charing Cross, Embankment and Westminster | Bus lines: 3, 11, 12, 159, 24, 3, 453, 53, 87, 88

The Changing of the Guard at the Tower of London

During the changing of the guard at the Tower of London, an officer inspects the guards in front of Byward Tower.

View of the Tower of London

Days and times

Every day at 3pm

Location

Inside the Tower of London, in front of the Byward Tower.

Duration

About 10 minutes

Price

Accessible only to the public with a ticket to visit the monument.

Tube station: Tower Hill | Bus lines: 15, 42, 78, 100, RV1 | River shuttle station: Tower Pier

Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is one of the royal residences of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. They stay there most weekends, from March to April, and one week in June during the prestigious Royal Ascot horse race.

The guards

The soldiers changing the guard at Windsor Castle are part of the five infantry regiments of the Household Division and the two regiments of cavalry of the Household Cavalry.

Windsor Castle Guard

The ceremony

To the sound of the marching band, the soldiers of the New Guard leave the Victoria Barracks on foot. They march in cadence along Sheet Street and High Street - to the junction with the statue of Queen Victoria - before entering the castle.

At the end of the ceremony, the old guard leaves Windsor Castle to join the Victoria Barracks.

The Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle is very similar to that at Buckingham Palace.

In summary

Days and times

From April to July: every day at 11am

The rest of the year: every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 11am

Directions

From Victoria Barracks to the inner courtyard of Windsor Castle, passing through Sheet Street and High Street.

Duration

About 45 minutes

Price

Accessible only to the public with a ticket to visit Windsor Castle.

Windsor Castle is around 1 hour by train from Waterloo station.