The Changing of the Guard is a must for any London itinerary no matter how long you have in the capital Even if you are traveling with children or toddlers! However as with all tourist attractions in London, especially ones that are time sensitive such as the Changing of the Guard are bound to get exceptionally busy. In this guide we want to help take the stress out of watching this London bucket list must so here we round up the best place to watch changing of the guard with kids or without, tips for watching the changing of the guard and a bit of history about this London institution.
What is The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
The Changing of the Guard is a formal ceremony held at Buckingham Palace! The ceremony is the switching over of the whole group of soldiers who have been protecting the palace for the last 24 hours. The soldiers that take over are in which a group of soldiers is relieved of their duties by a new batch of soldiers. This guard will then work on two hourly rotations. The Changing of the Guard is the only time you will see the while guard group doing the change including the marching, parading and musical accompaniment.
Contrary to popular belief it is not held daily so you will need to check the Household Cavalry website to check details!
Also, although we Brits are used to the rain the changing of the guard is unlikely to happen in heavy rain! (but if it does don’t worry as we have you covered with these rainy day activities!)!
Changing of the Guard Schedule
This is the normally schedule but is subject to change. Please check the Buckingham Palace Website to check details for the day of your visit.
10:30am – Guards begin lining up at Wellington Barracks. We love watching the inspection of the new Guard at Wellington Baracks as you will often find the military playing and performing as the inspection goes on. The last time we were there the Guards played Skyfall from James Bond as well as traditional military numbers and it was spectacular. If you are in London for a special event or in London for Winter you will often find the set list tailored for the occasion.
10:45am – The St James Palace old guard will leave and head down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace. At this time the old guard at Buckingham Palace will begin to line up.
10:55am – The New Guards will begin making their way from Wellington Barracks to Buckingham Palace to change place with the old guard of both Buckingham Palace and St James Palace.
11am – The Change over of the Guards will begin at Buckingham Palace accompanied with musics. The old guard will present the new guard with arms and the captains will exchange keys of the palace.
While this is happening the military band will be playing.
11:30am – The ceremony is finished and the old guards will return to the Barracks.
Best Place to Watch Changing of the Guard with Kids or without
There is not one spot where you can see the whole ceremony from therefore I like to pick one of the less busy areas to watch a segment when I am watching the Changing of the Guard with kids. However if you don’t mind crowds or are travelling during off peak season there are a variety of places you could choose to watch the changing of the guard from.
The best places to watch the changing of the guard from are:
- Buckingham Palace Gates – As close as you can get to the Palace itself! But this is also the busiest spot! I only recommend this is you are traveling out of season! If you want to watch the changing of the guard from this position you will need to be there at 10:30 or earlier to be sure to get a good spot. I personally don’t choose this vantage point when I am traveling with my toddler to London as it is just too crowded for her! I also enjoy the march to the palace more than I do watching the event at Buckingham Palace.
- Friary Court – courtyard at St. James’s Palace -the best place to see changing of the guard from the start. Please note that many tour groups use this location so it can get busy even out of season! If you want to watch from here again I would recommend getting there before 10:30.
- The Mall – The main road they march down! This is the best spot to watch changing of the guard if you like marching as you can get a great view of the soldiers marching from the mall however there may not be a marching band at this position which I’ll be honest is one of my favourite things about the Changing of the Guard.
- The Victoria Memorial – Large memorial statue fronting Buckingham Palace is possibly the best place to view changing of the guards when there are crowds! One of the benefits to choosing the Victoria Memorial vantage point is that you have two great views of the parade and it is elevated so when it is crowded you can easily see over the heads of the crowd. The best view from the Memorial is of course the one facing the palace directly but I don’t think there is a bad spot to watch the changing of the guard from the Victoria Memorial.
Where to Watch Changing of the Guard with Kids
If you are wondering where to watch changing of the guard with kids my answer will surprise you as it isn’t one of the traditional places. When I am watching the Changing of the Guard with Kids then I look for less busy spots. My favorite place to watch Changing of the Guards with kids is actually not watching changing of the guards at all but watching the preamble at Wellington Barracks which usually includes the musical accompaniment! For me this is the best place to see the Changing of the Guard with children as there are far less crowds here and children will be guaranteed a much better view than at the Palace . However this is not the place to watch the ceremony itself!
Also there is a lovely playground just over the road from the Barracks to occupy children before the ceremony and until the old guards return to the Barracks at 11:30 which makes this the best place to watch the changing of the guard with toddlers and small children in particular.
Tips for watching Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace
The Changing of the Guard is absolutely a must for any bucket list of London or the UK! To make your life easier in ticking this off your bucket list here are out top tips for watching Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace.
- What Time Should I Arrive for the Changing of the Guard?
Arrive by at 10:30 latest! This is the only way you are absolutely guarunteed a good viewing spot. If you are visiting during the summer holidays or other peak times then you may want to get there a little bit earlier than that even!
- When Does the Changing of the Guards Take Place?
During the Summer there are sometimes parades seven days a week but it is always worth checking the current schedule to avoid disappoint
- How Should I Plan my London itinerary around the Changing of the Guard?
Before planning your itinerary to London I would first look up the Changing of the Guard dates and planning my itinerary around this. If you experience rainy day London then the changing of the guard may be cancelled so I would advise putting changing of the guard at the beginning of your trip so you have a second chance if it does rain.
- How to Get to the Changing of Guard, Buckingham Palace?
The nearest Underground Stations to use to get to the changing of the Guard are:
– Green Park Station
– Hyde Park Station
– ST James Palace
– Victoria Station If you are in good health then you can walk to the Changing of the Guard from all of these stations.
What are the Best Things to Do Near the Changing of the Guard
Obviously the nearest thing to the changing of the guard. The Palace Staterooms are open over the summer (July-September) and then in December (occasional) – if you want a Winter itinerary for London check out this post. The tour is definitely worthwhile doing especially for fans of royal history! And for those traveling with small children, you don’t need to worry that this isn’t family friendly. The tour ends in the Garden and there is a lovely soft play area to let your smalls loose in.
As this is only open for such a limited time it is absolutely essential to book your tickets in advance – YOU CAN BOOK YOUR TICKETS ONLINE HERE
If time allows, we also recommend visiting the Royal Mews where you can visit the State Carriages and also meet the Queen’s Horses.
St James Park
A particular hit with those travelling with kids.There is a great play area, a cafe and of course you can see the famous St James Park pelicans.
Also, if time permits, you will want to make a quick stop at Horse Guards.
Churchill War Rooms
This is really the best place in the country to learn about Britain during WW2. The Churchill War Rooms are right opposite St James Park and in there you will learn about Winston Churchill and the operational work that happened in this bunker.
We also recommend heading to Westminster after watching the Changing of the Guard.
Have you watched the changing of the guard? Where do you think is the best place to watch the changing of the guard?