Are you looking for the best place to watch changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. In this guide we will give you our top tips for watching The Changing of the Guard alongside information about how to add this into your London itinerary.
What is The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is one of the most popular things to do as a tourist in London and is actually top of a lot of people’s London bucket list. Therefore it should come as no surprise that it gets very busy with millions of people watching this every year. But what is the Changing go the Guard?
The Changing of the Guard is a formal ceremony held at both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Although Windsor is a great day trip from London we recommend tourist short of time in London see this ceremony at Buckingham Palace rather than at Windsor.
In essence the ceremony is the switching over of the whole group, or guard, of soldiers who have been protecting the palace for the last 24 hours.
It is basically a handing over of guard duty from one group of soldiers to another. The soldiers in each guard work on two hourly rotations.
The Changing of the Guard is the only time you will see the whole guard group doing the change over which includes the marching, parading and musical accompaniment that people want to see.
One of the surprising things about the changing of the guard ceremony is that contrary to popular belief the changing of the guard is not held daily.
Also it is worth mentioned that although us Brits are very used to the rain and that there are lots of things to do in London in the rain, the changing of the guard is not one of these things. Therefore you may have to alter your London schedule if you suddenly get heavy rain in your forecast.
Changing of the Guard Schedule
Although the Changing of the Guard does not happen every day, the schedule on the day it is happening tends Ito always run the same. However it never hurts to double check the Buckingham Palace Website for more up to date information for your week of travel.
Usually however the schedule of the Changing of the Guards like this
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 songs as the inspection goes on.
The last time we watched the inspection at Wellington Barracks we saw the troop performing Skyfall from James Bond as well as traditional military numbers. It was absolutely spectacular and no where near as busy as near to the gates of the palace but more on this later.
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.
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.
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.
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. Fun fact this is actually called “Guards Mounting”.
While this is happening the military band will be playing.
The ceremony is finished.
The New Guards march into their positions at Buckingham and St James’s Palace. The Old Guards march back to Wellington Barracks.
Best Place to Watch Changing of the Guard Tips
You would be forgiven for thinking that there is one best and definitive spot to watch the Changing of the Guard however this is not the case.
There is not one spot where you can see the whole ceremony from and there are actually five potential viewing spots to choose from These are:
The best places to watch the changing of the guard from are:
Buckingham Palace Gates
This is as close as you can get to the Palace itself and is a very popular choice for where to watch the changing go the guard.
However as you can imagine this spot also tends to be the busiest. For this reason we only recommend trying to watch the changing of the guard from this place if you are visiting off peak (i.e. not over the summer or Christmas holidays for instance.
However if you really 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. If you are traveling in August or July I would personally get there at around 10:15 to get a good spot at this location.
I personally don’t choose this vantage point when I am traveling with my toddler to London or even if I am traveling with my baby in his stroller in London as it is just too crowded in peak season for them here.
I also enjoy the march to the palace more than I do watching the event at Buckingham Palace but this is a personal choice.
Friary Court is another great choice for watching the Changing of the Guard. Friary Court is actually in St James Palace and is a good place to watch the changing of the guard from the start of this ceremony.
However the only downside to this location is that many of the free, private and paid for London walking tourist will use this location to see the Changing of the Guard. Therefore this place can be busy even outside of peak season in London.
Again if you want to watch the Changing of the Guard from this viewpoint my top tip would be to get there before 10:30 so you can ensure a good position.
This is pronounced The Mel, Mall not with a long “all” sound like the American shopping complex. The Mall is the long road leading down to Buckingham Palace that you will have seen whenever there is a royal celebration or event.
The New Guard will March down this and is in my opinion one of the better spots to watch the Changing of the Guard if you are more interested in military processions rather than the musical accompaniment as it is unlikely you will see the marching band play at this position.
Personally the music is my favorite part of the Changing of the Guard so we never watch from the mall.
The Victoria Memorial
For many people, myself included the Victoria Memorial is absolutely the best place to watch the changing go the guards.
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 my kids 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.
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.
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?
You should arrive no later than 10:30 to watch the Changing of the Guard especially during peak seasons.
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 long does the changing of the guard take?
From the time that the guards leave the barracks, conduct the ceremony and have the old guard return takes roughly 45 minutes in total. However you will have to allow extra time for finding a good spot in the crowd to ensure you get the east view of the changing of the guards.
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 Buckingham Palace is the nearest thing to the changing of the guard and is a great thing to do in any London itinerary.
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.
What is better the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace Vs Windsor Castle
We personally think it is better watching the Changing of the Guard of Buckingham Palace over Windsor.
Firstly the ceremony at Buckingham Palace is bigger than its counterpart at Windsor so it is a bit more of a spectacle.
But it is also the location you think of when you think about watching the Changing of the Guard.
However if you don’t get chance to Watch the Changing of the Guard in London, do not worry you will still enjoy the one in Windsor.
Have you watched the changing of the guard? Where do you think is the best place to watch the changing of the guard?