How to watch Changing the Guard in London

Changing Guard

Every day of the week in London, there are two guard changing ceremonies that display the splendour of Britain’s constitutional monarchy against a backdrop of historic royal palaces.

One guard changing is located at ‘Horse Guards’, off Whitehall, and the other takes place outside Buckingham Palace.  Both ceremonies happen at 11am, except on Sunday when the guard change at Horse Guards takes place at 10am.  Aim to be in position around 15 mins beforehand.

Mounted guard outside the entrance to Horse Guards
Mounted guard outside the entrance to Horse Guards

The Queen’s Life Guard at Horse Guards

This ceremony is performed by the two mounted regiments of the Household Cavalry – the ‘Life Guards’ (red tunics) and the ‘Blues and Royals’ (blue tunics).  Fifteen minutes before the ceremony the ‘old guard’ line up on Horse Guards for inspection.   Ten minutes later the ‘new guard’ arrives from Hyde Park Barracks, around fifteen minutes ride away.   The two guards face each other while ceremonial instructions are exchanged – and the horses learn to remain stationary without the use of blinkers.  The old guard return to Hyde Park Barracks whist the new guard moves to Horse Guards, facing Whitehall, where further exchanges take place.   The whole ceremony takes around 30 minutes.   It is more intimate than the ceremony at Buckingham Palace, but is smaller in scale and has no musical accompaniment.

Horse Guards Parade
The rear of Horse Guards and entrance to Horse Guards Parade

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Meanwhile, at the same time, a guard changing ceremony is being performed by the foot regiments of the Household Division at Buckingham Palace. Initially, position yourself at the end of the Mall, opposite Buckingham Palace before moving nearer the Palace (e.g. on the steps of the Victoria Memorial opposite the Palace entrance).   Two foot regiments take part in the ceremony each week; it may be the Coldstream Guards (red plume), Grenadier Guards (white plume), Welsh Guards (green plume), Irish Guards (blue plume) or the Scots Guards (no plume). The old guard (with musical accompaniment) march down the Mall from St James’s Palace towards Buckingham Palace.   Ten minutes later the new guard (with musical accompaniment) march from the nearby Wellington Barracks towards Buckingham Palace.   The guard change takes place in the front courtyard of Buckingham Palace, behind the Palace railings. The whole event lasts around 45 minutes.

As noted above, due to the timings, Sunday is the only day you can watch both guard changing ceremonies. Sunday is also the day when The Mall is closed to traffic, meaning you can stroll down the Mall after the ceremony at Horse Guards.

On some days, Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace may be disrupted, so please check the following website before travelling.

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