Question: When is the Changing of the Guard?
"I'm planning a trip to London and I'm finding conflicting information about the changing of the guard ceremony at Royal Horse Guards and Buckingham Palace. One guide says 10am, another says 11am, another says 4pm. Can you clarify?" -- B.
There are a few Changing of the Guard ceremonies which would explain the confusion. The one at Horse Guards Parade involves the Queen's Life Guard, who are the soldiers who ride horses (mounted regiments). This ceremony takes place daily at Horse Guards at 11am on Monday to Saturday and 10am on Sundays. It all takes about 30 minutes. Every day at 4pm for can also see the Four O'Clock Parade.
The Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace, on the other side of St. James's Park, takes place daily throughout the summer months at 11.30am, then every other day for the rest of the year. This is the ceremony involving the Foot Guards. (There are five regiments of Foot Guards – they all dress similarly but there are subtle differences like different buttons.) This ceremony takes about 45 minutes and includes a band playing popular classical music.
The ceremony procedure may seem complicated but the Guards Museum have produced a DVD to explain what's going on (Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace - DVD Review) and the Royal Collection have an app that includes a map and a great visual timeline on what happens before, during and after the ceremony. The app also includes a Kid's Zone with lots of audio answers to the type of questions families are likely to ask. Find out more about the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace app and check the official ceremonial calendar to confirm dates for your time in London.
Both ceremonies are popular so arrive early and hold on tight to your belongings as I constantly hear visitors call out to the police that a pickpocket has stolen their wallet, passport, valuables, from their bag while they were distracted. I tend to use a small backpack around London so I just wear it on my front, or tuck it under my arm while watching events and never have problems.
I would recommend visiting the Guards Museum and/or the Household Cavalry Museum before watching the ceremonies as it will give you a good background. I'm a fan of the Guards Museum as it's a real hidden treasure off the side of St. James's Park, but houses such highlights as the Duke of Wellington's uniform worn at the Battle of Waterloo. And it's under £5 admission. Oh yes, and if the mood takes you, you can dress up in a real Foot Guard's uniform – bearskin cap and all! – and they'll take your photo and frame it for £5! That's silly and very good fun.
Another tip would be to try and see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace DVD, produced by the Guards Museum, before watching the event as it explains everything you need to know and it has enhanced my enjoyment of the ceremony by knowing exactly what's going on.
I do hope this helps and hope you have a wonderful time in London. Do have a look at the London Calendar of Annual Events in case there's anything else you'd like to plan to see. It may help too to sign up for the London Travel newsletter and you'll get the feel of what's going on in London before you arrive.
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