Changing of the Guard and Buckingham Palace Tours

Watching the changing of the guard or visiting Buckingham Palace is a must on your trip. Here's how to do it.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

7 min read

Changing of the Guard and Buckingham Palace Tours

During the changing of the guard. | ©Luke Ow

Visiting Buckingham Palace and attending the changing of the guard is one of the most typical and essential things to do in London. Who doesn't remember the "Foot Guards" in red coats and big bear-hair hats?

In addition, when the Royal Family goes on vacation, the gates of Buckingham are open to visitors for a few weeks a year, between late July and early September. If you have always wanted to know the residence of the British Royal Family and its peculiar escort, here is everything you need to know.

The most complete option

Offer: Tower of London, Changing of the Guard and River Thames Cruise

Tour London's most iconic sights in a single day

Take a tour of the British capital in a luxury coach, visit the Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral, enjoy the changing of the royal guard at Buckingham Palace and cruise the River Thames aboard a private cruise ship.

Do not miss this 10-hour tour in which you will take a guided bus tour of the most emblematic places in London, such as the Tower of London or St. Paul's Cathedral. In addition, you will attend the Changing of the Guard ceremony and take a cruise on the Thames.

Depending on the option you choose, you can finish the tour with a tea at the legendary Harrods shopping center or with a ride on the London Eye Ferris wheel. You decide!

Recommended if... you want to know the most important points of the British capital in one day and save money.

What is the changing of the guard in London?

London Guard| © R Spegel
London Guard| © R Spegel

It is a military ceremony held at the main entrance of Buckingham to relieve the guards who are responsible for the security of this palace and St. James, another that is very close to the residence of the British Royal Family.

Those who perform the changing of the guard in London are a special section of the British army called the Queen's Guard (the red uniform with the huge fur hat) whose mission is to protect the head of state, ie, Queen Elizabeth II.

It is a very colorful parade where you will see regiments of guards on foot and on horseback accompanied by a military orchestra that plays both traditional and contemporary music to liven up the show. I was very surprised that the musicians played songs from The Beatles, Star Wars or The Lion King in the middle of the parade, which was a lot of fun!

Book a tour to see the changing of the guard

What are you going to see at Buckingham Palace?

Buckingham Palace| © Sung Shin
Buckingham Palace| © Sung Shin

After attending the changing of the guard in London it's time to visit Buckingham Palace inside. We knew this was a rare opportunity, since it is only open to the public a few weeks a year, so we were intrigued with what we would see behind its doors.

In this tour of Buckingham Palace you will not see the private quarters of the Royal Family, but some of the rooms that make up the so-called State Rooms, that is, the rooms where Queen Elizabeth II holds her public audiences and receives her guests at official events.

I must confess that the tour of this part of the Palace is absolutely spectacular, what luxury and what wonderful decoration! It is everything you expect to see when you imagine what a monarch's home is like. It does not disappoint at all.

  • The Grand Staircase: Majestic staircase leading to the State Rooms of the Palace. Look at the walls! You will see some portraits of the Royal Family.
  • The Throne Room: It is decorated with red velvet inspired by the old theaters and here are the armchairs that were used in the coronation of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1953. It is also the place where photographs are usually taken at royal weddings.
  • White Drawing Room: One of the most regal and beautiful rooms of the Palace, used by the late Queen when she wished to meet in a more private way with a guest before a big reception and to rest with her family.
  • Picture Gallery: Small gallery that gathers some of the most outstanding paintings of the Royal Collection. It is currently used as a waiting room for guests or for small receptions.
  • The Ballroom: One of the largest and most beautiful rooms you will see during your tour of Buckingham Palace. Royal banquets, balls and investitures are organized here.
  • Buckingham Gardens: The tour ends in the Palace gardens where you can take a pleasant stroll before meeting your guide and heading to the tea ceremony.

Taking afternoon tea

Afternoon tea in London| © Jalleke Vanooteghem
Afternoon tea in London| © Jalleke Vanooteghem

At the end of the tour of Buckingham Palace we went out and met up again with our guide Amber for a walk in the beautiful St. Jame's Park, the most beloved park for the English, before going for the famous British afternoon tea at a nearby hotel.

There we were able to taste a lot of sandwiches, cakes, pies, tarts and homemade scones with jam and a thick cream called clotted cream, as well as a variety of delicious teas to drink alone, with milk or with lemon. After immortalizing the banquet for our social networks (another very 21st century tradition) we went on to taste all the delicacies of this special snack, everything was delicious!

The afternoon tea ceremony was a perfect finishing touch to a day where we lived the most "British" side of our trip. The setting was fantastic and we felt right at home. At the end, we said goodbye to Amber who was very kind and attentive to the group. I would repeat this experience without hesitation!

Useful information about this activity

  • 4-hour tour of Buckingham Palace and subsequent afternoon tea ceremony at a nearby hotel.
  • Guided walking tour in English and audio guide at Buckingham Palace.
  • For the traditional tea ceremony, please advise at the time of booking of any allergies or specific dietary requirements.
  • This tour is not wheelchair accessible.

Why it's worth seeing the Changing of the Guard in London

Changing of the Guard| © Mark Leishman
Changing of the Guard| © Mark Leishman

The spectacular nature of the palaces together with the military formality, the parade, the colorful uniforms of the soldiers and the music of the military orchestra is an exhibition worthy of witnessing and something that attracts a lot of attention.

In Europe there are several countries that celebrate solemn changing of the guard in front of their royal palaces (such is the case of Norway, Denmark, Monaco or Spain) but England is the most popular of all and the one that turned this ceremony into a tourist attraction. So I didn't want to miss it for anything!

When can you see the changing of the guard in London and how long does it last?

The parade lasts approximately 45 minutes and takes place every day at 11 AM in June and July. The rest of the year it is held every other day (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) except when it rains, as the display is usually cancelled.

To keep up with last minute cancellations in real time, check out the London Changing of the Guard Twitter profile.

Isabel's Traveler Tip

Although the event starts at 11 AM there is usually movement much earlier so I advise you to get to the palace around 10 or 10:15 AM to get a good spot.

Book a tour to see the changing of the guard

Where is the best place to see the Changing of the Guard in London?

Buckingham Palace Guard| © Kutan Ural
Buckingham Palace Guard| © Kutan Ural

The best views are at the Victory Monument located in the center of the rotunda in front of Buckingham Palace Gate.

To position yourself here, either at the top of the steps of the monument or at the front, you'll have to get there early because then they close the street and don't allow more people into the area.

Because so many people crowd right in front of the palace gates, I don't recommend positioning yourself there as you won't see the parade well unless you're in the front row. And getting there is a bit difficult but not impossible.

What else to see in London?

Big Ben in London| © Marcin Nowak
Big Ben in London| © Marcin Nowak

With its cosmopolitan and modern character, London is a fascinating city that has something special that everyone likes and gets hooked on. You could visit it several times and on each trip it would still surprise you.

If it is the first time you visit it I recommend you to read the post The best things to see and do in London to know the must-see tourist attractions. You can do the route on your own or admire the city from a tourist bus.

This is one of the most typical experiences to live in London and, although it may seem a bit "guiri" plan, one of the best ideas to discover it, either doing the full bus tours or getting on and off (its famous "Hop on-Hop off") whenever you want to explore an area on foot. If you want to know more about this activity, don't miss the article about Sightseeing bus tours in London.

Would you like to know what other things you can do in the city? Take a look at the article The best excursions and tours in London, which will show you in the most varied ways the different faces of London and its monuments.

Finally, London is a huge city that has a lot to offer but its surroundings are also worth spending at least one day of your trip to discover them. Click on the article The best tours from London to see all the fantastic getaways you can make the most of your trip to the British capital.

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Frequently asked questions

  • Why is the changing of the guard such an important ceremony?

    The truth is that the Buckingham Palace Guard is composed of an entire regiment, so the changing of the guard includes changing an entire regiment which includes the performance of a military band and a parade.

  • At what time does the changing of the guard take place?

    The changing of the guard begins at 10:30, starting at St. James Park from where the new regiment (New Guard) marches through Wellington Barracks to Buckingham Palace, making the change at 11:00, at which time the Old Guard marches to the barracks to arrive at 11:30.

  • Where does the changing of the guard occur?

    The changing of the guard actually takes place in several locations throughout the morning, however, the most famous place to watch it is just outside Buckingham Palace.