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Changing of the Guard

A glimpse of royal tradition, and one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.

TravelCurious Tip

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there. With the London traffic and the popularity of the event you will want a good spot so as not to miss a thing. The kids will also love this one!

A serious spectacle

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, formally known as Guard Mounting, is a tradition going back to the beginning of the 17th century. It is an elaborately choreographed military ceremony in which troops of the Queen’s personal guard march out, accompanied by a traditional band, and exchange posts as well as the palace keys with a royal degree of pomp and formality.

While the King or Queen has always had their own troops, a household guard has only protected the sovereign and their palaces since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 under Charles II. This was deemed necessary after the brief revolution of Cromwell saw Charles’ predecessor and father King Charles I deposed and killed.

When Queen Victoria made Buckingham Palace her London residence in 1837 she took a detachment of the Queen’s Guard with her for protection and left the remainder to guard St. James’s Palace in Westminster - still the most senior palace of the monarchy, though it is no longer the primary residence.

Out with the old?

The Changing of the Guard takes place at 11.15 am every day in summer and every second day in winter. Two detachments of the ‘Old Guard’ form into tight groups at St. James’s and at Buckingham Palace. After thorough inspection, the ‘Old Guard’ at St. James’s and the ‘New Guard’ which forms at Wellington Square with the band march out towards the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, regimental banners flying.

Both groups present their arms and then the commanders solemnly exchange the palace keys. Today, the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard appears to be a piece of military theatre; a spectacle for the crowds of tourists outside the palace gates. The Guard Band even depart from traditional music sometimes and play contemporary pop songs. Yet the Queen’s Guard perform the ceremony with a deep sense of pride, exerting the same focus and precision each day, and see it as an honour to keep this tradition alive.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in London
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the home of the Queen. One of London’s most popular attractions, it offers more than meets the eye.
St James' Palace
The official home of the sovereign of the United Kingdom, built in Tudor red brick.
St James' Park
A green oasis in royal London that is host to numerous ceremonies - and has a lake complete with pelicans.
J.J. Fox Cigars
Established in 1787 J.J. Fox is the world's oldest cigar merchant. Its list of clientele includes Winston Churchill, Her Majesty Queen Victoria and numerous other celebrities from around the world.
Caxton Bar
The Caxton Bar in the St. Ermine's Hotel has been the stage for some of the most significant acts of espionage to take place in London over the last 100 years. Also frequented by Ian Fleming who wrote Bond books while drinking here.
Pall Mall
Home of several famous gentlemen’s clubs - though several are now gender-integrated, such as the Traveller’s Club, The Oxford & Cambridge Club, and the Atheneum.

Related Tours

London's Full Day Highlights including London Eye Ride
This full-day tour is the perfect way to see London's iconic sites and experience a ride on the London Eye, as well as a Thames cruise. 

  • Start with a visit to the Tower of London, the oldest palace, fortress and prison in the whole of Europe.
  • Enjoy the wonderful scenery of Central London with a relaxing cruise down the Thames.
  • See London’s most famous buildings including St James’ Palace, Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards, the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben.
  • Visit London’s Gothic architectural marvel: Westminster Abbey.
  • End your tour with a relaxing ride on the London Eye, which offers the best views of the entire city at a thrilling 135m.
Tower of London:

What a day to remember! Learn more about the great city of London and explore its fascinating history with an expert guide. Your guide will collect you from where you are staying and take you to the famous Tower of London, where you will discover the many stories of one of the oldest buildings in London, and experience where some of the greatest events in English History occurred. Best of all, you will be able to admire the stunning Crown Jewels. 

River Cruise, Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace & Park:

On leaving the Tower you will travel to Westminster by river cruise for a walking tour past some of London’s most famous buildings including St James’s Palace, Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards, the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben. If you're lucky you might catch the Changing of the Guards ceremony, which is full of pomp and ceremony (this is dependent on the day and weather).

Westminster Abbey & London Eye:

After lunch in Westminster, you will continue your day with a private tour of London’s royal church, Westminster Abbey - the site of 38 coronations and the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Learn about the Coronation ceremony and enjoy the beauty of this 800 year old treasure. After a day crammed full of history and culture, the best way to end your highlights tour is with a relaxing ride on the London Eye (one of the world's biggest Ferris Wheels), which offers spectacular views across London.

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