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Horse Guards Parade

An old tournament ground that now serves as an area for royal and military ceremonies.

TravelCurious Tip

If you happen to be in London for the annual Trooping the Colour or Beating Retreat ceremonies, they are an absolute must-see.

Nestled between Downing Street, Whitehall and St. James’ Park, Horse Guards Parade occupies a prime location in central London and is just a five minute walk from the Houses of Parliament. The vast parade ground has been an important venue for English royalty for centuries, and it continues to dazzle visitors with regular military spectacles that showcase the best that the British Army has to offer.

In the time of Henry VIII, Horse Guards Parade was an enclosed courtyard attached to the enormous Palace of Whitehall, and it played host to a number of jousting tournaments during his reign. The palace burned to the ground in 1698, but the Parade remained in use as a military facility, and was once the headquarters of the Duke of Wellington.


Marching as to War

These days, Horse Guards Parade is London’s primary military parade ground, and is used for some of the armed forces’ most important events. It is sometimes thought that the Changing of the Guard only occurs outside Buckingham Palace, but in fact the same ceremony that is put on here every day is in many ways even more impressive. It is an astonishing display of military discipline and organisation. Every inch of the soldiers’ uniforms has been scrubbed, brushed or polished to perfection, and the result is a gleaming mass of bright-scarlet men marching precisely as one. Horses are often involved, always immaculately trained and presented. You aren’t allowed too close to these, but there are usually police horses positioned immediately outside the parade ground, and the friendly officers on top will often let children or adults pat them.


Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in London
Downing Street
The home of some of the most important members of the British Government, including the Prime Minister himself.
Churchill War Rooms
A fascinating underground museum preserving the bunker from which Churchill's government directed the war effort.
The 40 Elephants Bar
The hotel's cocktail bar is inspired by the Victorian 40 elephants all-female gang, which operated in the area for over 75 years.
Great Scotland Yard Hotel Artwork
The GSY is known for its outstanding artwork. The hotel's owners have partnered with the Koestler Trust, which works with prisons in the UK, using art and creativity as part of the rehabilitation process.
Great Scotland Yard Hotel
Tracing back to 997 AD, with 5 centuries occupancy by Scottish royalty (think Margaret, Queen of Scots) and later serving as HQ for the Met police - the GSY hotel is home to over a millennia of stories waiting to be told.
Sherlock Holmes Pub
The traditional English pub also plays home to a sitting room and study modeled after Holmes and Watson's, including memorabilia from tv and movie adaptations.

Related Tours

Private Walking Tour of Westminster
Perfect for those who would like a full experience of London.  See London’s unmissable attractions, parks and finest Royal sites with an expert guide. Learn about fascinating English history, British tradition and London's incredible past—from the plague and the great fire of London to the Blitz. 

  • See Whitehall and 10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament,  Somerset House and Big Ben.
  • Next hear stories as you visit the outside of Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey via the beautiful St James Park and Trafalgar Square.
Reveal the secrets of power and politics on our exciting tour of Westminster, visiting some of the most recognisable landmarks. Visit the Houses of Parliament, the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, and be inspired by its mighty history. Gain insight into the centuries old Westminster Abbey, the setting for every coronation since 1066, many royal weddings and the final resting place of 17 monarchs. Find out the secrets of the underground bunker where Churchill won the Second World War. View the fascinating statues and memorials on Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and Whitehall, dedicated to some of the greatest politicians and monarchs of the British Empire. Amble through the fabulous gardens and sights of St James Park and witness the Changing of the Guards in front of magnificent Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the UK’s sovereigns since 1837. Walk along the Mall and learn curious facts about British Kings & Queens, who turned the British Empire into the most dominant power on Earth.

Begin exploring the heart of London’s parliamentary district. This was the brain and nerve centre for British and Allied forces in Europe and abroad. See the Winston Churchillmemorial, and learn about his adolescence, personal life and fascinating rise to government. See partially destroyed buildings from the blitz and visit The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Prime Minister's residence. Next visit The iconic Cenotaph war memorial, special service headquarters and Ghurka memorial.

Westminster and Buckingham Palace

First, you will be guided around the outside of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and learn about the political history of Parliament Square. Then, you'll be shown around the outside of Westminster Abbey, and if time permits you'll be able to go inside (entrance tickets not included).  This is London’s royal church which has been the site of 38 coronations and was where the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton took place.  Following this will be a walk up Whitehall to No. 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's residence, ending up at Trafalgar Square.

Finally, we will walk down to take in the Prospect of Buckingham Palace and then up and down the tree-lined Mall, where thousands of jubilant crowds have greeted news about the royal family for generations.
Private Walking Tour: The Temple of Detection in the Heart of Power
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  • Learn about the hotel’s history through its artwork — including the role the curated art plays in prison rehabilitation programs today. 
  • Step out into the neighborhood and hear about the originals of the Met Police and Whitehall’s connection to the Sherlock Holmes saga.
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  • See where the entrance to Harry Potter’s Ministry of Magic is set – and maybe even experience some magic yourselves! 
  • Discuss the crosshairs between which power and the British monarchy are often found — and how the stories playing out today echo back through time. 
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  • Return to the Great Scotland Yard Hotel and venture to the 40 Elephants and enjoy a signature house cocktail. 
  • Your tour ends with a signature cocktail at the 40 Elephants Bar in the hotel, where you will be apprised of the illustrious history from which the bar has taken its name. 
Located just blocks from Trafalgar Square to the north, the Palace of Westminster to the south, and Buckingham Palace to the west, it’s of little wonder that over a thousand years of England’s history has triangulated on The Great Scotland Yard Hotel. Your starts and ends at the hotel itself, medieval seat of royalty, then home to elite civil servants and in Victorian times the Central Office of the detective unit of the Metropolitan Police, where the beautiful artwork specially commissioned by Hyatt Hotels for this celebrates famous figures, police, criminals and even modern prisoners and politicians.

 Within its walls, kings and queens have slept, criminals have been held, and spies have operated without detection. On its doorstep, the entire city of London has played out its history, as centuries of stewards have made use of the now-hotel. You will explore the creation of the modern police force, some of the heinous crimes (real and fictional) investigated on this site, and the local connections both Royal and Political here, the centre of power in the UK for many centuries. Join Travel Curious guides on a walk of world history as told through the peculiar and one-of-a-kind history of the Great Scotland Yard Hotel. 
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