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?

Also, when the Royal Family goes on holiday, Buckingham's gates are open to visitors for a few weeks of the year between late July and early September. If you've always wanted to get to know the residence of the British Royal Family and their quirky escort, here's 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 on board a private river cruise.

Don't miss this 10-hour guided bus tour of London's most iconic landmarks, such as the Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral. You'll also 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 centre or with a ride on the London Eye Ferris wheel. You decide!

Recommended if... you want to see the most important sights of the British capital in a single day and save money.

What is the Changing of the Guard in London?

London Changing of the Guard| © R Spegel
London Changing of the Guard| © R Spegel

This is a military ceremony held at the main entrance to Buckingham Palace to relieve the guards who are in charge of security at Buckingham Palace and St James's Palace, another palace very close to the residence of the British Royal Family.

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

It is a very colourful parade where you will see regiments of guards on foot and horseback accompanied by a military orchestra that plays both traditional and contemporary music to liven up the spectacle. I was really surprised to see the musicians playing songs from The Beatles, Star Wars and The Lion King in the middle of the military parade, which was great 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 the inside of Buckingham Palace. We knew this was a rare opportunity, as it is only open to the public for a few weeks of the year, so we were intrigued by what we would see behind its doors.

On this tour of Buckingham Palace you won't see the private chambers of the Royal Family, but you will see 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 theatres and here you will find the armchairs that were used for the coronation of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1953. It is also where photographs are often taken at royal weddings.
  • White Drawing Room: One of the most regal and beautiful rooms in the Palace, used by the late Queen when she wished to meet more privately with a guest before a large reception and to relax with her family.
  • Picture Gallery: A small gallery containing some of the most important paintings from the Royal Collection. It is now 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 held 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 left and met up again with our guide Amber for a stroll through 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 treated to sandwiches, cakes, pies, tarts and homemade scones with jam and clotted cream, as well as a variety of teas that are great on their own, with milk or with lemon. After immortalising the banquet for our social networks (another very 21st century tradition) we went on to sample all the delights of this very special afternoon tea - it was all delicious!

The afternoon tea ceremony was the perfect finishing touch to a day where we experienced 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 do this experience again without hesitation!

Useful information about this activity

  • 4 hour tour of Buckingham Palace followed by 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 combined with the military formality, the parade, the colourful uniforms of the soldiers and the music of the military orchestra is a sight to behold and something that attracts a lot of attention.

There are several countries in Europe that celebrate solemn changing of the guard in front of their royal palaces (such is the case of Norway, Denmark, Monaco or Spain) but it is the one in England 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 about 45 minutes and takes place every day at 11am in June and July. The rest of the year it is held every other day (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays) except when it rains, as the display is usually cancelled.

To keep up to date 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 11am it is usually busy much earlier so I advise you to get to the palace around 10 or 10:15am 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 centre of the rotunda in front of Buckingham Palace Gate.

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

As many people crowd right in front of the palace gates, I don't recommend you to stand there as you won't see the parade well unless you are in the front row. And that's a bit difficult but not impossible.

What else to see in London?

London's Big Ben| © Marcin Nowak
London's Big Ben| © Marcin Nowak

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

If this is the first time you visit it, I recommend you to read the post The best things to see and do in London to get 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 of a "guiri" plan, one of the best ideas to discover it, either doing the complete bus tours or hopping on and off (its famous "Hop on-Hop off" in English) whenever you want to explore an area on foot. If you want to know more about this activity, don't miss the article about London sightseeing bus tours.

Would you like to know what else you can do in the city? Take a look at the Best London sightseeing tours and excursions article, which will show you the different faces of London and its monuments in a variety of ways.

Finally, London is a huge city with 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 great trips 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 made up of an entire regiment, so the changing of the guard includes changing an entire regiment, which includes a military band performance and a parade.

  • 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 take place?

    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.