The Changing of the Guards occurs at Buckingham Palace in London when the Old Guard sentries hand over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace to the New Guard sentries. These Changing of the Guard Tips for Families will help you plan one of the must-see activities when visiting London with children.
The Guards are splendid in their unique scarlet tunics and bearskin hats. The Changing of the Guard in London should be at the top of your London agenda if you like colorful spectacle, British pageantry, pomp, and superb military ritual. More information on the Changing of the Guard in London and tips for visiting the changing of the guard with children are provided below.
In this article, we will discuss the history of and facts about the Changing of the Guard. As well as practical information for planning your visit, such as how long does the Changing of the Guard take and when does Changing of the Guard happen? We include videos of our family experience and detailed information about where to see Changing of the Guard in London. Don’t miss the route map and our top Changing of the Guard tips, and a timeline for families. There are also details about seeing the Changing of the Guards in Windsor.
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This article is a must-read to help your family plan the best Changing of the Guard experience possible with kids.
If you are taking a family vacation to London, check out our articles about Touring Buckingham Palace with Children, Getting Around London with Children, Visiting The London Eye With Children, or planning a Tower of London Visit with Kids.
What Does Changing of the Guard Mean?
Changing of the Guard London Is a formal ceremony carried out by the guards in which the old Guard in charge of defending the palace transfers duty to the new Guard. Its heightened activity is supported by music from different enthusiastic bands.
Changing the Guard is a ceremonial event in which the existing Guard of troops guarding Buckingham Palace is replaced with a new guard of soldiers.
The King’s Guard, which protects Buckingham Palace, consists of troops on active service from the Household Division’s Foot Guards. The guards wear traditional crimson tunics and bearskin helmets.
Concerning the Buckingham Palace Guards:
The foot guards are divided into five regiments, and one intriguing feature that distinguishes them is their trademark black bearskin hats that stand tall (the caps are typically 18′′ tall and 1.5 pounds!).
Any of the British Army’s five regiments may be present at the change and are distinguished by the plume on their bearskin hat, a grouping of buttons on their tunic, and a color badge. Though their uniforms may seem identical, making it difficult to distinguish across regiments, having an eye for detail may suffice. The regiments are summarized below:
- Welsh Guards – left side, white and green
- Irish Guards – right side, blue
- There are no Scots Guards.
- Coldstream Guards – red on the right side
- Grenadier Guards – white on the left side
The green and white plume that is worn on the left side of the bearskin identifies a Welsh guardsman.
How long does Changing of the Guard take?
The ceremony lasts around 45 minutes. However, there is plenty of activity happening before the ceremony that your family will enjoy, such as uniform inspections, band performances, and marching. So, does Changing of the Guard happen every day?
When Does the Changing of the Guard happen?
At 11:00 a.m, the Changing of the Guard event at Buckingham Palace starts on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.
It comes after a march by the Old Guard, led by a Regimental Band from Wellington Barracks, and the New Guard, led by a Regimental Band from St. James’s Palace.
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace is traditionally done as follows:
- Daily in June and July
- Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays from August through May.
All parades are subject to weather and can be canceled at short notice due to weather.
The event is free and can be combined with some of London’s most recognizable sights on a Royal Walking Tour.
Note: Check the ceremonial schedule on the Household Division’s website for verified Changing the Guard timings before your visit. This calendar will tell you when to see the changing of the guard in London. There is no ceremony on days when major events are conducted in the city center.
Changing of the Guard London Video
Here is my video of the Regimental Band leading the New Guard as they leave Wellington Barracks.
What are my top Changing of the Guard Tips for families? I recommend families watch the Changing of the Guard from Wellington Barracks. It is less crowded, and children will have a better opportunity to see the parade and not have their view obstructed by taller adults.
It is fascinating for children (and adults) to watch the guards lined up and being inspected at Wellington Barracks. Then the band will form a circle and play music before they depart for the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Where To See Changing of the Guard London?
The Changing of the Guards ritual may be seen at three locations: Buckingham Palace, Wellington Barracks, and St James’s Palace.
Where can you stand for the Changing of the Guard ceremony? Here are the greatest Changing of the Guard viewing tips:
Changing of the Guard St. James’s Palace
St. James’ Palace hosts the initial troop movements for the Changing of the Guard ceremonial. In Friary Court, Marlborough Road, SW1A 1BG, London.
10:25 The Queen’s Guard St James’ Palace Detachment forms up for inspection on Friary Court. The St James’s Palace Band performs various music throughout the inspection. (Check the calendar since the St James’s Palace Band may not always perform.)
10:43 The Guards march along The Mall to Buckingham Palace, usually headed by a Regimental Band or Corp of Drums. Here is the place to go if you want a quick sight of the Guards without waiting too long. It is congested since many tour leaders bring their groups here.
Note: Get your camera ready for action before you travel to The Mall to see the Guards and Band perform. You might also take a de-tour from Wellington Barracks and see the New Guard and Band by crossing The Mall into St. James’s Park and heading north on Birdcage Walk. The Green Park Tube station is a 9-minute, 0.4-mile walk. It serves the Victoria, Piccadilly, and Jubilee lines.
Changing of the Guard Wellington Barracks
You should arrive at Wellington Barracks – located at the end of Birdcage Walk near Buckingham Palace – at 10:15 a.m. There, the New Guard is lining up to be inspected, and while they wait for their Regimental Colours, at approximately 10:40, the Band plays different kinds of music.
At 10:57 a.m., a Regimental Band will lead the New Guard out of Wellington Barracks and down to Buckingham Palace, where they will turn left.
Here is a video of the Band performing at Wellington Barracks as we wait for the New Guard to march out of the barracks to Buckingham Palace.
Note: You can either go to the Palace with the New Guard after they leave, or you can take a stroll across St. James’s Park, stopping for coffee on the way, and then making your way to the Square in time to watch Household Cavalry return to the barracks at 11:37, as they ride past. In the morning, at 11:45, the Band conducts The King’s Guard Detachment marches along the Mall from St. James’s Palace.
St. James’s Park is about half an hour’s walk and a quarter of a mile from where the District and Circle lines terminate.
In front of Buckingham Palace is the Victoria Memorial. Standing on the stairs of the Victoria Memorial is a fantastic place to see the Guards and Bands arrive and has a good view of the event in the forecourt.
- The elevated location provides a good view of the ceremony.
- Views of the Guards and Bands entering and leaving are excellent.
- A good view of the Household Cavalry riding by.
- You must arrive early.
- It becomes crowded.
- Crowds against the rails might make it difficult to see the forecourt.
- You will not be able to leave once the ceremony starts.
Note: Try to acquire space on the side of the monument that faces Buckingham Palace. However, most spots on the memorial will provide a good view.
Buckingham Palace Railings (Gates)
When it comes to the Changing of the Guard, most first-time tourists strive to get a place on the Buckingham Palace railings. You will get a good view of the changing ceremony section in the forecourt if you arrive early enough.
The closest you can get to the Ceremony of the Changing of the Guard is on the forecourt. The whole event may be seen on the forecourt. However, you must arrive early, at least 1.5 hours before the start (during the summer).
It becomes extremely crowded. Your view of the Guards marching to and from the Palace is restricted. It’s challenging to obtain excellent shots of the ‘Guards’ marching to the Palace.
Note: Take a bottle of water with you; if you leave for a drink or a comfort break, you will not be able to return to the head of the line.
If you come late or don’t want to join the masses behind the railings or on the Queen Victoria Memorial, when facing Buckingham Palace, take the left turn into Spur Road. You can see the Band and New Guard moving along Birdcage Walk. You should usually find a place if you come late or dislike crowds. On the forecourt, you can’t see much of the ceremony.
Changing of the Guard Buckingham Palace Route
Here is a Changing of the Guard map, which shows the parade route before, during, and after the ceremony.
Changing of the Guard Tips for Families
Follow these Changing of the Guard Tips for Families to plan the best experience visiting London with your children. The Changing of the Guard Ceremony is a great free activity for families in London.
- Arrive early to get the best viewing spot for the ceremony.
- Be aware of pickpockets in large crowds, and make sure your belonging are secure.
- Keep a close eye on your child(ren), so they do not become separated from your group.
- Check the calendar, so you know what days the ceremony will happen. The schedule changes seasonally and is subject to weather.
- Consider joining a small group walking tour to learn more about the history of the Changing of the Guard ceremony. This will also help get your family to where you need to be at the appropriate time.
Timeline for Families
If you prefer not to be a part of a group walking tour, it is possible to plan the route yourself. To prevent tantrums and anxious breakdowns, use this Changing of the Guard timeline option with children.
- Arrive at Wellington Barracks between 10:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., at the end of Birdcage Walk, where Buckingham Palace is. Watch the New Guard being checked. The Band plays different songs while they wait for their Regimental Colours.
- At 10:57 a.m, a Regimental Band will lead the New Guard from Wellington Barracks and down to the left toward Buckingham Palace. You can choose to go to the Palace with them.
- However, during this downtime, when there isn’t much going on at the palace for youngsters to watch, walk across the street to St James’s Park. There is a children’s play area next to the snack shop, and across the bridge, there are bathrooms.
- Plan to be at The Mall at the intersection of Marlborough Road by 11:35 a.m. This will give you a close-up view of the guards marching past.
- At 11:37, the Household Cavalry will ride down The Mall on their way back from Horse Guards Parade.
- At 11:45, the relief from St James’s Palace will march up the Mall on their way to relieve the sentries who have been on Guard during the event. The New Guard detachment from St. James’s Palace will march directly down The Mall towards you while being led by a Regimental Band.
St. James’s Palace Changing of the Guard Video
This is my video of the St. James’s Palace Detachment of the New Guard, led by a Regimental Band. They march down The Mall at 11:45 a.m. from Buckingham Palace towards Marlborough Road and into St. James’s Palace.
Changing of the Guards in Windsor
In addition to the Changing of the Guards in London, it is also possible to see the Changing of the Guards in Windsor.
The Changing of the Guard Windsor Castle happens every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. So, what time is Changing of the Guard in Windsor? The guards arrive at Windsor Castle just before 11:00 a.m.
The Changing of the Guard Windsor route goes through the town of Windsor. The guards march into the Castle. The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place inside Windsor Castle.
Where is the best place to watch Changing of the Guards Windsor? You must purchase an admission ticket, where castle visitors can watch the full ceremony inside Windsor Castle. Check the schedule for more details about the Windsor Castle Guard.
Now you know the best Changing of the Guard tips for seeing the Changing of the Guards in London or Windsor with your family.
Before the ceremony at Buckingham Palace, visit Wellington Barracks around 10:30 a.m. to see the guards depart.
The Old Guard departs St. James’s Palace for Buckingham Palace at 10:43. The detailed timetable reveals each regiment’s daily responsibilities. A new schedule is released monthly, so check online before confirming your trip.
Bad weather or overlapping activities might cause cancellations. If the Palace can’t manage the weather, cancellations might happen minutes before the event. Keep yourself up to speed with the frequent bulletins on the palace’s website. Thanks for reading!
For more about family travel, check out these posts:
Tower of London Visit with Kids
Visiting the London Eye with Children
Best Things to do in London with Kids
Free or Cheap Activities in London for Families
Tips for Touring Buckingham Palace with Children
How to Get Around London with Kids
Summer Planner for Kids
How to Avoid Lost Luggage