Buckingham Palace: Changing of the Guard ☆☆☆

The changing of the guard in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace (Photo by Rennett Stowe)
The changing of the guard in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace
The changing of the guard in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace, Changing of the Guard, London (Photo by Rennett Stowe)
Royal marching band, Changing of the Guard, London (Photo by Andreas Wigmostad Bjerkhaug)
Marching down The Mall, Changing of the Guard, London (Photo by Andrew Tijou)
The Band of the Welsh Guards marching south from Buckingham Palace towards Birdcage Walk, Changing of the Guard, London (Photo by Diliff)

The boring of the tourists—I mean the changing of the guard—at London's Royal Residence

The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, the Queen's home and London crash pad for British monarchs since 1837, is one of Europe's most overrated attractions.

It's like a bad halftime show by a over-drilled marching band.

I'm serious, Last time I subjected myself to this boring ritual—cramming myself into the thick crowd that was at least 10 tourists deep and ran the length of the courtyard fence—her Majesty's Royal marching band actually played a medley of Billy Joel hits.

Pomp and circumstance it most definitely was not.

And don't go telling me "But it's fun for the kids!" I first saw it when I was 12 and was bored to tears then, too. (» Actual fun things for the kids in London.)

During the brief periods it is open to the public in summer and around Christmas, do tour the palace itself—but skip the 11:30am changing of the guard.

Please do not tease the guards

It is something of a London vacation tradition: To make faces at, catcall, jeer, or otherwise try to ruffle the stoically unresponsive (and long-suffering) guards flanking the Buckingham Palace gates. The idea is to try and make them break ranks, break their stiff at-attention stance, or even just break a smile.

Please don't. That's just mean.

Let me put it this way: The Palace Guards are all British military, drawn from five infantry and two calvary regiments. A posting here tends to be relief duty for those who have seen action overseas.

Yeah. Nearly all of the guards are active duty soldiers and war veterans. So go ahead. Act like a jerk at them.

Changing Of The Guard Tours

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How long does the Changing of the Guard take?

The ceremony itself last about 45 minutes—but you should get here early to get a good spot, so budget at least 75 minutes.

Arrive early

The changing of the guard itself doesn't hapen until 11:30am—but by then, the tour bus hordes are already a dozen ranks deep, pressed up against the high fence around the courtyard where all the action happens.

Get here at least by 11am to try and find a spot from which you can actually see what's going on.

Get the app

You can download a cheap app from the Royal Colection website for the palace that acts as a digital pamphlet, giving you much more background information, showing a map with the route the Guard takes as it processes to the palace, and more. Nifty.