Buckingham Palace is an obvious must-do. The Queen’s residence stands tall and proud right in the heart of the city’s most beautiful parks. You can walk from Big Ben and the river up the ceremonial approach known as The Mall. This makes for an impressive walk, adorned with flags, leading up to the Victoria Memorial monument and the royal residence that towers over it. Buckingham Palace is an impressive site, standing alone with its ornate gates and traditionally uniformed guards. The gardens are well-manicured and the flags are updated regularly to inform the public on the Queen’s whereabouts. If the Queen is in, her Royal Standard flag waves proudly, and if she is out, the Union Jack is raised in its place. The entire site is one of beauty and tradition and worth being seen. This review, however, is for one specific area of the Buckingham Palace traditions: Changing the Guard.
The Changing the Guard ceremony takes place daily in the summer months, and every other day in the winter, weather permitting. The ceremony surrounds the changing from one regiment to another, the Old Guard trading places with the New Guard. This includes a full band playing while the highly ranked Adjutant inspects the New Guard. The New Guard later approaches the Old Guard, while in choreographed formations, and they hand each other arms. The ceremony concludes with the New Guard being given the Palace keys. It takes about 45 minutes for the band and the well-uniformed soldiers on foot and on horses to complete their ritual.
This all sounds fun and magical, but believe me, it’s not. This is one of the largest London attractions, and since you have only have a 45 minute window each day (at most) to catch it, you’ll find yourself wedged between every visiting tourist. To me, that is not fun. The side from the fountain is your best bet, or down the street away from the Palace. This will allow you to see the band and the horses, but you’ll miss the ceremony that takes place behind the gates. If you really want to be able to see that (which you probably won’t regardless) you may want to peek in from the very far left of the Palace grounds. Really, what I’m trying to say is that there’s no good seat in the house. Every time I go, I am wedged between tourists and body odor and obnoxious children and selfie sticks and I regret ending up there once again. I have even joined the crowd and reached my phone up in the air, on record, to capture a scene to watch later. It was kind of sad. My most desperate attempt to catch a glimpse, though, was when I pretended to need to cross the street, so was held right at the front while the cavalry passed. A guard held me at the front temporarily, allowing me to stand exactly where I wanted to be. That video I will post, but don’t misconstrue that visibility of what a tourist could expect. That is the the visibility of an opportunist.
If you find yourself in London, I say skip it. It’s stressful and cheapens the beauty that is Buckingham Palace. Go first thing in the morning and take in the sights when it is quiet and peaceful. When you can actually take a picture in front of the gates and not have fifteen other people’s body parts in it. That will be a time worth remembering. Enjoy!
Changing the Guard
London SW1A 1AA