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Where To See the Changing of the Guard in England

March 24, 2024
Changing of the Guard in England

You can’t get more English or more royal than the Changing of the Guard. It’s a spectacular event full of tradition and history, and anyone can watch it for free, but you’ll need to know where to be and when to be there if you want to get a good view of the ceremony.

Make sure to read to the end for where I share my best tip on where to see the Changing of the Guard.

What is the Changing of the Guard?

Guards in uniform in England

The Changing of the Guard is basically when the old guard, the soldiers currently on duty at Buckingham Palace, in their redcoats and bearskins, are formally relieved of their duties by the new guard.

It might sound like a very simple case of one set of soldiers ending their shift and the next shift taking over, but this is no regular handover. The Changing of the Guard involves a grand parade and a marching band, the horse guards carrying the Union Jack, and lots of pomp. 

The Changing of the Guard takes place in London every day in June and July and on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday between August and May. It officially starts at 11 a.m., as this is when the change-over happens, but some elements of the proceedings will start at 10:30 a.m. 

The soldiers gather at St James’s Palace and Wellington Barracks at 10 a.m., and many visitors like to get there early to see the soldiers gather and prepare, but the crowds really start to arrive at around 10:45 a.m.

1. Wellington Barracks

Uniformed guard in England

You can see the new guards being inspected at Wellington Barracks at around 10:30 a.m. Get there at around 10 a.m. and you’ll be in plenty of time to see guards preparing for their two-hour shift while a band plays a selection of music. 

Just before 11 a.m., the guards march out of Wellington Barracks, following the marching band, and turn left to Buckingham Palace.

2. The Mall

Uniformed Guards in London

On The Mall, between Marlborough Road and Buckingham Palace, you can get a great view of the guards as they march past. The best thing about a spot on The Mall is that there are no barriers at this part of the route, so you can get some clear photos of the guards.

You can also follow the guards down the road if you like, walking behind them on the road. Just make sure you keep a safe distance. You can follow the parade all the way to Buckingham Palace, though it will be very crowded when you get there.

3. Buckingham Palace

Uniformed guards and horses in London

Buckingham Palace is the most famous landmark in London, and it’s probably the most popular place to witness the Changing of the Guard. This is where we see it on our Royal London Walking Tour.

The old guard stationed at Buckingham Palace will stand in line in the forecourt at around 10:55 a.m., and most visitors see this as the main event. The new guard will arrive and both sets of guards, old and new, present their arms to each other. Then the keys to the palace are given to the new guard by the old guard.

This ceremony happens behind the locked gates of Buckingham Palace, so while there are crowds, there won’t be any right by the guards obstructing the view up-close.

4. Victoria Memorial

VIctoria Memorial London

This is probably the best spot in London for a good view of the Changing of the Guard. The memorial is at the front of Buckingham Palace, and you can get a great view of the marching band and guards making their way into the forecourt at the palace by standing on the steps of the memorial.

You’ll also get a decent view of the ceremony in the forecourt of the palace from here. You’ll then be able to see the guards leaving the palace, including the marching band and the household cavalry.

Local tip: Be aware that once you’ve chosen your spot on the Victoria Memorial you’re there for the duration, as the crowds will pretty much keep you there.

5. Windsor Castle

Changing of the Guards at Windsor Castle

But the best place to see the Changing of the Guard, in my opinion, isn’t in London at all, it’s at Windsor Castle. 

The biggest and oldest continually inhabited castle in the world, and one of the Royal Family’s favorite homes, Windsor Castle brings a touch of history and magic to the Changing of the Guard. It doesn’t occur every day here and dates and times vary, so always check before you visit.

I’ve found the crowds are much more manageable in Windsor than they are in London, and while you should still arrive early to get a good spot, it’s pretty easy to find a space and get a good view.

You can watch the guards parading through the small streets, with the marching band, for free, but if you want to see the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard itself, this takes place inside the castle, and you’ll need to buy a ticket to enter the castle first. 

Don’t miss seeing the largest dollhouse in the world, complete with working elevators, running water, and electricity! 

Don’t miss the Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

Many people opt to see the Changing of the Guard in London because it’s something you can’t watch anywhere else in the world. While Buckingham Palace is the most popular viewing place, there are good alternative spots like Wellington Barracks and The Mall where you can see the parading guards and the marching band.

The Victoria Memorial is a great elevated spot for watching the entire procession and the ceremony in the forecourt at Buckingham Palace, but for a quieter, less crowded experience, head to nearby Windsor and watch the parade in historic surroundings.

Speaking of less crowded spots, have you seen London’s scenic river crossings? Check out my guide to London’s nine best bridges.