London’s must-see ceremony: The changing the guards


Guard changing, Buckingham Palace, London, UKLondon is, of course, home to the Royal family, meaning that each year thousands of tourists flock to the city in the hopes that they might catch a glimpse of the Queen.  Although, it’s worth noting that this is highly unlikely, a trip to London is still well worthwhile, not just because of the Royals but also because of the many beautiful tourist spots associated with them, such as the Princess of Wales memorial playground. This stunning park is not only home to a specially commissioned memorial fountain, but also has themed play areas for children which are based around the story of Peter Pan. It features wigwams, sand pits and so much more and is the perfect place to head for a picnic if you’re visiting London as a family.

Hyde Park is another of London’s Royal parks and offers beautifully manicured gardens set in luscious greenery- a stark contrast to London’s grey buildings and smog. It is a place of serenity amidst an otherwise noisy, and often chaotic, city.  Here, you’ll also find ‘speaker’s corner’ where many have voiced their opinions over current affairs and political matters over the years. London is a city of freedom and that’s certainly felt through the freedom of speech displayed in this aptly named corner of the park. Since the park is open until late, it is a popular choice with people from all walks of life, but especially romantics who may wish to treat their significant other to a spontaneous picnic under the stars.

Taking the top spot of all the Royal hotspots though is Buckingham Palace- the Queen’s usual residence and one of London’s most famous landmarks. The palace has all of the splendid architecture one would expect of a royal residence, and there will always be one of two flags flying from it- the union jack flag if the Queen is vacant or the Royal Standard if Her Majesty is in London. Scattered all around the palace, you’ll notice armed guards in full Royal guard uniform. Their sole purpose is to protect the palace and those inside it, and will do so fiercely. These guards naturally, need to change over at specified times to take rest periods, this is widely known as ‘The changing of the guards.’ This switch over, is a ceremonious affair, and happens each day between the months of April and July, promptly at 11.30 each morning. The changing of the guards takes around forty-five minutes and can be seen at various points as the march proceeds to the palace. Many visitors to London will plan their day around this incredible ceremony as it is free to watch and gives you a glimpse into both military roles and British patriotism.

The cavalry parade can be seen from St. James Palace, where the guards will march through in order to reach Buckingham Palace, it really is a wonderful sight to behold, watching the guards march with precision and pride as they take up their new positions. It also presents outstanding photo opportunities that would otherwise be missed.  The guards are also often accompanied by military bands, which can be identified according to regiments through the colour of feather that they display in their cap.

Once you are satisfied that you have taken plenty of pictures of the palace and the splendid guards, then you should consider returning back to St. James Palace where guards will also be changing. However, because of the lack of security borders there, it is possible to have a photo taken right next to one of the guards. (However, don’t expect them to smile for the camera- being on guard for the Queen is a serious task!)
If you are planning to visit London purely to see this stunning parade, then it is advisable to check the website beforehand, especially if you are travelling during winter months when the parade only takes place every other day. Although if you are staying in London overnight, then the chances of catching the parade on one of the days is pretty good, providing that the weather is good also. When booking your accommodation, you might wish to consider the possibility of the weather preventing the parade from going ahead, and if your budget will allow for it, book an extra night or two just to be sure. After all, if the weather behaves, and you see the parade on your first day in the city, there are plenty of other fantastic landmarks to visit during your stay in London. And, if you are staying at a hotel like The Montcalm, then you will be centrally located to ensure convenient access to many of these via the underground tube service.

If you are hoping to do a lot of sightseeing around London during your visit, you should consider getting an Oyster travel card. This is a universal form of payment across many of London’s public transport modes, such as the trams, London buses and, of course, the underground tube service too. You can prepay your card before you travel, which means that you won’t need to worry about carrying the right change with you to pay for your fares each time you wish to go somewhere new. The balance of the card is also protected against theft, so it offers added peace of mind to the London traveller too.
When choosing your hotel, think about which facilities you may find beneficial, as this will prevent you spending too much paying for things that you won’t use. For example, those travelling to London for pleasure may wish to book a hotel with a spa, whilst those travelling on business might not use the spa, but would benefit from a hotel with a chic bar in which they can network.