Having served as the official London residence of the UK’s monarchs since as early as 1837 (before even the legendary Queen Victoria took to the throne), Buckingham Palace is one of the most – if not the most –iconic of London’s tourist-friendly sites. That said, though, what many may not appreciate is, unless you make a visit during the eight-week summer period of August and September, the closest you’ll get to the Palace itself are the railings outside. So you’d be wise to bear this in mind during a visit to London – specifically if you want to check out the attraction.
And why would you want to check it out? Well, principally for the State Rooms, no doubt. Fantastically furnished, they offer a treasure troveof pieces from the Royal Collection –works byRubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Canaletto, as well assumptuousBritish and French furniture.Entry is ticketed and audio tours are included – even if (rather understandably) taking photographs and selfies aren’t.
However, often he biggest draw for those who make the effort of a Buckingham Palace visit is to see the Changing of the Guard which, because it takes place outside, is entirely free to watch –great news whether you’re staying in expensive accommodation, a cheap B&B or a decently priced, comfortable hotel like the Paddington Court Executive Rooms.
The ceremony sees a ‘new guard’of mounted troops replacing the‘old guard’ in protection of the sovereign outside the palace. Depending on which day you attend the event, the troops you’ll see will hail from one of five of the British Army’s regiments of Foot Guards – the Coldstream Guards, the Grenadier Guards the Irish Guards, the Scots Guards or the Welsh Guards. And the ceremony is accompanied by a military band – which doesn’t always merely play marching music; sometimes it serenades tourists with show tunes or even recognisable pop hits!
A word to the wise, though; as there’s no predicting the size of the crowds, to secure a good viewing position you’readvised to get the site at least 45 minutes prior to when the ceremony reaches it(11.30am), or effectively walk with the troops up from Horse Guards Parade (where it all begins), giving you the opportunityto work out where it’ll be best to see all the action when you arrive with them.
It’s also worth noting then that there’s in fact several Changing of the Guard ceremonies that take place daily as well as the one at Buckingham Palace. As mentioned, the one – connected to the Palace version – at Horse Guards Parade is often sought out by ‘those in the know’ owing to attracting fewer people, while you can catch guard-changes at much closer quarters at the nearby St. James’s Palace and at the residence Her Majesty The Queen now spends most of her time, Windsor Castle, which is located a few miles west of London itself.