Buckingham Palace Guide, London, England

Buckingham Palace, London, England, UK

Buckingham Palace seen from Queen Victoria Memorial by Chiugoran.

Buckingham Palace Tourism

Built in 1705 as a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham and home to royalty since 1837 when Queen Victoria moved in, Buckingham Palace surrounds are worth a wander at any time, especially catching a view from down the long avenue approach called The Mall or from relaxing St James Park where the bridge is prime viewing point.
TBH it’s not a very pretty sight but it still makes it into the top ten London attractions, especially when the guards are marching or riding down the Mall and into the courtyard with much pomp and ceremony. Get there early. It’s free!

Changing of the Guard

Tourists on Queen Victoria Memorial, buckingham palace, London, England

Tourists await the Changing of the Queen’s Guard on Queen Victoria Memorial (QVM on map below) which is central and elevated so pole position for viewing.

* The Changing of the Guard, seen for free outside the Palace. A superb experience if you’re in the right place at the right time and the weather is kindly supportive.

* Taking a pay-to-gawp tour of the perfect and luxurious interior and extensive but dull gardens at the back. Questionable value. It really depends on your attraction to British royalty and/or extravagant decor.

Buckingham Palace area map, London, England

Map of the public, east side of Buckingham Palace where guards march.

Best Way to See the Changing of the Guard

Changing the guard at Buckingham Palace, London Travel, England

The Queens Guards and the best position for viewing them, the Queen Victoria Monument, more-or-less in the middle of The Mall, the boulevard that leads to Buckingham Palace from Trafalgar Square. Photo by Cristian Bortes.

* The Queens Guard are infantry that generally march in bearskin hats accompanied by a band while the more impressive Life Guards ride on horseback in shiny helmets. However, it depends on which regiment is on duty, so if the Grenadier Guards are on then tourists will get to see dull grey coats and probably rain in sympathy. Whoever they are they usually move from near Horse Guards Parade (on the right) down the Mall to the palace, though there is also action around Wellington Barracks (bottom left on map) though it’s not clear when that happens.

* The very best view is from a raised part of QVM (Queen Victoria Memorial) or one of the curved pavements facing the monument and palace. Failing that anywhere along The Mall will provide a good view of the guards, though getting to see the actual change in the palace courtyard may be a challenge if you are too far away as police strictly control movement in the area.

* The two best tube stations for access to the grand parade are St James Park or Green Park. Victoria is not such a pleasant walk but not far. St James Park is the prettier park, has lovely walks and GV (see map) is an excellent spot to see the palace (but not the guard) in the west or fine old government buildings to the east.

* There is also a smaller ‘Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard’ every day in Horse Guards Parade (right side). It features horse guards with no music but fewer tourists. Windsor Castle too has a daily guard-changing event.
Just on the Whitehall side of Horse Guards Parade will be one stiff, bored guard all alone and being used as a photo opportunity by tourist barbarians.

When does the Changing of the Guard happen?

The Queen's Life Guards dazzling spectators, Buckingham Palace, London, England.

The Queen’s Life Guards dazzling spectators. Photo by Cristian Bortes.

We’d have to say that a) these soldiers look like it’s been a while since they threw a grenade b) how come the Grenadiers actually look where they’re going when the smarter lads obviously navigate by sonar?

The Changing of the Guard takes about 45 minutes and starts every day (unless it’s raining hard) at about 11. 15am April-July but every other day (i. e. alternate days) from August-March. Get there early for best position which is probably on the Queen Victoria Memorial. Uniforms will change according to which regiment is on guard and what season it is. Winter uniforms may be dull, grey overcoats!

n. b. This event DOES NOT take place in very wet weather.

Note that the Queen’s Guard is not just ceremonial and guards both Buckingham Palace and St James Palace (on the map next to Green Park) throughout the day and night. During the night watch the guards patrol the grounds of both palaces.

The courtyard ceremony is difficult to see unless you’re 7ft tall or get to the fence early, but is not as spectacular as the synchronised marching, martial, musical approach.

The flag flying (or flopping in this case) on the flagpole at top is the official indicator that the Queen is in residence.

Looking down The Mall to Buckingham Palace, London, England

Looking down The Mall to Buckingham Palace after the Changing of the Guard finishes for another day. Apart from ceremonial occasions this is a light traffic street.

Visiting Buckingham Palace

The backside of Buckingham Palace, only visible to guests and paid visitors.

The State Rooms of the palace are open to tourists in the summer, late July to early October.

Members of the bugcrew were not keen on a visit beforehand, imagining the interior to be conservative and dull. Well, they were right and wrong, conservative, yes, but also fantastically decorated, perfectly maintained and replete with stunning treasures ranging from paintings by the great masters to exquisite sculptures, porcelain and furniture.

A basic Buckingham Palace tour includes sights of the Grand Staircase, the Throne Room, the Royal Mews (stables, coaches and motor cars), Picture Gallery and the State Ballroom. We give the interior 5/5 and the exterior 1/5. Interior photography is not permitted.

Buckingham Palace gardens, London, England

Buckingham Palace Gardens.

The main disappointment of Buck House was the garden at the back of the building. It’s large and manicured but stylistically gets zero out of ten. Also the tourist trail is roped so wandering lonely as a cloud is not an option. A walk in St James Park is a similar experience, only with less armed police in evidence and no ropes. However, if you could wangle entry to a Royal Garden Party then it would be a different story.

Getting to Buckingham Palace

On Foot: 15 minutes walk from the Houses of Parliament (also known as the Westminster Palace) and Westminster Abbey through St James Park. 15 minutes also from Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery and Piccadilly. 10 minutes from Hyde Park Corner.

By Bicycle: There are docking spaces quite nearby at Wellington Arch, Hyde Park (west edge of Green Park); Royal Mews, Victoria; Curzon Street, Mayfair (north of Green Park Tube).

By Tube/Underground: Green Park, St James Park and Victoria, see the map above.

By Bus: Take any buses to Victoria, Hyde Park Corner, Whitehall or Trafalgar Square.

By Car: Don’t! No parking, no space, no tolerance. Taxis, no problem of course.