London tip: Changing the Guard at St. James’s Palace instead of Buckingham (with video)

The Changing the Guard at London’s Buckingham Palace must be the most heraleded tourist attraction in which many attendees leave out of boredom long before it is over.

I strolled over from the hotel because of glorious sunshine and curiosity. Crowds had already amassed. Only those with front-row positions by the gates, or elevated positions on the fountain or walls, see much. The guards scoot by and then spend nearly half an hour inside doing very little. What they are doing is difficult to see or hear. Then they bolt.

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Long before the guards’ departure, the crowds thin and people find other ways to occupy themselves.

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A better option, thanks to Rick Steves, is to show up at St. James’s Palace about 12:15 to see the guards march in and out for a quick changing, sharing the up-close experience with at most a handful of fellow tourists. It is just 2-3 minutes’ walk from Buckingham Palace so if you must attend the main event and stick it out to the end, make a quick break from Buckingham ahead of the guards to get great pictures as they pass.

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  • Nancy

    I think an even better option is the Ceremony of the Keys. It is held at the Tower of London every night – regardless of the weather. The amount of people able to observe is limited to well under 50, so you get much better views. Only issue may be that tickets (no charge) need to be ordered in advance.

  • LarryInNYC

    Definitely recommend the changing of the guard, or some similar event, in Athens. Soldiers with pom-pom slippers do various walks from the Monty Python “Ministry of Silly Walks” skit.