Buckingham Palace

The boring of the tourists—I mean the changing of the guard—at London's Royal Residence

The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, the Queen's home and London crash pad for British monarchs since 1837, is one of Europe's most overrated attractions.

It's like a bad halftime show by a over-drilled marching band.

Fun Royal facts
• The Queen does not own Buckingham Palace—or, indeed, most Royal Family residences. They are held in trust by the people for the use of the Sovereign. She actually only owns two properties: Balmoral Castle in Scotand, and Sandringham House in Norfolk.
• You can actually spend the night at Balmoral Castle (though not when the Royals are in residence).
• Since all British passports are issued "In the name of Her Majesty," the Queen doesn't actually need a passport; she just vouches for herself (though her husband, Prince Charles, and everyone one else in the household does have one).
• The Royal Standard flag never flies at half-mast since the monarch is never dead; whenever one king or queen dies, his or her successor immediately becomes the new monarch. "The king is dead, long live the king!"
I'm serious, Last time I subjected myself to this boring ritual—cramming myself into the thick crowd that was at least 10 tourists deep and ran the length of the courtyard fence—her Majesty's Royal marching band actually played a medley of Billy Joel hits.

Pomp and circumstance it most definitely was not.

And don't go telling me "But it's fun for the kids!" I first saw it when I was 12 and was bored to tears then, too. (Actually fun things for the kids in London.)

Come to the palace to make faces at the stoically unresponsive (and long-suffering) guards if you must, but skip the 11:30am changing of the guard (daily May–July, then every second day).

Tours of Buckingham Palace

You can take a spin through the 775-room palace—but only when the Queen's not at home. The Royal Family typically decamps to another castle in late summer (Aug-Sept), and again over the winter (Dec–Feb).

If the flag's a-waving, Elizabeth II is inside and you cannot go in. (Also, if there are four sentries standing guard, she's in; if there are only two, she's off shopping or something.)

Tips & Links

Buckingham Palace details


Buckingham Palace Road (at the west end of The Mall, where Constitution Hill meets Buckingham Gate and The Birdcage—yes, in London those are all street names)

Tel. +44-(0)20-7766-7300
www.royalcollection.org.uk (visitor info)
www.royal.gov.uk (Royal info)


Changing of the Guard: May–July, Daily 11:30am; Other times every other day at 11:30am (check the website for details).

Palace open: Aug 9:30am–7pm, Sept 9:30am–6pm; Select dates Dec–Feb.


Changing of the Guard: Free

Visiting the palace: £19–£35


Tube: Victoria, Green Park, Hyde Park Corner
Bus: 11, 211, C1, C10
Hop-on/Hop-off bus: Red, Yellow, Blue

How long does Buckingham Palace take?

Planning your day: You can see Buckingham Palace in a stroll-by—1 minute.

If you must stay for the changing of the guard, budget at least 30 minutes—but get here at least 30 minutes early, if not longer, for a primo viewing spot along the fence.

If you are planning to tour Buckingham Palace, plan on spending 2–3 hours inside.

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in November 2013.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.