Sep 4, 2011

London Diaries (4) : Marching with the Guards at Buckingham Palace

After I was done with Trafalgar square, I decided to walk to Buckingham palace. Its quite a walk but I didn’t really mind. I believe that the best way to see a city is by foot. I like doing things at my own pace and I abhor guided tours where they stuff a lot of useless information about a place down your throat and then herd you quickly to the next tourist spot without giving you much time to actually enjoy the place. It makes me feel as if everything is just passing in a blur. I need to go slowly, walk around and get a feel of the place, take snaps, stay for as long as I want and take in the surroundings …

One of the things Buckingham Palace is famous for is the changing of the guards’ ceremony. I did want to see the change of guards, but I had been told that I’d have to reach at least 2 hours before to make sure I get a good spot. I had no intention of waiting for such a long time just to see the ceremony and I didn’t want to push and shove a lot of people to get a good view and get pushed and jostled around in return. So I decided to just see the Buckingham palace and forget about the change of guards.

From Trafalgar square, I walked under the Admiralty Arch and on to The Mall road. The Admiralty Arch houses important government houses is also a ceremonial entrance to the mall road that leads from Trafalgar square to the palace.
Admiralty Arch
The mall is a very long road and was milling with tourists. Both sides of the road were decorated with the Union Jack. It has the St James palace and St James park on it as well as many important buildings whose names I forget but remember them as being rather imposing structures. Architecture in London is spectacular where ever you go.

I was walking leisurely when there was a sudden rush of activity and all the tourists started rushing towards the St James Palace that was a little ahead. Not one to miss any action I followed them. Everybody had their cameras out and ready as if they were waiting for something to happen. Suddenly Four mounted policemen came out of the palace and stood on all sides of the roads to ensure none of us would rush forward - Although for the life of me I couldn’t understand what they thought we would rush forward for. Suddenly we could hear the sound of a marching band. The crowd fell silent and quivered with anticipation. And then marching round the corner, resplendent in their red tunics and bearskins came the Queens guards! What I didn’t know was that the Queens guard always marches out of St james palace and down the Mall before joining in the change of the guard ceremony. I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time! The guards marched on towards the Buckingham palace and we kept pace with them by walking along on the pavement. We had the most perfect view !

The guards

A policewoman
The mounted guards
My luck ran out when the guards turned towards the Buckingham Palace. The road ahead were so packed with people that it was impossible to get any further. I knew that even if I did manage to reach close to the palace I would hardly be able to see anything over the heads of let’s say – a million people ! So I contented myself by listening to the band and catching an occasional flash of red as the ceremony took place inside the gates of the Buckingham Palace.

If I may say so, (and I say this at the risk of earning the ire of many) Buckingham palace is not really that imposing a structure. Honestly I find our Presidents house much grander. The Victoria memorial right in front of the palace is rather impressive though. So are the royal mews and the gardens.

Here are a few pictures!

Buckingham Palace

The memorial in front of the palace

The changing of the guards ceremony inside the Palace

coming up next - Down the Downing Street !


  1. Now that's some good timing without even knowing! :) I am also in favor of soaking up the place rather than rushing through with a guided tour.

  2. What i did was take a bus tour it took to a lot of places I noted what was good or what i found interesting then next day went there and at my leaisure :)
    the pics are beautiful and i do agree buckhingham palace is not that great ...


  3. Lucky you to have witnessed the Guard ceremony. Lovely pics a usual. the memorial in front has some great statues.

  4. @Shail - yeah !I reached the correct place at the correct time !
    @Bikram - I did that in Toronto - took a tour bus and then visited the places I liked again the next day !

    @Abha - Thank you ! yes the statues in front are beautiful.

  5. I like the whole changing guards ceremony! It also happens in windsor park, but not as grand as Buckingham. I don't like to travel in the guided tours. I would rather plan then well ahead, and spend time in each of the places at my own pace..that gives us complete satisfaction..I remember going on a walking tour once where I just took photos and ran to the speed of the group, and could not even remember what the guide was explaining!



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