on April 30, 2013
If you like horses, or even if you don't really, Horseguards Parade is a very impressive place to visit in London. It is easy to get to - just at the bottom of Whitehall, and if you want to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony, but can't bear the crowds at Buckingham Palace, this is an alternative option. They change the guard here every day at 11.00 and 4.00.We strolled down Whitehall, on the way to Horseguards, walked past St James Palace. Stop there if you want to get a close up view of a sentry guarding the palace. There are two sentry boxes, you can get relatively close and take some good pictures. If you walk down the street at the side of St James Palace, effectively to the back of the buildings, there are 2 unmanned sentry boxes, you can stand in one and have your picture taken! Great fun for children (and adults!).Further down Whitehall, you can't miss Horseguards entrance. It is guarded with mounted horse guards in the sentry boxes. Again you can stand next to them and have your picture taken, this is a popular experience and there always seems to be a lot of tourists waiting to do this.This is the headquarters of the Queen's Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. They are one of the oldest and most senior regiments in the British Army and are made up of the Blues and Royals and the Life Guards. Their duty is predominantly to protect the sovereign.The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place here every day morning and afternoon, Monday to Saturday. The whole thing lasts around 30 minutes, you get a bit closer than you do at Buckingham Palace.We arrived and passed through the big archway at Horseguards onto Horseguards Parade. It is a splendid place - a big, grand, wide, open space. It was at one time the jousting area of Whitehall Palace - Henry VIII jousted here and Queen Elizabeth I had her birthday celebrations here. Nowadays, every year in June, it is the setting for the Queen's birthday celebrations and her birthday parade - the Trooping of the Colour. Last year they had beach volleyball here during the summer Olympic Games.For the guard change, you do not really need to get there early. We arrived just about 11 o'clock, there were railings and some people standing around, but not a huge crowd. About 8 to 10 of the Household Cavalry on horses rode into the centre area, lined up and stood there. After about 10 minutes, from the Mall area, we saw a police horse and another group of Household Cavalry trot in. They lined up opposite the other horses, all of them stood very still - and that was it. We stood and watched for 15 minutes, but nothing else happened. Our 9 year old started to get restless, so we moved on. We asked a police man what would happen next, he told us the new guard would leave at 11.30 and ride to Buckingham Palace.So, most guidebooks do say this is a much more accessible way to see the Changing of the Guard. We did relish the opportunity to see the Household Cavalry and their wonderful horses up close, but not a lot really happens at all.My advice is to come here about fifteen minutes after the beginning of the ceremony - you will see all the horses, will not have to compete for a spot, then move back towards the Mall and watch them ride back down towards Buckingham Palace. It is not really an alternative to the main Changing of the Guard ceremony - you should see that too - but this is a nice little extra add-on!
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