My Advice: Don’t Go To the Change of the Guard in London
All in all, I had a fantastic experience during my time in London. My only advice for you if you are planning a trip to London or will be going there soon is that you should really consider not going to the Chang of the Guard, especially if you are going to be there during the summer and peak tourist season. I went while I was there last week not because I was really interested in it but mostly because I simply felt it was one of those things that you need to do while you are there. In my opinion it was not worth it. The change of the guard happens at 11:30am, but in order to get a decent view you need to get there at 10am or earlier.
I got a little bit turned around while navigating to get there. I thought there would be an entrance where there was not one which resulted in me walking almost entirely around the Buckingham palace gardens, or more specifically the 20 foot tall rock wall surrounding the Buckingham palace gardens. So Instead of getting there at 9:30am the way I had planned, instead I got there at 10:15am and had to accept the fact that I would not be in the front row. However, I used my fool-proof plan which I use whenever searching for the best view over a group of people. Look for a group of or family of Asians. It worked like a charm, and situating myself behind a family of Asians, I had probably the best view possible aside from being in the front row. However, as time wore on and the moment approached, more and more people crowded in. More and more people jockeyed for a better position, and more and more people kept pushing and crowding to potentially get a better view. All the while, the temperature continued to climb. It was about 90 degrees that day. I was there during one of the worst heatwaves in years. I felt like I was being squeezed into a tuna can and then microwaved!
So there I am, surrounded by people as more and more people crowd into the space in front of the gate pushing and shoving. One guy close by to me had to yell at another man who had apparently elbowed this man’s son in the head several times in the space of a few minutes trying to get a better position. Eventually the time ticked by enough so that 1130am arrived. The procession began. Some music, some marching, a ceremonial change of the guard and some more music followed. I can’t say a lot about the ceremony as all in all I was thoroughly unimpressed. The most interesting or impressive part of it for me was how the solders can wear that uniform which I’m sure is very hot and heavy in addition to standing in one place so still for such a long period of time. I had a hard enough time just staying in my one spot by the gate while fidgeting back and forth and moving my feet while sweating bullets. There is simply no way I would have been able to do it without moving and in that uniform the way they do. I also reflected on how it cannot be terribly healthy to do so. No matter the heat, they stand there for hours with no water breaks. That can lead to dehydration and standing so still for a long period of time can lead to blood clots in the legs.
While I can appreciate the historical significance of maintaining the ceremony and tradition as well as the traditional reason for them being there as the protectors of the queen and royal family, I cannot help but feel as though it was not worth my time to watch the ceremony. Perhaps if I had a tour guide or someone explaining all of historical and symbolic reasons for the ceremony as time progressed I may have felt as if it was more worth my time. But simply standing in such a cramped space with the heat did not result in it being a positive experience.
I’d be interested in hearing other’s opinions. Have you seen the changing of the guard? Did you get much out of the experience?