Almost every nation with a standing army or security force has ceremonial changing of the guard. These symbolic gestures can be grand or simple, but what makes them a genuine display are their historic roots and use of national symbols. Here we have highlighted particular nations which offer exceptional and regular moments of pomp and circumstance for the benefit of tourists, patriots and onlookers.
Home to a beloved monarchy and a colorful people, Sweden has a nice ceremony for changing the palace guard each day at midday. A full sized guard consisting of several squadrons, commanders, band and flag bearers represent the pride of the nation on display before the royal family and curious bystanders. The event takes place at the royal palace in the heart of the old town directly at noon. The display of banners, swords, cannons and other weaponry makes for quite the spectacle for an everyday affair.
This is probably one of the most famous routines people around the world look forward to seeing. The iconic ‘beefeater’ hats and soldiers are a curious attraction. Their unwavering concentration and overdressed look make them a popular display in the British capital. Buckingham palace can get quite crowded with all the city tourists and so it is recommended to arrive at least a half hour early. The crowds can really be unbearable, so be sure you don’t mind close quarters. The display occurs at 11:30am each day. Windsor Castle is another place to watch the guard changing ceremony and it is by far less crowded, the ceremony there is at 11:00am.
The guards of the presidential palace and parliament are just a handful, but their changing display is a series of skilled salutes, actions and a procession, which make for great fanfare. Most of all the outfits of the guards are unique with feathered caps, capes and medium sized swords, which seem to be sharp enough to shine. The change occurs hourly and can be easily seen at the Atanas Burov Plaza, right in the heart of the historic center.
Vatican City State
The world’s smallest army has some of the biggest attraction and lore. The idea of a religious city state with its own standing army for over 500 years is certainly a curiosity. These colorfully clad Swiss guards maintain a strict regimen around the Vatican from the Pope’s private chambers to the outermost public gates. The most formal ceremony they put on is May 5th each year when new guards are installed. Otherwise the normal changing has no special attraction and occurs at various times. If however one does happen upon the change it is a nice series of salutes and halberd-wielding turns. These can be seen at three major areas: The arch of bells which is the low arch on the left side of St. Peter’s Basilica looking from the front, the Bronze doors which is on the right side as you enter security and the Porta Santa Ana which is on the way to the Vatican Museums at a drive in point along the wall.
Arlington National Cemetery, USA
The most famous changing of the guard in the United States takes place in the hallowed grounds of the National Cemetery, a park of silence and repose for thousands upon thousands of individuals. The ceremony is located at the tomb of the unknown soldier. This marble tomb of remembrance and a sarcophagus of unknown individuals is the centerpiece of the cemetery. There is an elaborate ritual performed here quite often during the day, the spinning of weapons, the clicking of shoes and the balanced strides of rehearsed steps. From April 1 to September 30 the guard is changed every thirty minutes. From October 1 to March 31, the guard is changed every hour, on the hour.