4 Places to Experience Royal Pomp and Pageantry in London

The Lord Mayor's Parade celebrates 800 years in November – see this and other official ceremonies with royal and historic connections

What do robots and unicycles, penny farthings and a gold carriage have in common? They are all part of the Lord Mayor’s Show, a grand procession on 14 Nov., now in its 800th year. A crowd of half a million people watch the parade on the streets, while millions more watch it live on BBC. 

What to see on the Lord Mayor's Parade

During the procession, the 358-year-old gilded carriage parades through the streets of London, a tradition that began backin 1215 under King John. Beatrice Behlen, a senior curator at the Museum of London, says, "The Lord Mayor's Coach has been the focal point at nearly every Lord Mayor's Show. The painted panels and decorative features emphasise the City's wealth, while the coach is supported at each corner by cherubs representing Asia, Africa, America and Europe."

Golden coach at Museum of London, London, UK
See the golden coach on display at the Museum of London (Courtesy Museum of London)


On 14 Nov., the new Lord Mayor sails on QRB Gloriana accompanied by a flotilla of rowing boats, in a river pageant that begins near Pimlico at 8.30 am and ends near St Katherine’s Docks. To mark the 800-year anniversary, a specially-composed peal of bells at St Mary-le-Bow also will be heard.

Flotilla on the Thames at Lord Mayor's Parade, London, UK
The new Lord Mayor takes part on a flotilla on the Thames (©C. Totman)

The roadside procession begins at 11 am from Mansion House, heading west past St Paul’s Cathedral, where the Lord Mayor receives a blessing. Grandstands are set up here (where spectators can book tickets in advance). The spectacle continues down Fleet Street, passing the Royal Courts of Justice around 11.30 am and the state coach catching up an hour later. It continues south to the river before looping back on itself via Blackfriars around 2 pm. Security is tight: 3,500 manholes and 197 vacant properties along the route are searched and sealed before the show.

Lord Mayor's Parade, London, UK
The parade attracts many thousands of spectators (©C. Totman)

To end the festivities, fireworks go off with a bang in a 20-minute performance at 5.15 pm between Blackfriars and Waterloo bridges.

Grand stand tickets £39. Book tickets here.

Missed the Lord Mayor’s Show? Try and see one of these Great British traditions

Changing the Guard

Troops from the Household Division have guarded the monarch since 1660. Dressed in scarlet tunics and bearskin hats, they guard Buckingham Palace. When one regiment replaces another, the ritual is known as Changing the Guard.

You can see a similar 25-minute ceremony at Horse Guards Parade, where the Guards march from Hyde Park Barracks down The Mall to Horse Guards Parade at 11 am (10 am Sundays).

At Windsor, guards march up the high street and into Windsor Castle for a 30-minute changing the guard ceremony. 

Find out details of Changing the Guard here. 

Changing the Guard, London, UK
Enjoy the pomp of Changing the Guard at three venues (©Visit Britain)

Ceremony of the Keys

This 35-minute ritual, in which the gates of the Tower of London are formally locked, has taken place every night for 700 years. A chief yeoman warder, carrying the Queen's keys, locks the outer gates. Guards salute the keys as they pass, during which a sentry challenges the warder before allowing them to pass. Free, but must be booked several months in advance.

Book tickets for Ceremoney of the Keys here

Ceremony of the Keys, Tower of London, UK
The gates are locked each evening at the Tower of London (©HRP)

Trooping the Colour

Trooping the Colour began in the 17th century during the reign of Charles II. After George III became king in 1760, parades marked his birthday and became an annual event. These days, 1,000 officers, 200 horses and 200 musicians from the Household Division parade from Buckingham Palace along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade on the Queen’s official birthday every June. Later she watches an RAF flypast from a balcony in Buckingham Palace. 

Red Arrows flypast for Trooping of the Colour
The Queen watches the Red Arrows flypast for Trooping of the Colour (©Matthew Dixon/iStock)

State opening of Parliament

A tradition that began in the 1500s, the state opening happens on the first day of a new parliamentary session or after a general election. The Queen delivers the speech, outlining upcoming legislation.

The event begins with the Queen leading a procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster, escorted by the Household Cavalry. She then enters the House of Lords, where an official, known as Black Rod, summons the Commons by striking the door three times before it is opened. Members of the Commons then enter the Lords to listen to the Queen’s speech.

Find out about visiting parliament here.

State Opening of Parliament, London, UK
The State Opening of Parliament is a ceremonial affair (©Parliament)

The opening of Burlington Arcade

This upmarket shopping arcade has its own police force, or "beadles", who have been policing the passageway since 1819. They dress in Regency-style uniforms, made by Henry Poole tailors on Savile Row—based on uniforms for the tenth hussars regiment. The beadles ring a bell three times every morning at 8am as they open the arcade’s gates in a traditional ceremony—just as they did when it first opened.

Click here to find out more about Burlington Arcade.