Madrid is culture, art, history and modernity. Thanks to this, the capital is brimming with attractions, exhibitions, museums and entertainment, but probably one of its oldest and most cultural events in Madrid is the Solemn Changing of the Royal Guard at the Royal Palace.
The event takes place on the first Wednesday of every month at the Príncipe (Prince) Gate (except January, August and September, when it is not held), behind the railings of the Royal Palace’s Plaza de la Armería (Armoury Square). Hundreds of people congregate here so as not to miss this ritual that has survived intact from the reigns of the monarchs Alphonse XII and Alphonse XIII. This is, without a doubt, one of the Madrid cultural events with most history behind it.
Just a few seconds before eleven in the morning, you hear the trotting of hooves from far off. Then suddenly, reflecting the sun’s rays, you see the silver breastplates of the horsemen who arrive at the trot.
The Military Band sounds the official start of the Solemn Changing of the Royal Guard, performing a piece that keeps time for the soldiers. Thus begins the careful choreography the troops carry out: review, the falling out of the withdrawing guard, the parading of the relieving guard, a request to begin the changing of the Guard Commanders, the changing of artillery and cavalry posts, the changing of the sentry posts, withdrawal of the guard and the parading of the withdrawing guard.
One after another, you will see a pageant of lancers, halberdiers, fusiliers, artillerymen on gun carriages and munitions wagons. It lasts an entire hour, perfectly and exactingly coordinated in a magnificent setting. The magnitude of this parade is impressive: over 400 soldiers, 100 horses and several gun carriages participate in the event.
The troops parade before your eyes just as they did in the time of the kings Alphonse XII and Alphonse XIII, even boasting the same red, white and blue uniforms. This is a journey back in time to discover Madrid and its culture, as if several decades had not passed since then.
As well as the Solemn Changing of the Royal Guard, which is the most spectacular, you can also see the regular Changing of the Guard every Wednesday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (except June to September when it is brought forward to 10 a.m.). And during the day, the palace sentries change every thirty minutes (up until 2 p.m.), accompanied by a drum and fife playing military marches.
What is the history of the Royal Palace’s Changing of the Guard?
The Changing of the Guard is probably one of the Madrid cultural events with most history behind it. It was the Royal Guard that stood guard outside the palace during the reigns of Alphonse XII and Alphonse XIII – or rather, over 140 years ago. Back then, the changing of the guard was an act of huge ceremony.
Yet when King Juan Carlos I decided to live with his family in the Zarzuela Palace on Madrid’s outskirts, the Royal Guard performed the ceremony only on specific occasions. In 2007, it was decided to recover the tradition and the Guards once again paraded weekly before the gates of the Royal Palace – as they do today.
On your next visit to the capital, make sure you catch this handsome event that aims to recover an old tradition in the most realistic manner possible. Enjoy Madrid and its culture!