Sure, The Palace of Westminster has a LOVELY architectural design on the outside, but getting access INSIDE, to roam about The Houses of Parliament is just AWESOME!!! We attempted reserving the live guided tour 3 weeks in advance but no such luck with that. Apparently the magic happens when you book MONTHS in advance. So don't wait too long to secure a spot ;) That doesn't mean the self-guided audio tour we were privy to was in ANY way inadequate. It was actually a wealth of information for this Yankee, a novice to the British political process. What's cool with the audio tours is that you have the option of choosing a family version or adult version. While my grown-up audio was very informative, the young squires & my wife were cracking up from all the commentary throughout the family audio tour. I kinda felt left out, hah! Now, I still had questions so I made 2 attempts @ engaging leaders of the live guided tours and both times I was politely denied, "I'm sorry, I only talk to my group." Well, alright then. How about those people watching my every move? No luck either.
What I really got me in a tizzy was wanting to know was the significance of the House of Commons Sergeant At Arm's Mace. So here's what Google told me ;) It represents the authority of the Sovereign, and Parliament cannot lawfully meet without the mace present in their Chambers. Disrespecting the Mace apparently leads to suspension. Just so ya know ;)
GLORIOUS few hours spent! We arrived late from Tube troubles, and they didn't mind at all. If you want to familiarize yourself with specific British History tidbits before, look up King Charles I, Queen Elizabeth, 1st Duke of Wellington - Arthur Wellesley, and Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson based on the portraits associated with them and their impact on the government process. Enjoy! We sure did :)
The view is simply majestic when you arrive at this place!
Try to visit at night when the city is glowing with lights! It makes this breathtaking to look at!
It's not only a historic icon, but a timeless piece of architecture for you to look at endlessly!
What a magnificent palace (yep, it's officially the Palace of Westminster, but everyone calls it Houses of Parliament). A friend and I pre-booked a live guided tour, and though it's a bit pricey, it was fantastic and worth it. They show you all around the place: the Great Hall, the House of Lords, House of Commons, all the lavish art and architecture all over the place. You learn about the history of the place and how parliament works. You can also book an afternoon tea in one of the amazing rooms, but since we were already paying for the pricey tour we didn't opt for that part.
Downside for me: no photos allowed. Too many places in London have this annoyance, as I love taking photos.
The day we were there, they were filming a Meryl Streep movie about suffragettes right outside, and the extras were wandering around in between scenes and coming inside to use the loo. As much as a liked the tour, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Meryl the whole time - apparently some of the others in the group did before we got there! But alas, she didn't appear and I therefore didn't faint. The Palace/Houses were still a cool place to see.
Wow! What a great tour. We were able to book it the day we took the tour and this was in August, heavy tourist season in London. The web site had told me no guided tours were available but the guard outside directed me to the ticket office. It was amazing to stand in the Houses of Lords and Commons. Our guide knew so much about England's history and form of government as well as the history of the building as well. I recommend it to everyone.
You have to put this on your list while in London. If you have a group you can book a tour guide. This tour is very informative and if House of Commons is not in session you can see it and the House of Lords. Highly recommended even if you are not into politics.
This structure is so massive it was hard to tell where it begins and ends sometimes when you're next to it. I have no idea how far back I had to go across the bridge to capture the whole thing during sunset. So much intricate artisan work put in every inch of it's architecture. I could only stand in awe for a good long time trying to take it all in. A truly magnificent, though sometimes redundant work of builders.
remember coming here once for a trip as a child with school, looked around and then sat outside by the water. nowadays i would say that it is definitely somewhere that someone visiting london for the first time should go to.
The House of Parliament is located right next to the Big Ben and the London Eye and various other tourist attractions in London so you cannot miss this wonderful site! Make time to see this area in the daytime and nighttime. There is a great location on one of the bridges where you can get both the London Eye and the House/Big Ben in one shot. Lots of activities to check out around the area and the tour is quite educational but no photos allowed inside!
I went on a tour of Westminster in April 2013, during a weekend trip. This was, by far, one of the most enjoyable and fascinating tours I've been on in recent years. We opted for the personal tour guide as it was only £5 more than the headsets and this granted us privileged access to several different areas. Our tour guide was also very witty, which I appreciated a lot. You'll learn some very interesting things on this 2hour tour and it will only set you back £25.
First time in London, time was limited so I had to plan carefully. I understand seeing is different than experiencing and that was ok. On this occasion I chose to rather see than experience. Myself and my wife are not too particular with tours, and with limited time I knew we could not fit it into our already busy itinerary. If you are similar, don't fret, just being here and admiring the Houses of Parliament is a delight. Yes you've seen it many times on TV, and now you can soak it in that you are actually standing in front of it. Take lots of photos. You are now in London!
It's a nice walk to see the architecture, and people watch, and you are close to a lot of other attractions. Take the tube, experience London that way at least. If you have time, and maybe if I ever get to visit again, I'll consider a tour.
This is a must if it's your first time in London, and usually you won't miss it because Big Ben and other attractions are around the corner.
We had a wonderful time here. Be aware you are not allowed to take pictures past the great entrance but we really enjoyed the audio tour. Tour can takes as long as 30mins-2hrs which is why I liked this tour they have basic info and if you want to learn more just enter additional prompt #. We also paid extra to have afternoon tea. The experience was lovely but not what I expected. I was thinking fancy hats, dresses and old fancy English tea cups but all the silverware is modern looking. Food was good
Free things to do in London!!!!
It is rather dull so you've been warned.
I was staying in London for 30 days and day 1 I took the 88 bus down past Westminster Abbey. I got off at the stop nearby and walked around the area.
Lots of tourists and lots of guards.
I wandered past HOP and asked security guards if I could do in. They obliged and helped me to the nearest entry. Security is tight. They check your stuff, you wear a name tag, and NO PHOTOS.
They happened to be bickering (what else is new?) when I arrived in the room where they get down to business. Microphones drop from the ceiling to pick up the ongoing banter on this particular day they were telling a young Scottish barrister that they couldn't understand him.
You won't meet any locals here, unless they are school children, but you can pick up a bit about local politics and wow the people you meet later on at a pub that you sat through something so boring.
An iconic picture postcard image, the House of Parliament overlooks the famous Thames river.
Thanks to our tour guide, we got a "glimpse" of the landmark and on our own time, strolled along the Thames from the London Eye and across the bridge for a closer look. If we had more time, we might have ventured in, but we were too fascinated with hopping the underground Tube to stop. Next time!
I got in somehow (legally, even), made it up to the visitor's gallery overlooking the stage. I say "stage" deliberately because, as an American, I was in for a shock watching a barely-disguised display of refined name-calling as one "Right Honorable gentleman" told another "Right Honorable gentleman on the left" that he was full of odious pig excrement. There seemed to be little or no control over the rancor but somehow they plugged on through their agenda, entertaining as it was. It was hard to keep from laughing out loud.
The large gold mace, one of three representing the union of N. Ireland, Scotland and Wales sat at the head of the floor. The Parliament of the United Kingdom cannot lawfully meet without the mace present as it represent the authority of the Sovereign and they are carried before the speakers of both Houses when they enter or leave the Chamber. It is not a weapon though some MPs have used it as such.
After awhile, I rose and left the gallery with a smile knowing that no matter how "Colonial" I was as a Yank, our two main political parties at least faked a friendlier point-counterpoint to the issues at hand. And we don't need a huge golden member (i.e., phallic symbol) to remind us we live in a "man's world". We have Bill Clinton to remind us of that. I wonder if they'll ever replace the mace with something more indicative of the true legislative body? What would it be? I wonder what M. Thatcher would've said? Maybe I wonder too much.
Today, they discussed some of the very same issues we argue: immigration, drugs, the war in Afghanistan and the economy.
It's right honorable "politics as usual" from across the pond.
We braved the long waits to get into the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I was so glad we did. While the line was long, and while the vast majority of our time here was spent waiting to get in, what we eventually saw was great. Politics in action, and in the House of Lords, politics in action in a remarkable setting.
If you can only see one, do House of Lords. If possible, see both.
Try to avoid the crowds by going early or late. We went right in the afternoon and totally paid for it with at least an hour of waiting (just sitting). For all of that waiting, we stayed in each House viewing room for just 5 minutes, if that.
Still, glad we did it. It was interesting and invigorating.
Alright, from all countries that I've been lucky to visit (trust me, freaking MUCH), United Kingdom is THE ONE that lets interested commoners to be a part of the decision that giants of the Parliament make to rule our world :)
If you'll be patient - you'll be rewarded :)
Mostly people will stop in front of Big Ben, but come on, guys, go further, enjoy the dessert :)
Your patience is well rewarded. I decided to experience a bit of British governmental history on my vacation.
Tip: show up after 6pm since the sessions lasts till 10pm and during the day, there is an outrageous line-up just to enter the Hall. I went on a weekday. Guided tours apparently are on Sat.
Once you go through security, you are given a visitor pass which you must return and you head to Parliament Hall, which back in the day, held the King's Court. When I arrived, there was a small queue of people sitting waiting to access the public gallery of the House of Commons. Since the queue was short, I decided to walk around the Hall and take pictures.
It's grand and impressive. For a small town Central American girl, I was blown away by its magnificence, although I am certain that in today's design world, it is a cold and barren space!
That wait took a while and then when I was ushered in, I still had to do another wait just outside the actual offices! Just sit it out patiently and eventually you are ushered into the public gallery. The narrow staircase leads you to bag check-in where if memory serves correct, you can not take anything to the gallery (no mobile, no camera, maybe not even a lipstick case!).
I sat in the gallery (you are enclosed, watching the fishbowl of parliamentarians conducting business) and watched a bit of the Small Business committee debating on the economics.
It was a great experience and I highly recommend it.
Oh did my English friends have fun teaching me this rhyme:
Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...
(FYI we Americans don't celebrate Guy Fawkes day, heck I hadn't even heard of it before I came here... but now I can't forget this saying...)
I'm sorry but I thought Big Ben would be err, ummmm, BIGGER....
FYI for Americans, you can only tour Parliament if your American during the summer months so if you really want to see Parliament plan your trip in the summer. UK residents can tour and watch laws being made whenever they feel like it. I am here on a renewable Visa and I didn't take the tour last time I saw Parliament, but I am going again soon and am not sure if my Visa qualifies me as a UK resident or just an expat thats still a foreign national (I am going to try and book a tour through my MP so I'll keep you guys updated on whether or not it works out).
Either way you should do it... its a landmark and Big Ben is one of the most recognisable symbols like the Sphinx or the Great Wall.
.... BUT YOU WOULD THINK BIG BEN WAS HUGE WOULDN'T YOU? I MEAN THE FREAKING NAMED IT BIG BEN!!!
Let me get something off my chest: I was truly worried I was witnessing overcompensation in action when I first set eyes upon you, Benny. I mean, let's be honest... is "BIG" Ben really the most appropriate name? Perhaps "moderately large yet stunningly beautiful and iconic Ben" might be a better call.
However, I was quietly reminded that Big Ben is not actually your name, but rather just the name of your, well, "bell" that sits inside. Turns out you can achieve a whole hell of a lot with a big set of bells, and I can certainly appreciate that.
Happy birthday buddy! Here's to 150 more.
There's Big Ben...there's Parliament...There's Big Ben...There's Parliament.
Sorry that's what I think of every time I see or hear of either one (It's a scene from the movie European Vacation for those that didn't get it)
Fun fact I learned about Big Ben.
None of us has actually seen Big Ben. What do I mean? Well actually Big Ben is the bell in the tower not the tower itself.
A classic UK landmark.
The architecture is as antique as architecture can get. I love the tower points and the lace-like intricacies on the faces of the buildings. It's said that Big Ben will celebrate it's 150th birthday this year. Way to go Big Ben!
I used to work for an MP in the adjacent building (there is an underground tunnel connecting it to Westminister). I had the luxury of attending select committee meetings, Prime Minister's Question Time, and many parliamentary debates during that time.
We could learn a lot from the Brits. They have much more transparency of government, and their debates actually mean something -- substantive arguments are brought forward and considered. Here, positions are predetermined and our legislators never have the chance to interrogate the President about his (or her - only a matter of time!) decisions -- let alone on a weekly basis!
Westminister is extraordinary building. The architecture is stunning and the inside is very well-preserved and full of history. If you write to your MPs, you can sign up for PM's Question Time or for a tour of the building. I definitely recommend it. Tourists should also check out the London Eye across the street/river.
BIG BIG and more BIG
What can I say.. it's big. and i find it ironic cuz it's called ben.. I dont associate big with the name ben, if it were big andre, or big bob, or big ed... but not big ben. but i suppose it's possible considering big ben really refers to your bells. lulz. but other wise great spot with magnificent engineering along with the decorative design itself.
Now if I could only stick my head out of the clock face...
As an American, I wanted to visit to better understand the British political system. I *think* I understand the inner workings of their system now. The architectural features are amazing but unfortunately no photos allowed inside. Outside there are some great photo ops.
It was amazing to experience the tour - it brings you through the entire process, starting at the beginning through the house of lords then the house of commons.
This is a must see in London - even if you live here!
Inside the Houses of Parliament you feel like you're trespassing on one of the most historical buildings in the world, yet I didn't get arrested!
Alright so I had a tour of the place. Very cool, lasted about 90 minutes and we got to feel out a lot of the most important areas of the establishment. The guide was knowledgeable and peppy for his age, though an elderly woman joined our group late and he pretty much ignored whatever she told him and said "just turn off your cell phone and don't sit down unless I tell you it's okay!" I found this humorous.
My back felt a little rickety during my walk through Parliament as there are thousands of chairs and benches everywhere yet you aren't allowed to sit in most of them. Aside from my impending scoliosis, it moves along at a good pace.
As an American I'd never think to schedule a tour of Congress or anything, but doing this in London just feels right. Yeah I know it's touristy, but it's one of the few touristy things that haven't felt too foolish doing (having been here four months).
This is definitely worth a look see; it's truly a stunning building!
It's a common misconception that the Palace of Westminster (aka the Houses of Parliament) is out of bounds for the general public. Wrong! As the taxpayer, you own the place and therefore have the right to go inside. All it requires is a quick letter to your MP and you'll be granted entry.
The building is just as amazing inside as it is outside, full of history and stories which are all told to you by tour guides who are very knowledgeable about everything that has happened in the building's history.
There is more to the House than just the chambers. Even the halls, lobbies and corridors all have some kind of function or history behind them. Among some of the unique experiences you can have include standing at the ballot box where Prime Ministers deliver speeches and debate, the House of Lords and even the Queen's robing room (her changing room for the State Opening of Parliament). It really is an access all areas tour and best of all, it is free of charge.
It probably goes without saying that security here is tight so before you go, make sure that all items which could be seen as dangerous (scissors, tools etc) are removed from your bags and that you have your letter from your MP confirming your permission to enter the Palace. You probably will stumble across a member of the Government upon your tour (we met Yvette Cooper on our tour) so it is understandable as to why this is. Bags are checked at the door and there is a checkpoint before you enter.
The tour lasts just over an hour and seems not long enough. It is a must of you are visiting London and an ideal, highly memorable attraction if you have visitors coming from abroad.
I've never written to my MP for a tour of this place - I don't know if I even have an MP as a temporary worker in this country (guess I should know more political stuff) - so I can't talk much about the inside of the (say this next part in booming tones...) PALACE OF WESTMINSTER. I can tell you about the outside though.
I love this building from many standpoints - from an architectural standpoint, from an aesthetic standpoint, from the east, from the west, from the north and the south, from an upright standpoint, from a lying down so therefore unstandpoint, and more. It's just beaaauuuutiful Somehow, the stone adopts a golden color as though spun from the hands of Rumplestiltskin. The many turrets spiraling skyward create a fascinating silhouette. The verticals of the building's ribbing carry the eyes up and down.... oh I verge of the risk of sounding like a flake.
Word on the street is, to sum it up, that this place is a sight to see, not just because a tourist book says so, but because it's just down right a stunning piece of architecture. There's also a little park right next to it from which you can appreciate the Western most facade without fear of being run down by psychotic motorists.
Hey, do you feel like re-creating a moment from Bridget Jones? I went in and sat in on a parliamentary meeting with a class that had already started, but technically the public is allowed to sit-in so they couldn't stop us from going in, but my god it was the most awkward thing I've ever done in my life. The room wasn't very big and it was a small committee meeting and they all STOPPED dead in their debate and watched us file in to the back seats. Whoops! Well if you've ever want to stop a committee meeting dead in its tracks like she does, you've got the green light to do it here. The architecture of the building is stunning and there was an exhibit in the Parliament Hall when I was there which I'm assuming changes, but you get to see the wooden roofing that survived the fire of 1834.
Well worth a visit, do try to go inside, otherwise hang out with the 24/7 stream of tourists outside.
My suggestion is that you go to the Tate Britain and then walk along the river towards Westminster because you'll enter via the south gardens and have (what I consider) a better view before you walk around to the front/main points of interest. (Then go to Gordon's for wine because you're soooo close to Embankment, see, I just planned your day for you).
Basically, going here is pretty awesome. The inside is just a splendid, magnificent and regal as you would imagine it. They keep pretty tight security and as such, it's best to stick with your tour guide and listen to what they say.
Our tour guide could have been a bit more knowledgeable I feel. Many people had questions that she was unable to answer. I also felt like I was really schlepped through and I would have like to have gotten some more detail and had a more interactive presentation rather than a lecture style one.
Even with the aforementioned complaints, it's still pretty sweet and if you've never been there, go check it out.
A very impressive building with a famous (clock) face attached to it.
Since I came at night, there wasn't a chance to go inside and take a tour but having my friends tell me the history of the building is fantastic enough.
I especially love the view from across the Thames.
This was one of the most memorable tours I had while I was living in London just because it was so interesting. If you have the opportunity to tour the Houses of Parliament, it is truly worth it to make this a priority. Luckily I was taking a British Life and Culture class during my time in London and we got to take a lot of very interesting tours each week and this was one of them. We learned a lot of very interesting British History and how the government worked, something that I didn't know much about to begin with.
You can view the Queen's seat in the House of Lords and are able to stand in the stalls used by the House of Lords and House of Commons. The tour is a little bit lengthy, I think we were there at least an hour or two from start to finish. This place is very impressive inside and something that really wowed me. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and was able to teach us a lot about the building and the history behind it.
They are extremely strict about entry and I'm pretty sure they may have required passports upon entry. They had to take our photographs and we were required to wear badges with our photos as we walked around the premises.
Make this tour a priority on your London adventures, you won't regret it.
Maybe it's because I love politics, history and institutions, but I really enjoyed being shown around the Houses of Parliament.
For a public tour, you get to see a lot. There's the hall where Parliament was convened when the main chambers were out of action. There are the main chambers themselves, which you are able to enter and seem so much smaller than on TV. You also get to see Parliament in full swing: MPs duking it out in the Commons (I saw shadow Chancellor Ed Balls at the dispatch box, which was a minor thrill) and their Lordships snoozing in the Lords.
The sense of history is everywhere, with paintings and inscriptions all over the place. I thought the guide on my visit was helpful, with a good introduction to each part and a few interesting anecdotes.
It's also well-organised and efficient too, in this sense far better than the UN buildings in New York, whose infrequent timings of visits to certain parts (e.g. the Security Council) can leave you languishing in the shop for hours while you wait for the next part to start. Not so here, where you're shown around everything at a good pace: not too fast that you aren't able to appreciate each part, but not too slow that you begin to get frustrated.
Overall, the efficiency of the experience, interesting guide and good coverage of the building make this well worth visiting for those interested in politics, history, institutions or simply visiting a major British landmark.
Who wouldn't recognize this unmistakable landmark?
It's also on the list of must see's in London. You get a perfect view from the London Eye.
After taking a trip on the eye, you can walk along the river past the many bustling crowds to get a closer view. Pictures along the bridge with the Houses in the background are great if you get a sky/weather to cooperate!
Had a tour here with my class the other day. We're all American and thus have no idea of the history of Parliament. Actually, we had no idea of the current state of affairs either.
Our tour guide was knowledgeable and trying blatantly hard to hide his disdain for us and contempt for his job. Our tour was supposed to be 90 minutes but was cut short (in half, actually) given that it was "budget day" and the more impressive parts of the building were closed to the public. A fact our tour guide was not aware of until the bouncer informed him at the gate of the temporary no-entry policy.
In all, a large, impressive building. Lots of important people conduct important business here. You should probably go see it, just take note of the intense security code and be sure not to visit on Budget Day.
We want the funk, aowww, gotta have that funk... The building is lovely but George Clinton was no where to be found. Flashlight, neon lights...
The fact that you get access to the House of Commons is alone worth the admission cost. The gold encrusted House of Lords is pretty blingin'. Our tour guide was knowledgeable but lacked any charisma - she's a suffragette who couldn't tell a joke to save her life.
I am not into politics AT ALL. And yet it was an unexpected pleasant and interesting tour. And it was all thanks to our very silly, highly scripted tour guide. He reminded me of a younger Michael Palin.
Now whenever I watch Parliament TV online I can say that I've been in the house of commons!.......not that I've ever watched any televised debate, let alone one WITH people that I can make that statement to but whatever!
It made me feel a little special.
And that's the least you can ask from a tour experience.
What a wonderful opportunity to tour the Palace of Westminster, aka Houses of Parliament, as a guest of Her Majesty's government and have the chance to explore the chambers and general areas. No trip to London is complete without an introduction to these halls of the United Kingdom's power. While there, you are just footsteps from Her Majesty's seat in the House of Lords, able to see and stand in the very stalls used by the House of Lords and House of Commons. The House of Commons is much smaller in real life than during broadcasts over the BBC.
The tour itself points out just enough without getting preachy or lengthy. Plan a good hour once you've received your tickets (more during the summer months?). Our group's guide was wonderful--courteous, knowledgeable, easy to understand and kept our tour lively. Non-UK citizens only get Saturday to go on docent-led tours, so try to book far enough ahead...or take your chances with last minute availabilities. Don't forget to take your passport--you will be scanned (they're serious--do NOT fool around or small talk with the police upon your entrance), photographed and badged with a lanyard (consider it the one free thing you'll get to keep as a souvenir) and any baggage will be searched.
This building is amazing. The details and history that went into all of this blows my mind. I think the people back in the days were much smarter, and worked harder. I'm happy to have been able to see this structure.
Charles Barry's iconic building really needs no introduction. The clock tower (named after the largest bell within it) is, perhaps, the best-known symbol of London, and certainly the one shown on most foreign news items when referring to capital or to the UK.
Less well known, however, is that the famous church architect and designer Pugin was involved in designing much of the internal decorative scheme, which is the equal of the exterior in style and quality. This gives much of the interior its almost ecclesiastical feel.
The most important element surviving the 1834 fire is Westminster Hall, still used regularly to-day. One of the largest mediaeval halls to survive in Europe, its walls date from 1097, but the magnificent hammer-beam roof dates from the late 14th century.
The official guided tours are recommended: the Lords' chambers are more elaborate and contain a number of rooms used only for the official State Opening of Parliament, some of which are (as you would expect) sumptuously decorated. The House of Lords is the more interesting chamber, as it is decorated with vast quantities of gold leaf (so more to look at, if the proceedings are tedious...).
UK residents - but not yet overseas visitors - can apply for a separate tour of the tower, by contacting their MP. There's a long waiting list, and those with a proven interest in clocks and bells are given preference.
I used to visit Parliament regularly for work, and behind the scenes it really is a maze. The colour coding goes beyond the seats: it applies to the wallpaper and carpets throughout the building. Still didn't stop me getting lost, though.
Useless/interesting fact, number one: the stone for the rebuilding in 1840-60 was quarried at South Anston in South Yorkshire, and brought via the Chesterfield Canal and the River Trent, and thence the North Sea, by barge and boat - a very long way around!
Useless/interesting fact, number two: the distinctive, rather tinny, division bells which call MPs to vote, also ring in various hostelries and restaurants around Westminster, so that MPs can reach the House in time to vote...
Wow, it is spectacular (at least the building is, BUT I am not too sure about the people who work there)...
It is possible to attend afternoon tea, but I was not very impressed last time. The staff were lazy and unhelpful, the tea was luke-warm and scones cold and hard
I guess they only provide decent service to the Lord's and Lady's, which is very classist but typical of the UK in general!
This user has arrived from Qype, a European company acquired by Yelp in 2012. We have integrated the two sites to bring you one great local experience.