Houses of Parliament

Attractions, Historic buildings and sites Westminster
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Houses of Parliament

The centre of political life in the UK, housed in the Thames-side Palace of Westminster.

Tours of the Houses of Parliament offer a unique combination of one thousand years of history, modern day politics and stunning art and architecture. A highly recommended audio tour brings this to life through the House of Lords and House of Commons and takes around 60 to 75 minutes, featuring leading Parliamentary figures such as Mr Speaker and Black Rod.

Most of what is seen on the tour was built in the mid-19th century following a devastating fire in 1834, but the route also incorporates the magnificent Westminster Hall dating from 1097. Other highlights include the Queen’s Robing Room, Royal Gallery, Lords Chamber, Central Lobby and the Commons Chamber, scene of many lively debates. A family version of the audio tour, aimed at children aged 7 to 12, is in the style of a ‘live’ news broadcast with time travelling reporters ‘reporting from the scene’ on the many historical events associated with Parliament. 

For those not able to visit the Houses of Parliament in person, a new 360-degree virtual tour is now available on the website, allowing jazzy panoramic views into some of the most famous rooms, with clickable facts and historical stories as you virtually snoop around. 

These new virtual tours, the ticketed guide-led tours and solo-audio tours are all in addition to the free tours that continue to be available to UK residents via local MPs or members of the House of Lords.

See more of the capital's best attractions

Posted:

Venue name: Houses of Parliament
Contact:
Address: Palace of Westminster
London
SW1A 0AA
Opening hours: Saturdays throughout the year and most weekdays during holiday periods including Christmas, Easter and the summer. See venue website for full details.
Transport: Tube: Westminster
Price: Adults £18, Concessions £15.50, Under 16s one child free with each paying adult, otherwise £7.20
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4.8 / 5

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LiveReviews|15
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@rattyboom
tastemaker

A beautiful interior and incredibly informative tour makes this a must do for any local or tourist in London!


To be honest, it's never really crossed my mind that you can even enter the Houses of Parliament; in my mind, though I have admired the exterior a number of times over my years in London, I saw it as a very much 'them' and 'us' setup and as such, the place to be exclusive for politicians and their visitors. So when a fellow Tastemaker told me that this week, on the run up to the election, they were offering free tours, I was all over it. 


We were lucky to only have about 10 of us in our tour group and were led around by a wonderfully funny lady who kept things engaging throughout. We met and started in the incredibly enormous Westminster Hall, the oldest section of the palace having stood there for 900 years to date. The hall has a beautiful wooden roof and a series of floor plaques commemorating those lucky enough to have lay in state there over the years including Sir Winston Churchill. It is also the place that both Obama and Mandela have both been invited to make speeches, a very rare honour indeed.


We then proceeded up through St Stephen's Hall that stands on the site of the royal Chapel of St Stephen's and was where the House of Commons sat until the Chapel was destroyed by the fire of 1834. It is in here that King Charles I stormed the Commons demanding that the 5 MP's that opposed his God-like claims stepped forwards for execution. Little did he know that it would be this action that would mark his demise as King and his own execution!


Then we visited the Royal Gallery where the Queen walks between the Robing Room and House of Lords to read out all new laws, the beautifully ornate and golden House of Lords itself and then finally the House of Commons and all of the halls and lobbies in between. Having only ever seen these rooms on television I felt overwhelmingly proud and honoured to walk the halls and learn more about our political and royal history!


A few more facts that I loved so much to mention:


1) It was once the Royal Palace and was last lived in by King Henry VIII himself until he got bored of having political meetings in his home and moved to Whitehall, leaving the Palace in the hands of the MPs and Lords.

2) William Pitt was the youngest serving PM at 24!

3) One of the statues in St Stephan's Hall remains damaged where one of the Suffragettes chained herself in defiance of the government not allowing women to vote

4) When the House of Commons was being rebuilt after the war, the UK was so poor that most of the central pieces or their materials were kindly donated to us by our Commonwealth allies

5) The entire interior was designed by Augustus Pugin, a job that culminated in his madness, sectioning and premature death


I could go on and on and on. Needless to say I loved every second of my visit and encourage everyone, whether you have a vested interest in politics or not, to try and get on one of these tours that I believe usually cost £25 and run at the weekends only. Worth every single penny.



Zoe F
tastemaker

After a superb free tour of Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben, booked through our local MP (would recommend, see review under "Big Ben" listing) we were invited by out tour guide to visit the Houses of Parliament and attend one of the live debates happening. I had no idea that anyone is welcome to come in and see the inner workings Governmental decisions, otherwise I'm sure I would have visited sooner! I'm never one to turn down a bit of London culture, especially when it's available free of charge so of course we of course took the advice and went inside. As you enter the interior was grand and the design was intricate and striking, it's the type of place that absorbs you completely as you find yourself doing a 360˚ to take it all in. As easy as it would be to get snap-happy, photography is only permitted in certain areas, to do look out for and abide by the signage. We found our way up to the public galleries and watched on whilst current issues were being debated, this was fascinating to me - the tempo and conflict meant it made for captivating viewing. This was a great way to end our visit, and ticked off another must do in London, I am now inclined to book a Parliament tour through our MP to get the full experience.

Laura G
Tastemaker

If you a little lost on how UK's politics operates, this visit is for you. Besides being able to see the oldest part of the building that survived fires and wars to protect the remains of outrageously famous royalty (goose bumps just remembering) at the Westminster Hall, you can walk through history itself with FREE audioguides to explain the plots and twists of modern Britain. A glimpse of the very golden House of Lords with HRM throne, as well as the more democratic House of Commons should clear the skies on how power is divided but almost never shared in this never ending dispute for power. Of course, you could also wait for them to be in session and try to sneak in for free, but I found the paid visit to be quite enlightening, as well as allowing for broader exploration of the building.

Lynsey F
tastemaker

I heard that you can book a tour of the Houses of Parliament by requesting this from your local MP (there is info about how to do this on the website for the Houses of Parliament) and it turns out that this is all true. You request a tour and your MP books you in and it's completely free. Amazing!

The tour was genuinely interesting and you get a really good look at all of the critical sites within the famous building including the Queens dressing room, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. This is worth doing purely to see how beautiful the internal architecture of this building is. Literally breathe taking!

The tour guide we had was great too, light hearted yet very informative and you could tell he really loved his job.

The only down side to this attraction is that the tours only take place on weekdays so if you're a standard Monday to Friday 9 to 5er you'll need to get some time off work. I was booked on a 0940 tour and was done by about 1100 so a half day off work should cover things and trust me it's definitely worth taking the time off to do this. So interesting to see it up close and not just on TV. The House of Commons and the House of Lords both seem smaller than they look on TV but it's amazing to wonder around in those very rooms.

Kritt N
Tastemaker

The Houses of Parliament: we’ve all seen it from the outside and Instagrammed it, but did you know that you can actually go inside? Yes, really.


You can’t just walk-in, however, You must book yourself onto one of the tours run daily and believe me, it’s brilliant. With your incredibly knowledgeable tour guide, you’re taken through the many rooms in this maze of a building including The Queen’s Robing Room, Central Gallery, the House of Commons, the House of Lords (obvs) and so much more. Your guide will tell you all you need to know about the buildings history, tradition, and quirkiness. You’ll find out answers to questions like where did the world ‘parliament’ come from? Why a monarch cannot enter the House of Commons? Why the building is sometimes referred to as the Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament? Why someone always checks the cellars of parliament at every state opening? Why the symbol for parliament is a portcullis. It’s absolutely fascinating.


Over one thousand years of history, stunning art and architecture all to be explored in this grandest of buildings. Every corner you turn, from the paintings of royal monarchs whom parliament has acted under, to paintings depicting pivotal moments in English parliamentary history, you can actually feel history and tradition everywhere you turn.


Sadly, no photography allowed but you can unapologetically snap the hell out of Westminster Hall and St. Stephen’s Hall, both mightily impressive and guaranteed to give you loads of ‘likes’.


The only downside? The guided tour is pricey. However, I feel it offers a lot more value than the other attractions say, The London Eye. 


If you have a must-do list when in London, then a trip to Parliament must be there. It's one of the best tours in London.


Top tip: if you’re UK citizen, you can book yourself on these tours completely free if you contact your local MP. Your welcome.

NakedPRGirl Claire
Tastemaker

I only went to Westminster Hall on Open House weekend but it was fantastic! I didn't realise you can take guided tours and I will be booking as soon as possible. It was easy to get into and so amazing to be close to such a historic and iconic building. Even if you decide not to take a tour, just looking at the architecture is so special!

Sosh_uk
Tastemaker

One of the best tours I have done ever, it was so fascinating learning about the history of the building and what acts of Parliament and legislation were passed. You gut a free audio tour as part of the package. I recommend it for all age groups, I would actually go again and take my friends and family

Mei M
Tastemaker

I feel like the tour of the Houses of Parliament is very underrated, people seem to think it's not interesting but I'm here to recommend it with all my passion!


The first time I've been there I was fourteen, during a school trip, and I wasn't that enthusiastic with the idea of going. I was so wrong! I enjoyed my visit so much, our guide was super nice and the history - as well as the present - of the Houses of Parliament was so interesting to listen to. It's one of the best memories I have of my first time in London.


I have been a second time a couple of weeks ago with a friend who really wanted to go, and once again it was such a great tour. You are given a free audio guide and I promise you won't be bored at all. The building is beautiful and the history is amazing!

Shona R
Tastemaker

Cannot recommend this tour enough! I'm not a huge fan of historical tours, but the guided tour was well worth the amount we paid!  I've actually been back with everybody that comes to visit me and always learn a new bit of information.  Leave yourself a couple of hours to see both past and present of British history in the making


Also, if you get a chance, it's worth going early for a VERY cheap full English breakfast and this spectacular view!

GeorgeX
Tastemaker

One of the best tours you can have...Even if the tickets seem a bit expensive, it definitely worth it. You are given an audio guide (free of charge) that provides you all the useful information about the history of this impressive building. You will have the chance to wander around the parliament's halls (House of Lords and House of Commons) and see the place where all decisions for country's future are taken! Recommended!

MatureLinda
tastemaker

I've done this tour 3 times and each time is different and enlightening.  Very interesting and well organised tour of our seat of government.  Last time I went they were trialling the  audio and though I was a bit apprehensive, it was actually very good.  If the news that the building is crumbling and Parliament may need to be moved to a new building, I suggest everyone books a tour of this historic building before it's too late!

Victoria A

I really enjoyed the tour. It was great fun to see the House of Lords and house of common. It was just wonderful to have a look on the inside of the Westminster.

Julia

If you get the chance, do it for all means. It is as british as it gets and lot`s of fun ;)