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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 30 April, 2023
Expert travel writer: Sarah Barrell

There has been a Palace at Westminster since at least the 10th century, but the neo-Gothic buildings that comprise the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben were built over a period of 23 years, between 1837-60. Designed by Sir Charles Barry and AWN Pugin, the building is set on a huge concrete plate on the banks of the Thames to keep the building stable. There are over 1,000 rooms, 100 staircases and three miles of passageways over four floors.

Today this is where the British Government meets, and although many visitors see these distinctive buildings as simply part of London’s historic skyline, it’s well worth venturing beyond the elegant facades to have a look inside.

Sit in on ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’ in the House of Commons or take a guided tour focusing on the decorative splendour of the House of Lords. You can also climb the Elizabeth Tower, which holds the clock famously known as Big Ben.

Did you know?

Britons can arrange to sit in on debates in the Lords and Commons (mornings, Monday-Thursday), though they can be pretty soporific. The possible exception to this is Prime Minister’s Question Time (usually 12pm Wednesdays), viewed from the public gallery. Book tickets via your local MP.

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The nearest Underground station is Westminster (Circle, District and Jubilee Lines).

Visitors can take pre-booked Saturday guided tours of the Commons and Lords Chambers, Queen’s Robing Room, Royal Gallery and Westminster Hall; tickets are available only via the Parliament website. Pre-booked or same-day tickets are also available for Commons and Lords debating sessions.

The website also sometimes lists specialist guided tours, covering themes such as House of Lords art and architecture. For refreshments, the Jubilee Cafe is just off Westminster Hall, and there’s a gift shop onsite, too. Visitors have to undergo a security screening before entry. Similar to the procedure at an airport.

When to do it

It’s open all year round, Monday to Thursday and select Fridays, when the houses are in session. Guided tours tend to run on Saturdays.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Westminster Abbey Tour and optional visit to Houses of Parliament in London

London

Westminster Abbey Tour and optional visit to Houses of Parliament in London
Get to grips with Britain’s royal and political history on this tour of Westminster Abbey and if you select the option, to the Houses of Parliament. Step inside the famous Gothic abbey, which has been the setting for almost all English coronations since William the Conqueror’s crowning in 1066, along with many other royal occasions including Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. If you have select the option you will get  into the British political system with a panoramic guided tour of the House of Lords and Houses of Commons. For a more complete experience select the option that includes the entrance to the Houses of Parliament.

Price: £59

Min age: 0

Rating 4.21 / 5 [404 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Skip the Line into Houses of Parliament & Westminster Abbey Fully-Guided Tour

London

Skip the Line into Houses of Parliament & Westminster Abbey Fully-Guided Tour
Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament are two of London’s highlight landmarks—and on this tour, you’ll have special access to both. Skip the line at Westminster Abbey and head inside the soaring church, where your guide will share facts about its royal history. Next, you’ll have the rare opportunity to explore parts of the interior of the Houses of Parliament, which is frequently off-limits to the public.

Price: £129

Min age: 0

Rating 4.69 / 5 [81 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Westminster Abbey tour & Big Ben exterior

London

Westminster Abbey tour & Big Ben exterior
We want your experience with us to be friendly and personal so we only take small groups. 12 people maximum. We stay off the beaten track and are not in a rush. We are all professionally qualified London Blue Badge guides, so have a wealth of stories, quirky facts and also personal recommendations to share. We have all been guiding for many years including inside Parliament. You are in good hands. Three of us own the company and do most of the tours.

Price: £83

Min age: 0

Rating 4.87 / 5 [33 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

London

Greater London, United Kingdom (UK)

view of houses of parliament at night

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