The Palace of Westminster

House of Commons, Westminster, SW1A 0AA

Discover where history is still being written. Immerse yourself in the fascinating history of this world famous building, and look 'behind the scenes' of the 'Mother of Parliaments'.

The Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster image

House of Commons, Westminster, SW1A 0AA

020 7219 4114



Nearest Station
Westminster (0.09 miles)


Opening Summary

To watch debates:
Monday - Thursday, some Fridays, varying times.
To take a tour:
Saturdays throughout the year 09.00 - 16.30
Weekdays when Parliament is not in session.

The Palace was the residence of the Kings of England from the eleventh to the sixteenth century. In Medieval England Kings simply summoned their courts to wherever they happened to be, but by the fourteenth century the judicial and parliamentary courts resided in Westminster. Though the Lords resided in the Palace, they had no permanent meeting place until 1547 when the Royal Chapel of St. Stephen was given to the Commons.
In 1834 almost the entire Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire, with only Westminster hall, the Crypt of St. Stephens Chapel, the cloisters and Jewel Tower surviving the blaze. Westminster Hall and the remains of St. Stephens where then incorporated into the new Houses of Parliament, a building designed by Sir Charles Barry that took more than thirty years to construct.

The Houses of Parliament were hit by an air raid during the Second World War and the House of Commons Chamber was destroyed. The Chamber has since been rebuilt in the image of the original. The Houses of Parliament contains one thousand rooms, eleven court yards, eight bars and six restaurants, some of which are open to the public on selected dates. Members of the public can watch a session of parliament by either the Lords or the Commons from the public gallery.

Insightful and entertaining guided and audio tours are available on Saturdays and weekdays when Parliament is not in session. Guided tours are led by Blue Badge guides and last around 90 minutes, audio tours last around 75 minutes and are available in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Mandarin and Welsh as well as English. For families with children there is also an engaging 'family' version of the audio tour, along with 'family guided tours' which are led by our friendly visitor assistants.

All tours follow the processional route taken by Her Majesty the Queen when she performs the State Opening of Parliament. The magnificent Neo Gothic architecture of the Royal Rooms, such as the House of Lords, are richly decorated with the highlight being the wonderful golden throne designed by Pugin.

The Chamber of the House of Commons is one of the most iconic political arenas in the world and visitors can stand where the Prime Minister takes questions.
Tours end at Westminster Hall, which was built in 1097 and is one of the most atmospheric spaces in London. Once the Royal Family’s banqueting hall, the great and the good from Britain’s past 900 years will have walked on its stone floor.
A gift shop and cafeteria are available at the end of the tour.

The Palace of Westminster Picture Gallery

The Palace of Westminster Picture
Big Ben
Big Ben

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An institution like marriage should be treated with the reverence it deserves. And for us that means entering into it in sight of that bastion of British democracy, Parliament. Stroll the banks of the Thames, take courage from the leaders who reside within the Houses of Parliament and ask away.

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Buildings with bling

They don’t come much more iconic than this neo-gothic creation which includes the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben. It spans an impressive 4.8 km, and while we’re all familiar with the staid Houses of Lords and Commons, it’s the many chambers and galleries the public don’t usually get to see that are the most visually stunning. However MPs may be about to be dealt a mighty blow – apparently the building is falling apart and if a hefty sum isn’t ploughed into its reparation they may be forced to up sticks and move out of the M25. On the plus side there have been calls to turn the whole thing into affordable housing.

London's oldest attractions picture

London's oldest attractions

Something for the history-buffs...

When Westminster Hall was first built in 1097 it was actually too big for its purpose, as to avoid shouting to make themselves heard the members of Parliament and the Royals had to use smaller rooms. It's the only part of the Palace of Westminster which has survived the test of time in its original form (aside from the roof). Visitors can take tours through this fascinating building during the summer when Parliament is in recess, or any Saturday throughout the year.

Things to Try

Treasure hunt through Westminster picture

Treasure hunt through Westminster

A whole lot more fun for the young ones while sight-seeing...
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Take Afternoon Tea with the Prime Minister picture

Take Afternoon Tea with the Prime Minister

Hob-nobbing... whilst eating hob-nobs
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User Reviews

Reviewed by TheMog
This place looks more amazing every time I see it. I've lived in London for a while now so the effect should have worn off! It always provokes a feeling of national pride. Shame about the Anti this that and the other protesters who are always camped outside it.

Jul 19, 2004

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