Address: Westminster, London SW1A 0AA


Phone: 0207 7219 3000 (for tours 0207 219 4114)

Entry Information:Tours -

1000m from Charing Cross

100m from Westminster

Address: Westminster, London SW1A 0AA


Phone: 0207 7219 3000 (for tours 0207 219 4114)

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Entry Information: Tours -

Centuries ago it was a royal palace – the Palace of Westminster, and that is still its official name today although everyone knows it as the Houses of Parliament and the centre of British government.

From the early 11th century a royal palace was built on the site then known as Thorney Island. Westminster Abbey was built nearby, this in the area known as the West Minster, just as St Paul’s Cathedral was the East Minster. The Normans rebuilt the Palace with William II building Westminster Hall, the oldest part remaining today.

Edward I’s Model Parliament met there in 1295, being the first time that public opinion was recognised, this following the Magna Carta. There eventually became 3 governing bodies, the Crown, the House of Lords who were nobility and landowners and the House of Commons who were public figures. The Prime Minister and MP’s sit today in the Commons.

Westminster Hall became the highest court in the land and held trials of amongst others Charles I, Sir Thomas More and Guy Fawkes, the latter who stockpiled gunpowder under the House of Lords’ Chamber in 1605 and was executed in the yard outside. When Henry VIII moved out in the 16th century, Parliament remained and have been there ever since. There was a great fire in 1834 and only a few parts survived. It was redesigned by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin who also introduced the Clock Tower known as Big Ben.

Tradition is high. The King or Queen are not allowed in the chamber of the Commons and normally only visit Parliament once a year for the State Opening. On this day Black Rod knocks on the Commons door which is slammed shut, the MP’s then emerge to stand outside the Lords Chamber to hear the monarch’s speech. The monarch is always allowed in the Lords and when not there is represented by the mace on the woolsack. When MP’s are in session a flag is raised and at night a light is switched on at the top of the Clock Tower.

Of all the landmarks in central London, this is perhaps the most famous. In terms of location and proximity to other famous landmarks, the Houses of Parliament is the ideal attraction to base a day’s sightseeing around.

The public are allowed access to the building at certain times.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.