Now that the UK is opening up again and welcoming visitors, it’s the perfect time to explore the city before the crowds really get out of hand. While things in London aren’t open to full capacity and tickets and tours are limited, that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and do some sightseeing. And a great place to start is the Palace of Westminster. It’s one of the most recognizable landmarks on the Thames and the perfect way to spend an afternoon in London. Check out GetYourGuide to find the most popular tours of London and other things to do in the city.
Westminster Palace has been the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords since the 16th century and has been part of the monarchy for a thousand years. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Westminster Palace is always fun and fascinating to visit. We have put together some tips on how to best visit the Palace of Westminster Palace and the Houses of Parliament.
Tips for visiting the Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster is truly an icon of London. With Big Ben standing proudly above the Houses of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster is one of the oldest parliaments in the world. While Parliament has been sitting here for centuries, the complex itself only dates back to 1870 when it was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1834. Several locations in Westminster survived the fire, including The Jewel Tower and the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft in the Crypt. Visitors can explore the palace complex during parliamentary sessions and on guided tours.
- Book this highly rated tour Exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the London Parliament where you visit the best of Westminster Palace, including Westminster Hall – the oldest part of the palace, the Royal Staircase, the Queens Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, the House of Commons and The Chamber of the House of Lords.
About Westminster Palace
Some activities can be affected by Covid-19. Inquire about opening times and activities at each attraction. Things are always changing as the UK moves into different stages of Covid. So before you leave, check the government website and respect local guidelines as per social distancing rules. Note: Currently, tours are suspended until the end of July, but they offer virtual tours and you can visit this website for updates.
Westminster Palace is located in the City of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament are entirely within the Palace of Westminster. It can be overwhelming to explore this great area of London. But this highly rated walking tour of Westminster followed by a tour of the Houses of Parliament, including the Houses of Commons and the House of Lords, with an audio guide to learn how Parliament works.
Directions to the Palace of Westminster
- The nearest underground station is Westminster Station. When you get off the subway you will be right next to the palace. The Jubilee, Circle or District lines all go to Westminster Station.
- Note: Westminster Railway Station is wheelchair accessible.
- Westminster Palace can also be reached by boat with stops at Westminster Pier
- Buses also stop near Westminster Station. Download the Moovit App for timetables.
- Read: How To Get From London Airport To The City Center
- You could too Enjoy this London cruise from Westminster to Greenwich.
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How to visit the Palace of Westminster
When entering the Palace of Westminster, you will need to go through airport security. So be prepared for the same items being banned as they are in an airport. Avoid bringing scissors, aerosol cans, and liquids that are not in a resealable container. Once inside you will be given a visitor badge which must remain visible during your stay.
Be sure to download your Westminster Abbey audio guide with commentary from Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons. The Cloisters, Pyx Chamber, Chapter House and College Garden are also included in the app.
Audio guides are a great way to explore the Houses of Parliament at your own pace while getting commentary and behind-the-scenes insight on a guided tour. If you would like to book tours of Westminster Palace, the ticket office is located in front of Portcullis House. The tours take place on weekdays when Parliament is not in session and most Saturdays of the year. Entry to Westminster Abbey is £ 18.
Book this Westminster Exclusive Tour Tour in advance without the hustle and bustle of the crowds to see all of the top sights of the Palace of Westminster including Westminster Hall – the oldest part of the palace, the Royal Staircase, the Queens Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, the House of Commons and The Chamber of Lords.
Visit the Houses of Parliament
While a tour is a great way to add a deeper understanding of your visit to Parliament, there are ways to visit the Palace of Westminster without taking a tour. The main thing is to attend a session of parliament and watch a debate.
Multimedia tours are offered, allowing visitors to explore the iconic buildings at their own pace when Parliament is not in session. The tours take you through the House of Commons, House of Lords and Westminster Hall and last approximately 90 minutes.
House of Commons
The House of Commons has public meetings. If you plan to visit during Parliament, UK residents and foreign visitors can watch the debates from the galleries in Westminster Hall Monday through Thursday. (and also on certain Fridays.) Visit the website for more information.
If you want to be in Parliament during the Prime Minister’s speech, you will need a ticket that you have with your Member of Parliament if you are a UK resident.
House of Lords
In the Lords Chamber the sovereign, the lords and the lower house come together. It’s open to the public for free to watch Chamber sessions, or you can book a private tour on Saturdays when Parliament isn’t in session. It also opens during the summer break. The House of Lords meets Monday through Thursday (and some Fridays).
More details can be found here for the times. You can easily show up and queue for the day you want to visit. Arrive early though, it’s open to first come, first served visitors. The queue opens 1 hour before the session, so we recommend arriving at least 90 minutes before the session. If you want to guarantee entry, tickets can be obtained from a member of the House of Lords. Details here.
Westminster Abbey has been the site of royal coronations since 1066. It was also home to many royal weddings, most recently to William and Kate.
Westminster Abbey is open to visitors Monday through Saturday all year round. Keep in mind that this is still a working church so openings are subject to change without notice. No visitors are allowed on Sundays, but you can attend a service for free on Sundays. Everyone is welcome. The best time to visit Westminster Abbey is early to top the organized tour groups and bus tours. Westminster Abbey is open for an additional hour on Wednesdays.
As you explore Westminster Abbey, look out for Poets Corner. More than 100 famous writers and poets are buried or commemorated here. You’ll see memorials dedicated to personalities like Chaucer, the author of Canterbury Tales, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, TS Eliot, and more.
Landmarks at Westminster Palace
There are over 1,000 rooms to visit at Westminster Palace, and of course you can’t possibly see all of them. In addition to the Houses of Lords, Parliament and Westminster Abbey, there are other attractions in Westminster Palace: The Cloisters, Pyx Chamber, Chapter House and College Garden. Big Ben, the most famous clock in the world, stands above the Palace of Westminster in the Elizabeth Tower. It is currently closed for renovations and the Victoria Tower is the tallest tower in the Palace of Westminster at the opposite end of the building.
The Palace of Westminster and everything in it is one of the most famous buildings in the world. While most people admire its beauty from the River Thames, it is well worth going inside to explore its architecture and history. So what are you waiting for? Get a closer look at the British Parliament and the Royal Family, followed by afternoon tea on Riverside Terrace for the perfect afternoon in London.
This article is provided to you by GetYourGuide. A tour operator that we often use on city trips. It offers online booking and easy cancellation within 24 hours of the activity. See what’s hot in London right now.
You can book tours from BTours to Westminster Palace in advance with Get Your Guide to explore the London Parliament behind the scenes Exclusive guided tour that will see the best of Westminster Palace including Westminster Hall – the oldest part of the palace, the Royal Staircase, the Queens Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, the House of Commons and the Chamber of the House of Lords.
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