Palace of Westminster inside the Houses of Parliament

“Why haven’t we been inside the Houses of Parliament?” enquired the Junior CW’s.  Fair enough question and one to which I didn’t have a good answer.  A few clicks later we had tickets for the whole family .  Palace of Westminster, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Parliament; the seat of British government goes by many different names, we were lucky enough to have a perfectly sunny day for our visit.

Queen Elizabeth Tower home of Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster London
Queen Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben

Inside the Houses of Parliament

Security checks are thorough, as you would expect, and once past them cameras are strictly forbidden but you do get an excellent audio guide.   The first space that you enter is vast, Westminster Hall is a jaw droppingly large place now, goodness only knows how awe-inspiring it must have been seen through medieval eyes.  The wood timber roof is the largest hammer-beam roof in the world.  In this room Charles I was tried, Nelson Mandela addressed both Houses of Parliament and monarchs have laid in state here.  Brass plaques dot the floor indicating where momentous events took place.

Westminster Hall

Palace of Westminster
Westminster Hall © UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Westminster Hall was the only part of the medieval palace of Westminster to survive a fire in 1834.  The rest of the  familiar building is a Victorian creation.  What you don’t see on television is just how much gold there is everywhere.  No surface seems to go undecorated with at least some glitter.  The windows are filled with stained glass, colour is everywhere. 

House of Lords

The tour takes you into the House of Lords, it is so much smaller that you would expect and Queen’s throne so much more golden.  You get a sense that it is a chamber in which discussion is possible rather than the exchange of ranting speeches.

Palace of Westminster
House of Lords © UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

House of Commons

After the Lords you follow the route that Black Rod takes when he goes to summon the Commons to hear the Queen’s speech.  Nobody slams the doors of the House of Commons in your face, you get walk straight in.  Once again it is so much smaller than it appears to be on television, you can see that heated debate is likely as opponents on the front benches are so close that they could almost touch.

Palace of Westminster
House of Commons © UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Women have not always enjoyed equal status in the House of Commons, women finally got the vote in 1918. A light sculpture by Mary Branson has been installed to mark the centenary of votes for women. New Dawn, takes its inspiration from the vellum scrolls that contain the laws of the land and continually changes.

New Dawn Light Sculpture by Mary Branson in the Palace of Westminster

Tours of the Houses of Parliament

You can tour the Houses of Parliament when the house in recess or not sitting. That means most school holidays. There are various types of tour, whichever one you opt for you will need to book ahead.

Guided Tour of the Houses of Parliament

Exactly as it sounds you have a real live person taking you round the building, telling the stories and giving their insight. You get to see Westminster Hall, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Multi-media Tour of the Houses of Parliament

Instead of a real live guide you get a multi media headset and controller. You are in charge of how quickly you make your way around the building.

Free Inside UK Parliament Tours

If you are a UK resident you can have a free tour of Parliament. You need to book this via your MP or a member of the House of Lords. Or you can book online. These tours are available only when Parliament is sitting. You get to see how Parliament works and find out how you can engage in with the democratic process.

Free Online Tour

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays you can join a free guided online tour but you do need to book. You can see inside the UK Parliament buildings in 360˚ splendour, a presenter takes you on a 45 minute tour and there is time for questions afterwards.

Watch House of Commons debates

Anyone can watch the House of Commons in action from the public gallery. You do need to be organised though and taking children is tricky as Parliamentary terms tend to coincide with school terms, meaning that debates happen when children are at school. The public galleries are open Monday – Thursday when Parliament is sitting. Access is free, you just need to turn up. Admittance is on a strict first come, first served basis, just join the queue at the Cromwell Green entrance. Tickets are required for Prime Minister’s Questions and Ministerial Question Time.

When you leave the Palace of Westminster take a look at the statues of the great and good that line Parliament Square or pop along Whitehall to see Banqueting House, the place where Parliament took control and beheaded Charles I

Visiting the Palace of Westminster need to know

  • Palace of Westminster, Parliament Square, SW1A 0AA
  • Open: Saturdays and weekdays during parliamentary recesses
  • Admission: Guided Tour Adult £29, Multimedia Tour Adult £22.50
  • Book in advance via UK Parliament website



  1. April 21, 2017 / 9:56 pm

    I’d love to visit the Houses of Parliament. They are on my London bucket list when we’re finally able to visit. #weekendwanderlust

    • April 22, 2017 / 8:36 am

      One of those places that is so much more beautiful in the flesh

  2. April 25, 2017 / 8:30 am

    I would love to visit – we unfortunately never got round to tbwhen we lived in London #citytripping

  3. April 25, 2017 / 8:51 am

    I’d love to do a tour sometimes:) #citytripping

  4. April 25, 2017 / 4:42 pm

    I think it’s symbolic that the people of this country have the right to access the House of Lords and Commons. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting, though it was several years ago now. #citytripping

  5. April 25, 2017 / 6:50 pm

    When I was a teen we went inside Westminister Abbey, but I dont think we did Parliament. I wish we had! We wanted to back in 2015 but its sooo expensive to do the tour, so we passed. #CityTripping

  6. April 25, 2017 / 8:41 pm

    I visited there last December. It’s a great tour. #citytripping

  7. April 26, 2017 / 5:54 am

    We took this tour during our last London visit and loved it! Such a beautiful building it was awe inspiring. The only thing I might have done differently is we would have liked to have tea there as I hear its pretty good! #citytripping

    • April 26, 2017 / 3:23 pm

      I agree, we had the last slot of the day so Mr CW could bunk off work to join us.

  8. Kat
    April 26, 2017 / 6:54 am

    My parents have visited the House of Parliament before, I would love to do the same. I will be in London for a 9-hour layover in mid-Sept, am figuring what are the things I can do in London for a couple of hours. So many places to see but so little time, it’s tough to decide! Perhaps a visit to the Palace of Westminster and the Parliament 🙂 #citytripping

  9. Wherejogoes
    April 26, 2017 / 7:09 pm

    I’ve never visited and really must go. Thank you for raising this up my London list! What age children would you say it’s best for, mine are 9, should I wait till they are a bit older? #CityTripping

  10. April 26, 2017 / 8:21 pm

    I love wandering around outside but have never bene in, it looks so incredible x

    • April 26, 2017 / 8:35 pm

      It is so much more beautiful inside than out

  11. April 27, 2017 / 2:43 am

    The interior looks as amazing as the exterior! You should go back again when there is a debate going on. Back when I was a teacher, I once brought my students on an excursion to our Parliament House to observe a Parliament Sitting. A rather unorthodox excursion but I’m glad I did it. #CityTripping

    • April 27, 2017 / 7:22 am

      That is a brilliant school outing, every school should do it!

  12. April 28, 2017 / 8:37 am

    I visited once as part of a gothic art study day with Tate Britain, it felt such a privilege to go inside. I’d love to go back with the teen – and treat ourselves to an afternoon tea! I’m also interested in climbing the clock tower. We’ll have to wait until the next parliament I suppose. #CityTripping

    • April 28, 2017 / 8:39 am

      The tours are when Parliament is in recess, so there a bonus extra few weeks because of the election!

  13. April 28, 2017 / 9:44 pm

    I went as a teen with a school trip and then we did get to see a debate. Don’t think we had a tour too though, which was clearly a istake. I wonder why I’ve never thought of going again – very interesting for sure!

    • April 28, 2017 / 10:06 pm

      I really want to,see a debate, so a bit jealous of your school trip

  14. June 22, 2017 / 9:30 am

    Loved our tour there late last year. Such an iconic and historic place with so much symbolism in the interior – how about the gallery dedicated to defeating the French.. so British! Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

  15. June 22, 2017 / 11:13 am

    I was thinking of booking when we are in London, but we live outside the city and have already a fait few things planned so it will have to wait unfortunately. I would love to go though…#farawayfiles

  16. June 22, 2017 / 7:32 pm

    Wow, how cool! I never actually went inside, but visited lots of times anyway. So does the Queen actually attend parliament? Considering she’s got such an ornate-looking crown?

    • June 24, 2017 / 4:22 pm

      She goes to the State Opening of Parliament, when she reads a speech, wears a crown and rides in a golden carriage!

  17. Clare Thomson
    June 23, 2017 / 2:30 pm

    We loved our tour of the Houses of Parliament last summer. It is such a thrill to stand in the House of Commons and on the plaque where King Charles I was tried. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  18. June 25, 2017 / 8:16 am

    I haven’t done this tour for so many years. Its something `i must do again. I remember being amazed that we were allowed to see so much. A great idea of something to do with our nieces and nephews. #FarawayFiles

  19. October 10, 2017 / 1:42 pm

    I would have loved to have done this -but Rex wouldn’t have! x

    • October 10, 2017 / 2:09 pm

      Afternoon tea at the Palace of Western when he is older!

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