On most days of the week, the Houses of Parliament are accessible for the general public to experience and enjoy during a trip to London, and there is a surprisingly wide choice of interesting and absorbing events and programmes on offer.
Take a guided tour through the historic chambers of the House of Commons, the House of Lords or the equally impressive, but perhaps less well-known, Westminster Hall. And if Parliament is in session during your visit, you can even witness live debates – possibly involving some rather familiar faces – in both the upper and lower Houses.
Anyone remotely interested in art history will be amazed at the incredible range of superb British art, decoration and architecture on display in every part of the massive building. And after a busy tour, you can also arrange to take in a very-English afternoon tea in the famous Terrace Pavilion alongside the River Thames.
However, the undoubted highlight of any visit to the UK seat of government will be a trip to the top of the Elizabeth Tower – more popularly referred to as ‘Big Ben’. Available to UK residents only, the tower tour involves climbing up 334 stone steps to hear Big Ben – officially called the Great Bell – strike on the hour, and to see the mechanism of the huge tower clock in action. The views from the tower summit are probably the best available anywhere in London. (Note: tower tours are fully booked up to 6 months in advance.)
Tower tour times: (Information correct at time of compilation)
December to May: Monday – Friday at 9.15am, 11.15am and 2.15pm (except Bank Holidays).
From June 2014: Monday to Friday at 9am, 11am and 2pm (except Bank Holidays).
Between May and September an extra tour is available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 4pm.
Houses of Parliament guided tour prices (including a souvenir guide book):
Over 60s; students; UK Armed Forces: £20
Children (5-15 yrs): £10
Children (under 5 yrs): free ticket for admission
Disabled: prices as above; escorts will be given a free ticket for admission.