Now that the UK is opening up and welcoming visitors again, it is the perfect time to start exploring the city before the crowds really start to take hold. While things in London aren’t open in full capacity and entries 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 is one of the most iconic landmarks on the River Thames and it is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in London. Check out GetYourGuide for the most popular tours of London for other things to do in the city.
Westminster Palace has been the meeting place for the House of Commons and House of Lords since the 1500s and has been a part of the monarchy for a thousand years. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Westminster Palace is always fun and fascinating to visit and we have compiled some tips for best ways to 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 proud over the houses of parliament, The Palace of Westminster is one of the oldest parliaments in the world. While parliament has been meeting here for centuries, the complex itself only dates back to 1870 when it was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1834. Some places in Westminster did survive the fire being The Jewel Tower and the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft in the crypt. Visitors are welcome to explore the palace complex when parliament is in session and on tours.
About Westminster Palace
Some activities may be affected by Covid-19. Check with each attraction for opening hours and activities. Things are constantly changing as The UK moves into different stages of Covid so be sure to check the government website before you go and respect local guidelines following social distancing rules.
Westminster Palace is located in the City of Westminster and the parliament buildings are located entirely in the Palace of Westminster. It can be overwhelming explore this large 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 House of Lords with an audioguide to learn how parliament works.
How to Get to The Palace of Westminster
- The nearest tube station is Westminster Station. When you come out from the underground, you are right next to the palace. The Jubiliee, Circle or District Lines all go to Westminster Station.
- Note: Westminster 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 transit schedules.
- Read: How to Get from London Airport to City Centre
- You may also enjoy this London cruise from Westminster to Greenwich.
Interested in more London travel tips?
How to Visit the Palace of Westminster
When entering The Palace of Westminster, you will have to go through airport-type security. So be prepared to have the same items banned that you would at an airport. Avoid bringing in scissors, aerosol cans, and liquids that are not in a re-sealable container. Once you are inside you will get a visitors pass which must remain visible throughout your stay.
Make sure to download your audio guide of Westminster Abbey with commentary by 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 still getting behind the scenes commentary and insight from a guided tour.
If you want to book guided tours of Westminster Palace, the ticket office is located at the front of Portcullis House. The tours are held on weekdays when Parliament is not in session and most Saturdays throughout the year. The cost to enter Westminster Abbey is £18.
Visit The Houses of Parliament
Although a tour is a great way to add a deeper understanding to your parliament visit, there are ways to visit The Palace of Westminster without going on a tour. The main being to sit in on a session of parliament and watch a debate.
Multimedia Tours are offered where visitors can explore the iconic buildings at their own pace when parliament is not in session. Tours take you through the House of Commons, House of Lords and Westminster Hall and take about 90 minutes.
House of Commons
The House of Commons has sessions open to the public. If you want to visit during parliament, UK residents and foreign visitors are welcome to watch the debates from the galleries in Westminster Hall from Monday to Thursday. (and certain Fridays as well.) Check out the website for more information.
If you want to be in Parliament when the Prime Minister is speaking, you need a ticket that you can get by contacting your Member of Parliament if you are British resident.
House of Lords
The Lords Chamber is where the the Sovereign, the Lords and the Commons all come together. It is open to the public to watch chamber meetings for free or you can book a private tour on Saturdays when parliament is not in session. It also opens during summer recess. The House of Lords meets Mondays to Thursdays (And some Fridays).
Check out more details here for times. You can easily turn up on the day you want to visit and join the queue. But arrive early, it is open to visitors on a first come first serve basis. The queue opens 1 hour before session, so we suggest arriveing at least 90 minutes before session. If you want to guarantee entrance, you can get tickets from a member of the House of Lords. Details here.
Westminster Abbey has been the site of royal coronations since 1066. It has also been the home to many a royal wedding including most recently William and Kate.
Westminster Abbey is open to visitors Monday to Saturday year round. Keep in mind that this is still a working church so openings can change without notice. There are no visitors allowed on Sundays, but you can attend a service on Sundays free of charge. Everyone is welcome. The best time to visit Westminster Abbey is early at opening to beat the organized tour groups and bus tours arriving. On Wednesdays, Westminster Abbey is open for an extra hour.
While exploring Westminster Abbey keep an eye out for Poets Corner. More than 100 famous writers and poets are buried or commemorated here. You’ll see memorial sites for the likes of Chaucer, the writer of Canterbury Tales, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, T.S. Eliot and more.
Things to See at Westminster Palace
There are 1000+ rooms to visit at Westminster Palace and naturally you cannot possibly tour them all. Besides the Houses of Lords, Parliament and Westminster Abbey, other things to see in Westminster Palace The Cloisters, Pyx Chamber, Chapter House and College Garden. The world’s most recognizable clock, Big Ben stands over the Palace of Westminster in the Elizabeth Tower. At the moment it is closed for renovations and Victoria Tower is the tallest tower in the Palace of Westminster at the opposite end of the building.
The Palace of Westminster and all that is inside makes up one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. While most people admire its beauty from the Thames, it is worth going inside to explore its architecture and history. So what are you waiting for? Get to know the British Parliament and the Royal Family a bit further followed by afternoon tea on the Riverside Terrace for the perfect afternoon in London.
This post is brought to you by GetYourGuide. A tour company we use often when visiting cities. It offers online booking and easy cancellation within 24 hours of activity. See what’s hot for tours right now in London.