Monday, January 20, 2014

Houses of Parliament

A visit to tour the Elizabeth Tower and see Big Ben has been on our wish list since we moved to London.
We haven't done it yet because it's only open to UK permanent residents and you have to go through your MP (Member of Parliament) to schedule a visit.

But did you know that Parliament is open to all UK and overseas visitors?

This really should be one of the top five things for visitors to experience.
You can attend debates, watch committee hearings or take a tour of
"one of the world's most iconic buildings" which is exactly what we did.

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

Parliament is one of my favorite buildings in London.  I was very excited to be going inside.
Matt and I met up across the street and then headed through security.
Security, as you can imagine is very tight.  Bags and bodies are all scanned.
They take your photo and give you a badge for your visit.

Houses of Parliament, London, UK


Houses of Parliament, London, UK

The "Blue Badge" guided tours are run throughout the year on most Saturdays and on select days during the week when in recess.  Admissions are timed between 9:15am and 4:30pm.

Tickets can be purchased online or by phone.
Currently, prices are £16.50 for adults, £14.00 for seniors, Armed Forces and students and one child free per each paying adult, otherwise £7.

Although, I don't think I'd take younger children.  There is a lot of walking and obviously
strict guidelines as to behavior.  There are only a few specific places where you can sit and we were instructed not to touch anything.  Older kids would definitely enjoy the walk through history.

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

The tour starts and stops in the 900 year old Westminster Hall.
It's massive and you can feel the weight of its age and importance.
This space has been at the center of UK political history for almost 1,000 years.

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

Plaques in the stone floor mark the places were famous British leaders were laid in state before their funerals.  It's a majestic space full of importance.
This is where we lined up (by language) for our guided tour of the rest of Parliament.

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

Our guide was friendly and informative and the tour took about 90 minutes.
There are no photos allowed during the rest of the tour but you can take a virtual tour online.

The guided tour follows the route the Queen takes at the State Opening of Parliament;
from The Queen's Robing Room, through the Royal gallery and into the Lords Chamber.
We then crossed the Central Lobby, Member's Lobby and one of the voting lobbies
before entering the Commons Chamber.

This portion of the structure is much newer than Westminster Hall.
It was rebuilt in the 1800's after a devastating fire.
The House of Commons had to be rebuilt again in the 1940's following bomb damage during a wartime blitz.

Houses of Parliament, London, UK

This tour was fascinating and very informative.
 It also left me wanting to learn more about the UK political system.
So much history within these walls and I can't believe that I didn't visit sooner.


That night I watched "The Iron Lady".
It was great to see the scenes set in the House of Commons
and notice all of the little details that I'd learned about earlier in the day.


Tip.  Don't make the rookie mistake of forgetting that you have your Swiss army knife on you
like my husband.  We immediately mentioned it to the police upon entry and they locked it away safely.  It was returned once we were off the premises.  (Can't take him anywhere.) 


Have you visited the UK Houses of Parliament?



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  *I received a complimentary tour from  Houses of Parliament for the purposes of review.
All photos, writing and opinions are my own.
As always, I promise to be open, honest and transparent with my readers.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.


You can find this review and many others in my
London Attraction Guide

28 comments:

  1. We did this on our very first trip to London in 2011...when it was only open on Saturdays and it was so hard to get tickets! Thankfully our hotel concierge knew all about it and helped us score tickets. It was a very neat experience!

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  2. This was one of our favorite visits--wish they let us take photos inside. Your pictures turned out great!

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  3. need to do this one day :D love the Army Knife story ;))))

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  4. This has been one of my favorite things to see in London! When we went to the houses of Parliament, my friend requested tickets through her MP. She is a US citizen, not a permanent resident. There was no charge when booking this way. I don't know how she slipped through without being a permanent resident.


    I also have a different friend who booked the Big Ben tour through her MP, again without being a permanent resident. For both of these bookings, they were able to get a group of several tickets (maybe 6?) Might be worth a try?

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  5. I can't wait to go on this one. Walked past it a million times - never been inside! Seems like a good transition from the Brussels political world to that of London :)

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  6. I did this tour when I was on a study abroad program. My [English] professor also arranged for the Big Ben tour as part of the deal. It was so worth it - I hope you can arrange it :) It really is amazing to think of all the history in the building and the traditions of the politicians, etc. Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos!

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  7. This is totally one of the top things I have to do if I go to London! The outside of the building is so beautiful, I can't imagine what the inside looks like. and I would love to see Parliament in action!

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  8. I can never get over the stained glass of the building. So lovely!
    http://liveitinerantly.com/

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  9. You were right next to my office when you visited! Glad you had such a brilliant time. Noticed you mentioned The Iron Lady at the end, I believe the House of Commons set in the film was actually a full size replica - goes to show just how much attention to detail the designers must have put into it.


    Great post.

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  10. We were very lucky to be able to visit the Houses of Parliament when we visited London in 2003. They weren't doing tours that day as it was out of session and we had no plans to visit. But my husband can talk with anyone and we ended up having a long conversation with two Bobbies who were guarding the car park. One thing led to another, and one of the men asked if we would like a one-on-one tour. Well, of course we said yes! We even had tea with him after the tour. Definitely a highlight. If you want, you can read about it - http://familyrambling.com/london-parliament-travel-tips/international/europe/

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  11. That's the beauty of a great hotel concierge. We really enjoyed our visit. So many interesting details.

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  12. Thanks so much, Brooke. I agree. One of my favorites tours in London. Next stop is the Elizabeth Tower. Have you been up in it to see Big Ben? Thanks so much for reading & commenting :D Makes my day!!

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  13. I got him one last year for Christmas and he forgot he had it on him at the airport! Needless to say, security confiscated that one. So this was his second one. Luckily he got it back. Silly boy!

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  14. I will definitely try it! I really want to see the views up in the tower. We really enjoyed our tour!

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  15. You should absolutely do this tour. It was so interesting!!

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  16. How is the tour of Big Ben? Lots of stairs?? Our guide was really great. She answered all of our questions. You could tell she was very enthusiastic about the history.

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  17. Definitely! I want to go back some time to see a debate or something. That would be so interesting.

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  18. Oh, I love stained glass, too! The ceiling was really fabulous, too!

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  19. Hi, Mike! What a great area to work in. I'm jealous. Such an amazing part of London. It was nice to see all of the little details, like the boxes and books. And the stands for the mace. It's such a beautiful building! It's interesting how the decor changes when you go from the House of Lords to the House of Commons. Thank you so much for reading & commenting!!

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  20. Wow!! I love this story :D That is such a special memory. And the Bobbies are adorable!! Thank you so much for sharing this. That's what travel is all about, isn't it? I'm so glad you are joining the conversation, Jody!!

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  21. I absolutely want to take my mother here when she visits. Thank you for the inside scoop and such an informative post!

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  22. Sounds great! I'm going this Saturday with Jaklien and Emma. Too bad you're not allowed to take pictures of the entire tour.

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  23. You are very welcome! This is a great tour for visitors.

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  24. Can't wait to hear what you think!

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  25. I bet you can just feel the history as soon as you walk in.
    And I have to admit that I couldn't get through this post without the image of Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Europe in my head being stuck on that roundabout, "Big Ben, Parliament"

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  26. Lol. I need to watch that movie again. Love it!!

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  27. The Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower tour was awesome! There are a lot of stairs (just over 300 I think), which wouldn't have been bad aside from being all in a spiral (I hold little love for spiral staircases when I have to use them). Hopefully you'll get a chance to check it out - the views at the top are amazing!

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Thanks for commenting. I love to hear from you!