Westminster Palace | Houses of Parliament

Westminster Palace, Houses of Parliament, London
Westminster Palace | Houses of Parliament - © Jedyooo

Westminster Palace is also known as the Houses of Parliament and are one of the best known sites in London. Located in Westminster in central London, the Palace of Westminster has a long and rich history and has played a central role in many important and historic moments in UK history. The site along with near by Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church form a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS). The site was included in the WHS List back in 1987 in recognition of the importance of the site and the contribution it has made.

Overview


Westminster Palace is located close to the banks of the River Thames in Westminster, Central London close to other iconic London sites such as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. Pictures of the Palace adorn pictures and postcards on London the world over. The Palace of Westminster is a grand example of a building that houses both houses of parliament in the UK, both the Lords and the Commons are housed here and the building is at the heart of the parliamentary democracy that has developed and evolved over centuries in the UK.

The Houses of Parliament have a long history dating back centuries incorporating many important events in UK history. The palace has been a royal palace for many years and is still officially a royal palace. The site was used as a royal residence until 1512 when Henry VIII moved the royal family out after a fire.

Westminster Hall is among the largest medieval halls in Europe and was rebuilt in the 14th century. The walls were built back in 1097 making the Westminster Hall the oldest part of Parliament.

Westminster Hall is the oldest part of Parliament. The walls were built in 1097 and the hall is one Europe’s largest medieval halls with an unsupported roof. It was extensively rebuilt during the 14th century. The hall was once used as a law court and has hosted a number of famous trials over the years, these include the Gunpowder Plot conspirators in 1606 and King Charles I in 1649. The hall is used currently for State occasions such as for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.

The Palace came close to being burned down entirely in 1864, on 16 October 1864, a fire destroyed everything in its path apart from the Jewel Tower, St Stephen's Chapel and the Westminster Hall. After the fire the Houses of Parliament were rebuilt taking the famous shape and form they are today incorporating the St Stephen's Chapel and Westminster Hall. The rebuilding was completed in 1870. The Gothic design of architect Charles Barry has won acclaim over the years.

In 1941 during Second World War, the House of Commons chamber was destroyed by bombing. Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed the replacement and the new block was used for the first time in 1950.

The Palace is regarded as showcasing a great monument of neo-Gothic architecture and provides a wonderful example of a building designed with outstanding neo-Gothic style.

Visitors can see the iconic Big Ben on the east side of the building during a tour here. Westminster Palace is a currently working government building and UK visitors can see parliamentary debates in the public galleries and get a chance to see the democracy in action. It should be noted that all entrance must be booked in advance.

The Houses of Parliament are open in the summer each year usually from late July to early October where overseas visitors can also see the building with a guided tour. The tour begins in Victoria Tower and takes visitors through the Robing Room, Royal Gallery, Chambers of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, Central Lobby and Westminster Hall.

The Palace has been at the forefront of many important and historic events in UK history. Along with the outstanding architecture, design and engineering feat of the building associated with its time, is recognised the world over as a great example of a parliamentary democracy whose principles have been taken on by many countries around the world. The unique value of the building and its importance has helped it become part of the World Heritage Site.


How To Get There


The Houses of Parliament are located in Westminster in the City of London. The central location makes it accessible by public transport.

By Car:

Car drivers need to be aware finding cost effective car parking in central London can be challenging and car parking costs are steep approx £4 per hour. The car park near Victoria Tower offers disabled bays and there are some disabled parking spaces in Great Peter Street and Smith Square. There are a range of parking restrictions in place and visitors travelling by car need to also factor in the cost of the London Congestion Charge that Westminster Palace falls under.

Alternatively car drivers can park in car parks or street bay parking further away from the area and take a bus or taxi in.

Car drivers and visitors should be aware there is no designated area to drop off or pick someone up from the Houses of Parliament. If this needs to be done it is advised it is done away from the Houses of Parliament and the associated security area where police will move traffic along for security reasons.

By Train:

The train stations located close by are London Victoria, London Waterloo and Charing Cross which are between 15 to 20 minutes walk away.

By Bus:

Local bus services stop close by to Parliament Square in Victoria Street (located opposite the Houses of Parliament) and towards Trafalgar Square, in Whitehall. All buses in London are now accessible for wheelchair users.

By Tube (Underground):

The closest Tube station is at Westminster, a short walk away. Westminster station is linked on the Circle, District and Jubilee Underground lines. The Tube stations at St James Park and Victoria and Waterloo are all within a 12-15 minute walk.

By Foot:

Those travelling by foot can use Westminster and Waterloo bridges located close by to access the Houses of Parliament. Whilst the Golden Jubilee pedestrian bridge (Formerly the Hungerford Bridge), connects the South Bank area with Victoria Embankment.


Contact Details


Address:

Houses of Parliament
Parliament Square
Westminster
London
SW1A 0AA

Telephone: +44 (0)870 906 3773

Website: Parliament UK


Facilities and Information


Facilities:

Opening Times:

Summer Opening:

From Late July until Early October (estimated)

The Summer Opening allows
Please note: The timings are subject to change and it is advised visitors check with the relevant tour providers on +44 (0)870 906 3773 to get the latest and accurate opening times.

UK Residents can tour the Houses of Parliament throughout the year, further details on arranging a visit are available on the Parliament Website (link shown above under Address). Overseas visitors can only view during the Summer Opening that last for approx 2 months.

Further Information:

Admission Fees:

Adult: £7.00 approx
Child: £5.00 approx
Concession Tickets: £5.00 approx


Map



View Larger Map

For Local Search and Directions see: Westminster Palace Map


Tips & Other Considerations


There may be some variations on the opening hours of attractions depending on the time of year and other factors. Visitors are advised to double check before going to ensure any attractions and place of interest is open and avoid disappointment.

When travelling always remain alert and aware of your surroundings and environment. Follow travel safety tips and ensure your belongings including your wallet/purse and valuables are hidden away from public view (particularly at tourist attractions & areas with crowds). If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to visit Westminster Palace | Houses of Parliament you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. There are number no entry roads, car and parking restrictions both temporary and long term. Use the Route & Journey Planner to get door to door directions for car and public transport journeys.

If you are looking for local car parking in Westminster, central London, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The parking rules are rigorously enforced with the possibility of fines, clamping and towing for vehicles that do not obey the rules. The parking rules can be complex if you are not sure it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.


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