Officially known as the ‘Palace of Westminster’, the Houses of Parliament are today home to the two chambers where the House of Lords and the House of Commons meet to lobby, debate and go about serving the people of Great Britain.
Prominently situated on the north bank of the River Thames, the Palace of Westminster is one of the largest Parliaments in the world and contains over 1,000 rooms and over two miles of corridors.
Sitting on the west side of the Palace is one of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Clock Tower, popularly known as ‘Big Ben‘. Big Ben is actually the name of the huge bell, whose tolling tune is instantly recognisable, while the Clock Tower itself, which rises above the seat of British government, is simply called the ‘Clock Tower’.
During late July/August and mid September/early October, Parliament is in recess and the summer opening of the Palace of Westminster takes place. Extensive guided tours are offered for visitors; these last about 75 minutes and include the Royal Robing Rooms, the House of Lords and the House of Commons and Westminster Hall. These are not free and they must be booked in advance (in person or from Firstcall, see below). Visitors who want to watch Parliament at work, rather than tour the Palace, can watch from the Strangers’ Gallery. When Parliament is in session, there are two long queues (one for the House of Lords and one for House of the Commons) outside the Palace.
Bridge St, Westminster, London SW1A 2PW, Royaume-Uni