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Palace of Westminster, London

The Palace of Westminster (also known as the Houses of Parliament) is the centre of British democracy and political life. It comprises of two houses that include the House of Commons (elected Members of Parliament) and the House of Lords (non-elected Members of Parliament). The House of Commons is located on the north side of the building while the House of Lords is on the south side.

The legislative building has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Located on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, it’s an unmistakeable landmark in Central London. The Palace of Westminster is a grand example of Victorian neo Gothic architecture that gained popularity in the 19th century and a view of the exterior is truly amazing! There are guided tours of the building when Parliament is in recess.

 Palace of Westminster by Txllxt TxllxT

About

The building gets its name from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey. There was an initial palace on the site built in the 11th century, which was the residence of the Kings of England. A fire destroyed much of the palace in the 16th century and rebuilt to serve as the home of the Parliament of England. Another fire destroyed many areas of the parliament building in 1834. Reconstruction began in 1840 and work mostly completed by 1860 but finished only until a decade later.

See & Do

The Palace of Westminster comprises of three towers namely the Victoria Tower at 99 metres (323 feet), Elizabeth Tower at 96 metres (316 feet) and Central Tower at 91 metres (299 feet). The most famous of the towers is the Elizabeth Tower (originally known as the Clock Tower) which houses the Great Clock and five bells hanging in the belfry. The four smaller bells strike every 15 minutes and the largest bell called the Great Bell (commonly known as Big Ben) strikes every hour. The Great Bell weighs nearly 14 tonnes while the clock mechanism measures 7 metres (23 feet) in diameter.

Elizabeth Tower and the Great Clock by Adrian Pingstone

There are over 1,100 rooms and nearly 5 km (3 miles) of passageways spread over four floors in the Palace of Westminster. Offices, dining rooms and bars occupy the ground floor while the debating chambers, lobbies and libraries occupy the first floor. The remaining two floors comprises of committee rooms and offices. The building has separate entrances for different users including the Sovereign's Entrance used by the monarch, Members' Entrance for Members of Parliament and St Stephen's Entrance for the public.

The Lobby by Jorge Royan

There are several small gardens surrounding the Palace of Westminster including the Victoria Tower Gardens, College Green, Black Rod's Garden, New Palace Yard and Speaker’s Green. Victoria Tower Garden is a public park situated along the bank of the River Thames. College Green is located opposite the House of Lords and often used for television interviews with politicians. Black Rod's Garden, New Palace Yard and Speaker’s Green are private and therefore closed to the public.

Visiting the Palace of Westminster

Parliament opens year round to UK residents and foreign visitors to tour the building. You can book tickets for guided or self-guided audio tours throughout the year on Saturdays and on most weekdays when parliament is in recess. You can also book tickets for guided group tours in the early evening focussing on art and decorative works at the House of Lords. UK residents and foreign visitors can also observe the parliamentary sessions in the House of Commons and House of Lords but capacity is limited.

The nearest London Underground station is Westminster Station serving the Jubilee, District and Circle Lines. Another Underground station is St James's Park Station serving the District and Circle Lines. London Victoria and London Waterloo railway stations are about 1.3 km (0.8 miles) from the Palace of Westminster. London’s red buses on routes number 11, 24, 88, 148 and 211 stop on the south side of Parliament Square.

Palace of Westminster on the Map

Palace of Westminster, Westminster, London SW1A 2PW, UK

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