The Houses of Parliament in London are a symbol of British power and a must-visit destination for anyone interested in politics or history. With over 1000 rooms, the Palace of Westminster houses the House of Commons and House of Lords, two of the most important locations in UK politics.
In this step-by-step guide, visitors will find information on the different types of tours available, ticket prices, and what to expect before they go. Whether visitors choose to take a tour or explore the Houses of Parliament on their own, this guide will provide all the necessary information to make the most of their visit.
- 1 Do I Need to Book a Tour to Visit the Houses of Parliament?
- 2 Choosing Which Houses of Parliament Tour to Book
- 3 Visiting the Houses of Parliament Without a Tour
- 4 Houses of Parliament and the Palace of Westminster: Frequently Asked Questions
- 4.1 Can You Visit the Houses of Parliament?
- 4.2 How Can You Visit the Houses of Parliament?
- 4.3 How Long is a Tour of the Houses of Parliament?
- 4.4 Is there a Dress Code for Visiting Parliament?
- 4.5 Can You Take Photos in the Houses of Parliament?
- 4.6 Is there Disabled Access?
- 4.7 Can You Have Lunch at the Houses of Parliament?
- 4.8 Will Visitors See the Prime Minister?
- Visitors to the Houses of Parliament can choose from a variety of tours or explore the building on their own.
- This step-by-step guide offers information on tour options, ticket prices, and what to expect during a visit.
- The Houses of Parliament are an iconic London landmark and a must-visit destination for anyone interested in politics or history.
Do I Need to Book a Tour to Visit the Houses of Parliament?
Usually, visitors do not need to book a tour to visit the Houses of Parliament. However, it is advisable to book in advance to avoid being turned away. There are several ways to visit the Houses of Parliament without booking a tour. Visitors can watch debates or committees, Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), and Minister’s Question Times in the House of Commons or House of Lords.
While tickets are not required for the first three options, it is recommended to book tickets for PMQs as it is a popular event and entry is not guaranteed without a ticket. Additionally, visitors can book onto one of Parliament’s special events or talks.
For more information on visiting the Houses of Parliament without a tour, readers can refer to the section titled “Visiting the Houses of Parliament Without a Tour” below. It is important to note that booking a tour can provide a more in-depth and informative experience for visitors.
Choosing Which Houses of Parliament Tour to Book
If you’re planning a trip to London, visiting the Houses of Parliament should be on your list of things to do. There are several different types of tours available, each offering a unique way to experience the Palace of Westminster. Here are some of the options available for you to choose from:
Houses of Parliament Guided Tour
The Houses of Parliament Guided Tour is a 90-minute tour of the Palace of Westminster. The tour is available on weekdays when Parliament is not in session and most Saturdays throughout the year. The tour goes at a slow pace, which allows visitors to take in the architecture and history of the buildings. The tour is also available in French, Spanish, German, and Italian on selected dates.
Cost: £32 for adults, £16 for kids, £26 for concessions. Disabled visitors are charged as per the above but an essential companion is free.
How to Get Tickets: For the latest information on when these tours will return, click here.
Private Guided Tours
If you want to explore the Palace of Westminster in a private group, you can book a private guided tour. The tour is completely tailored to your group and covers up to 10 people. The tour lasts around 75 minutes and generally begins first thing in the morning (Monday to Wednesday).
Cost: Starts from £500 per group of up to 10 people.
How to Book: For bookings of 10 people or more, contact [email protected]
How to Take a Tour of the Houses of Parliament for Free
UK residents can take a Democratic Access Tour of the Houses of Parliament for free. The tour lasts for 75 minutes and provides visitors with information about the daily business of MPs while they’re in the houses, the procedures that govern them, and showcases the highlights of the Palace of Westminster along the way. The locations you cover during the tour depend on what’s happening on the day.
How to Get Tickets: You have to be a UK resident to book one of the Houses of Parliament free tours. You’ll need to book through your local MP or a Member of the House of Lords up to six months in advance. There are often last-minute Houses of Parliament tickets available (within the next seven days) – you can email Parliament to book a space on one of them, or pop into the Ticket Office in front of Portcullis House.
Behind the Scenes Houses of Parliament Guided Tour
The Behind the Scenes Houses of Parliament Guided Tour is a tour that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the world of Parliament past and present. The tour lasts for two hours and explores sections of the Palace of Westminster, including several places that aren’t covered by the other tours.
Cost: £65 Adults, £59 Children (4-12), Infants three and under are free.
How to Get Tickets: Book online on Get Your Guide.
Take a Virtual Tour
If you can’t make it to Parliament, you can take a virtual tour of the buildings online. The virtual tour allows visitors to walk through the corridors of power from the comfort of their own home.
Cost: Absolutely free.
How to Get Tickets: Book online here.
Visiting the Houses of Parliament Without a Tour
If you’re interested in visiting the Houses of Parliament without taking a guided or audio tour, there are a few options available to you. Keep in mind that unguided visits are not allowed, except for audio tours.
Watch a Debate or Committee
One way to experience Parliament in action is to attend a debate or committee meeting in either the House of Commons or House of Lords. Anyone can view these events from the public galleries, and there is no need to purchase tickets in advance. However, waiting times may vary depending on the popularity of the subject being discussed. Visitors can get an idea of how long they can expect to wait by asking the attendants on site.
Watch Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) is a popular event that takes place every Wednesday at 12pm when Parliament is in session. It is a ticketed event, so visitors must contact their local MP to request a ticket. If you are not a UK resident or have not booked a ticket in advance, you can try your luck by turning up on the day, but the pool of available seats is small. Keep an eye on the Parliament website for updates on when PMQs will resume.
Watch Minister’s Question Time
Similar to PMQs, Minister’s Question Time happens in both the House of Commons and House of Lords, generally at the beginning of the day Monday to Thursday. Visitors can watch it from the public galleries of the respective houses. While it can be a popular event, it is generally okay to turn up on the day without a ticket. Check the Parliament website for updates on when Minister’s Question Time will resume.
Book a Special Event or Talk
Parliament hosts a variety of special events and talks throughout the year, covering topics such as the history of the buildings, issues facing the country, and how Parliament works. These events are often free, and visitors can book tickets online through the Parliament website. The calendar of upcoming events is available on the website, and visitors are encouraged to check it regularly for updates.
Overall, while guided or audio tours are the only way to explore the history of the Houses of Parliament and its buildings, attending debates, committee meetings, and special events provide a unique opportunity to experience Parliament in action.
Houses of Parliament and the Palace of Westminster: Frequently Asked Questions
The Houses of Parliament and the Palace of Westminster are often used interchangeably to refer to the same place. The Palace of Westminster was once a royal palace and Henry VIII was the last monarch to use it as such. Today, it serves as the meeting place for the House of Commons and House of Lords, together known as the Houses of Parliament.
Can You Visit the Houses of Parliament?
Yes, visitors can go into the Houses of Parliament either on a tour, to see a debate or committee, to attend a talk or event, or to petition their MP. However, visitors cannot walk around the inside of the Palace of Westminster unguided.
How Can You Visit the Houses of Parliament?
Visitors can attend debates, Prime Minister’s Questions, or Minister’s Questions in the appropriate house for free. Additionally, visitors can book a spot on one of the free Democratic Access Tours run by Parliament on a frequent basis.
How Long is a Tour of the Houses of Parliament?
The duration of the tour depends on the type of tour booked. The free tours of the Houses of Parliament last around 75 minutes, while the paid guided tours last for 90 minutes. Visitors are recommended to allow at least 90 minutes for the self-guided audio tour.
Is there a Dress Code for Visiting Parliament?
There is no formal dress code for visiting Parliament. However, visitors are not allowed to enter Parliament wearing a suit of armor.
Can You Take Photos in the Houses of Parliament?
Visitors can take photos in Westminster Hall and St Stephen’s Hall in the Houses of Parliament, but not in the rest of the Palace of Westminster.
Is there Disabled Access?
The buildings have been updated to make them accessible to everyone, including ramps, information in sign language, and tours specially tailored to people who need more assistance. Essential companions can also go for free.
Can You Have Lunch at the Houses of Parliament?
Visitors can have lunch at Parliament’s Jubilee Cafe, which is open from 9:00am to 5:45pm Monday to Wednesday and 10:00am to 5:45pm Thursday to Saturday. The cafe offers a selection of refreshments and sandwiches. Alternatively, visitors can check out nearby restaurants for more food options.
Will Visitors See the Prime Minister?
It is unlikely but possible to see the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will be present at Prime Minister’s Questions if visitors can get a ticket to the event. However, most of the time the Prime Minister will be working from No. 10 Downing Street or off on diplomatic work in a foreign country.
For more information on Parliament’s accessibility, visitors can visit the Parliament website.