Houses Of Parliament

Houses of Parliament

The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Commonly known as the Houses of Parliament after its occupants, the Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London.

Its name, which is derived from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey, may refer to either of two structures: the Old Palace, a medieval building complex destroyed by fire in 1834, and its replacement, the New Palace that stands today. The palace is owned by the monarch in right of the Crown and for ceremonial purposes, retains its original status as a royal residence. The building is managed by committees appointed by both houses, which report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker.

Although there is no casual access to the interior of the Palace, there are several ways to gain admittance. UK residents may obtain tickets from an MP for a place in the viewing ("strangers'") gallery of the House of Commons, or from a Lord for a seat in the gallery of the House of Lords. It is also possible for both UK residents and overseas visitors to queue for admission to them at any time of the day or night when either House is in session, but capacity is limited and there is no guarantee of admission. Either House may exclude "strangers" if it desires to sit in private. Members of the public can also queue for a seat in a committee session, where admission is free and places cannot be booked, or they may visit the Parliamentary Archives for research purposes. Booking an appointment is necessary in the latter case, along with a proof of identity.

Free guided tours of the Palace are held throughout the parliamentary session for UK residents, who can apply through their MP or a member of the House of Lords. The tours last about 75 minutes and include the state rooms, the chambers of the two Houses and Westminster Hall. Paid-for tours are available to both UK and overseas visitors during the summer recess. UK residents may also tour the Elizabeth Tower, by applying through their local Member of Parliament; overseas visitors and small children are not allowed.

Parliament Tours

There are different types of yours available for the houses of parliament.

Audio tours of the Houses of Parliament offer a unique combination of one thousand years of history, modern day politics and stunning art and architecture.

What does the audio tour cover?

The audio commentary brings to life this tour through the House of Lords and House of Commons. This self-guided tour takes around 60 to 75 minutes and features leading Parliamentary figures such as Mr Speaker and Black Rod. 

Tours are occasionally subject to variation or cancellation due to the State Opening of Parliament and other parliamentary business.

Audio tours are offered in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Brazilian Portuguese and Welsh.

A family version of the audio tour, aimed at children aged 7 to 12, is also available in English. The family commentary is in the style of a ‘live’ news broadcast with time travelling reporters 'reporting from the scene’ on stories associated with the Houses of Parliament.

For visitors who are deaf or who have a hearing loss a screen-based version of the audio tour is available in British Sign Language.

Fully guided tours of the Houses of Parliament offer a unique combination of one thousand years of history, modern day politics and stunning art and architecture.

What does the guided tour cover?

An expert 'Blue Badge' guide accompanies you throughout this 90 minute tour through the House of Lords and House of Commons.

View a two minute video preview of the tour

Tours are occasionally subject to variation or cancellation due to the State Opening of Parliament and other parliamentary business.

Guided tours in English are offered on all tour days.

Guided tours in French, German and Spanish are offered on most tour days.

Guided tours in over 25 languages (including Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian and Welsh) can be arranged for groups on request.

Afternoon tea overlooking the River Thames is a popular add-on to the tours.