Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster is one of the most iconic buildings in London.
It houses both the House of Commons and the House of Lords; the two houses of Parliament.
We all know how it looks like from the outside. But have you been inside? We have!
Before the Covid-19 pandemic we booked a guided tour and visited the Palace.
It was such an amazing journey through history and even though the tour lasted for over 2 hours, every bit of it was interesting.
We would recommend everyone to go and visit this fascinating historic building.
Unfortunately, the guided tour cannot be booked at present due to the current health situation. But you can visit virtually.
Through the official website of UK Parliament, you can book tickets for a guided online tour of the Palace of Westminster.
On this 45-minute free online tour a presenter takes you on a guided 360° virtual tour.
You will have a detailed look inside several rooms including the Commons Chamber, Lords Chamber and Central Lobby.
These are our favourites.
Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben
The Palace of Westminster has three main towers. Of these, the largest and tallest is the 323 ft Victoria Tower, which occupies the south-western corner of the Palace.
At the north end of the Palace rises the most famous of the towers, Elizabeth Tower, commonly known as Big Ben. Originally known as the Clock Tower.
In 2012 the Clock Tower was renamed the Elizabeth Tower to honour HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.
The shortest of the Palace’s three principal towers, the octagonal Central Tower stands over the middle of the building, immediately above the Central Lobby.
Originally named “Octagon Hall” because of its shape, the Central Lobby is the heart of the Palace of Westminster.
This is the mid-point between the Houses of Commons and the Lords and as such, is the principal thoroughfare between the Chambers.
House of Commons
Continuing north from the Central Lobby you will eventually reach the Chamber of the House of Commons.
At the north end of the Chamber is the Speaker’s Chair, and there are green benches on either side of the House.
Members of the Government party occupy benches on the Speaker’s right, while those of the Opposition occupy benches on the Speaker’s left.
The Chamber is relatively small and can accommodate only 427 of the 650 Members of Parliament.
By tradition, the British Sovereign does not enter the Chamber of the House of Commons. The last monarch to do so was King Charles I, in 1642.
The old Palace of Westminster was almost burned to the ground by an accidental fire in 1834.
Westminster Hall survived and is the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate.
The magnificent hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall is the largest medieval timber roof in Northern Europe.
Measuring 20.7 by 73.2 metres, the roof was commissioned in 1393 by Richard II, and is a masterpiece of design.
St Stephen’s Hall
From Westminster Hall you will walk through St Stephen’s Hall to reach Central Lobby.
St Stephen’s Hall stands on the site of the royal Chapel of St Stephen’s, where the House of Commons sat until the Chapel was destroyed by the fire of 1834.
Statues of famous parliamentarians face one another on either side of the Hall; these include John Hampden, Robert Walpole, William Pitt, Charles James Fox.
House of Lords
Head south from Central Lobby and you will reach the Chambers of the House of Lords.
At the south end of the Chamber are the ornate gold Canopy and Throne, the seat of the Sovereign when she attends the State Opening of Parliament.
The benches in the Chamber, as well as other furnishings in the Lords’ side of the Palace, are coloured red.
If you head further south from the House of Lords, you will pass through the Royal Gallery.
Originally called the Victoria Gallery, this is the largest room in the Palace of Westminster and was designed to be imposing.
Two enormous paintings by Daniel Maclise depict significant moments from the Napoleonic Wars: the death of Horatio Nelson at Trafalgar and the meeting of the Duke of Wellington and Field Marshall Blücher prior to the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.
The Royal Gallery is also the stage of the royal procession at State Openings of Parliament.
The Sovereign leaves the Robing Room and walks towards the House of Lords.
As its name indicates, it is in this room where the Queen puts on the Imperial State Crown and her ceremonial robes before making her way to the House of Lords.
If you have some energy left after this exhilarating tour, then explore Westminster borough on foot.
A 2-hour Westminster Sightseeing tour will lead you towards Piccadilly Circus, onwards to Buckingham Palace, through St James Park back to the Palace of Westminster.