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How to tour the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

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Going on a public tour of the Houses of Parliament in London can be a fascinating and educational experience. The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, is the seat of the United Kingdom’s government and has a rich history that dates back to the 11th century. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, architecture, or politics. Here is a guide on how to go on a public tour of the Houses of Parliament.

First, it is important to note that the Houses of Parliament are a working building, and as such, they may be closed to the public at certain times due to parliamentary business. It is advisable to check the official website of the Houses of Parliament or contact their visitor services team before planning your visit. This will ensure that you can visit the Houses of Parliament when it is open to the public.

The Houses of Parliament offer several types of tours, and you can choose the one that best suits your interests. The most popular tour is the audio-guided tour, which allows you to explore the Houses of Parliament at your own pace. The audio guide is available in several languages and provides an in-depth commentary on the history, architecture, and function of the building. The tour takes approximately 90 minutes to complete and covers the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and Westminster Hall.

If you prefer a more interactive experience, you can opt for a guided tour led by an expert guide. The guided tour provides a more personal and in-depth experience and allows you to ask questions and interact with your guide. The guided tour takes approximately 75 minutes to complete and covers the same areas as the audio-guided tour. Personally, I recommend the guided tour – it’s the one I did a few years ago, and it was fantastic.

To go on a public tour of the Houses of Parliament, you need to book your tickets in advance. You can book your tickets online on the official website of the Houses of Parliament or through their visitor services team. Keep an eye out on the website for booking dates, as they release dates a few weeks in advance, and they fill up quickly.

On the day of your tour, you will need to arrive at the Houses of Parliament at least 20 minutes before your scheduled tour time. You will need to pass through security checks, and it is advisable to bring a photo ID with you. Once you have passed through security, you will be directed to the entrance of the Houses of Parliament, where you will collect your audio guide or meet your guide for the guided tour.

During the tour, you will have the opportunity to see some of the most iconic rooms in the Houses of Parliament, including the House of Commons and the House of Lords. You will also learn about the history and traditions of the Houses of Parliament, including the role of the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Black Rod. You will also see some of the most famous artworks and sculptures in the building, including the statue of Winston Churchill and the fresco of St. Stephen’s Hall.

It is important to note that photography is not allowed inside the Houses of Parliament, and you should respect the rules and regulations of the building. You should also dress appropriately for the tour, as the Houses of Parliament is a formal building.

Book Houses of Parliament Tours here.

How to Tour Big Ben

How to tour the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Visiting Big Ben, the famous bell located in Elizabeth Tower, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The tower is a symbol of British heritage and an iconic landmark that attracts millions of tourists every year.

Tours of Big Ben must be planned months in advance, and tours are offered on a limited schedule. Parliament will release dates a few months in advance on the Big Ben tours website; it’s important to monitor this for dates when they’re released. Tours will sell out, so you must book when the dates are announced. The next tour date release schedule is February 14th, 2024, for tours in May.

What’s on the tour?

This guided tour of the Elizabeth Tower takes you up a narrow 334-step spiral stairwell to the belfry where Big Ben, the Great Bell, hangs. Along the route, your guide will reveal details of the most extensive and complex conservation project in the Tower’s history. This vital conservation work involved over 500 people from across the UK and their traditional crafts, including stone masonry, glass blowing, gilding, plastering, cast iron, and clock mechanics.   

On this tour, you will see the inner workings of the clock mechanism, stand next to the world-famous Big Ben bell as it strikes the hour, and step behind the dials, each spanning 6.9m in diameter. You are also welcome to explore medieval Westminster Hall after your visit to the Elizabeth Tower. 

Tickets for the tour are £25 for adults and £10 for children aged 11-17. Visitors will be able to book a maximum of eight tickets per person, depending on availability.    

The Big Ben tour is not suitable for everyone. Visitors must be aged 11 and over and be comfortable climbing 334 steps and experiencing high noise levels from the clock mechanism and bells – earplugs will be provided. The total tour duration is 90 minutes and toilet facilities are available at the beginning and end of the tour only. Due to the constraints of the Tower, accessible tours, including step-free access, are not currently available.

Full details here.

Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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  1. We did the guided tour a few years ago and made reservations to have tea in the public dining room after the tour. That room is overlooking the river and though the tea was not especially wonderful the whole experience was one to be remembered.


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