Palace of Westminster Updated: 4 months ago

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The Palace of Westminster is one of the most iconic landmarks in London, with Big Ben at one end of the palace. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

History

Origins and Early Years

The palace dates back to 1042, when Edward the Confessor ordered the construction of a palace in Westminster, which then served as the primary residence for the monarchs of England until 1512, when a fire destroyed the royal apartments of the palace. After the fire, Henry VIII moved the Palace of Whitehall, making the palace the permanent home of the parliament.

1605, in a famous incident, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Lords, luckily without success.

Reconstruction in the 19th Century

A fire in 1834 destroyed most of the palace. Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin were the chief architects for the rebuild to its current Victorian Gothic Revival form. The rebuild started in 1840 and took over 30 years to complete.

Architectural Highlights

The Palace of Westminster is known for its Gothic Revival architecture, which is immediately recognisable worldwide. The architecture of Westminster Palace is awe-inspiring, and the intricate details that adorn the building are a testament to the exceptional craftsmanship of the designers.

The palace features three towers. The tallest of the towers is Victoria Tower, which is 98.5 metres tall. The second tallest tower is the 96 m tall Elizabeth Tower that hosts the Big Ben. The 3rd of the towers is the 91 m tall Central Tower.

The palace’s interiors are equally stunning, with ornate ceilings, grand staircases, and lavish furnishings. The famous House of Commons and House of Lords, St. Stephen’s Hall and Central Lobby are all fascinating places to see.

Cultural Significance and Representations

The palace is recognised as a symbol of London and has been seen in countless movies or TV series. It has also been mentioned in many of Charles Dickens’ books.

Tips for visiting The Palace of Westminster

There are several types of tours available. During a multimedia tour, you can go at your own pace, following a multimedia guide to discover interesting facts about the history of the building. In addition to the multimedia tour, a 90-minute guided tour is available with an expert guide that includes the House of Commons, House of Lords and Westminster Hall. Buying tickets in advance is usually a good idea, especially for the guided tour, as it is often sold out.

There are also other types of tours available from time to time. Information about other types of tours is available from the palace’s website. For information about Big Ben tours, check out our Big Ben page.

As usual, early mornings often had good availability, but you’ll need to check the current situation from the tour ticket page on the Palace of Westminster website.

Location

The area around the palace has a lot to offer. Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street and even Buckingham Palace are within a short distance. We also recommend the Westminster Bridge and the opposite side of the Thames for taking pictures of the palace.

Virtual tours

The virtual tour of the Houses of Parliament covers 14 sections/areas of the building. The tour includes places such as House of Commons and Lords Chambers as seen on heated TV debates.

Getting there

The nearest underground station is Westminster on the other side of the road (Circle, District, Jubilee). There is also a pier at Westminster which is accessible via the Thames Clipper.

Nearby

Big Ben is part of the Houses of Parliament. Westminster Abbey is also part of the same building on the Northern side of the square.

Nearest Stations

Westminster - 2 min

District Circle Jubilee London Underground Zone: 1

St James's Park - 7 min

District Circle London Underground Zone: 1

Charing Cross - 11 min

Bakerloo Northern London Underground Zone: 1

Activities from Get Your Guide