FREE Entry Tours; 10 Downing Street & Houses of Parliament

March 20th, 2018 / Downing Street, Houses of Parliament / 1 Comment »

Surely no visit to London is complete without taking in the Houses of Parliament or 10 Downing Street for a glimpse behind the workings of our central government. Whilst there is no public access to 10 Downing Street, we’ve discovered a couple of ways to explore the home of the British Prime Minister for a lucky few.  It is possible and we’ve managed it! Find out more details below on how to apply for a tour of 10 Downing Street &/or gardens plus a chance to pick up a FREE tour of the Houses of Parliament too!

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10 Downing Street, The official London residence of the British Prime Minister

10 Downing Street, The official London residence of the British Prime Minister


1. Garden of 10 Downing Street Tour

Here’s a chance to explore the gardens & terrace of 10 Downing Street with London Open Squares Weekend that usually runs in June each year.  It’s not very often you come across an opportunity to wander in the footsteps of Prime Ministers whilst admiring the beauty of this compact garden set in the heart of Westminster. Most years, 10 Downing Street grants public access to their gardens for a lucky few via a FREE public ballot.

London Open Squares Weekend offers public access to 200+ gardens & public spaces in London, many of which are not normally open to the public. Whilst this is mainly a ticketed event, demand for the gardens of 10 Downing Street is always particularly high so a ballot was introduced as the fairest way to allocate available tickets. Simply apply during the stipulated ballot opening times & await to see if you’ve been lucky enough to be a successful ticket holder.

More information available at Gardens at 10 Downing Street Ballot – London Open Squares Weekend.


houses of parliament on westminster bridge

Houses of Parliament, (photo; Phil Loach)


2. 10 Downing Street Tour, (House & Gardens)

Look out for Open House London that runs each year offering FREE entry to 800+ historic houses, government buildings, museums & private homes within London including 10 Downing Street.  We know this is a great opportunity as we’ve done it!  You can see how we got on over at 10 Downing Street Tour; Tried & Tested that really has been the highlight of of all our sightseeing visits to London.

Open House London runs a ballot for their most popular attractions opening their doors for the weekend that includes 10 Downing Street, The Gherkin & The Shard.  With 40 places up for grabs on the 10 Downing Street tour, it’s worth entering the free public ballot that tends to open during the month of August.  This 2 and a half hour tour is taken in the company of  3 enthusiastic tour guides, each of whom focus upon different aspects of the building.  This tour really does give unrivaled access inside 10 Downing Street including the Cabinet Room, the main staircase cloaked with pictures of Prime Ministers through the generations plus the Downing Street terrace & gardens.

More information available at 10 Downing Street Tour – Open House London.


houses of parliament from the south bank

Houses of Parliament, (photo; Phil Loach)


3. Houses of Parliament; FREE Tours

Whilst the Houses of Parliament are open for public paid-for tours throughout the year, there is a way that UK residents to enjoy FREE entry to these iconic Westminster buildings.  The standard Houses of Parliament Tours can be undertaken most Saturdays throughout the year plus week days during the recess breaks.  We’ve undertaken a guided blue badge tour in the past and have to say it gave us a fascinating insight into the history & workings of Parliament offering great value for money.

However, did you know that UK residents can secure a FREE tour to the Houses of Parliament? By contacting your local MP or a known member of the House of Lords, you can enjoy a free tour during Parliamentary session times. Tours have to be booked in advance, sometimes waiting up to 6 months for spaces to become available, but for those that can be flexible on their dates this offers a great free opportunity.

4. Houses of Parliament; Public Galleries

For those interested in the workings of Government, why not watch a debate within the public galleries.  This offers you FREE access to either the chambers of Houses of Commons or Lords during parliamentary opening times and is open to both overseas visitors & UK residents.  Simply queue outside the Cromwell Green Visitor Entrance, (approximate queue time of about 1/2 hours).  Always worth checking out the public gallery opening times before you set off.

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the tower of london at night

The Tower of London by night, (photo; Phil Loach)


5. Tower of London; Ceremony of the Keys

One final FREE entry opportunity that runs at the Tower of London. Here’s a chance to be part of a 700 year old tradition at the Tower of London known as The Ceremony of the Keys.  This FREE event offers access into the Tower of London and follows the traditional locking up process that takes place every night without fail.  You’ll need to apply for tickets well in advance for an opportunity to be involved in this ceremony but it’s well worth it-  of course we’ve tried this out too!

More information available at Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London.


night view of the houses of parliament

Houses of Parliament at Night, (photo Phil Loach)

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  1. Lichtundfire says:

    Thank you for the contribution Dave.