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Houses of Parliament Tours

May 1st, 2017 / / 2 Comments »

Houses of Parliament Tours

For those visiting London, a tour around the Houses of Parliament is a popular option with regular sessions running throughout the year. Whilst there are ways & means of picking up FREE entry to the Houses of Parliament & Big Ben, tours remain the most popular option, (more details below).

The London Eye sits bank-side and offers stunning views of Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament as you take in the sights of London during your flight. Whether you are looking for cheap tickets for the London Eye or want to pick up some tips to beat the queues at this popular attraction, we’ve got it covered.

 

houses of parliament on westminster bridge

Houses of Parliament, (photo; Phil Loach)

 

Houses of Parliament Tours

The Houses of Parliament Tours can be undertaken most Saturdays throughout the year plus week days during the recess breaks.  Opt for either the audio or guided tour, both of which include a visit to the Houses of Commons & Lords, Westminster Hall, Queen’s Robing Room & Royal Gallery.  Charges are in place for either tour, (the audio tour is marginally cheaper), that will take approximately 60-90 minutes to complete & both offer a fantastic insight into the historic buildings.  We popped along recently to try a Houses of Parliament tour and you can what we thought of the experience below.

We’ve plenty of other ideas to enjoy London on a budget or why not follow our top tips below for the Houses of Parliament to help you make the most of your visit.

 

houses of parliament from the south bank

Houses of Parliament, (photo; Phil Loach)

 

Houses of Parliament Tours; Tried & Tested

We recently opted for the guided Houses of Parliament tour and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Accompanied by an expert Blue Badge guide, we joined a group of around 20 people during the peak of the summer season.  Whilst the audio tour is a slightly cheaper option that allows you to go at your own pace, often I feel that a skillful guide offers a more in depth experience that brings with it their own unique personal flair.  This certainly proved true in our experience.

At a pace, we moved around the buildings, pausing at key areas where our guide explained the history & workings of the parliament buildings, complete with unusual anecdotes along the way.  This journey through time was brought alive by our insightful guide whose passion for politics & democracy was striking.  Although the guided tour is not recommended for young children, (due to the length of the tour), my 12 year old who has an interest in politics was as absorbed throughout the tour as the rest of us.

Whilst the setting was packed with visitors, our guide always found some nook or cranny for us to stand, (you’ll find you are on your feet for most of the tour), whilst she explained, in layman’s terms, the key workings of the UK parliamentary system.

After your tour you are free to enjoy the delights of the gift shop, (check out the Houses of Parliament after dinner mints), or make use of the cafeteria that is open to all visitors.

To book tickets go to Houses of Parliament Tours.

 

Houses of parliament and statue westminster London

Houses of Parliament, (photo; Phil Loach)

 

Houses of Parliament Tours; Top Tips

1. Subject to capacity, you can purchase tour tickets on the day from the ticket office, (located at the front of Portcullis House on Victoria Embankment).  However to avoid disappointment, it is always best to book online in advance.

2. Leave enough time to navigate the airport-style security to gain entry into the building, (at busy times this can take around 30/40 minutes).

3. Opt for either an audio tour or blue badge guided tour of the buildings.

4. The audio tour is a slightly cheaper option and allows you to go at your own pace, (allow 60-75 minutes for the tour).  There is also a family version of the audio guide that is suitable for children age 7 – 12 years.

5. The guided tour is led by an expert blue badge guide and offers a wealth of information, complete with unusual anecdotes, that takes around 90 minutes to complete.

6. Unfortunately photography is restricted to Westminster Hall & St Stephen’s Hall.  This does mean that the best of the tour is off limits to media devices.

7. At an additional charge, you can add afternoon tea within the Terrace Pavilion to either the audio or guided tour, (the location can change at select times due to parliamentary business).  Afternoon tea runs on select days only.

8. Did you know that UK residents can pick up FREE access to the Houses of Parliament?  More details below.

 

Houses of Parliament on the river thames

Houses of Parliament on the banks of the River Thames, (photo; Phil Loach)

 

FREE Tours of the Houses of Parliament, (UK residents)

UK residents can secure a FREE tour to the Houses of Parliament by contacting their local MP or a known member of the House of Lords.   These tours of the Houses of Parliament are available during Parliament session times, so you may also catch some parliamentary action.

You will need to contact your local MP or known House of Lords member to arrange a Houses of Parliament FREE tour.  Tours must be booked in advance and you may have to wait up to 6 months but worth waiting for when it’s free!  You should be as flexible with your dates & times as possible to reduce your wait times.  Check out more free options below too.

For those looking to explore London on a budget, they take a look at our alternative London attractions that offer a differing perspective on London that won’t break the bank.

 

Houses of Parliament and westminster bridge

Houses of Parliament & Westminster Bridge, (photo; Phil Loach)

 

How To Gain Free Access to the Houses of Parliament

We’re not suggesting you become an MP to secure free entry; there are easier ways to gain free entry to the Houses of Parliament!  Why not watch a debate within the public galleries for free where you can gain access to either the Houses of Commons or Lords when they are sitting.  This option is available to 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.

For more money saving ideas why not consider the Sky Garden for fantastic views over London!

 

night view of the houses of parliament

Houses of Parliament at Night, (photo Phil Loach)

 

Climb Big Ben for Free, (not currently available)

UK residents can climb Big Ben for free where tours will take you up the 334 spiral steps to the Clock Tower to hear Big Ben strike the hour & take a look behind the iconic clock face.

These tours can only be booked through your local MP, (and we’ve found it excruciating difficult to organise with our local MP).  It can take over 6 months for a space to become available so book well in advance & be as flexible with your dates as possible to reduce your wait times!  This tour is for adults and children age 11 & over.

 

 

By Liz Walsh

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Comments

  1. Good site but where is the link to buy tickets?

    • Thanks for the feedback Paul, always good to hear:) We’ve now added a link through to the Houses of Parliament site where you can purchase tickets. Enjoy your visit, Liz