How To Visit The Houses of Parliament And The Palace of Westminster

This post is about how to take a tour of the Houses of Parliament, as well as attending public debates. It covers security, dress codes, and other important tips. And be sure to take one of our walking tours that cover the palace.

 


HOW TO GET TO THE PALACE OF WESTMINSTER

Be sure to check out our tour of Westminster and read how to get into Westminster Abbey for free

The Houses of Parliament is located entirely within the Palace of Westminster, in the City of Westminster on the western bank of the River Thames. 

We recommend using this Google map for directions to the palace from anywhere in London.

 

How to get to the Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament

 

Due to its central location, it is within walking distance to many popular London attractions (see green circles above).

The closest Underground station is Westminster, which is served by the Jubilee, Circle and District lines. 

It is also near the Embankment station, which is also serviced by the Bakerloo and Northern lines.

Be sure to read our post on navigating the London Underground and choosing the right travel pass.


BUS TOURS

If you are considering using one of the hop-on-hop-off buses while you are in London, note that all have stops at the Palace of Westminster.

 

 

We have a post that compares all of the various bus tour options in London.

 


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HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT TOUR 

One of the ways is to take a paid guided tour offered through the Houses of Parliament. 

Reviews for this tour are mostly favorable, with an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor.  

Some guests say that without a guided tour, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that is on display. Many people note that the guides are very friendly and easy to understand.

Here is the information you need to know to plan your visit:

  • You can pre-book tickets online or purchase them on the same day from the Ticket Office in front of Portcullis House on Victoria Embankment. The Ticket Office is open on Monday to Friday 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday 8.45am to 4.45pm.
  • Guided tours run Saturdays until 28 October 2018 and also Monday to Friday between 24 July and 1 September 2018.
  • Guided tours in English start every 15 to 20 minutes throughout the day between 9 am and 4.15 pm.
  • Guided tours in French, German, Italian and Spanish are offered every tour day but at set times.
  • Tours run about 1 hour and 15 minutes

Guided Tour Prices –

The lower price is if you buy pre-booked tickets. The higher price is if you buy your ticket the same day.

  • Adults: £25.50 / £28
  • Concessions (over 60s, students, members of the UK Armed Forces): £21 / £23
  • Children (5-15 years): £11 / £12
  • Children (under 5): Free, but will require a ticket for admission. (Note: This tour is not recommended for young children due to the length of the tour and the amount of walking)
  • Disabled visitors: Standard prices as listed above (escorts have free entry but will require a ticket for admission)
  • Note: Residents of the UK can visit for free by writing to your MP to request a free tour which will be delivered by an ‘in-house’ Parliament guide.  Tours have limited capacity until the end of February 2017. 

For any other information visit the official guided tour page for more information


Take Walks

In addition to the guided tour provided by the Houses of Parliament, this company also offers exclusive access to the site on two separate tours.

Their main outing includes a tour of both the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, allowing you to see and learn about both landmarks at the same time with special access to each.

Alternatively, you may also want to consider their after hours Houses of Parliament tour which makes it easy to avoid the crowds.

Houses of Parliament & Westminster Abbey Tour

  • £89/Adults, Students | £84/Children
  • Duration: 3 ½ – 4 hours
  • Hours: 9 am, 1:30 pm
  • Includes Westminster Abbey admission.
  • Includes Houses of Parliament admission.

Behind the Scenes After Hours Parliament Tour

  • £59/Adults, Students | £55/Children
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Hours: 4 pm
  • Includes after hours Houses of Parliament admission.
  • Includes tour of the House of Commons.
  • Includes tour of the House of Lords.

Reviews for Take Walks are generally very positive, with most customers indicating they offer top of the line tours.

Many guests feel that their guides are very knowledgeable and friendly, willing to answer any and all questions you may have.


Self-Guided Audio Tours

After years of offering guided tours of the palace, there is now an audio tour available to the public.

Guests are provided with headphones and guided along the line of route whilst listening to the history and current politics of the Houses of Parliament.

Important figures in Parliament help provide some of the commentaries on the audio guide so guests will get to listen to people such as Black Rod and the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Reviews on TripAdvisor indicate that these self-guided audio tours are pretty darn good.

Guests who enjoyed this tour suggest that it is the best option for those who wish to experience the Houses of Parliament at their own pace which is nice if you’re hoping to take your time. 

  • Audio tours follow the same schedule as guided tours above.
  • Audio tours last 75 minutes and are available in many languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin and Brazilian Portuguese and Welsh.
  • There is also a separate audio guide aimed at children aged 7 – 12.

Audio Guide Tour Prices

The lower price is if you buy pre-booked tickets. The higher price is if you buy your ticket the same day.

  • Adults: £18.50 / £20.50
  • Concessions (over 60s, students, members of the UK Armed Forces): £16 / £18
  • Children (5-15 years): One child free with each paying adult, but will require a ticket for admission, £7.50 /£8.50 for each additional child 
  • Children (under 5): Free, but will require a ticket for admission
  • Disabled visitors: Standard prices as listed above (escorts have free entry but will require a ticket for admission)
  • Click here to book your tour of Houses of Parliament!

If you can’t make it to Parliament for a tour, then view the video clips below.  

They cover tours of the House of Commons, the House of Lords as well as parts of the Palace of Westminster, such as Westminster Hall.

 

 


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Visit the Public Galleries for Houses of Common and Lords For Free

For visitors who are interested in witnessing the world’s oldest democratic body in action without the cost of a public tour, it is possible to do so by sitting in one or both of the public galleries.

All the legislative work of the Houses of Parliament takes place in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords – and both of these chambers have sections that are open to the public.

Video tour of the House of Commons.  Click here for a tour of the House of Lords.

 

The House of Commons Public Gallery is located behind bullet-proof glass and visitors are escorted up the back stairs of the House of Commons to sit in the balcony and observe the debates.

The House of Lords Public Gallery is also up a set of back stairs but this Gallery has no glass which means guests are actually sitting on a balcony inside the House of Lords itself.

Throughout both chambers, there are microphones built into the benches to bring the sound of the MPs and Lords working into the Galleries.

Sitting in the Galleries of both the Commons and the Lords is entirely free. In fact, taking in the debates is #3 on our list of top 10 free things to do in London.

Access is only accessible when either House is in session. When Parliament is not sitting, the Galleries are closed to the public and whenever Parliament is in session (even as late as 11:00 pm) guests are allowed inside.

Occasionally you may find that there is a queue to get in, and visitors are put into a first-come-first-serve system inside the Palace.

This is particularly true for Wednesday mornings when the Prime Minister addresses the House of Commons.

Visitor access to the galleries while the Prime Minister is speaking is limited to ticket holders only, who obtain their tickets by contacting their Member of Parliament.

For this reason, it’s advisable for most to avoid visiting the galleries at this time.

To gain access, go to the main entrance at Cromwell Green (see map link and the image below) and speak to the Visitor Assistants (wearing gold and blue) outside, who will let you know if the Houses are in session, what they are debating, and how long the wait may be.

To find out which days Parliament will be sitting, simply visit their website to plan your trip: www.Parliament.uk

Also note: Children under 5 are not allowed into the Public Gallery and older children can be denied access if the doorkeepers feel this necessary.

 


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SECURITY AND DRESS CODE

The visitor entry point to the Palace of Westminster is located at 3 St. Margaret’s Street (map), just across from St. Margaret’s Church.

The closest Underground Station is Westminster, which services the Jubilee, District and Circle lines.

Click here for a 360 degree street view.
 
Visitor Entrance Palace of Westminster

Visitors coming to the Houses of Parliament – either for the tours or to attend the debates – are subject to tight security screening.

Described as “airport-style security” guests must pass through metal detectors and have all bags x-rayed and searched.

Guests will then have their photographs taken and issued a temporary pass which must be worn at all times and marks them out as visitors. 

Certain items are restricted when visiting the Houses of Parliament and visitors should be aware that possession of these materials may see them prevented from entering.

In general, most lists of banned items on airplanes match with the list of banned items in Parliament. So sharp objects like scissors or blades of any sort are forbidden as are some aerosol sprays.

You can get more information on what’s prohibited here. 

Guests will also need to leave their belongings at the Doorkeepers before entering any of the Public Galleries as mobile phones, cameras, and any other personal effects are banned in the Galleries.

Dress Code

There is no dress code for the tour through the Palace of Westminster. Although we do recommend choosing inoffensive attire, you are pretty much free to wear whatever is comfortable.

 


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Big Ben and Other Nearby Attractions

There is a lot to see in the area. We have a useful post on things to do in Westminster, but below are some of the highlights.

 


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OUR TOURS THAT COVER THE PALACE

**Tip: Come along on one of our Westminster Tours!

The tour finishes at the Palace of Westminster and your guide will show you the facade of the Palace during your walk and will point you in the right direction for your visit to Parliament once the tour has finished.

On Saturdays, you can buy a ticket for a guided tour of the Palace.

During the week, your tour will finish in perfect time for you to get a space in the Public Gallery.  

Also, check out how to get into Westminster Abbey for free.

When it comes to ratings and reviews on TripAdvisor, it’s clear that a lot of guests have enjoyed our Westminster tour. Our London service rated 5 out of 5 stars. 

Reviewers mention that our guides are very friendly and informative, which is definitely an experience we strive to provide. One word keeps popping up more than any other among these reviews: historic.

 


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