Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel 11
UK

A tour of the Houses of Parliament

Image credit: UK Parliament

When booking my visit to the Parliamentary estate for afternoon tea (yes, it’s actually a thing – read my review of it here!) I discovered that in order to have sandwiches and scones in this iconic establishment you have to book yourself a spot on either a guided or audio tour of the Houses of Parliament.

That was fine by me though as this was a place I’ve always wanted to visit!

I’d actually already been on the grounds before, but never entered the building proper. Back when my American penpal visited me, at the grand old age of 12, my granddad arranged for us visit the clock tower, climbing a hell of a lot of stairs for the opportunity to stand behind the world famous clock face and watch Big Ben himself chime 12. It was amazeballs (that’s 12 year old me talking, by the way).

So now, many years later, I had returned, and was just as excited as before by the idea of exploring those hallowed halls.

Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel

Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel

Houses of Parliament – audio tour or guided tour?

Visitors have the option of either a guided or audio tour around the Houses of Parliament. We went with the audio option so that we could set our own pace and have a good old nosey around.

Headphones on and controller at the ready, we started the tour in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the houses of Parliament, dating back as far as the 11th century. This is the room you first enter and its size is remarkable – it has the largest medieval timber roof in Northern Europe.

Our guide; a voice with a rich aristocratic timbre, told us all about the history of the room, while we stood on the steps once trodden by everyone from the Queen and Nelson Mandela, through to Charles I and even William Wallace. Epic start.

Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel

This is the tone of the tour throughout, which follows the route the Queen takes every year when she comes to officially open Parliament. As you walk you’re told the use of each room or hallway and important moments in history are highlighted to us.

It’s a lot of information to take in, and to be fair not all of it stuck, but lovers of history and politics will be in their element with the depth of the guide. As you walk around the building different speakers and MPs reach your ears, each sharing stories and in most rooms. If something really piques your interest, the audio guide often gives you the option to press a button to delve into the subject by listening to extra commentary on a particular room or event.

I was disappointed to discover that for a large part of the tour you’re not allowed to take photos. Such a shame, as there were so many Instagram-worthy sights, and moments I wanted to take back home with me, but understandably security is tight, so be forewarned that you can only take a few images at the start of the tour. The rest will be have to be mental pictures only…

Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel

Going behind the scenes

It was great going ‘behind the scenes’ as such, and I loved things like getting to see the mail rack in the Member’s Lobby outside the House of Commons, where every MP has a box to collect any important documents etc. For me a real highlight was the stories that pointed out the small things you would otherwise pass by – for example in that same lobby on one of the arches you can see damage sustained from World War II bombing. During the war the House of Commons was destroyed and the government worked from the House of Lords. All was rebuilt, but Churchill requested some of the damage be left as a reminder. This is now known as Churchill’s Arch.

Other little things I discovered through the tour included the table in the House of Lords that’s scarred by the bashing received by Churchill’s signet ring, or very ornate cigar lighter that was found in the rubble of the bomb and restored, and my personal favourite, the broken statue of Lord Falkland in the beautiful St Stephen’s Hall.

Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel

Image credit: UK Parliament

Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel

Back when the suffragettes were campaigning for womens’ right to vote, they would come into the hall and chain themselves to the statues. If you look closely at Lord Falkland’s feet you’ll see that one of his spurs has been snapped off – damage caused from when suffragette Marjory Hume chained herself to the statue. You go girl!

Standing in the House of Commons and House of Lords

Of course though, one big wow moment has to be standing inside both the House of Commons and House of Lords. Both very different in style (and amount of glitz – Lords, I’m looking at you!), but both much smaller than they look on the TV.

Sadly you can’t take a seat, but you can wander along the rows, and looking up you can see hundreds of tiny microphones hanging down – something I’d never spotted on TV before. It’s an amazing feeling to stand in such an important room!

Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel 11

Image credit: UK Parliament

Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel 11

Image credit: UK Parliament

Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel

Image credit: UK Parliament

Tour of the Houses of Parliament | Ladies What Travel 11

Image credit: UK Parliament

A tour of the Houses of Parliament

Tours of the Houses of Parliament are available on Saturdays and on most weekdays during parliamentary recesses.

An audio tour costs £18.50 for an adult, and £7.50 for a child. Guided tours cost £25.50 per adult, and £11 each for children, and last roughly 90 minutes. Both can be booked online, or by visiting the ticket office in front of Portcullis House.

Although I really enjoyed the tour I did feel it was expensive for what it was, especially when you go as a family of four! However, I did discover afterwards that UK residents can ask for a free tour via their MP – good to know!

If you’re interested in combining your tour with an afternoon tea experience, then why not check out my review of afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament?

 


Our tours and afternoon teas at the Houses of Parliament were complimentary for the purposes of review but as ever, all views are my own.

T ravel Loving Family
Wander Mum
Wanderful Wednesday | Ladies What Travel
Two Traveling Texans

By day Co-Editor Keri is a freelance journalist and copywriter, but spends most of her free time either travelling or planning her next trip!  A complete travel fanatic, she has a love of tropical climates, wildlife and afternoon tea (hence the creation of her Global Afternoon Tea Challenge!)

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