Tube Station: Westminster - Map of Houses of Parliament
Category: Government Buildings
Phone: 020/7219-4272 Commons information; 020/7219-3107 Lords information; 020/7222-2219 Jewel Tower; 020/7219-2184 Lord Chancellor's Residence; 0870/906-3773 summer tours
Price: Free, £7 summer tours
Hours: Commons Mon. 2:30-10:30, Tues. and Wed. 11:30-7:30, Thurs. 11:30-6:30, Fri. 9:30-3 although not every Fri.; Lords Mon.-Thurs. 2:30-10; Lord Chancellor's Residence Tues. and Thurs. 10:30-12:30. Closed Easter wk, late July-early Sept., 3 wks for party conference recess mid-Sept.-early Oct., and 3 wks at Christmas
When visiting London, there is one landmark that you can’t help but notice, and that it is Big Ben, not named due to it’s sheer size, but after the first Commissioner of Works, Sir Benjamin Hall. It is 96.3 meters (315.9feet) high! It has four clock faces which are 23 feet squared and the minute hand alone, stands at 14 feet long. The numbers on the clock face are 2 feet tall! Now you can understand why it simply can’t be missed! It holds the record of being the “worlds largest four-faced chiming clock.” It did have the record of being the largest four-faced clock in the world, but this has since been overtaken by a clock in Wisconsin. That clock, however, does not chime!
The tower of the clock, has cells within it to imprison members of parliament for breach of parliamentary privilege, but the last recorded case of this was in 1880. The tower itself isn’t actually open to the general public, but if you have a “special” interest, you can try and make an appointment to visit it through the local MP.
Big Ben lies at the North-Eastern end of the Houses of Parliament. This magnificent building has been the home of the English parliament since before 1547 and was originally called the Palace of Westminster. This is the site that Edward the Confessor had the original palace built in the first half of the eleventh century. However, in 1547, the royal residence was moved, but the Lords continued to meet here and that is how it became the home of the English Parliament!
You can visit the Houses of Parliaments to view debates and also the Prime Minister’s question time, which is, expectedly the busiest time. If you want to arrange a visit to this, you need to book it through an MP or the embassy.
Not only are these fantastic landmarks full of history, they are also magnificent buildings and are part of the culture of London. They have survived many years, and Big Ben, especially, has survived bombings and all sorts and the lengthiest shut down of the clock for maintenance in 22 years was in 2005, and this was for 33 hours. IT has become well known for being a massive part of the New Year’s celebrations in the UK, with the countdown of the new year being on the “bongs” of the clock. Also, in films, it has become known as the biggest way to portray London, and it has been featured in many films.
All in all, you can’t really come to the Capital City of England and not visit Big Ben and the houses of Parliament. London is well known because of these landmarks, and although there are hundreds of things to view in the City, but these are by far, the biggest and best!
Map and nearby restaurants, attractions and pubs: