A guide to visiting Westminster

Anyone who has never been to Westminster before should be aware that this iconic part of London is among the most historic and significant spots in the country, and may well want to think about paying it a visit next time they are in the capital.

Sitting on the banks of the River Thames, just across the water from other famous sites such as the London Eye and the IMAX cinema, the Palace of Westminster is one of the most visited landmarks in London, and for good reason.

The palace itself was formerly the home of England's monarchy, although these days is the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords – collectively known as the Houses of Parliament.

A building has existed on the site since the 11th century, although the current Gothic structure that can be seen there dates back to 1897, when the architect Charles Barry rebuilt the palace after it was ravaged by a huge fire.

As most tourists will know, Westminster is also home to the world's most famous clock, with Big Ben sitting at the top of a tower measuring 96 m in height.

While the name Big Ben is commonly thought to belong to the entire tower, it in fact only refers to the clock face itself, with the overall structure in fact being called Elizabeth tower.

Westminster Abbey, meanwhile, is among the most instantly recognisable religious buildings in the UK, and is the traditional site of all coronations, royal weddings and other occasions involving the monarchy.

Most people will remember that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were married at the abbey in 2011.

Visiting Westminster couldn't be easier, with the site being served by a number of tube stations, including Victoria, Waterloo and Westminster.

Anyone can attend debates and committee hearings within the Houses of Parliament, although it's worth noting that only UK residents are allowed to take a tour of Elizabeth Tower.

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