The Palace of Westminster – commonly called the Houses of Parliament – is one of London's most iconic buildings. Come later this month, tourists will be able to enjoy regular guided tours of the palace as its Summer Opening period goes underway.
Led by highly qualified 'Blue Badge' guides, these 75-minute tours offer an exclusive peek into the inner workings of a building that's both an ancient ceremonial residence and the bustling hub of modern British politics.
Attendees will learn a vast amount about the palace, whether regarding the intricacies of its English Gothic architecture, the resplendently decorated interiors or the luminaries that have visited – a company that includes Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.
The tour mainly focuses on the parts of the building rebuilt in the mid-19th century after they were destroyed by fire. However, it also passes through the cavernous interior of Westminster Hall. Construction of this section began in 1097 under the supervision of William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror.
Tour-goers will visit the Queen's Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, the Prince's Chamber and the Lords Chamber – the same route undertaken by the Queen on her ceremonial visits to the palace.
Finally, they'll see the Commons Chamber – the scene of lively parliamentary debates to this day – and the 900-year-old Westminster Hall.
Summer Openings begin on July 31st and run until August 31st, so if you're staying in luxury London hotels next month a visit could prove a wonderful diversion. Tours take place regularly between 9:15am and 5:30pm from Tuesday to Friday, and between 1:15pm and 5:30pm on Monday afternoons.
Those wishing to climb Elizabeth Tower, meanwhile – better known by the nickname of its bell, Big Ben – can join one of three daily tours that run from Monday to Friday at 9:15am, 11:15am and 2:15pm.
These are free to attend, but booking in advance is essential.