Palace of Westminster

The first parliament in the world, and the political heart of the United Kingdom.

TravelCurious Tip

As one of London’s most popular attractions, it is worth arriving at the palace early to beat the crowds.

More commonly known as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster is one of London’s most recognisable and visited attractions. Marked by Big Ben at its northern edge, and sitting across the water from the London Eye, the palace sits in the epicenter of London’s sightseeing scene, but also has a more profound importance for the nation as a whole, and is often referred to as “the heart of British politics”.

Medieval Beginnings

The Palace of Westminster has been the seat of English government since the middle of the 11th century. When the two-house parliament was created in 1265, it was at first only the House of Lords which sat in the palace, and it was not until 1547 that the House of Commons moved here permanently, thus cementing the palace’s importance to the national government.

Out of the Ashes

A devastating 1834 fire destroyed most of the palace, and Sir Charles Barry was commissioned to draw up its replacement. The new structure took almost thirty years to complete, but Barry’s neo-Gothic design was widely admired, with his new clock tower, now known as Big Ben, being a particular favourite. The sharply-fluted formal structure particularly impressed Claude Monet, who painted a series of canvases of the palace in different lighting conditions.

If you’re interested in the Palace’s interior, there are several intriguing areas inside which are open to the public. Besides the debating chambers of the Lords and the Commons, you can explore the wonderfully historic Westminster Hall, one of the few parts of the palace to survive the fire, which has a stunning vaulted ceiling.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in London
Big Ben
The iconic Victorian clock tower of London, which has become a symbol of the city itself.
Westminster Abbey
One of London's oldest and most magnificent churches, with a long-standing connection to the royal family.
River Cruise
Motoring along the River Thames is the most picturesque way to travel through London.
Churchill War Rooms
A fascinating underground museum preserving the bunker from which Churchill's government directed the war effort.
River Thames
The second longest river in the UK the Thames is an iconic piece of London culture. Don't be put off by its murky colour it is actually one of the cleanest metropolitan rivers in European.
St Margaret's Church
The parish church of the House of Commons, it has seen many famous weddings and burials

Related Tours

Private Walking Tour of Westminster
Perfect for those who would like a full experience of London.  See London’s unmissable attractions, parks and finest Royal sites with an expert guide. Learn about fascinating English history, British tradition and London's incredible past—from the plague and the great fire of London to the Blitz. 

  • See Whitehall and 10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament,  Somerset House and Big Ben.
  • Next hear stories as you visit the outside of Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey via the beautiful St James Park and Trafalgar Square.
Reveal the secrets of power and politics on our exciting tour of Westminster, passing some of the most recognisable landmarks. Learn all about the Houses of Parliament, the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, and be inspired by its mighty history. Gain insight into the centuries old Westminster Abbey, the setting for every coronation since 1066, many royal weddings and the final resting place of 17 monarchs. Find out the secrets of the underground bunker where Churchill won the Second World War. View the fascinating statues and memorials on Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and Whitehall, dedicated to some of the greatest politicians and monarchs of the British Empire. Amble through the fabulous gardens and sights of St James Park and witness the Changing of the Guards in front of magnificent Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the UK’s sovereigns since 1837. Walk along the Mall and learn curious facts about British Kings & Queens, who turned the British Empire into the most dominant power on Earth.

Begin exploring the heart of London’s parliamentary district. This was the brain and nerve centre for British and Allied forces in Europe and abroad. See the Winston Churchill memorial, and learn about his adolescence, personal life and fascinating rise to government. See partially destroyed buildings from the blitz and visit The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Prime Minister's residence. Next visit The iconic Cenotaph war memorial, special service headquarters and Ghurka memorial.

Westminster and Buckingham Palace

First, you will be guided around the outside of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and learn about the political history of Parliament Square. Then, you'll be shown around the outside of Westminster Abbey, and if time permits you'll be able to go inside (entrance tickets not included).  This is London’s royal church which has been the site of 38 coronations and was where the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton took place.  Following this will be a walk up Whitehall to No. 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's residence, ending up at Trafalgar Square.

Finally, we will walk down to take in the Prospect of Buckingham Palace and then up and down the tree-lined Mall, where thousands of jubilant crowds have greeted news about the royal family for generations.
Winston Churchill & War Rooms Private Tour
This enriching and emotionally stirring experience is led by an expert in this field. Gain an extensive insight into Wartime London, and be humbled by the resilience of its people.

  • Begin in the heart of London’s historic parliamentary district.
  • Learn about the impact WWII had on the English Capital and its people.
  • See the Winston Churchill memorial and partially bombed buildings from the blitz.
  • Visit The Houses of ParliamentWestminster AbbeyDowning Street and The Cenotaph.
  • See the Old War Office, MI6 headquarters and the Gurkha Soldier memorial.
  • Finish at the fascinating and spectacular Churchill War Rooms.
Begin exploring the heart of London’s parliamentary district. This was the brain and nerve centre for British and Allied forces in Europe and abroad. See the Winston Churchill memorial, and learn about his adolescence, personal life and fascinating rise to government. See partially destroyed buildings from the blitz and visit The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Prime Minister's residence. Next visit The iconic Cenotaph war memorial, special service headquarters and Ghurka memorial..

Part ways with your friendly guide and descend into the subterranean Churchill War Rooms. An underground network of bunkers that functioned as British wartime offices, planning and map rooms. It was here that much of Allied intelligence and strategy was discussed and planned in WWII. As well as a place of refuge and shelter for government during the blitz. A truly incredible experience.
Welcome to Historic London - Private Tour including entrance tickets
·        See the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey
·        Go on a short cruise down the river past the London Eye, Somerset House and the edgy South Bank 
·        Gaze up at the dome in St Paul’s Cathedral 
·        Appreciate the splendour of Guildhall above the arena where gladiators fought

The English, and British, capital has a great deal to offer travellers seeking its past. Stretching back nearly two millennia, the city has come far from its roots as a Roman provincial outpost. Going with an expert, and private, guide through its historic heart, you will experience the journey to global city in the company of its most important buildings.

The World of Westminster

While it can be hard to believe, the area now known as Westminster was once apart from the Saxon City. This changed over time, helped greatly by the construction of Westminster Abbey and the growth of the area into the political centre of first England, then the United Kingdom. Going through the area with your guide, you will see the Houses of Parliament as well as other sights which – though perhaps less well-known – have still played their part in British history. Go past Downing Street, where people could walk up to the front door only 30 years ago, and St Margaret’s Church where Sir Winston Churchill led parliamentarians to give thanks after the defeat of Germany in 1945. 

The Old City

East of Westminster is where the Romans and Saxons built their respective cities: Londinium and Ludenwic. Approaching it by boat, where you will go past sights including the London Eye, the bohemian South Bank and Somerset House. This past helped the area become a global financial centre, and your guide will be happy to talk about how this happened as you take a trip up the historic Fleet Street to St Paul’s Cathedral. Built over the site of a predecessor that burnt down during the Great Fire of London in 1666, Wren’s domed masterpiece is an architectural masterpiece which has become a symbol of the city. Although the legacy of the London blitz means many of the buildings are modern, there remain some beautiful reminders of how the city looked before it was bombed; not least of which is Guildhall. With a past going back more than 800 years, the building is now home to the City of London Corporation. Even older are the ruins below the building, and your guide will take you into its depths to see the remains of the Roman amphitheatre.
City of Spies Group WalkingTour; Espionage in London (+ free drink)
It was once the heart of the world's largest empire. It bridges the East and West. As a result, London has been the stage of many of the greatest espionage and spy stories in history. This exciting experience has been created exclusively to bring you on a fascinating journey through London's role in the Cold War, the origins of MI5, MI6, and Churchill's role in bringing down the Nazi regime.

Delve into the worlds of fiction and reality, uncovering hidden places, bunkers, luxury hotels, and fall in love with the romance and betrayal of spies. Pass by some of the most powerful institutions in Westminster, including Downing Street, Whitehall, Westminster Palace, MI5, MI6, and the Churchill War Rooms. Follow in the footsteps of Sydney Reilly, known to be the Ace of Spies. Learn about the key double agents in the Cold War, such as Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, or Guy Burgess. Hear about the extraordinary life of Sir Mansfield Cumming, the first director of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), known as MI6.

On this unique experience you get to walk by and learn of many of the key buildings and sites where events that changed the world took place. Your guide is an expert in Spy History and will mesmerise you with stories that seem more like Le Carre novels than real life. Of course, these stories are not confined to the Second World War and Cold War History, as Russian operatives in London continue to make splashes across global headlines. The experience ends with a special treat as your guide will explain the significance of Morpeth Arms pub in London's rich espionage history.
Power and Politics in Westminster: From Empire to Brexit
The ideal tour for those interested in Britain's power and politics, amidst the uncertainty following the pivotal 2016 vote. This group walking tour will take you through London's unmissable attractions, parks, and finest Royal sites, as you uncover Britain's traditional past and uncertain future. 

  • Explore the heart of London’s parliamentary district
  • Uncover how Brexit has its roots in the British Empire
  • Discuss the lead-up to the EU referendum of June 2016 and the social discontent since
  • Question Britain's status in an increasingly uncertain environment 
  • Evaluate the possible outcomes regarding Britain leaving the EU
Since the 23rd June, 2016 referendum - where 51.9% voted to leave and 48.1% voted to remain - Brexit has remained a contentious and confusing topic. Statistically, conflicted votes were generationally and demographically divided, with Scotland and Northern Ireland predominantly voting to remain, whilst England and Wales voted to leave. Regardless of the contradictory opinions regarding Britain's relationship with the European Union, one thing is certain- nobody really knows what the consequences of the Brexit deal will be. 

Britain's History  

The narration and historiography of the British Empire are complex, multifaceted, and continually evolving. At its peak, the British Empire was the largest empire that the world has ever known- covering one-quarter of the earth, and governing over one-fifth of its population. The consequences of this imperial state were far-reaching, and still, steer Britain's position in the 21st century. Uncover the nuances of the British Empire, as you navigate through the history of British royalty with your guide, passing timeless architectural landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.

Britain's Future 

The links and debates regarding the British Empire and Brexit are extensive. Whilst some argue that Brexit can be seen as Empire 2.0, others attest that Brexit being a result of imperial nostalgia is a myth. Regardless of what you believe, it is unquestionable that both the British Empire and Brexit are vital regarding Britain's global position in the 21st century. Your guide will therefore invite you to dwell on the past before you examine Britain's uncertain future; forming a political narrative where the intricacies of both Empire and Brexit entangle. 
Westminster Classic Private Driving Tour (in a traditional London Black Cab)
Explore the hub of British politics in the quintessentially British black cab, with an expert guide to narrate your journey with stories highlighting the significance of this fascinating area. See all of Westminster’s iconic landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, and Westminster Abbey, as well as 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and 2 Tudor Palaces - among many other sights (full list below). 

  • See iconic sights including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and the Palace of Westminster.
  • Marvel at the architectural wonders of St James' Palace, Westminster Cathedral, St Margaret's Church, and Westminster School.
  • Visit both iconic and lesser-known places including Downing Street, Central Methodist Hall, Banqueting House, Horse Guards, and the National Gallery
  • Hear stories of how sights earned their claims to fame, including Trafalgar Square, Nelson's Column, Marble Arch, Wellington Memorial, Lambeth Palace, the London Eye, and the River Thames.
  • At the end of your tour, your final set-down point can be any preferred Central London location.

On your black cab tour, discover the real London – from a well-informed cabbie who knows London like the back of his hand, with many hidden secrets for you to discover!  Westminster has been home to many of our fundamental political institutions for hundreds of years, including Parliament, the monarchy, and the judicial system. No other area in the UK is so powerful and influential in the forming and implementation of laws. Amidst the uncertainty of Brexit, as well as the possible collapse of our essentially 2-party system, there is no better time to delve into the world of politics. 

Whether you are interested in the British monarchy's royal palaces or the UK Parliament and Brexit, your expert guide is more than happy to spill all the gossip, alongside the history of any topic which may interest you. If you would prefer to hear more about the Second World War and Churchill's magnificent speeches, or the 2000-year-old architecture and London's modern skyscrapers, then feel free to ask questions along those lines. Your guide is ready to discuss anything you throw his or her way - including filming locations for Harry Potter, James Bond, and Downton Abbey, among many others. In short, for any curiosity, you may have about London today and British history as a whole, you're in great hands for a conversation to leave you reeling for hours after your tour has ended. 
City of Spies Private Walking Tour; Espionage in London (+ free drink)
On your private tour, let us bring to life the enigmatic espionage history of London.

Capital to the world's largest empire, thriving centre of international trade and finance - London has long attracted spies . This tour will explore their stories

This exciting experience has been created exclusively to bring you on a fascinating journey through London's role in the Cold War, the origins of MI5, MI6 and Churchill's role in bringing down the Nazi regime. 

  • Experience the worlds of fiction and reality, uncovering hidden places, bunkers, luxury hotels, and fall in love with the romance and betrayal of spies.
  • Hear tales of Ian Fleming wrote part of the James Bond series, while working as a naval intelligence officer nearby and learn the hotel's unique spy history.
  • Hear stories of double agents and plots to overthrow the government at some of the most powerful institutions in Westminster, including Downing StreetWhitehall, Westminster Palace, MI5, and MI6.
  • Follow in the footsteps  of the key double agents in the Cold War, such as Kim Philby, Donald Maclean,  Guy Burgess, and George Blake - and ask if there was an undiscovered 'Fifth Man'
  • Learn about the extraordinary life of Sir Mansfield Cumming, the first director of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), known as MI6. 
On this unique experience you will walk by and learn about many of the protagonist buildings and sites where these world changing events have taken place. Your guide is an expert in spy history and will mesmerise you with stories that seem more like Le Carré novels than real life. Of course, these stories are not confined to the Second World War and Cold War History, as Russian operatives in London continue to make splashes across global headlines.

Venture out onto the streets of Westminster and discover the area's colourful history of espionage, dirty politics and death. The toppling of regimes, battle against ideology and revolution have all been orchestrated and exercised along these streets. Revisit the setting of infamous covert operations, traitorous meetings involving double agents and murder plots. See the headquarters of MI6 Secret Service and New Scotland Yard past and present. 

Along your walking tour, you will retrace the steps of Britain's most famous spies, enjoy the remarkable tales that later inspired Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, and hear of the extraordinary success of the Cambridge Spy ring.

Come and enjoy this unique experience but please be discreet, the information given on this tour is classified...
Private Walking Tour: The Temple of Detection in the Heart of Power
Beginning over one thousand years ago, the Scottish Royals made themselves at home in London where the Great Scotland Yard Hotel now stands; it also served as the first home for the Metropolitan Police, with infamous criminals being held —including suspects of the Jack the Ripper crime spree — in what is now the hotel bar. Immerse yourself in the hotel’s history on a private walking tour of one of the world’s most famous and storied neighbourhoods. On your private tour you will: 

  • Learn about the hotel’s history through its artwork — including the role the curated art plays in prison rehabilitation programs today. 
  • Step out into the neighbourhood and hear about the originals of the Met Police and Whitehall’s connection to the Sherlock Holmes saga.
  • Enjoy centuries of tales of espionage including at Benjamin Franklin’s last home, where his mission was infiltrated by a British agent. 
  • See where the entrance to Harry Potter’s Ministry of Magic is set – and maybe even experience some magic yourselves! 
  • Discuss the crosshairs between which power and the British monarchy are often found — and how the stories playing out today echo back through time. 
  • Along the route, enjoy the iconic sites of the city— the Horse Guards Parade, the Palace of Westminster, 10 Downing Street, and Whitehall - all while delighting in the  chronicled anecdotes of plots, scandals, secret passageways under the city, and war. 
  • Return to the Great Scotland Yard Hotel and venture to the 40 Elephants and enjoy a signature house cocktail. 
  • Your tour ends with a signature cocktail at the 40 Elephants Bar in the hotel, where you will be apprised of the illustrious history from which the bar has taken its name. 
Located just blocks from Trafalgar Square to the north, the Palace of Westminster to the south, and Buckingham Palace to the west, it’s of little wonder that over a thousand years of England’s history has triangulated on The Great Scotland Yard Hotel. Your starts and ends at the hotel itself, medieval seat of royalty, then home to elite civil servants and in Victorian times the Central Office of the detective unit of the Metropolitan Police, where the beautiful artwork specially commissioned by Hyatt Hotels for this celebrates famous figures, police, criminals and even modern prisoners and politicians.

 Within its walls, kings and queens have slept, criminals have been held, and spies have operated without detection. On its doorstep, the entire City of London has played out its history, as centuries of stewards have made use of the now-hotel. You will explore the creation of the modern police force, some of the heinous crimes (real and fictional) investigated on this site, and the local connections both Royal and Political here, the centre of power in the UK for many centuries. Join Travel Curious guides on a walk of world history as told through the peculiar and one-of-a-kind history of the Great Scotland Yard Hotel. 


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