The Houses of Parliament or more properly The Palace of Westminster, stands on the site where Edward the Confessor had the original palace built in the first half of the 11th century.
In 1547 the royal residence was moved to Whitehall Palace but the Lords continued to meet at the Palace of Westminster and ever since it has been home to Parliament.
In 1834 a fire broke out which destroyed much of the old palace; all that remained was the chapel crypt, the Jewel Tower and Westminster Hall.
The magnificent Gothic Revival masterpiece you see today was built between 1840 and 1888 and was the work of Charles Barry who designed it to blend with nearby Westminster Abbey.
The two imposing towers are the clock tower, actually called St. Stephen's Tower, but more commonly known as Big Ben (named after it's thirteen ton bell ) and Victoria tower, where the Union Jack flies when parliament is sitting. Much of the Victorian detail of the interior was the work of Barry's assistant Augustus Pugin.
The Palace of Westminster contains both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and it is possible to take a tour of both on Saturdays or during the summer recess of parliament. Visit one of their website links below for details of opening dates, times and online booking.
UK Residents - can watch the proceedings including questions, debates on major issues and proposed new laws being discussed in both Houses by visiting the public galleries when Parliament is in session. Tickets from your MP or a member of the House of Lords are necessary to guarantee entrance to Question Time and Prime Minister's Question Time in the House of Commons.
Overseas Visitors - can watch laws being made, attend debates and watch committees when Parliament is in session.They can visit the Archives on Mondays to Fridays and tour Parliament on Saturdays and during Summer Opening.
To get there from the Americana; take the Jubilee Line southbound from Baker Street to Westminster. When you exit to the street the Palace of Westminster is on the oposite side of the road.
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