The Bottom Line
You will learn a lot on the tour but be prepared for how busy it gets. There are lots of tour groups going through at the same time so stay close to your Guide or you won't hear the tales they can tell about each room.
- Knowledgeable Guides.
- Stunning building with a long history.
- Brings to life the UK political system.
- Lots of tours happening at once so can be hard to hear your Guide. Often 3-4 groups in a room.
- Felt like a race or competition at times with groups constantly vying for a good spot to stop.
- There is nowhere to sit throughout the tour. Don't try, you'll get told off.
- You will also get told off if you wear a hat inside as this is a Royal Palace and therefore must be respected.
- How to book a tour.
- How To Find The Houses of Parliament.
- How To Visit the Houses of Parliament for Free.
Guide Review - Houses of Parliament Tour Review
Allow at least 20 minutes to get through the Security checks which include bag scans and airport-style body scanners.
After passing through the Security lines, you meet your Tour Guide in Westminster Hall. Once there's enough people to start a tour, (about 20 people) the Guide will lead you through to the starting point which is a 5-10 minute walk inside. Don't get waylaid as you will come back to all the areas you walk through.
The tour starts at the Norman Porch and this is by the Sovereign's Entrance where the Queen arrives for the State Opening of Parliament. You move through to the Queen's Robing Room which is quite literally where the Queen gets dressed in her stately robes. No notice the caved oak reliefs around the room telling the story of King Arthur.
The Guides will tell you a lot about the history of the Houses of Parliament so feel free to ask questions. Some of the terminology may be confusing for overseas visitors so you may also want to buy the Guidebook at the end of the tour.
The House of Lords Chamber is amazing. This is where you will find the incredible 22 1/2 carat gold throne where the Queen sits for the State Opening of Parliament. I think I just stood there with my mouth open as it is such an incredible sight.
The tour continues onto the Central Lobby which you would have passed earlier and may well recognize as a common backdrop for TV political reporters.
From here the Member's Lobby is an area that had to rebuilt after bomb damage but Churchill, who was Prime Minister at the time, ensured some was not renovated so all can remember what happened. This is the Churchill Arch that you pass through to go to the Voting Lobby, one of the few places you are allowed to sit down on the tour.
In the House of Commons Chamber we were told that the House of Commons voting system uses no technology and has no plans to change as it works well.
The tour moves on to St Stephen's Hall which is where you should look for the damage to one of the statues caused by a suffragette chaining herself to it and then being forcible removed. This is also where the shop is located but you need to move on and finish the tour before buying souvenirs.
The tour ends back in Westminster Hall, where you met your Guide, with more tales of its incredible history and many uses including being a 'soup kitchen' in Edward I's time in the 13th century to feed over 12,000 people.
After the tour, as well as returning to the shop, it's definitely worth stopping at the clean toilets and very well-priced cafe available to all visitors.