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Palace Of Westminster Overview

The Palace ofWestminster is a historical site for the British monarch and English architecture! The magnificent Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace, is located on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster in central London. There are four acres of gardens, one of which is open to the public (the Victoria Tower garden), and College Green, located opposite the House of Lords, is frequently used for press interviews.

The Palace of Westminster, a site of historical importance to the British monarch, was built by Edward the Confessor in 1016 and then enlarged by William I. Occupying a significant role from the Anglo-Saxon era to the present day, explore this iconic palace as part of your Europe trip, witnessing its rich history and enduring significance.

Historically, its main role was as a place of residence for the Royal Family, but following the Great Fire of 1834, it ceased to be. Its major role now is as a meeting point between the House of Commons and House of Lords. It is for this reason that the term House of Parliament is often used to refer to the Palace of Westminster.

The Speakers of both houses preside over the meetings and other official gatherings that occur here. The Palace covers over eight acres and is nearly 300 meters long, with architecture that is famous across the world. It houses 1200 rooms, 100 staircases, about 5 kilometers of passages, and state apartments for the presiding officers.

There are four acres of gardens, of which the Victoria Tower garden is open to the public, and College Green, located opposite the House of Lords, is regularly used for press interviews. The Palace, rightfully located by the banks of the River Thames, has great recognition for its role as the House of Parliament and for the 900 years of history it stands to tell. It is open to the public, and visitors can come for a tour on Saturdays, or during July and August when the parliament is not in session. 

Highlights

• Make this trip memorable by experiencing the majestic charm of London's most iconic building.
• Enter one of the palace's oldest standing structures, a true testament to its illustrious history like Jewel Tower, Elizabeth Tower and Victoria Tower.
• Discover the fantastic ancient architecture with a long history and a rich heritage.
• The best chance to visit a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site and admire the stunning beauty of the country's oldest piece of furniture.
• View the panoramic views of Gothic architecture that have been carefully woven into the interiors via wallpapers, carvings, stained glass, and even royal thrones.
• Explore the building's 1100 rooms, 100 staircases, 11 courtyards, and 4.8 km of passageways.
• Keep an eye out for the clock tower, which houses the famous bell, Big Ben.
• Capture the most beautiful and aesthetic photos inside the Palace, while walking around to learn about the history of each venue.

How To Reach

From the London City Airport, there are two main ways to get to the Palace of Westminster i.e. through transit and by a cab.

1. By Transit: you can take the Red Line, get down at Canning Town and switch on to the Grey Line, then get down at Westminster and walk the remaining distance. Using this route, you will reach the Palace in about 30 minutes. 

2. By Cab: you can take A3211 or A1203 to reach Westminster Palace located at a distance of 9.5 miles. This is far more convenient than transit but does take over 45 minutes to an hour. 

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Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit the Palace of Westminster is in August when the House of Parliament is not in session. The weather is pleasant, flowers start to bloom, and the Gothic appearance sets the backdrop for a charming visit. Visitors can also go on Saturdays every week between 9:15 AM and 4:30 PM.

In August, the Palace can be visited between 1:15 PM and 5:30 PM on Mondays, and 9:15 AM and 4:30 PM Tuesday to Friday. If you would like to watch committee hearings and parliamentary debates, you should visit between October and July. 

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Other Essential Information

History About Palace Of Westminster

Edward the Confessor built the palace in the early years of the 11th century as a residential base. When William I came into power, he continued using the Palace as a base and developed on its existing structures along with his son William II. They built the Westminster Hall which serves two major purposes ie to house the Court of Common Plea and the Chancery and to be a meeting point for parliamentary gatherings. 

The Palace was the official residence of the Royal Family until the Great Fire of 1834 which began due to a malfunction in a pair of stoves and swept through the timber-framed palace within minutes. It destroyed everything it touched, save for the Westminster Hall, Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft and the Jewel Tower which did not suffer much damage as the wind was facing the other direction.

Following the Great Fire, the Royal Family moved out of Westminster palace and into Buckingham Palace. A competition was held for the reconstruction of the palace. Of the 97 entries, Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin bagged the contract. They worked tirelessly on its restoration and renovated the entire place by 1847, complete with 1100 rooms, 11 courtyards, 4.8 kilometers of passageways.

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Architecture Of Palace Of Westminster

Following the Great Fire of 1834, the administration held a competition for architects to rebuild the Westminster Palace. Along with preserving Westminster Hall, the brief also called for the development of chambers, offices, and accommodation for the officers of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Out of the 97 entries received, Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin bagged the contract on the grounds that the first proposal would undergo significant revisions.

The foundation stone, a sandy limestone, was set on 27th April 1840 by Sarah Barry, Charles Barry's wife. The New Palace is used solely for parliamentary use and hence accounts for the needs and workings of the parliament. It called for the building of the Sovereigns Throne, the Lords chamber, the Commons Chamber, and the restoration of Westminster Hall, the Cloisters and Chapter House of St Stephens, and the Undercroft Chapel.

The architecture followed a Gothic theme and maintained a careful balance between horizontal panels and vertical turrets. The Gothic touch was carefully woven into the interiors through wallpapers, carvings, stained glass, and even the royal thrones. The Gothic architecture, old-world charm, and panoramic views of the majestic River Thames complete the look of the Palace.

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Interesting Facts About Palace Of Westminster

1. The Palace of Westminster is a 1004-year-old structure originally built in 1016. 

2. It was caught in major fires in 1512 and 1834. After the latest fire, it underwent a Gothic Revival by Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin, and now houses 1200 rooms and 11 courtyards, and even has a hair salon, pub, and a post office. 

3. It has two notable structures - Westminster Hall, built in 1097, did not get destroyed in the fire as the wind was facing the other direction and Elizabeth Tower which took 34 years to build and is painted entirely in gold leaf.

4. Owing to its expansive history and rich heritage, UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site. 

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Tips For Visiting Palace Of Westminster

1 You can get to this well-known London attraction by taxi or public transportation. Furthermore, the best time to visit is in August, when the House of Representatives is not in session. The weather is nice, you can explore the Palace, and the Gothic architecture sets the stage for a charming visit to its history and architecture.

2 Visitors to the Houses of Parliament, whether for tours or to attend debates, are subjected to strict security screening — similar to an airport security check.

3 Take your visa, passport, and any other necessary documents with you wherever you go.

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Point of Interest for Palace Of Westminster
Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall

The Westminster Hall is one of the oldest standing structures in the palace and is a true mark of its rich heritage. It was built by William Rufus in 1097 and has since maintained its position as the center for ceremonies, banquets, and official gatherings. Over the years, it has housed several different administrative arms, such as the Court of Common Plea and the Chancery, and is now used as a meeting point between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

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Jewel Tower
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Jewel Tower

Across the road from the palace lies Jewel Tower, a quaint, charming structure, tucked away as a storeroom for ancient treasures. Aptly named Jewel Tower, it houses the Royal Family's jewels, gold, silver, and other artifacts away from the public gaze.

 Elizabeth Tower
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Elizabeth Tower

The Elizabeth Tower is a 325 feet stone tower that was once the tallest stone tower in the world. It is carved with beautiful archways and intricate design and served as a royal entrance for the longest time. Its tall archways were designed to provide passage to the Queen's royal coach. It is now used to store parliamentary records and the tales of people that have passed through it.

Victoria Tower
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Victoria Tower

Most commonly known as Big Ben, the Victoria Tower is a world-famous structure and an instant identifier of the landscape of London. Its iconic clock face, designed by Augustus Welby Pugin, looks over the Westminster Bridge and Parliament Square. 

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Tourism Board Alliances

Palace Of Westminster FAQs

What is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster?

The Westminster Hall, built in 1097, has stood the test of time and is the longest standing structure in the Palace of Westminster. The interesting fact about the Hall is that it has maintained its position despite the fire, and the only reason it was not destroyed during the fire is that the wind was facing the other direction. It was built between 1097 and 1099 by William Rufus II during the expansion of the Palace after William I acquired it.

What year were the Houses of Parliament built?

The Palace of Westminster, commonly known as the House of Parliament, was originally built in 1016 by Edward the Confessor along with the development of Westminster Abbey. However, this structure was destroyed in 1834 because of a massive fire that broke out. Following this, major renovations took place and the Palace of Westminster was restored by Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin in 1834. While restoring the palace, Charles and Augustus developed elegant structures for the House of Lords and the House of Commons, as well as offices and accommodation for the officers.

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Why is it called the Palace of Westminster?

The Palace of Westminster is located in central London right next to the affluent neighborhood of Westminster Abbey. The Palace was built by Edward the Confessor in 1016, around the time when he developed Westminster Abbey. It is because of this reason that the Palace of Westminster is called so.

Does Westminster Palace still exist?

Westminster Palace, indeed, does still exist. Although, following the Great Fire of 1834, most of the original structures have been renovated and restored. The Westminster Hall is the longest standing structure in Westminster Palace.

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Is the Palace of Westminster Free?

The Palace of Westminster is open to the public and offers several different tours, each of which is priced differently. However, a general range for adults is between £25 and £28, for students, it is between £21 and £23; for children between the ages of 5 and 15, it is £12.

What was the Palace of Westminster built for?

The Palace of Westminster was originally built as a residential base for Edward the Confessor. This continued to be the practice until the fire of 1512 when the Royal Family moved out of the Palace of Westminster and into Buckingham Palace. The Palace is now used for parliamentary gatherings, tourism, and other official events.

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