Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament – also known as the Palace of Westminster – are among London's most famous landmarks, the city’s oldest royal palace, and a World Heritage site. During its lifetime, it’s been a royal residence, a law court and even a prison for menacing MPs. Today, the Houses of Parliament is the beating heart of the British Government.

Big Ben is actually the name of the famous bell located within the 96-metre-tall tower, which was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to commemorate Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee. The current Gothic-style Houses of Parliament you can see today were constructed after a blaze gutted the original palace in the 19th century. Still, the site has been in continuous use since the 11th century.

So, whether you’re a history buff, political enthusiast, royalist or architecture admirer, you simply need to visit Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament - one of the highlights of 13 Most Instagrammable Places in London and 12 Best Things to Do in London (Read all about London here)

A brief history of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

The Palace of Westminster was London’s primary royal residence for nearly 500 years. It’s occupied the same site since the reign of Cnut the Great, a Danish king that took the throne in 1016, though the first palace wasn’t constructed until 1050. Following the Norman conquest of 1066, the Palace of Westminster began hosting the Royal Council. In 1265, the first elected English government occupied its halls.

Much of the original Palace of Westminster was destroyed by a fire in 1512 during the reign of Henry VIII. A blaze gutted the palace again in 1834. A year later, plans were made to construct Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament as you see them today. Big Ben chimed for the first time on the 31st of May, 1859. It’s been ringing on the hour, every hour – as well as for special occasions and ceremonial purposes – ever since.

What are the highlights of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament?

Elizabeth Tower stands at a height of about 96 metres, making it a distinct feature of London’s skyline. Climb the 399 steps to the Ayrton Light at the top of the tower, and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Capital and some of its most famous landmarks, including the London Eye and Westminster Abbey. Even so, note that tours of Big Ben must be reserved in advance.

You can watch debates in the House of Lords and the House of Commons for free, but we highly recommend booking a guided tour of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament to learn about its history and architecture. During your guided tour, you’ll visit both Houses, the Royal Gallery, and the Queen’s Robing Room. Choose the 90-minute tour, and you’ll get a glimpse into some of the 1,000 rooms, 11 courtyards, and numerous bars and restaurants that are hidden within the complex.

Don’t forget to check out Westminster Hall and the Jewel Tower, the oldest remaining sections of the original palace. To make your visit extra special, enjoy a quintessentially British afternoon tea by the Thames.

Good to know about Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Audio tours of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are available, but you can pay a little more for a personal guided tour. Public tours are held every Saturday of the year and on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday during July and August.

If you’d rather visit the palace on a budget, you can admire its architecture from Westminster Bridge. Remember to bring your camera – it’s one of London’s most Instagrammable spots. Visit at night to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament beautifully illuminated. If you see a green light above the clock faces of Elizabeth Tower, it means parliament is in session.

The closest Tube station to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament is Westminster, which is just a couple of minutes away on foot. Nearby landmarks include Westminster Bridge, The London Eye, the Sir Winston Churchill Statue, Westminster Abbey and the Parliament Square Garden.

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

ที่ตั้ง: Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, UK

โทร: +44 (0) 20 7219 3000

Joshua Saunders | นักเขียนประจำ