One of the most iconic features of the London skyline, the Houses of Parliament – officially known as the Palace of Westminster – is a must-visit as part of any trip to the capital. The seat of British democracy, the site comprises the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and is an architectural gem the oldest part of which dates back to the 11th century.Having shaped centuries of British history, Westminster’s colourful past has also seen it survive a catastrophic fire, which in 1834 destroyed most of the buildings and prompted the construction of the spectacular exterior which is so famous today. The site’s most famous feature is its clock tower, properly known as Elizabeth Tower but known to the world by the name of its 13.5 ton bell, Big Ben, one of the defining symbols of not just Parliament but the United Kingdom as a whole.The Palace of Westminster has a stunning location on the northern bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, and The Montcalm Club Packages, offering a luxurious base in a range of central London locations, are the perfect backdrop from which to explore the Houses of Parliament and the very best that the capital has to offer. Packages include family stays, honeymoon accommodation packages, and wellness retreats.
Elizabeth Tower is free to visit for UK residents, but tours normally need to be booked far in advance. The Houses of Parliament themselves, however, are more accessible, with both audio and guided tours available to book on Saturdays and most weekdays during Parliamentary recesses; in 2015-16 these run from 17th September to 12th October, 10th November to 16th November, 17th December to 5th January, and 11th February to 22nd February.Guided tours last 90 minutes and encompass both Parliamentary houses as well as Westminster Hall, which has a rich and varied history in its own right: Guy Fawkes was tried here, and Nelson Mandela addressed Parliament in the Hall. They are led by qualified Blue Badge Tourist guides in seven languages. Visitors often include afternoon tea, that most British of traditions, in the Terrace Pavilion, and this can be booked in conjunction with the tours. Art lovers can explore the rich collections held at Westminster, with tours of the extensive contemporary portraiture collection at Portcullis House and guided evening tours focusing on the art and decorative arts of the House of Lords. Tactile tours for blind and partially sighted visitors are also available.
If you’re visiting London in May, don’t miss the annual State Opening of Parliament, which sees the Queen arrive from Buckingham Palace in the spectacular Irish State Coach. This is also a rare opportunity to see the Imperial State Crown, which includes the world’s largest diamond, making a public appearance: befitting its regal status, the crown travels in its very own state carriage, Queen Alexandra’s State Coach.The Houses of Parliament represent one of the most iconic London landmarks, and a visit is an unforgettable experience. The Montcalm Club’s range of luxury hotels offer the perfect base from which to experience the Houses of Parliament and London’s myriad other attractions.