Tourist Attractions Travel

Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster aka the Houses of Parliament were open this past weekend as part of Open House London, and I was overjoyed at the opportunity to visit such a pinnacle location from both England’s past and future (for free!). It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987 and Elizabeth Tower, colloquially called “Big Ben”  is probably the most recognisable emblem of the United Kingdom as well as a leading tourist attraction.

There were over 900 properties participating in Open House London this year. Open House was founded in 1992 as a non-profit organisation to promote public awareness and appreciation of some of the capital’s most interesting buildings, by opening doors usually closed to the public.

Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the building, was constructed in 1097 with an incredible hammerbeam roof. My favourite part of the hall was that there were plaques on the floor designating where important people stood throughout history. You can stand where Queen Elizabeth II stood to address the hall on her most recent Jubilee, or where Nelson Mandela stood, or where Churchill lay in state after his death.

big benwall of glassvictoria tower
VIctoria Tower.

clockhallme in hallmimicking statue
Imitating a statue. As one does in the seat of English power.

statuesstatues closeuplooking upcandelabra questioning in the Jubilee chambers
Questioning a lower member from the chair seat in the Jubilee committee rooms.

defending
A much-put-upon Junior takes the fall.

distance in hallvaulted ceiling
The Hammerbeam roof in Westminster Hall.

Queen Elizabeth glasswhere the queen stood
Taking a photo of where Queen Mary lay in state.

Trousers: Gap. Cardigan: Gap. Brogues: Joules (similar). Bag: Coach. Shirt: Joy.

gardensvisitor passes

Have you ever been inside the Palace of Westminster? Did you attend any of the Open House London events?

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  • So cool! I would love to visit the palace and your pictures are gorgeous!!

  • Love the photos! Never been inside, though I’ve been countless times to London and to see the Big Ben.

    http://www.whimsical-truth.blogspot.com

    • If you get the chance to go inside one day you definitely should! It’s really interesting! x

  • I’ve wanted to go inside for ages! This is awesome!

  • thisandthatblog

    I’ve done the tour before and it’s so fascinating isn’t it? I loved the distinct differences between thehouse of lords and the house of commons and also hearing about the history of the place. Who knew it was all down to Prince Albert, not me! Also, how is it all so small in real life! Great pictures. Fi xx

    • Thanks Fi! I absolutely loved having the chance to go inside – and the fact that any member of the public could as well is just fantastic! Which would you rather be a part of the House of Commons or the House of Lords? x

      • thisandthatblog

        Ooh that’s a tricky one, I think probably the House of Commons as you have to earn your way into that, well at least a bit more than with the House of Lords! Although the splendour of the Lords would be hard to ignore… xx

  • I’ll be that American and say that this is precisely what I imagine when anyone tells me they live in England. Castles and everything!

    • Hehehe it is such a “quintessentially British” thing to get to do. But I’d never been inside before and neither had Sam so it was all new and incredibly interesting for us! x

  • You spent this day being culturally awesome and having fabulous hair (no, really, your hair is looking really, really amazing in these photos!)…I spent that day waking up late, eating leftover chocolate out of a bowl with my finger, going out for a bloody mary, feeling catholic guilt about all my life choices, getting tired, going home and reading. You inspire me, woman. xx

    • I dusted off my straightener for the first time in MONTHS (no exaggeration) which is probably why my hair is looking more controlled than usual. Did you guys finish off the huge pot of chocolate? Or hear any stories about murder? Both those things are important. xxx

      • Apparently there was a bit of chat about murders when the detective came over…I was too busy making inappropriate decisions about messaging people I shouldn’t. So I missed the good stuff. Except that chocolate. First thing the morning, I was saw it and though ‘BREAKFAST’. Just I finished it off. Proud moment. It was delightful really. xxx

  • Such a beautiful place!! One day maybe we’ll take part in the Open House London.

  • We went on a field trip when I did my study abroad and I showed up a few minutes late in high heeled boots and had to speed walk to catch up to my group while getting some serious mean stares and my boots were making all sorts of noise, I was sure they were going to kick me out or lock me up or something.

    • Hahaha there’s nothing like the sound of heels on solid rock, is there? I’m usually not that girl because I hardly ever wear heels but I have a pair of boots that kind of jangle when I walk and people have been known to be me irritable looks over them. x

  • Kate Mitchell

    That is so cool that you got to go in! That’s basically the only place I wasn’t able to go when I was there for the the month of May in 2012.

  • Wow, what a neat place to visit! Haha, it’s pretty cool that you can stand where famous people did. And I agree with Polly down there πŸ™‚

    • I did stand at one of the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee plaques pretending to be her, I’m not going to lie. How can you resist such a temptation? πŸ™‚ x

  • Oh my goodness! That architecture!!! How amazing! I’d love to go along and peak inside at Open House London events! And a visit to the Palace of Westminster goes without saying! Xx

  • Wow I didn’t know there is an open house London event^^ Good to know! I will try to remember when I am back haha!

    • It’s awesome! They only do them once a year, so you’ll have to wait a bit unfortunately- but I posted a link above to the Open House London website if you want to keep an eye on it in the future. xx

      • That’s great! Thank you so much! And I will be back in London in a year anyways, so it would fit πŸ˜‰

  • Way to take advantage of these events, girl! I have to say I had NO idea that the Big Ben tower was actually called Elizabeth tower! Also, am totally loving the Amanda/Sam parliamentary reenactments.
    Last thing: I recently picked up a pair of brogues that look very similar to yours at a fleamarket and I couldn’t be happier. That color goes with everything πŸ™‚

    • Yes! Long live brogues! They just go with everything! (well, in my opinion at least!) Yea, Big Ben is just the bell inside the tower. Crazy right?! I learned that a few years ago when I took my mom on a lot of tours of London when she came for a visit! x

  • The detail of Big Ben is so beautiful. I had never noticed it until I started photographing it with a zoom lens… but it’s pretty incredible to see all the colors and details up close… and now I notice them more when simply looking at the clock!

  • Wow! I didn’t knew they do that. Nice photos πŸ™‚

    STYLE VANITY

    • Thank you! It’s a great opportunity that I’d recommend to anyone in London if they happened to be here over the Open House weekend! x

  • You look so natural sitting in Parliament. Methinks you should run for office on a baking platform.

    • Hahahaha well, my original college degree was in politics and cake makes everyone happy so….. πŸ™‚ (And thank you, by the way ) xxx

  • Ashley Angle

    So cool! I would have loved that! Great pictures – thanks for sharing!
    ~Ashley @ A Cute Angle
    acutelifestyle.blogspot.com

  • this is fantastic! most fantastic = you questioning “a lower member”

    • Hahahaha thanks Nicole! The moment we stepped into the chamber we didn’t even need to verbally confirm – we just kind of looked at each other and knew that some ridiculous posing was in order πŸ™‚ x

  • That is sooo cool! It is 100% more beautiful than I thought it would be – I mean with all the history I guess it’s normal. Love all the photos of the details! And I LOLed to your imitation of the statue!

    • Haha thank you so much! We were in a queue to get in for quite some time, so when we finally did I felt a bit slap-happy and then statue imitating started to take place. I had no idea what Parliament was going to look like other than some of the main bits and I was pleasantly surprised! x

  • Wow wow wow wow! I love anything that has to do with the historic royals and old “buildings”. I just watched this awesome documentary on Richard III and another about Henry’s palace (can’t remember what the name of it was!!). PLEASE keep posting stuff like this!

    I mean 1097! WOW!

    • Ha, thank you so much! I heard someone make a Harry Potter joke while we were walking around and I actually thought of you. Do you remember what your Richard III documentary was called? (I love me some historic royal programs – I recently just watched one on the history of fashion within the Royal family -starting with Henry VIII) xx

      • Ha!! Girl I lurvvve me some Harry Potter!

        I went back and checked my netflix – I
        watched Secrets: Richard III Revealed. It was awesome!! I don’t want to
        give it away – but seriously, just wow! This one was also excellent too – Secrets of Henry VIII’s Palace!

        • Damn, I just went on Netflix (I have netflix UK) and they aren’t available to stream here! Bummer! x

  • Isn’t Open House just the most wonderful opportunity! Last year we explored Battersea Power Station & the Foreign and Commonwealth office (which astonishingly I still haven’t blogged!

    • The Battersea Power Station is the largest brick structure in Europe. That’s the only fact I have about it (I used to live close by and whenever I’d go past it, that’s what I’d think to myself.) I went to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office as well… you might see that post this week πŸ˜‰ xx

  • what the whaaat! I love a good parliament open house. I’m glad you two took advantage of mimicking how it all goes down. πŸ˜‰

    • Hahaha thank you. Sometimes I just have the irrational need to lighten the mood a bit πŸ™‚ x

  • Wow! I was in London this summer and got to see the Houses of Parliament from the outside, but I would have LOVED to tour them!

    • I hope you get a chance to come back and see them from the inside sometime! I was really excited for this opportunity! x

  • As a big fan of politics I would love to have gone and seen the House of Parliament!

    • My university degree is actual in International Politics with a focus on Conflict and Security in Western Europe (hahaha with a double major in Theatre). You can see which life route I chose. BUT, I do love politics. I just didn’t want to make them my life so it was definitely a cool thing to get to do! x

  • All the photos are great, but that first shot of the clock tower is GORGEOUS. It’s amazing that you had the chance to explore Westminster Palace. Sam looked like he was handling the hot-seat pretty well despite some intense questioning XD

    • Ha, thank you so much! I snapped that tower photo waiting in the line to get inside. (It was quite the queue.) The moment I saw that we could sit in the chamber seats….I just knew some questioning had to happen…. x

  • Great photos! I would love to visit here and so great that you got to visit for free. I just love when museums and attractions allow free entry!

    • Thanks! The photos were a joint effort between Sam and I. And I agree – free entry is the absolute best. There are few things more satisfying! x

  • WOW, this looks amazing! I took a tour back in 2004 (hey, that rhymes!) but I’d love to go back now that I’m older and appreciate more of the history and the architecture.

    • Were you on a family trip back in 2004? I definitely wouldn’t have been able to full appreciate it when I was that age, but you were probably a lot more mature than me! x

  • Fiona

    i love Open House days, Bristol does one too although it is for slightly less famous places than Parliament (!). I love visiting historical buildings, so I do love your posts πŸ™‚ x

    • Thanks Fiona! Apparently Open House is really sweeping the world now and lots of cities are getting involved which is wonderful (I think)! x

  • THis place looks so wonderful! I wish I could go here someday. πŸ™‚

  • Thank you so much! Big Ben has always just been the bell inside the clock tower, it’s never been the tower itself. (Before the Jubilee it was just called clock tower, or something similar) So Big Ben has just always been an incorrectly based nickname πŸ™‚ x

    • Ha, well I think that’s what everyone calls it just because if you said the proper name it might take a second to click whereas if you say Big Ben pretty much everyone in the world knows what you’re talking about, right? x

  • This looks so fun, also, I’m beyond obsessed with those shoes!

  • It’s such a good idea to have these open house events, maybe next year I can save the date to participate.

  • Great photographs and I love the question time shots πŸ™‚

  • I’ve always wanted to visit Parliament! When I went to England in 2012 with the family that I homeschooled, they had a meeting with several MPs. Everyone got to go except for me because I had to stay home with the insanely rambunctious 4 year old. Sigh. Guess I’ll have to go back, right!??! πŸ™‚

    • Definitely the perfect excuse to go back! Although it’s a shame you didn’t get to meet with any MPs at the time! x

  • Great photos!! I love the area around there – the park outside the houses is a great spot for a picnic on a nice day πŸ™‚ I unfortunately never went inside in my years of living there, which is pretty sad, so I’m delighted you shared your photos!

    • Thank you so much! I think the playground that’s really close to the houses is especially good! (Or would think so if I was still a kid πŸ™‚ ) x

  • So beautiful! I feel like I would spend hours in there trying to see every little detail…it’s all so intricate! xo

  • Lol, you look like you had a great time! I love the opportunity to tour important buildings in a city! Especially when they are as beautiful as this!

    • It was seriously gorgeous inside! (Once you got past all the metal detectors.) I think it’s an excellent practice to throw doors open to the public every once in awhile! x

  • 84 comments! Holy hell Amanda! You’re doing well my girl!
    I love the pictures of you guys speaking in the committee room! Love the places that you see. I wonder when you’ll run out of places to see.. You certainly live in the right city…!

    • Ah! Thank you Haley! I feel like you could live in London your entire life and still not see all of it. Sam’s been here for over a decade and a lot of the things we do are new to him! x

  • Em

    Aaahhhh – this would be such an amazing thing to see! Only been outside but your photos make it a must-see. Really nice job on the photography here.

    • Thank you so much! This was my first time inside was well and I was absolutely astonished. I figured it would be lovely, but it was really breathtaking. x

  • That is cool that there was an open house event. Looks like fun!

    • I love that so many places are just willing to throw their doors open! (If only for one weekend.) x

  • How cool! i wish could have had a look around. It looks amazing! x

  • I have been to London billions of times but have never been in! It looks awesome, like it is well worth it. That is definitely on my list for when I come home next x

    • Sam’s lived in London for over 10 years and this was his first time inside so I think you’re doing okay! πŸ™‚ x

  • what amazing photos – what a fab opportunity! you and Sam should definitely throw your hats in the political ring πŸ˜›

    • We’d probably be some of the worst politicians of all times, which is a strange convoluted way, might make us the best! x