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Stunning rooms inside the British Parliament
Houses of Parliament (London)
Member Name: curious_tan
Houses of Parliament (London)
Date: 17/12/10, updated on 17/12/10 (221 review reads)
Advantages: Very accessible and must-see attraction while visiting London
Disadvantages: Public tours only open on Saturdays and session breaks during summer time
DURING MY WEEKEND escapade in London in September 2007, I had the opportunity to visit the Houses of Parliament. The Parliament is open to the public every year when the session is on recess from 31 July to 29 September, and during Saturdays in all year round. But if you are interested to attend various debates and public committee sessions, it is open to everyone with prior ticket bookings, or join the public queue few hours before the session begins.
Since I was a student, I got a discounted price of £8 (from £12), but for kids (aged 5-15) is £5, and family (2 adults + 2 kids) for £30. The tour arrangement was good where we were organised in a group of 20-25 persons with a tour guide. Unfortunately, the tour did not include the tour for Big Ben and the Clock Tower. It took almost one-and-a-half hours to complete the tour, including taking a snack in the small restaurant inside the compound.
There are so many things to learn from the tour. For example, why the motif in the House of Commons is green and red for the House of Lords? Moreover, what is the significance of the portraits (paintings) of St David, St Patrick, St Andrew and St George inside the Parliament? One of the rooms inside the Parliament reminded me of the 4 important virtues: courtesy, generosity, hospitality, mercy, including the importance of 'religion'.
The House of the Lords is one of the most decorated room and I could not explain how I feel when I was inside this place where legislations are examine and pass by unelected and unpaid 740 members which include Archbishops and bishops and hereditary and prominent peers. This is also a ceremonial place for the State Opening of Parliament by Her Majesty the Queen.
The House of Commons is an ordinary chamber which is commonly watched on TV live coverage. Watching the session on TV, I thought it is a huge room but being there, it is much smaller than expected. It has a seating capacity of 437 for the 646 members of the Parliament, including the side galleries for the public.
Other interesting places include the Central lobby, Queen's Robing Room, Sovereign's Entrance, Royal Gallery, St Stephen's Hall and the Westminster Hall (the original structure). I was mesmerized by the grandeur of the variety of painting collections in every wall of these rooms and lobbies.
By the way, the Clock Tower is one of the Parliament's best known features, popularly mistaken as the Big Ben. Actually, Big Ben is the nickname of the 'bell' housed inside the Clock Tower, and Augustus Pugin is the name of the clock designer.
For families planning to visit this government building, it is my personal opinion that the tour is not ideal especially for young kids considering that the majority of the attractions inside the buildings are much more of adults' interest; and too early for kids to understand the British politics! Remember, cameras are not allowed inside the main chambers of the Parliament, except in the assembly area of the tour and the Westminster Hall. The foreign language tours are also available at defnite schedules/times in German, Spanish, French and Italian.
On the other hand, it is worth visiting its official website to find out more about its schedules and online bookings. The website also provide relevant links for people who could not be able to visit the building. The online or virtual tours, including audio or podcasts tours offer convenient ways to explore the building.
In terms of accessiblity, there are bus and tubes transports available in the area. Bus stops and train stations are just few steps away from the Partiament. It is a walking distance from other tourist attractions such as Big Ben and London Eye. With regard to entrance fees, I checked in the website that for adult's ticket of 12 pounds in 2007, it is now 14 pounds; while kids' ticket is 6 pounds from 5 pounds, and for families (2 adults+2kids) from 30 pounds to 35 pounds.
OVERALL, both the exterior and interior of the building have architectural and historical significance, and there are must-see features that need to be explored while visiting the building.
Summary: The Houses of the Parliament have both architectural and historical significance