Westminster Palace (Houses of Parliament) is a world renowned landmark in the center of London. Its grand exterior is not only familiar to Londoners, but to everyone who consumes the media. To many it is symbol of power and politics. A place where laws and legislation are made, lives are changed and history is made. It defines London as the power hub of England and is a well-loved tourist attraction to millions each year.
The exterior of Westminster Palace is familiar, constant and well known. Yet the interior and what goes on inside feels like another world. The building is open to the public yet restricted in its access. A tour will set you back £14 but is free if booked through the office of a person’s local Member of Parliament.
Security is tight; perhaps a reflection on modern society as a whole. Persons and bags are searched and a pass is issued to signify whether or not someone had been security checked. Photos are only permitted in Westminster hall and are restricted for the rest of the building.
Westminster hall is impressive in size and boasts a magnificent roof with high reaching timber arcs and beams. The hall is the oldest part of the parliamentary estate and is steeped with British history. Not only used for political purposes, Westminster palace as whole was first occupied by the Royal Family and later became the home for the government in 1508 during the reign of Henry VIII.
The deep set history with the Royal Family is still seen today, not only because the Queen is head of state, but because of the somewhat strange and dramatic rituals an example of which can be witnessed during The State Opening of Parliament. An annual event which marks the beginning of a new parliamentary year, The State Opening of Parliament is the only time the three elements of Parliament – the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons – are together (Parliament, 2013).
Each part of Westminster Palace is unique in its design. The House of Lords has awe inspiring décor which is intricate and fascinating in its design. Quite the opposite, is the House of Commons, which is home to many lively debates and the familiar green benches. The design is simple yet works well with the nature of government proceedings.
The palace is full with artwork. Scenes of bloody battles – such as that the Battle of Waterloo – dominate the walls. Past members of the Royal Family stare eerily from their frames and ex-Prime ministers stand tall in the form of statues. Although a place where modern politics takes place, the building is full with history and reminders of how the country became what it is today.
The Houses of Parliament is situated in Westminster on the River Thames, across from the London eye, both of which are popular and iconic landmarks of London.
A visit to Westminster Palace is worthwhile. Underneath its modern facade London is steeped in rich history which a tour of the Houses of Parliament helps to reveal.
(*part of a journal thing for uni!)