UK Parliament and most of the legislative processes in Britain take place at the stunning Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster. The building is home to both the UK Parliament House of Lords and the House of Commons. It is situated on the northern banks of the Thames and is a most unmistakable sight. The Victoria Tower, Central Tower, and Clock Tower (also referred to as Big Ben) rise high above the other Perpendicular Gothic-style rectilinear towers and pointed arches. The Houses of Parliament also share the same grounds with St. Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey.
The first of the Royal Palaces located on this particular site in Westminster was constructed in the eleventh century. The Palace of Westminster remained the Royal Residence of the English Monarchy until the year 1512 when a fire claimed much of the building and resulted in the Monarchy moving to another residence. After sufficient reconstruction, it became the meeting place of the UK Parliament until an even more raging fire destroyed almost the entire complex in 1834. Only a few portions of the original palace remained including the Jewel Tower, Westminster Hall, and the Cloisters and Chapel House of St. Stephen’s.
After this the obvious result was a virtual bidding war for the rights to redesign the palace. The job was awarded to the architect Charles Barry who began what would become the 30-year reconstruction and redesign process of the Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. Tours of the Houses of Parliament provide a great basis for the history of the palace and are extremely instructive when it comes to gaining an understanding of just how it was that the palace withstood so much and was able to survive in the long run, as well as all of the major work it took to get it to the place it is today. Even after bombing in WWII claimed further portions of the now stately, Perpendicular Gothic-style palace, it was quickly refurbished and has remained the meeting place for the UK Parliament, essentially since the thirteenth century.
Now the Houses of Parliament are not only the epicenter of political life in the United Kingdom, but also one of the most popular and most heavily trafficked tourist attractions as well. The Palace of Westminster has become synonymous with UK politics. The palace itself is an awe-inspiring construct that excites the imagination of anyone smart enough to take advantage of one of the tours of the Houses of Parliament. The elegance and regalia alone will make your head spin as you view the high vaulted ceilings and stunning interior of the palace. Tours of the Houses of Parliament are not that expensive and can be an amazing way to spend part of your day in central London. Remember that when you are by the Houses of Parliament you are virtually next to the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, the London Aquarium, and many other famous attractions.