As election day nears, Westminster Palace is quiet. While MPs spend time in their constituencies, working to secure every possible vote on December 12, Parliament is open to the public for tours.
After a quick pass through security, attendees meet their tour guide in Westminster Hall and stand on the spot where Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth, and many others have delivered moving speeches to members of the U.K.’s governing body.
The tour properly begins in the House of Lords, where guides lead their groups in the footsteps of monarchs past: through the Queen’s Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, the Victoria Hall, and finally into the main chamber of the House of Lords. While visitors are not permitted to sit in the chamber, the tour provides a fascinating look into how it feels to work in Parliament’s quieter house.
After a few more stops, we then move right along to the other side of the palace for the House of Commons. In a time when university students can take in-class quizzes on their cellphones, it was surprising to see that MPs still vote by leaving the chamber, walking through the “yes” or “no” lobby, and returning to their seats. The venue that hosts the Prime Minister’s questions was shockingly peaceful and quite small.
Lindsay Schusman is a tour guide with an intriguing anecdote for nearly every room and artefact in the palace. Schusman explained that Parliament would move out and the palace would close in the coming years to repair the ageing structure, so there is a limited time to see inside.
Tours are free for young voters aged 16-24 and start at £26.50 for adults. Visitors can book tickets online now through March.