London loves: Houses of Parliament afternoon tea and tour

London loves: Houses of Parliament afternoon tea and tour

Looking for a London experience like no other? I recently discovered that you can enjoy a Houses of Parliament afternoon tea and jumped at the chance to try it.

Afternoon tea is combined with guided tour and we loved discovering the stories and history of this remarkable building after indulging in the ritual of cream tea.

Houses of Parliament afternoon tea beneath Big Ben

Few afternoon tea venues in London can compete with the history and views on offer at London’s Houses of Parliament.

As we made our way to the Terrace Pavillion, through the Great Hall of the Palace of Westminster and Central Lobby it was impossible not to be in awe of our surroundings.


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The Houses of Parliament is the more common name for the Palace of Westminster. A royal palace has stood on the site since the reign of Edward the Confessor but the Great Hall begun in 1097 is the only remaining part of the medieval palace. The iconic buildings we know today date from 1834.  

 


So many important events over many centuries happened or were decided upon in these buildings. We walked in the footsteps of Kings and Queens of England, Prime Ministers of Great Britain and giants of history like Nelson Mandela.

On the hour the bells of Big Ben tolled, reminding us not to be late for our tea appointment.

Nelson Mandela plaque Palace of Westminster

The Terrace Pavillion is found on the river side of the House of Commons and is lit by chandeliers. We were greeted warmly by attentive staff, happy to talk about the building and view and to take photos.

Once we were comfortable, we took time to take in the view of the Thames and across Lambeth Bridge to the London Eye and beyond. It was fascinating to watch the hustle and bustle of the city and iconic red buses crossing the river from that vantage point.

Terrace Pavillion London Houses of Parliament

A traditional cream tea with champagne!

Having tried a few cream teas over the years I can confidently say that we enjoyed a traditional and decadent afternoon tea treat at the Houses of Parliament.

London houses of parliament afternoon tea

Tea was served properly in a pot and we chose from several varieties to suit our taste. Our scones were warm, light and flaky and came with clotted cream and two types of jam – raspberry and strawberry.

We also enjoyed finger sandwiches and a range of delicious sweets. Our feast was worthy of its location.

London afternoon tea with a view

Tea is served at two sittings – 2pm and 3.45pm – under the shadow of the Elizabeth tower and the booming bells of Big Ben.

Related  London in winter - things to do and where to stay

Guided tour of the Houses of Parliament

Our tour of the Houses of Parliament was a memorable trip around its stately rooms, as well as an education on the pomp, ancient ritual and intrigue of what those walls have seen.

Our guide Russell was one of those fantastic English characters you imagine with a great passion for his subject. He had our group of around 15 people chuckling and pondering how true some of his stories were.

We learnt about the Queen’s “favourite hat”, Black Rod and the symbolism of the art hanging in the Royal Gallery.

On the tour you visit many rooms within the Palace of Westminster including the Great Hall, House of Commons and House of Lords. Portraits of Kings and Queens peer down from above and scenes of British triumph adorn the walls.

Pageantry and Crown Jewels

Queen Elizabeth II at State Opening of Parliament 2010

Queen Elizabeth II at State Opening of Parliament 2010. Image courtesy Parliament UK – www.parliament.uk

I think most visitors are fascinated by the role reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II plays in the running of Parliament in the United Kingdom.

These days the monarch’s role is largely ceremonial and centres on her participation in the State Opening of Parliament. We learnt all about the ritual and pageantry of this important annual event throughout the tour.

During the ceremony the Queen wears her robes of state and the Imperial State Crown which arrives at Westminster via special carriage escort from the Tower of London. 

Did you know that the Crown Jewels are not just worn by the Queen? We met one of the senior doorkeepers who informed us that his impressive badge formed part of the Crown Jewels collection.


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Combine a tour of one of the world’s most iconic buildings with a posh afternoon tea and you have a quintessentially British experience worthy of any London itinerary

 


Houses of Parliament afternoon tea and guided tour information

houses of parliament afternoon tea and tour - a must do in London

You can join a tour of the Palace of Westminster and take the Houses of Parliament afternoon tea most Saturdays and on select weekdays when Parliament is not sitting.

Afternoon tea costs £29 per person. A wide range of dietary requirements are catered for.

Guided tours cost £25.50 per person. Concessions are available.

For full details of timing and availability and to book tours and afternoon tea go to the Visit Parliament website.

Tips on making the most of your visit

✪ Security measures are strictly enforced so arrive early as there are often queues to complete the security check

✪ We chose a guided tour but there are several other tour options including themed and audio guides available.

✪ The guided tour runs for 90 minutes and there are only a few places where it is possible to sit briefly. Make sure you visit the bathroom prior to the tour starting.

✪ Allow around 4-5 hours for the Houses of Parliament afternoon tea and guided tour experience. You will want to revisit a few spots particularly in the the Central Lobby and Great Hall to soak up the atmosphere and even stand on historically important sites

A note on photography

It is not possible to take photos throughout most of the tour of the Palace of Westminster and Houses of Parliament. You will also be asked put away your phone and actually that’s great for giving full attention to your knowledgeable guide.

Finally – take a virtual tour of the Houses of Parliaement

This video shows some of the incredible sights you will see on a tour of the Houses of Parliament however they are made all the more interesting when you learn the stories and details behind them.

Thanks to expert ‘Blue Badge’ guides like Russell, the history and importance of the Palace of Westminster will continue for generations to come.


Have you toured the Houses of Parliament in London? What did you learn from the guides?


I was kindly given complimentary tickets for the Houses of Parliament afternoon tea by Houses of Parliament Visitor Services. All opinions are my own and honest. Please check my disclosure page for more information.


More ideas of unique London experiences to add to your London itinerary from Untold Morsels


✪ Portrait Restaurant – with views over Trafalgar Square to Big Ben
✪ Visit wonderful Greenwich home to several outstanding museums and a fantastic market
✪ Take time out from your shopping on Oxford Street at the brilliant Wallace Collection near Selfridges
✪ London art galleries to suit all kinds of art lovers

 Best of London- Houses of Parliament afternoon tea and tour

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80 Comments

  1. 19th December 2016 / 9:16 AM

    tea and a tour of one of the most iconic buildings in the world?sign me up!:))

    • 19th December 2016 / 9:26 AM

      I thought you might like this one Tanja ? I am sure this experience would be a highlight of your London trips

  2. 19th December 2016 / 10:00 AM

    A tour is definitely on my list for 2017 – I hadn’t realised you could have afternoon tea as well. Perfect! Scones and history, yum.

    • 19th December 2016 / 10:08 AM

      The tour is fantastic and tea extremely delicious. I went with a friend. The tour is probably a bit much for the little ones but they do a family friendly audio guide too

      • 5th January 2017 / 5:50 PM

        A great reminder that I need to book this! #farawayfiles

  3. 19th December 2016 / 7:53 PM

    My two boys 7 and 13 at the time enjoyed this experience very much! I’m now wishing we would have enjoyed the lovely tea as well! I guess we will have Togo back!!

    • 20th December 2016 / 9:46 PM

      One for next time maybe Hilary? There are a few different tours you can do as well

  4. 21st December 2016 / 9:04 AM

    I didn’t know you could have tea at the Houses of Commons! It looks delicious but sounds a bit out of my price range I’m afraid.

    • 21st December 2016 / 12:32 PM

      Afternoon tea is a real luxury isn’t it Alice. I have tried a few and I think that this one is great value on its own but combined with the views and sense of history then it can be considered great value. Well worth treating yourself

      • 21st December 2016 / 3:26 PM

        Not sure I’m posh enough for afternoon tea! I’m not going to knock it until I’ve tried it though.

        • 21st December 2016 / 3:40 PM

          I’m Australian Alice. Not sure I’m posh enough either ?

  5. 25th December 2016 / 5:22 AM

    What a unique tour and I love all those lovely desserts, this is definitely my type of eating and touring visit

  6. 25th December 2016 / 8:54 AM

    The Houses of Parliament are pretty incredible to visit, so much history and so many many many details. I have visited before – a friend’s friend gave a group of us a tour – she’s a Baroness in the Lords. But I didn’t know they also offer afternoon tea!

    • 25th December 2016 / 10:27 AM

      Visiting with a Baroness would have been an incredible experience. I’m sure there would be many new things to learn each time you visit depending on who is leading the tour. It really is a remarkable building

  7. 25th December 2016 / 9:23 AM

    I had no idea you could enjoy a Houses of Parliament afternoon tea and tour – I would love to do this! I’m in the middle of finishing the TV series “Tudors” and am just fascinated by the landscape of the British royals and parliament at the moment. I’ve been to London a fair few times, though have never actually been inside Parliament. Thanks for the tip!

    • 25th December 2016 / 10:23 AM

      There’s actually a whole room inside the Palace dedicated to the Tudors including the beheaded queens. I’ve lived in the city for 2 years (this time) and only just found out about this experience but it went straight into my must do’s for visitors to London.

  8. 25th December 2016 / 10:55 AM

    Thanks for writing this down. This a tour which I will not miss now if I am in London. A very detailed post with all the tips you need to know.

  9. 25th December 2016 / 11:50 AM

    Amazing tips! Afternoon tea is one of the big things about England, isn’t it? It seems that this tour was an excellent way to enjoy your time in London!

  10. 26th December 2016 / 2:43 AM

    From tea to an almost private tour, it looks like you have covered some of the Best of London. It’s always good to know ahead of time if security is tight and the tip on putting your phone away is also a good one. Afternoon tea looks to be an experience to talk about for several years.

    • 27th December 2016 / 10:10 PM

      Thanks Sara – the whole experience was a highlight of my travels in 2016

  11. 26th December 2016 / 2:42 PM

    I had no idea that you can explore the insides of the palace of Westminster! A royal tea sounds really great! I would love to try it out. Everything looks delicious and your description of the scones made me hungry! Will definitely consider the tea and the tour for future visits.

    • 27th December 2016 / 10:09 PM

      If you think the outside is amazing, the inside is incredible. So much attention to detail and ornate decoration – definitely a must visit in London and all the better for a cheeky scone and jam

  12. Carolina Colborn
    27th December 2016 / 10:23 PM

    Oh this would have been more significant, besides being less expensive! We were told the best afternoon tea was at the Ritz…59 pounds!

    • 27th December 2016 / 10:58 PM

      Yes I think the value for money is incredible Carolina. One for your next visit maybe?

    • 29th December 2016 / 3:46 AM

      Thanks Carmen. It was a recent discovery for me too. Hope you can have this unique experience when you are next in London

  13. Joe
    30th December 2016 / 5:48 AM

    You had me at Big Ben haha! I love London and tea combined with exploring the palace of Westminster sounds like an epic way to spend the day!

    • 31st December 2016 / 10:12 AM

      Thanks Joe. It was a special day spent with a dear friend. Highly recommended

  14. 5th January 2017 / 8:54 AM

    Wow I didn’t know you could do afternoon tea there. It looks amazing. A new something for the list #farawayfiles

  15. 5th January 2017 / 9:26 AM

    LOVE THIS! I’m soo doing this next time, even though it’s a bit pricey! Did you have to pay separately for both the tour and the tea? #FarawayFiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:27 PM

      Thanks Lolo, yes the tour and tea are separate and on the surface it does look a bit expensive but I can assure you it is one of the best value experiences in London. Some of the teas alone are over £60 so for the same price you get to walk the paths of Kings and Queens as well as munching on your scone!

  16. pigeonpairandme
    5th January 2017 / 10:14 AM

    I never knew you could have afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament! What a fantastic treat. This would be ideal for when we have visitors from out of town, or overseas. #FarawayFiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:24 PM

      Thanks Nell. I think it’s almost the perfect potted London experience. I’ll definitely by taking our visitors there too

  17. 5th January 2017 / 12:56 PM

    Oh man I want to do this! I’ve been looking for a good tea experience other than the top hotels and I reckon this has got to be the best option yet (and for London tea prices actually rather reasonable – though it sounds absurd to call nearly £30 for tea “reasonable” – compared to the Shard it is…!) Next time I’m in London I’m doing this! #farawayfiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:22 PM

      yay! So glad I could be of assistance. I may have some other options for you coming up soon Phoebe… watch this space! I agree, London can be so expensive but experiences like these dont come around so often and are worthy of a splurge

  18. 5th January 2017 / 1:00 PM

    This sounds like an awesome experience! Just one more thing to add to my growing list of London musts. #FarawayFiles

  19. 5th January 2017 / 1:05 PM

    Oh wow! I didn’t know that one could go for afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament? That’s brilliant and sooo up my alley. And so nice to combine it with a tour. I definitely want to do this the next time I’m in London! Thanks for sharing!

  20. 5th January 2017 / 2:25 PM

    We got to tour the Grand Hall on the open house weekend last Summer and absolutely loved all the historical references, so I can well imagine that afternoon tea is a real treat here! #farawayflies

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:14 PM

      The very best of treats. Thanks Alex

  21. aandj8804
    5th January 2017 / 3:14 PM

    What a fun way to spend the afternoon! 🙂 #farawayfiles

  22. 5th January 2017 / 4:13 PM

    Looking at the comments above, I think many people like me didn’t know you could do an afternoon tea and tour of the Houses of Parliament. I’m looking very closely at those cakes and the menu and I’m very tempted. Every time I go to London there is something new to do! Thanks Katy 🙂
    #farawayfiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:14 PM

      I was surprised too. It seems like I have let out a little secret! Anyway, it was a fantastic treat Trish and one I will remember for a very long time to come

  23. 5th January 2017 / 5:35 PM

    I’m still unhappy that I never went into the Houses of Parliament when I lived in London. What a thing to miss. And now I know that you can get a cream tea in there as well! #farawayfiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:12 PM

      I’ve lived in London for 2 years this time Kat and another 5 years before that and I never did it until now! Just another reason to come back to London. And that’s not such a bad thing is it?

  24. Clare Thomson
    5th January 2017 / 7:35 PM

    That afternoon tea looks absolutely delicious and such great views too! We absolutely loved our guided tour of the Houses of Parliament – just loved all the brilliant stories from the guides. Great read for #FarawayFiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:11 PM

      Thanks Clare. The guides are incredible aren’t they? I know we probably all had different guides and they all bring their own unique flavour to the experience. I was very impressed by the whole experience

  25. Ruth
    5th January 2017 / 8:17 PM

    I have to say this is a unique experience. Cheers to the people who designed and created this opportunity. To me, it covers two of the things I like to experience in my travels: food and history. Based on your account, the food is delicious and the stories lively. What else you can ask for? I will add it to my bucket list for sure. #FarawayFiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:10 PM

      Thank you so much Ruth. I know you would enjoy touring this most beautiful building and trying the scones and cake. Such a treat worthy of any bucket list

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:08 PM

      Ah brilliant! I know your list is a beauty and I do think this experience is worthy

  26. 6th January 2017 / 2:03 AM

    I am gutted I am reading this now that I have left the UK! I would love to do a tour of the Houses of Parliament and combined with Afternoon Tea?? That sounds awesome, I LOVE Afternoon Tea!!! I have pinned this for future reference so thanks for sharing! #FarawayFiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:07 PM

      Thanks for sharing Angie. It really is one of those special experiences I will remember forever

  27. 6th January 2017 / 3:03 AM

    Looks divine. I wish we had afternoon tea – I have an insane sweet tooth and need something sweet every afternoon. Would love to do the tour. #farawayfiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:07 PM

      Dont they have afternoon tea at all in New York? Mind you they do have the City Bakery. Their hot chocolate is an insanely good treat. Hopefully we can all meet up for tea in London one day soon Corey! Just putting it out there 🙂

  28. 6th January 2017 / 3:13 AM

    Fantastic! I think I first heard about this from Clare at Suitcases and Sandcastles a few months ago. It is definitely HIGH on my list of things to do for our next return visit to London. It also seems like the cooler months would be a great time to do it. SO many brilliant stories and so much rich history that has shaped the UK. #FarawayFiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:05 PM

      Clare and I have very similar tastes in activities 🙂 The tea and tour are such a great way to combine two iconic British traditions and I just know you would enjoy them. Just check the dates if you want to visit as you cant do the tours or tea when Parliament is sitting

  29. 6th January 2017 / 9:24 AM

    Such a great idea to combine tea with a tour! I love afternoon tea – although it does seem quite expensive but looks like you get quite a luxurious experience. #FarawayFiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:03 PM

      Tea is definitely a treat Lillian but having sampled a few (ahem) in London I think this is incredible value. After all, it is not often you get to sip champagne as Big Ben tolls overhead

  30. tracycollins2016
    6th January 2017 / 7:35 PM

    Really enjoyed reading this – didn’t know it existed so I am going to try and book it in the next few months. Really interesting and I can’t resist afternoon tea!

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:01 PM

      I am sure you will have a wonderful time Tracy. Do let me know how it goes!

  31. 6th January 2017 / 8:37 PM

    This seems like it’s a must do for when anyone visits London! We are hoping to get over that way for 2017 as we have made so many incredible London friends that were doing a year in New Zealand and thus we made plans to make plans to visit London and for them to visit Colorado.

    • 7th January 2017 / 11:00 PM

      Hope you manage to visit London this year. It is definitely one of the world’s iconic cities and the old quote is true – if you are tired of London you are tired of life!

  32. 7th January 2017 / 12:35 AM

    I’ve always heard I should do the tour of the Houses of Parliament in London, but never have. Right now I mostly just want that cream tea!! #FarawayFiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 10:58 PM

      It’s the best of both worlds Catherine – you get your tea and a history lesson by a very engaging guide. Thanks for stopping by

  33. 7th January 2017 / 2:01 PM

    I love afternoon teas and one, after a tour of the houses of parliament sounds like a real treat. Enjoyed reading your post, Katy!

    • 7th January 2017 / 10:58 PM

      Thanks Ahila – it was a treat and a special afternoon I spent with a good friend to remember forever

  34. 7th January 2017 / 3:09 PM

    I didn’t know you can have afternoon tea in the Houses of Parliament – what a wonderful idea and certainly one to bear in mind for when I next go up to London – the view from the terrace there is just so lovely. Thanks #FarawayFiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 10:57 PM

      I am getting the impression not many people knew about the tea! The views are incredible, even on a cold winters day

      • 8th January 2017 / 6:21 AM

        I was lucky enough to go to the Houses of Parliament and a reception on the Terrace – the views are stunning & I will certainly book to go back ! Thanks #FarawayFiles

  35. 7th January 2017 / 4:22 PM

    This sounds so cool! And for the experience, not nearly as expensive as I expected. I might have to try this out the next time I’m in London. Thanks for sharing! #farawayfiles

    • 7th January 2017 / 10:56 PM

      You are absolutely right Danielle. Some teas in London cost well over £60 so to be able to do this as well as the tour for that price is great value

  36. 7th January 2017 / 6:01 PM

    The afternoon tea sounds divine – you have a skill in describing scones that makes me want one now! The champagne is a nice touch. This iconic tour sounds like “London distilled” and I reckon it’ll grow in popularity after the recent series The Crown (haven’t seen it but I’m sure the H of P are involved).

    • 7th January 2017 / 10:55 PM

      I agree, if you were visiting London for a short time and wanted an iconic experience this would be it! I have watched the first episode of The Crown and it is fascinating.. even for a rampant republican (with a small r!) like me

  37. 15th January 2017 / 5:33 PM

    Have never done afternoon tea, That looks delish! #farawayfiles

  38. 25th May 2017 / 10:40 PM

    wonderful post, beautiful pictures

    • 6th June 2017 / 12:33 PM

      thanks Juli

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