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 the 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Tea is served at two sittings – 2pm and 3.45pm – under the shadow of the Elizabeth tower and the booming bells of Big Ben.
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 as 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
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. During our visit we discovered 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. These details about the
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
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.
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 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