The central London area of Westminster is home to some of the capital’s most iconic areas and attractions, including the royal residences St. James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace; the seat of British democracy, the Houses of Parliament; and 10 Downing Street, home of the Prime Minister. It’s also home to two of the most important churches in British Christianity – Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral – as well as a variety of beautiful open spaces. Read on for our guide to some of the best sights in Westminster.
Perhaps the most famous religious building in the whole of the United Kingdom, Westminster Abbey – officially known as the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster – is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. It has played host to many significant state occasions, including the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952; the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997; and the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. Also in Westminster is Westminster Cathedral, the mother church of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster. Wesminster Cathedral is home to some beautiful mosaics and one of the country’s finest choirs.
The Houses of Parliament:
Officially known collectively as the Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament are the seat of British democracy and comprise one of London’s most iconic sights. Big Ben (actually the name of the bell – Elizabeth Tower is the tower’s official name) is an enduring icon of London, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. Parliament is open to all UK and overseas visitors to attend debates, watch committee hearings or take a tour inside one of the world’s most iconic buildings. UK residents can also book a tour of Elizabeth Tower to see Big Ben.
The residence of the reigning monarch since the days of Queen Victoria, Buckingham Palace is still the home of Queen Elizabeth II during the week; the Royal Standard flies when she is in residence, the Union Flag when she is not. The State Rooms, in which the Queen entertains subjects and foreign dignitaries, are available for the public to view on guided tours, and includes the Picture Gallery, which houses a rotating selection of masterpieces from the Royal Collection. If you’re planning on exploring Buckingham Palace during your stay in London, The Montcalm at The Brewery London City, on Chiswell Street, is a luxurious property which is brilliantly located for discovering everything that Westminster has to offer.
St. James’s Palace:
While Queen Elizabeth II resides at Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace remains a working palace and is the seat of the Royal Court. Officially, it is the most senior royal palace in the United Kingdom, and serves as the London residence of several members of the Royal Family, including Princess Anne, Princess Royal; Princess Beatrice of York; and Princess Eugenie of York. The palace is used to host official receptions, such as those of visiting heads of state, and charities of which members of the royal family are patrons.
Whether in part or in full, Westminster encompasses five of the Royal Parks: Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, St James’s Park and Regent’s Park. Each are fantastic in their own way but all offer lush greenery, beautiful stretches of water, and are home to an array of wildlife. There are also a significant number of residential squares in Westminster which are open to the public, including Paddington Street Gardens off Marylebone High Street.