The Houses of Parliament is one of the most iconic buildings not just in London but probably even Europe. Stood next to the Victoria Tower, or as the name you most likely know it by, Big Ben, (which is actually the name of the bell, not the building, which Londoners will love to tell you) it must be one of the most photographed landmarks in the world. Parts of this historic building are open to small guided tours on weekends and some weekdays when parliament is not in session (usually Fridays) but check out their website for more information, but what most people don’t realise that alongside the regular tours they also do guided tours which focus specifically on LGBTQ+ history. I headed into the Houses of Parliament recently to check out this Pride at Parliament tour (on Brexit day incidentally, which felt somewhat poignant!).
Tours start out in the oldest part of the building, the historic Westminster Hall, which is almost 1000 years old and is incidentally the only area in the tour in which photographs are allowed. This tour takes you into various chambers discussing key moments in LGBTQ+ history. You may get the chance to visit the House of Commons and House of Lords (dependent if they are in use) as you take in the history all around you.
The history is both political, religious and royal, and takes in key moments of political change and personal achievements, both good and bad, in LGBTQ+ history. The architecture, artwork and statues alone are something to behold as your guide links them to key moments in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
It’s hard to sell this tour without parroting some of the fascinating information you are told throughout, especially when you can’t show images. However, the areas you see are simply awe-inspiringly beautiful and the amazing stories even more so. Our guide, Phelix, did a fantastic job at balancing the more tragic parts of LGBTQ+ history with humour and charisma which brought the history to life. It’s a tour I highly recommended to everyone with even a passing interest in queer history.
The Pride at Parliament tour lasts 90 minutes and runs on Saturdays every three months, usually starting in February for LGBTQ+ history month followed by June for Pride month. Tickets sell out fast so make sure you book well in advance, tickets are £26.50 for adults with various concessions available. Check out the Parliament website for more details. There may even be a chance to check out the archives on the day of your visit, ask your guide for more details.
Have you ever done a tour of the Houses of Parliament? I’d love to check out more LGBTQ+ tours in London and beyond so let me know your favourites.