First built in 1097 under William II, the son of William the Conqueror, as Westminster Hall and largely rebuilt effectively in its current incarnation after the great fire of 1834, there is no more iconic site in London than the Palace of Westminster, more commonly called the Houses of Parliament.
It's not at all rare to hear tourists refer to the entire building as Big Ben, but Big Ben actually refers to the grand bell inside the clock tower. This bell is named for Sir Benjamin Hall, the First Commissioner for Works, whose name reportedly is engraved on the bell itself. The clock tower, which some people also call Big Ben, was formally named Elizabeth Tower in honour of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Regardless of what you would like to call it, the Palace of Westminster is a must-see attraction for any tourist in London. Although tours of Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben are suspended until 2020 due to refurbishment works, it still is possible to book an official tour of the Houses of Parliament on Saturdays and some weekdays when parliament is not in session as well as sit in on debates in the House of Lords or the House of Commons when the government is in session. However, the most entertaining sessions are known as "Question Time" and typically require advance tickets for UK residents which makes them difficult to attend as a visitor. General UK parliamentary debates are far less likely to resemble a Monty Python sketch, but still might be of interest to the wonkish.
After visiting the Houses of Parliament, travelgasm.com would strongly recommend taking a stroll along the Thames. We've mapped out our preferred route, which covers the nicest walking areas on both sides of the river — portions of which are formally dubbed the "Thames Path" and the "Hanseatic Walk" — and provides what might be the best stroll in the city. This walk is roughly 3.7 kilometers (2.3 miles), but it is a pleasant walk when the weather is cooperative and can be easily broken up with a riverside meal and/or a visit to the Tate Modern museum. If you're on a modest budget, there is a variety of relatively inexpensive, and convenient, global fast food at the Southbank Centre as well as food stalls open along the riverside when the weather is nice. If the price is less of a concern, the popular (and delicious) Founders Arms gastropub is a great choice with an equally great view of the river.
If you don't have time or the inclination for a relatively long walk (or it is raining), try, at least, to make it past the throngs of selfie-stick wielding tourists on Westminster Bridge and the tourist traps around the London Eye observation wheel — formally referred to as "The Queen's Walk" — because the stroll becomes much nicer after that. After about twenty minutes of walking along the South Bank, the tourists start to thin out, and it is not at all uncommon to see actual London residents on a jog in the mornings or out on a date strolling hand-in-hand in the evenings.
How to Get Here: Take the Circle (Yellow), District (Green), or Jubilee (Silver) line to Westminster Station. Exit 3 is best for the Houses of Parliament and Exit 4 is the best to go directly to Westminster Bridge. Our favourite walk below ties back into Monument Station (Circle and District lines) and is about 3.7 kilometers total (2.3 miles), but you could shorten this route and leave via Blackfriar Station (2.4 kilometers, 1.5 miles) or extend it all the way to the famous Tower Bridge and leave via Tower Hill Station (4.5 kilometers, 2.8 miles) depending on your inclination and the weather.
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