England // London //

Houses of Parliament

Clearly visible at the south end of Whitehall is one of London’s best-known monuments, the Palace of Westminster, better known as the Houses of Parliament. The city’s finest Victorian Gothic Revival building and symbol of a nation once confident of its place at the centre of the world, it’s distinguished above all by the ornate, gilded clocktower popularly known as Big Ben, after the thirteen-ton main bell that strikes the hour (and is broadcast across the world by BBC radio).

The original medieval palace burned down in 1834, and everything you see now – save for Westminster Hall – is the work of Charles Barry, who created an orgy of honey-coloured pinnacles, turrets and tracery that attempts to express national greatness through the use of Gothic and Elizabethan styles. You get a glimpse of the eleventh-century Westminster Hall en route to the public galleries, its huge oak hammer-beam roof making it one of the most magnificent secular medieval halls in Europe.