London/Westminster

For other places with the same name, see Westminster (disambiguation).
The Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster

Westminster is a district of central London.

Understand

Westminster is a city in its own right, the twin to the ancient City of London further east and historically they jointly formed the focus of what is today regarded as London. The Palace of Westminster came to be the principal royal residence after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, and later housed the developing Parliament and law courts of England. The neighbouring Westminster Abbey became the traditional venue of the coronation of England regents. Westminster has therefore been the seat of royal, and later parliamentary, government and power for 900 years.

As a result, many of its attractions are of an historical and cultural variety. Even so Westminster very much retains a bustling, modern feel as the centre of British government and is often used as shorthand for Parliament and the political community (including the elected Government) of the United Kingdom generally.

For the traveller and for the scope of this article, it is important to understand though that the district of Westminster is bounded to the north by Trafalgar Square and Mayfair, to the east by Covent Garden and to the west by Knightsbridge and Chelsea.

St. James's is the area of Westminster that encompasses Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Westminster and the eponymously named park. This is a very affluent area of the city and has a great deal to offer visitors. Belgravia to the west of Buckingham Palace is probably the grandest residential area in the whole of the United Kingdom. Victoria and Pimlico in the south-west are the least grand parts of the district but still have much to offer including the Tate Britain, some wonderful Regency architecture and a number of good value accommodation options.

Get in

By bus

Victoria Bus Station, in front of the train station with the same name and is really more like lots of bus stops in one area. Nevertheless, lots of bus routes come through the station and out again to other parts of London.

By tube

The district is serviced by the following tube stations:

By train

The nearest mainline train stations are London Waterloo and London Victoria. It is worth taking the tube from these two stations to arrive at Westminster.

By coach

Victoria Coach Station is not far from the similarly names bus and train stations. Coaches arrive here from across the country and all over Europe. Multiple other coach lines pick up and drop off in the same area, especially on either side of Colonnade Walk, a row of shops and office blocks between Victoria train and coach stations.

By boat

See

Westminster Abbey

Palace of Westminster

Westminster Bridge, Big Ben and The Palace of Westminster

Watch committees and debates

While the house is sitting (most of the year), visitors can sit in the Strangers' Gallery of the Commons and Lords. There is no charge to do this.

You should queue at St. Stephen's Entrance (opposite Westminster Abbey). Depending on the popularity of debates happening in the Houses, queueing for admission can take 30min or more. Avoid Wednesday lunchtime when the Prime Minister takes questions, and you are unlikely to find space at all unless you have a ticket from a Member of Parliament. If you do not wish to visit the Commons, then tell one of the police officers standing guard outside that you only wish to see the House of Lords, and you should be able to enter immediately.

Tours of Parliament

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Parliament Square

Pimlico

Royal Parks

Photograph looking east over St. James's Park Lake from the Blue Bridge, with the London Eye and parks of White Hall visible above the trees in the distance.
St. James's Park

Statues and monuments

As the centre of government and a city with nigh on a millennium of history, Westminster is not short of statuary. A lot of this is part of other attractions, such as the statesmen commemorated in Parliament Sq, but many stand elsewhere.

Victoria

Whitehall

Do

Soldier of the Coldstream Guards, with tunic buttons in pairs, in red tunic and bearskin, guarding Buckingham Palace.
Queen's Guard from the Coldstream Guards regiment

Guards

Due to the number of palaces, government buildings and barracks in the area, there are several opportunities to witness guards and the ceremonies related to them. Buckingham Palace and some other royal residences are guarded by the Queen's Guard while the Queen's Life Guard are on duty on the other side of St James's Park, at Horse Guards Parade near Whitehall. Along the same lines, there are also the less ostentatious armed police guarding Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament, but they do not perform any ceremonies.

The Queen's Guard are usually drawn from one of the five regiments of Foot Guards in the British Army, wearing their dress uniforms of red tunics and bearskins (or a grey overcoat in poor weather). Occasionally soldiers from other regiments, including those of Commonwealth nations, form the Guard instead. When the Queen is in residence, there are four guards on duty outside Buckingham Palace; at other times there are just two. Guards are also on duty outside St. James' Palace.

The Queen's Life Guard is drawn from the Household Cavalry which is made up of two regiments, the Life Guards and the Blues & Royals. The Household Cavalry are the monarch's official bodyguard. When the Queen is in residence in Buckingham Palace, there are fifteen guards on duty; at other times there are just twelve. Both regiments have similar uniforms but the Life Guards wear red tunics and the Blues & Royals wear blue tunics.

The five regiments of the Queen's Guard wear very similar dress uniforms but they can be recognised by little details. The shoulder and collar badges of each regiment are different but this may be hard to spot for many travellers. The key clues are the buttons on the tunic and the plume on the side of the bearskin. Each regiment arranges the buttons in groups, with a different number of buttons per group for each regiment. Each regiment also wears a certain colour of plume on a certain side of the bearskin (except the Scots Guards who wear no plume at all).

Recognising the Queen's Guard
Regiment Buttons Plumes
Grenadier Guards Singly White (left)
Coldstream Guards Pairs Red (right)
Scots Guards Threes None
Irish Guards Fours Blue (right)
Welsh Guards Fives Green and white (left)

Theatres

Outside of Leicester Square and Covent Garden, there are several important theatres in Westminster, most notably near Victoria Station. For current programmes please check the relevant theatre website or the official London theatreland listings. Budget travellers should look for last minute bookings and off-peak performances. Most of the booking office numbers given will only work from within the United Kingdom. If you want to make a booking from overseas, use the relevant website.

Tours

Buy

Statue of Beau Brummell in Jermyn Street
Jermyn St

A lot of the land in this district is owned by a small number of entities—most of Belgravia is owned by the Duke of Westminster via his family's Grosvenor Group property company and a lot of the rest comes under the Crown Estate, the Royal Parks, or central government—and the residents prefer exclusivity, so chain stores have mostly been kept out of the northern, more upper class, areas. Victoria, on the other hand, hosts a lot of the common high street shops found elsewhere in the UK, as do the riverside areas Pimlico and Millbank.

Clothing

Perhaps the world's most famous shirts are made in Jermyn St, SW1, just south of Saville Row, and resident shirtmakers include:

Eat

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Below £15
Mid-range £15-50
Splurge £50+

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

The Star Tavern
CASK Pub & Kitchen
Wetherspoons, Victoria Station

Belgravia

Like neighbouring Knightsbridge, Belgravia was built with its pubs out of sight down side alleys and mews. They were intended for the household servants rather than their masters, who did not wish their views spoiled by such unsightly establishments.

Pimlico & Millbank

Victoria

Westminster

Sleep

Budget

There are lots of small B&Bs in the Pimlico and Victoria areas which offer very good value for this part of London.

Mid-range

Splurge

Cope

Public toilets

For £0.25 per message, visitors to the Westminster area can use a toilet-finding service called SatLav. Just text the word "toilet" to 80097 in order to receive a reply with directions to the nearest public toilet.

Go next

Routes through Westminster

Notting Hill-North Kensington South Kensington-Chelsea  W  E  Covent Garden The City
Wimbledon / West London South Kensington-Chelsea  W  E  Covent Garden The City
North London Mayfair-Marylebone  W  E  South Bank East London
West London South Kensington-Chelsea  W  E  Leicester Square Bloomsbury
END Lambeth  S  N  Mayfair-Marylebone Bloomsbury


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, February 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.