Houses of Parliament
If you're thinking of booking a hotel near the Houses of Parliament with Lastminute.com why not take a tour of the iconic Thameside complex which has witnessed so much momentous history?
The current Houses of Parliament were built between 1840 and 1870 following a fire in 1834 which destroyed most of the historic buildings except the magnificent medieval Westminster Hall. But did you know that the disaster was recorded in a series of drawings and watercolours by JMW Turner?
You can take a guided or an audio tour of the buildings on Saturdays throughout the year and on most weekdays during parliamentary recess. The audio tour lasts between an hour and 75 minutes and includes Westminster Hall, The Lords Chamber, The Queen's Robing Room and Central Lobby.
UK residents can arrange a tour of the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben through their MP or member of the House of Lords. You can also watch Parliament at work during Prime Minister's Question Time – you will need to queue for a free ticket – or during debates or select committee proceedings.
Arts and culture
Courtauld Gallery is not exactly a secret but doesn't attract the size of crowds that Tate Modern or the National Gallery does. Which makes exploring its wonderful collections a positive pleasure. It is one of the finest small art museums and its holding of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work include Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergére, and a version of Déjeuner sur l'Herbe. There are also seven paintings by Cezanne, three by Gaugin as well as work by Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh.
Things to see and do
A 15-minute walk or a short Tube ride takes you to the Handel House Museum at 25 Brook Street where the composer lived from 1723 until his death in 1759. It was here he composed masterpieces such as Messiah. Finely-restored Georgian interiors house exhibitions, displays and music recitals.
At Banqueting House, Inigo Jones' crowning achievement, you can still see the first-floor window from which Charles I stepped on January 30, 1649 on to the scaffold where he was beheaded. The building is the only remaining substantive part of Palace of Whitehall. Marvel at the extravagantly-decorated ceiling by Rubens and explore the undercroft designed as a drinking den for James I.
Eating and drinking
Old Westminster Library provides a splendid setting in which to enjoy Indian cuisine fit for a Maharajah. The Cinnamon Club blends high Victorian interiors with fresh takes on old favourites. A favourite of the likes of Gordon Brown, Cherie Blair and Ed Ball, you could run into your MP.
Or sample Quirinale, three minutes' walk from Westminster Abbey, an upmarket Italian restaurant consistently voted one of the best in London. Many of the ingredients are imported from Italy.
And for drinks try The White Hart in Cornwall Road which offers a great range of hand-pulled real ales, an extensive selection of continental beers and a good list of wines and champagnes.
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