Watching the MPs inside the Houses of Commons is No.3 in our Top 10 list of free attractions
The best time to watch a debate in the House of Parliament is on at 12 noon on a Wednesday, because that's when the Prime Minister gets grilled by the opposition.
The atmosphere is usually pretty raucous, especially during the first ten minutes when the Leaders of the Opposition get to their feet to ask their questions. Commentators have often likened PMQs to a bear pit, or a 6th-form debating society, and first-time visitors are always surprised by how many digs and insults fly across the chamber. Craig has attended PMQs himself, and the barracking that drifts up to the public gallery with all the MPs yaying and naying and waving their hands about is electrifying. The Speaker of the House is forced to interject every few minutes just to calm both sides down.
Note: Whilst the event is free to attend, you still have to get hold of a ticket beforehand by writing to your local MP. If you don't know who your MP is then you can look it up here. They only hold PMQs once a week, and there aren't many seats inside the chamber, so don't expect to get a ticket for the next few weeks. When Craig wrote his letter to his MP he ended up getting a spot three months later -- that's how much advance planning you need to do.
If you're an overseas tourist then you obviously won't have a local MP, so there's no way of getting a ticket, but you can still try and queue up outside the Cromwell Green Visitor Entrance and hope that some of that day's tickets go unclaimed (opposite the back end of Westminster Abbey). If you wait there from 11.30 AM, and cross your fingers (and toes), then maybe you'll get lucky. But if truth be told it's highly unlikely. You may find it easier to attend a normal debate in the House of Commons instead, where no such restrictions apply.
Make sure you read Craig's review of Prime Minister's Questions before you go, to get a sense of the rowdy atmosphere inside the chamber when it all kicks off. He also explains in detail what you have to do to get a ticket, and where you have to wait on the day. Feel free to ask him some questions about PMQs. You might like to read his House of Commons review as well, which describes a debate without the Prime Minister. His House of Lords review is also worth a look.
If you enjoy watching political ding-dong battles then Craig also recommends a visit to Mayor's Question Time at City Hall. The Common Council at Guildhall is also worth a try (although it's rather sedate compared to PMQs!). Or how about spending Sunday lunchtime at Speakers' Corner, to watch the public have a go?
Craig’s review – “It's a big day for the Prime Minister today, because he's going to meet me for the first time. He's probably been informed that I'm coming, and will put on an extra special show. It's a bit of a rigmarole getting into Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs). It's only on once a week, for half-hour on Wednesday, and you can't just turn up and queue like on any other day. Wh… continued”
Saturday tour of the Houses of Parliament – Every Sat – The Houses of Parliament offers guided tours on most Saturdays when the MPs have returned to their constituencies.
Houses of Parliament tour with afternoon tea – Every Sat – Enjoy a Saturday tour of Parliament, and then enjoy an afternoon tea on the Terrace Pavilion overlooking the Thames.
Listen to MPs in the Houses of Commons – 8 Jan to 20 Dec 2018 – Visitors can enter the Houses of Parliament for free, and watch MPs debating in the House of Lords and House of Commons.
Sadiq Khan, at Mayor’s Question Time – 13 Sep 2018 to 21 Mar 2019 – The London Assembly will be grilling Sadiq Khan at Mayor's Question Time, in their monthly meeting at City Hall.
Common Council meeting with the Lord Mayor – 18 Oct, 6 Dec 2018, 10 Jan, 7 Mar, 25 Apr, 23 May, 20 Jun, 18 Jul, 12 Sep, 10 Oct and 5 Dec 2019 – Attend a meeting of the Common Council at the Guildhall and see the Aldermen and Lord Mayor of London
Listen to a speech at Speakers’ Corner – Every Sun (around noon) – If you visit Speakers' Corner at Sunday lunchtime you can listen to an orator stand up and discuss whatever they like -- all in the name of free speech.
A Tudor Christmas, with Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke – 19 Nov 2018 – Historical author Alison Weir will be talking with Siobhan Clarke about how the Tudors celebrated Christmas.
You might also be interested in attending these other political debates
Here are some more free events in London if you want a cheap day out
Disclaimer: Event details can change at short notice and you should reconfirm everything before making plans