The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, is the meeting place for two chambers of the British government, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The first royal palace was built on this site in the 11th century. This site was the primary royal residence in London until largely destoyed by fire in 1512. Since then, the site has been used exclusively as the home for national government of the UK, barring short periods when fire or wartime bomb damage caused a temporary change of venue. The current building was completed in the 1870s.
The most infamous event in the history of parliament must surely be the gunpowder plot of 1605 when Guido or Guy Fawkes and his confederates attempted to blow up the building and the government. The foiled plot is still celebrated annually on 5th November with bonfires and fireworks.
The phrase lobbying comes from the central "lobby" of the building where elected representatives may meet with each other and with members of the public.
On the outside of the building is a statue of Oliver Cromwell erected in 1899. In Parliament Square a brooding Winston Churchill oversees democracy in the capital. A statue of Queen Boudicca and her chariot, on the embankment next to the palace, is a popular meeting place.
The famous tower at the northern end of the building, often referred to as Big Ben is actually called the Elizabeth Tower. The name Big Ben refers to the largest of the five bells in the tower. It is Big Ben that peels on the hour, the first chime being the note that marks the hour.
Guided tours of the building are available.