My First Day at UK Parliament

Tour guide Melissa at the State Opening

One of our tour guides Melissa recalls her first day working in the Palace of Westminster. Melissa’s manager said “There’s over 1,000 rooms and three miles of corridors. Now get lost!”.

"My boss wasn’t being rude. As part of the induction process new starters in the Visit Parliament team are given time to literally ‘get lost.’

As it turned out, this wasn’t a bad way to learn the layout of such a complex building. I just wished I’d packed a compass and some Kendal Mint Cake because it was going to take more than an afternoon to work this one out! All in all, I spent approximately six months never knowing where I was.

One of the things that helped me find my way around was only being shown one ladies’ toilet. Strange I know, but three times a day, wherever I was in the Palace, I had no choice but to return to that same loo. This helped me join the dots and connect the labyrinthine corridors, cloisters and courtyards with the alleyways, elevators and staircases.

Wandering through the building that afternoon should have been a useful exercise, but as I gawped and gasped my way around, stumbling in awe through the ornately decorated Royal Apartments, then into the iconic House of Commons Chamber and the magnificent House of Lords, I forgot I was supposed to be concentrating on finding my way around.

All new starters at the Palace of Westminster must have that same wide-eyed, open-mouthed, gormless expression because the uniformed security staff, the tail-coated doorkeepers and even the occasional MP and Baroness took pity on me, gently turning me around and getting me back on track to where I was supposed to be going.

Even now, after two years I still have the odd wobble when someone needs escorting to a room so obscure it is rarely visited by anyone, let alone me. Luckily, they don’t know the way either and it takes so long to walk this vast building I have time to work it out en route.

Several wrong turns and a missed staircase or two later, I take comfort from the fact they’ll never know I literally took them all around the Houses to reach their destination!"

Image: Melissa enjoying State Opening day

Sign up for visiting and Big Ben updates

Sign up to receive our newsletterOpt-in to our newsletter and receive the latest news about visiting and Big Ben.

Virtual tour

Visitors on a tour in the Robing Room image by Roger Harris

Explore some of the most famous rooms and discover more about the building's fascinating history and present day use.