London Drum

No 10 Downing Street – Stand outside the gates of the UK Prime Minister’s London residence

Where? Downing Street, Westminster Opening times? Closed to the public Time required? A typical visit is 10 mins Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 88, 159 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Westminster Circle District Jubilee Other nearby stations: Charing Cross and Embankment Train fares

Craig’s review… There are only two kinds of people who stand outside Downing Street when the air is minus-5 (it’s freezing cold this morning) – the curious and the furious. The curious are the tourists. The furious are home grown.

But the cold must be keeping everyone away today because there’s only one other person here (six if you include the coppers, seven if you include me) and I recognise him off the telly – he’s a Brussels brouhaha and if you followed Brexit on the telly then you’ll know exactly who I mean.

EU Remainer activist Steve BrayPhoto: Craig Cross
EU remainer activist Steve Bray standing outside Downing Street

He’s that posh guy in a top hat and blue suit who patrols the pavement outside Parliament brandishing a fistful of polemic plaques. He’s standing by Downing Street this morning trying to straighten up his spangled hat so it doesn’t topple off into a puddle.

The famous front door of No.10 Downing Street

You’ll have to get lucky to see the Prime Minister coming out of No.10 but you can just about see a thin sliver of the front door if you look halfway up the street on the righthand side (look for one with a lamplight over the top). You’re looking at it from a very shallow angle but if the PM did happen to come out then you would easily see him.

View of No.10 from behind the Downing Street gatesPhoto: Craig Cross
View of No.10 from behind the Downing Street gates (the black building straight ahead)

They didn’t erect those big security gates until the final years of Margaret Thatcher so the public were actually allowed to walk up and down here until 1989 – imagine if still they allowed that now! The poor PM would never get any sleep with all the tannoys and tambourines outside his window.

Thatcher also replaced the original oak door with a bomb-proof blast one to stop the IRA dropping pipe bombs through her letterbox. Apparently it’s made of solid steel and takes about six Arnold Schwarzeneggers and a couple of Sylvester Stallones to lift it so if you’re thinking of shoulder-barging it down then forget it, not even a tank could put a dent in that thing. Other security measures include no keyhole (you have to open it from the inside), a six-foot copper on the doorstep, and if you manage to get past all of that then you’ll have the Prime Minister’s yapping family dog roaming around inside.

Front door of No.10 Downing StreetPhoto: Craig Cross
View of No.10 Downing Street’s front door (behind the arched lamplight)

I got a bit lucky with the view this morning because a delivery guy has just arrived with a trolley full of parcels and the gun cop’s had to open the gate to check them.

As I’m standing here watching him rattle them up and down all I’m thinking is I hope there aren’t any bombs inside or we’re all going to get blown to smithereens. He’s even held one up to his ear so he can have a quick listen. Now, I don’t claim to be an explosives expert but I’m pretty sure that bombs only go tick in the movies so I don’t know what he’s expecting to hear, but it’s given me a better view of the famous front door than I’ve ever had so I’m happy.

Watching the UK Prime Minister leave the residence

The gates blocking off Downing StreetPhoto: Craig Cross
The front gates outside Downing Street

You’ll know the Prime Minister’s coming out when the police start clearing a space in front of the gate so his Bentley can speed away without stopping. But it won’t be like Trooping the Colour with the King sitting there smiling and waving at all the happy tourists from his open-top carriage, because the PM just hides behind the blacked-out windows with blue lights bouncing off them from the sirens on the bikes. It would be a bit like trying to take a photo of a criminal through those tinted windows on an armoured cop van as it speeds away from court.

Protesters opposite Downing Street

Protesters camping out opposite Downing StreetPhoto: Craig Cross
Protesters camping out opposite Downing Street

I don’t blame him for hiding inside though, because imagine how it must feel seeing a forest of angry banners at the end of your street every day. He must feel like one of those military generals staring out of his tent at an enemy army on a distant hill. When the King wakes up in the morning he has a brass band playing bagatelles beneath his window – the PM has a boorish chorus of cranks and crazies camped out over the other side of Whitehall.

Today’s protesters are just a load of forty-year-old teenagers sitting in deckchairs with their mittened fingers wrapped around big Thermos flasks like they’re hugging hot water bottles, and they’ve turned the railings into a patchwork quilt of homemade posters demanding that he shut down all the power stations, replant the Brazilian rainforests, and personally apologise for something that happened back in 1192.

Worth a visit? Value for money? n/aGood for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try Houses of Parliament (you can walk it in 6 mins). Whilst you’re walking down Whitehall you might like to Parliament Square which is just two minutes down the road. That’s where you can see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The Churchill War Rooms are just around the corner. Horse Guards and Banqueting House are a short stroll in the opposite direction

London Squire bookThe owns londondrum.com and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon. This review was updated on

Your comments and questions

American I walked down Whitehall just to have a look and there was nothing there, just a big gate with some policeman standing behind. I tried to peer over their shoulders but I didn't really know what I was looking for. I saw two businessmen standing around talking outside one of the buildings and wondered if they were famous politicians. I know what the Prime Minister looks like but didn't see him. You can't really see much through the gate so unless they happen to open it up while you are there so they can drive out it's a waste of time.

PeterH I am old enough to remember the 1960s when you could actually walk along Downing Street past the front door, and I have a photo of myself standing near it. But now it has been gated off at both ends so the best you can do is see it from afar.

JP I have been to London 20 times, in the early times I walked to the number 10, stood 2 meters from the door, said good morning to the Bobby. The times have changed since, on my next visit the street was chained up, I did tell the very nice guard at the gate about the good old days.

CHK Do they ever let people walk down Downing Street, like when he's out or something? The Queen lets people inside Buckingham Palace when she's not there, so I don't see why they can't do that

Craig Hi CHK. I suppose it's all about security, but I kind of half agree with you - they do let people inside the Houses of Parliament and House of Commons after all. But it's worth keeping an eye on the Open House website because they did once open the building up during Open House Weekend. But whether they will ever do it again, who knows - openhouselondon.open-city.org.uk

Sam Worth noting: there's another gate at the other end of the street and I often see the black cars coming out that way instead and roaring past Horse Guards, presumably to avoid the crowds at the front entrance

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