Big Ben Overview

Big Ben or The Clock Tower is the most famous landmark of London which is popularly known for its striking clock and a gigantic bell. The formal name of Big Ben is Elizabeth Tower, formerly St. Stephen's Tower. The big tower represents all the four emblems of the nations of the United Kingdom by displaying a shamrock for Ireland, thistle for Scotland, leek for Wales and a rose for England. This iconic tower is named after Sir Benjamin Hall. Since 1987, Big Ben has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

London’s iconic clock tower, Big Ben, is one of the city’s renowned landmarks known for its gigantic bell and accuracy. The bell alone weighs 13.7 metric tons, usually associated with the entire clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. Explore this sought-after attraction as part of our Europe tour packages, especially captivating after dusk when the clock faces are illuminated, offering a splendid view.

London's Big Ben is situated in the Elizabeth Tower at the north end of The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, Central London. This tower was built by Augustus Pugin and was completed in 1859 with the most accurate four-faced chiming clock in the world. The tower's height is about 316 ft and includes over 334 steps from the base to the top. Big Ben is designed in Pugin's Gothic revival style and is commonly used in the shot of film sets in London. It is also considered to be the third tallest clock in the whole of the UK. This tower is designed so that a ventilation shaft runs from the ground level to the belfry, which acts as the air-conditioner.

The big clock comprises 324 pieces in opalescent glass, with the dials made up of cast iron. The metal hour hand of the clock is 8.75 ft and the height of the copper minute hand is about 14 ft long. In order to mask the air pollution in the city, the frame and hands of the clock were painted black. As a reminder, the four-quarter bells strike at 15, 30 and 45 minutes past the hour. The whole tower has been under renovation since 2017, and there is no chiming or striking of the clock. So, it is temporarily closed to the public till the year 2022.

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• The clock on the Big Ben is used as a cultural symbol of the United Kingdom, often coupled with a red double-decker bus or a black cab in the foreground.
• During New Year celebrations, the whole UK witnesses the chiming of the Big Ben, which is aired on radios and televisions. At midnight, the fireworks placed in the clock tower explode to mark new beginnings.
• When the Parliament nearby is in session, a special light above the clock gets illuminated.
• DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM is the Latin inscription under the clock, which means " O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First."
• The diameter of each dial in the clock is 7 meters.

How To Reach

One can easily reach Big Ben after reaching London. It can be reached either by bus or train from all major places in the city. The routes of several buses from Central London to the tower include 12, 88, 1148, 159 etc., including the double-decker buses. The trains destined to Big Ben are the South Western and Southeastern Railways. You can always opt for a cab, walking or a bicycle tour to get to Big Ben. One should not miss witnessing such an iconic landmark from a hop-on hop-off bus, or cruise.

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Best Time To Visit

It is always recommended to visit Big Ben at dusk or in the proper evening. This will allow the visitors to witness the light settings in the tower. The clock on all the 4-sides of the tower is illuminated with the help of electric bulbs. Though one can also visit during the day, the experience becomes twice as grand during dusk.

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Other Essential Information

- Height: Big Ben, London stands tall at 315 feet, which is 96 metres. 

- The number of floors: Big has 11 floors right up to the belfry. 

- Distance from London City Centre: The distance of Big Ben from London City Centre is 0.5 miles through A3212 and 0.7 miles through Northumberland Avenue and Victoria Embankment A3212. Big Ben is just two minutes from Central London. 

History of Big Ben

The formal name of Big Ben is Elizabeth Tower, which was built as part of Charles Barry’s design, who was a British Architect responsible for reconstruction of the Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament. He rebuilt it after a fire breakout damaged major portions of the Old Palace in 1834.

Charles Barry followed a neo-gothic style and raised the new structure for Big Ben after consulting Augustus Pugin, the designer of this landmark. During this period, Barry was the chief architect of the New Palace. The design of the clock tower was Augustus’s last work before the architect descended into insanity and finally passed away. 

The bells of the clock tower were replaced in April 1858 and the people of London could hear the clock chiming for the first time in July 1859. Again, in September 1859, the impressive clock tower bell cracked owing to its enormous weight and therefore, it was taken out of charge. However, the bell was modified to include a lightweight hammer in 1859.

The great clock is undergoing renovation currently, which would cost millions of pounds and take at least four years until completion since August 2017. The clock will not chime during the period of restoration, the longest time that it has remained silent in its history of 158 years. The clock will not chime until the year 2021 except for special occasions like New Year and Remembrance Sunday. The 150th anniversary of the iconic Big Ben was celebrated with great delight and gusto on May 31, 2009.

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Places To Visit Near Big Ben:

  1. Westminster Bridge: Take a leisurely stroll with your family or friends down the bridge for some splendid view in all directions. Be in awe of the Strand, Parliament, London Eye, and South Bank while appreciating the smells and sounds of London that makes it so inimitable. 
  2. Westminster Abbey: Attend the service at Westminster Abbey, which is open for the public to worship. View that spot, where England’s rulers have been crowned for many years. You will also be delighted to see the spot where Kate and Will exchanged their sincere vows. Checkout and Book Westminster Abbey Tickets Now!
  3. Cavalry Museum: Take delight in watching soldiers busy with their horses in this 18th-century stables through a glazed partition. You can also know about their challenging training in this cavalry museum.
  4. Thames River Cruise: You can take a tour of the River Thames and take boat rides. There are several boat cruises you can pick from including Tourist Cruises, Hop-on-Hop-off Cruises, Lunch and Dinner Cruises, and SpeedBoat Thrill Rides. You should checkout best offers on Thames Hop On Hop Off River Cruise to know more!
  5. London Dungeon: Experience numerous morbid historical events at the London Dungeon through exciting rides, interactive displays, and some amount of gallows wit or humour. Click Here To Book London Dungeon Tickets Now!

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Places to Stay near Big Ben

You will find plenty of places to stay near Big Ben including: 

1. Conrad London St. James- The place is less than five minutes’ walk from Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The property features modern spacious rooms with en suite bathrooms, mini-bar, large 42-inch flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, Nespresso machine, and of course a restaurant. 

2. Corinthia Hotel London- Make your stay enjoyable at this luxurious hotel, just minutes from London’s Whitehall and Trafalgar Square. The hotel boasts of AC rooms with LCD TV, iPod docking station, free Wi-Fi, plush bathrooms, classy restaurants, two bars, and even florist services. 

3. The Sanctuary House Hotel- It’s situated in Westminster and less than five minutes’ walk from Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The grand Victorian hotel boasts of modern AC rooms with flat-screen TV, tea and coffee making amenities, contemporary en suite bathroom, free Wi-Fi, and a restaurant

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Tips To Visit Big Ben

There are a couple of tips to follow before you visit Big Ben. These are: 

1. Take walking or bus tours if you want to visit this iconic landmark of London. You will find many guides, who will tell you about the history of the place. 

2. If you would like to take some nice photographs, take shots of Big Ben from the Westminster Bridge nearby. 

3. If you would want to see the inside of Big Ben and climb to the top, plan your visit in advance. 

4. Car parking is not easy because Big Ben is located in Central London. The nearest car parking space is approximately one-third mile off at Great College Street and other parking lots at Westminster Bridge Road and Abington Street.

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Point of Interest for Big Ben
Prison Room

Prison Room

It is inside the tower, accessible from the House of Commons. This has not been used as a prison since 1880. Currently, it is occupied by the Petitions Committee, which checks the petitions directed to Parliament.

Ayrton Light

Ayrton Light

Ayrton Light is named after Acton Smee Ayrton, who added this feature to the tower in 1873. It is located above the belfry and has a lantern-lit after dark when the House of Commons sits. Tourists can easily visit it.

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Big Ben FAQs

Why is Big Ben called Big Ben?

The name Big Ben was initially given to the Great Bell: christened after Sir Benjamin Hall, who supervised the set up of the Great Bell. It’s also believed that Big Ben was named after Benjamin Caunt, the British heavyweight boxing champ of the country. Then, the iconic Big Ben is the nickname of the Great Bell.

Why is Big Ben famous?

Big Ben is famous for its great historical and architectural significance and therefore, considered the most sought-after and outstanding landmark to see in London. The iconic structure has 334 steps that you can climb to get a splendid view of London. It stands as a symbol of the British Parliament, and the clock gives the most accurate time in the world. Big Ben makes headlines even when the chimes are off by just two seconds in a year.

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What happened to Big Ben?

The iconic Big Ben was rebuilt after a fire breakout that damaged a massive portion of Westminster Palace in the year 1834. The Great Bell first peeled after the clock tower underwent reconstruction in 1858. The original clock tower bell cracked soon after it was set up and subsequently replaced by a new bell in the year 1859.

Is Big Ben the biggest clock in the world?

The Great Bell housed in the four-faced tower of London is the highest clock tower in the world. The clock was the largest in the world at the time when the same installed in the mid 19th century. However, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia has the largest clock face in the world.

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Can you go inside Big Ben?

No, usually you cannot go inside Big Ben because you won’t be permitted to do so unless you are a British resident. If you have citizenship, you will need to get in touch with a Member of Parliament for arranging a tour inside Big Ben. You must contact them at least six months before, and only then, you’ll be allowed to ascend the 334 steps and learn about the astounding mechanism of Big Ben. If you are a tourist, you can only appreciate the beauty of this iconic structure from outside. However, as a visitor, you can visit the inside of the Houses of Parliament to witness the committee hearings.

When Big Ben last repaired?

The last repair and renovation of Big Ben took place between 1983 and 1985. Currently, the tower is undergoing repairs to preserve the same, improving the facilities, as well as ensuring its structural integrity for the time to come. Big Ben will recommence its usual tolling and striking in 2021 after the renovation work is complete.

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How much does it cost to repair Big Ben?

The estimated repair cost of Big Ben was £29-£45 million in 2016 considering the complexity or intricacy of the project. However, lately, the actual repair and renovation costs have doubled to £61 million, according to the parliamentary authorities. Conservation of the clock tower has increased to millions of pounds than previously projected.

How accurate is Big Ben?

Based on the reports by BBC, Big Ben is running up to six minutes late as per Ian Westworth, clocksmith. The iconic clock tower is characteristically exact to within two seconds of the original time. Westworth describes Big Ben’s behavior as unpredictable, of late.

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What is Big Ben's real name?

The original name of the iconic Big Ben, London was the clock tower; however, it was christened Elizabeth Tower in the year 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, marking the completion of 60 years of her rule.

Why did they stop Big Ben?

The iconic Big Ben’s chiming stopped on August 21, 2017, for a period of four years to allow repair and renovation of the clock tower. The bells were silenced to ensure that the workers working on this tower do not suffer from any hearing problems. However, Senior Member of Parliaments as well Theresa May, Prime Minister criticized this decision.

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How loud is Big Ben?

The decibel level of Big Ben is 118 approximately, which is deafening enough to cause hearing problems. A hammer of 200 kg strikes the tin bell and copper to make that bell chime. The tin bell weighs approx 13.7 tons, however, it produced a tuneful note ‘E’ while it’s struck.

Was Big Ben bombed in World War II?

Yes, the Commons Chamber received a major hit by an extremely explosive bomb. Even the wood hammer-beam roof of the old Westminster Hall was set ablaze by descending explosives. William Rufus constructed the 600-year Hall by in 1097 and again rebuilt by Richard II in 1399 and 1401 when the hall caught fire due to falling incendiaries.

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How long will Big Ben be silent?

The iconic Big Ben will not chime for four years due to repair and conservation work since August 2017. The clock will not chime until 2021 except for special events and festivities like New Year and Remembrance Sunday.

Is Big Ben being renovated?

Yes, Big Ben has been under renovation since August 2017. It would remain silent until 2021 because of a four-year repair and renovation programme to conserve the iconic London landmark.

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Why is Big Ben so special?

The Elizabeth Tower and the Houses of Parliament, commonly known as Big Ben is one of the most iconic landmarks in London as well as a coveted tourist destination in Britain. After its completion in 1859, the clock was the largest and most exact four-faced chiming and striking clock in the world.

Does Big Ben feature a pendulum?

Yes, it has a pendulum bob weighing 203 kg and each pendulum period is two seconds. The overall weight of this pendulum is 299 kg. The pendulum within the clock tower is protected in a wind-resistant area and beats every two seconds.

Who built Big Ben?

Augustus Pugin, the British architect, built Big Ben and constructed this iconic landmark following a neo-Gothic style. It was built to serve as the standard clock in London.

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How was Big Ben made?

Big Ben was built using materials brought from all over England, especially cast-iron girders procured from Regent Canal Ironworks. Besides, Cornish granite and Yorkshire Anston stone were used to build the tower exterior. Again, a foundry in Birmingham supplied iron-roofing plates for building the roof of this iconic landmark.

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