Always thought Big Ben was the name of the clock tower itself? Well, Big Ben is the name of the huge bell that sits inside it. And Elizabeth Tower is the name of the actual tower. As one of London’s most iconic symbols, you’ve probably lost count of the amount of times you’ve seen it in films, TV shows and posters! So why not go and see the real thing? Plans for seeing all the London sights nearby? Book a room at our County Hall Premier Inn hotel that sits right next to the London Eye and Houses of Parliament - it’s all on your doorstep here.
Completed in 1859, Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower were designed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin as replacements for the Palace of Westminster that got burned down in 1834. A chiming bell was also required but the first one made suffered a major crack and had to be remade in Whitechapel, London. Historically, the famous Big Ben has always dramatically chimed on the hour every hour, with the four quarter bells ringing on every quarter hours, playing the Cambridge Chimes, a hymn that derives from famous composer Handel. Telling the most accurate time in the country, the clock itself uses a contraption of gravity, a pendulum and a stack of pennies that change the clock for daylight saving and time changes. Standing over 96 metres tall, you can find it at the North end of The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, right next to the River Thames.
If you really want to get that atmospheric shot for your photo albums, check out Big ben at night. The four clock faces light up and the clock tower’s silhouette in the night sky really is one of a kind. Surprisingly, tours around the inside of Big Ben are not permitted for the general public, however, UK residents can ask for permission by writing to their local MP - just write way in advance! Don’t fret if you miss out, tours around the Houses of Parliament are up for grabs for anyone.
Did you know?
Big Ben has stopped chiming until around 2021 as it undergoes renovations on the clock face glass, the clock hands and the tower itself. The silencing will be the longest period in its history!
With so many other sights to see in the eyeline of Big Ben, we suggest getting on your walking shoes and making a day of it.
Houses of Parliament
Home to the famous Commons and the Lords, the Houses of Parliament are attached to Big Ben and are another iconic building in the London skyline. Not as daunting as they look, you can actually walk into the Houses of Parliament and watch a debate in the public gallery - just no heckling allowed! There is often a queue to get in, especially on Wednesdays when the Prime Minister is around but there are also guided tours available throughout most of the week.
Sitting opposite Big Ben, you can’t miss the world’s largest ferris wheel - the London Eye. Get a spot on one of the 32 rotating capsules to experience stunning views over the Thames as the city and its landmarks unfold beneath you on a breathtaking 30 minute ride.
Who doesn’t want to see the Queen’s home? Right. So a visit to one of the world’s best-known tourist attractions is a must. The outside alone is a sight to see but come August and September, tours are available to see the actual inside so booking in advance is highly recommended. If you do miss out, between April and July you can see the changing of the guard on alternate days at 11.30am.
Due to the size and stature of Big Ben, it’s easy to see it from anywhere in and around Westminster. With the underground stations close by, it’s always best to see this part of London by foot. You can pack so much in!
There are so many buses to take you around this part of London where you can get to see other fantastic views around the city. Take the 11 for example, this bus will pass by and stop off at Westminster Cathedral, St Paul’s, Somerset House and The Strand.
Westminster tube station is the closest station to Big Ben and is just a two minute walk away. An eight minute stroll are stations St James’ Park and Embankment - both of which allow for lovely scenic routes to the big clock.
If you’re coming by rail, Charing Cross station is the place for you to jump off at. A 10 minute walk away from Big Ben, you’ll be there in no time.
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