About Big Ben
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. Big Ben is one of London’s most sought-after attractions, which looks splendid after dusk when the clock faces of the tower are illuminated.
Big Ben was formerly known as St. Stephen’s Tower until 2012 and then it was christened Elizabeth Tower on the auspicious event of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It marked the celebration of 60 years of the British throne.
The clock hands measure 9 feet and 14 feet long and rise high around 320 feet, which is a sight to behold for tourists visiting London from all parts of the world. Big Ben stands proudly over 96 metres, and you need to ascend 334 steps to reach the belfry, the part of the clock tower in which the bells are installed. You will also need to climb 399 steps to the Ayrton Light right at the top of this imposing tower in London. Ayrton Light is the lantern at the top of Big Ben, which is lit when the House of Parliament sits after dark.
Sir Edmund Beckett Denison designed the iconic clock with the collaboration of Sir George Airy and Edward Dent, the clockmaker. Edmund’s prime contribution was a unique gravity escapement, which imparted unparalleled accuracy to the Big Ben.
How to Reach Big Ben
Reach Big Ben by bus, tube, or train. You can also reach Big Ben from Central London via several bus routes 12, 88, 87, 148, 159, 453, 793, or 717, a couple of which are the famous double-decker buses of London. Tourists can also take trains, especially the South Western and Southeastern Railway.
If you would like to avail the Tube, you will find Westminster Station just down the street, less than two minutes’ walk from the iconic Big Ben. The District, Jubilee, as well as Circle lines all halt at the station.
You can also opt for a bicycle tour to take a tour of the city, a pocket-friendly and fun way to see the best of London, including Big Ben. Since the iconic clock tower is in Central London, you can also explore other tourist attractions such as Houses of Parliament as well as Westminster Abbey, which are close to Big Ben. You can also travel by cab or drive your car and get to Big Ben from Central London.
What Not to Miss at Big Ben
There are quite some places to explore near Big Ben, London including:
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.
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.
Activities to Do near Big Ben
You can do numerous things at and near Big Ben. These are:
1. Take a tour of Westminster- Westminster is one of the key tourist hotspots and a perfect place for sightseeing. You can choose the guided walking tour, i.e. Royal London Tour most days a week. Besides, you can take the GPS-led audio tour anytime you like. Westminster also boasts of Harry Potter sights and you can tour these places as well.
2. 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.
3. Visit the London Dungeon- Experience numerous morbid historical events at the London Dungeon through exciting rides, interactive displays, and some amount of gallows wit or humour.
Other Essential Information About Big Ben
- Location: Big Ben is situated in the Palace of Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, United Kingdom.
- Timings: Big Ben’s guided tours are conducted each Saturday all through the year opening from 9.15 am until 4.30 pm. During the months of July and August, the tours take place each Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The timings are from 9.15 am to 4.30 pm. On Wednesday, the timings are from 1.15 pm to 4.30 pm.
Parliament has a recess for a period of three months during summer and also for Christmas and Easter holidays.
- Entry fee: The ticket price is £15 for adult tourists, £10 for students, £37 for families, and £6 for kids aging 5 years-16 years. However, children below five years can visit for free.
- 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.
Places to Eat near Big Ben
If you are a foodie, then try visiting these restaurants near Big Ben:
1. St. Stephen’s Tavern- This restaurant is just down the street from Parliament towards the north, where Winston Churchill used to drink in those days. The eatery serves traditional pub menu with meat pies, sandwiches, as well as chips all through the day.
2. London Marriott County Hall- The hotel is a convenient place to eat down the Westminster Bridge from the iconic Big Ben. It serves continental dishes in a casual ambiance together with several conventional dishes of England, including local sausages and fish and chips. Get an expansive view of London from the Rotunda Lounge while savoring light sandwiches. Do not miss out on the Library Lounge for some afternoon tea with your loved ones, while taking in the beauty of Big Ben right from here.
3. Westminster Arms- It’s a popular pub and wine bar, the upper stairs serving tourists and politicos and the downstairs is a quieter place, called Storey’s Wine Bar with a complete menu.
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.
Medical Facilities near Big Ben
You will find some of the best hospitals near Big Ben. In case of any medical emergency, you can choose from St. Thomas’ Hospital, University College Hospital, Royal Brompton Hospital, the London Clinic, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and more. These medical facilities have trained doctors, nurses, and friendly, helpful staff.
Travellers' Tip before visiting 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.