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Big Ben

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No trip to London is complete without a trip to see Big Ben (or its home, the Elizabeth Tower), the famous bell which rings every hour from the Houses of Parliament. The famous clock tower used to be open to UK residents for tours but is closed until 2021 due to the ongoing renovations. Still, it’s worth taking a tour that stops outside so that you can learn all about its history and place as a British cultural icon.
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4 Tips for Visiting the Big Ben

Big Ben | Photo: hams Nocete CC-BY-SA 2.0
1
The best spots for photos of Big Ben are on the opposite side of the river on the pedestrianized South Bank walk, or from the pavement on Westminster Bridge. Alternatively, you can try a spot in Parliament Square where you might even be able to squeeze the statue of Winston Churchill in for good measure.
Big Ben | Photo: Nick Amoscato CC-BY 2.0
2
Watch out for the Ayrton Light - it’s been switched off for the duration of the repairs, but once they’re done it will once again light up after dark whenever Parliament is in session.
3
Even though the tours of the Elizabeth Tower have been suspended, you can still take tours of the inside of the Houses of Parliament, which are fascinating in their own right.
4
You’ll also get a great view of Big Ben from one of the many hop-on-hop-off bus tours which go through central London - sit on the top floor of the bus in order to get the best photos and an authentic doubledecker bus experience!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Big Ben? And what’s the Elizabeth Tower?

Big Ben is the name of the largest bell inside the Elizabeth Tower, although many people often use the name to refer to the whole clock tower. The clock tower was built in 1859, and was the largest and most accurate four-faced striking clock in the world, quickly becoming an icon of London and the UK in general. The tower is home to 5 bells, four quarter bells which strike every 15 minutes and Big Ben, which chimes the hour.

Woher kommt der Name Big Ben?

The name is a bit of a mystery, even today. While it’s officially called the Great Bell, It’s generally accepted that it took its nickname from Sir Benjamin Hall, whose name is inscribed on the bell and who was the Commissioner for Works who oversaw its installation in the tower. There’s also an urban legend that the bell was named after Benjamin Caunt, a 19th-century bare-knuckle boxer from Nottinghamshire. He was given the nickname of Big Ben after becoming the heavyweight champion of England in 1841.

Can we go inside to see the bells?

Prior to the renovation work (which is expected to last until late 2020 or early 2021), it was possible for UK residents to book a tour of the Elizabeth Tower to visit Big Ben. They were able to book through either their local Member of Parliament or a member of the House of Lords, but these tours weren’t available for overseas visitors. The tours have been suspended for the duration of the renovation works but should resume once the work has been completed. The works will also add an elevator and a restroom, which will potentially make the tour more accessible to visitors.

Why do I recognize the Elizabeth Tower?

You’ll probably recognize the Elizabeth Tower the moment you see it because it’s been in pretty much every single movie and TV show set in London! From episodes of Doctor Who, and The Simpsons, to movies as diverse as 28 Days Later, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, V for Vendetta, and The 39 Steps, it’s unlikely that you’ve never seen the familiar image of the Elizabeth Tower. It’s also the focal point of London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, which are broadcast around the world, with Big Ben ringing out as fireworks explode in the background.

General Information

Opening Hours:

Tours to see Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower have been suspended until 2021 due to restoration work.

Tickets:

Tours of Big Ben are offered free of charge, as long as visitors are UK residents over the age of 11 who have requested the tour from a Member of Parliament or a member of the House of Lords.

Address:

Elizabeth Tower
Palace of Westminster
Westminster
London SW1A 0AA

How to get there:

The Houses of Parliament can be reached via London Underground services to Westminster station, which is served by the District, Circle, and Jubilee lines. Victoria, Charing Cross, and Waterloo mainline train stations are about 20 minutes away on foot. You can also reach the Palace of Westminster by taking a bus to Parliament Square. Buses which stop nearby include numbers 3/N3, 11/N11, 12, 24, 53, 87/N87, 88, 148, 159, 211, 453, N44, N109, N155, and N381. Car parking in the area is extremely limited, and drivers should be aware that the Houses of Parliament are inside the London Congestion Charge zone.
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