Big Ben may be one of the most iconic and truly British monuments in all of England. Although most people refer to Big Ben as the Clock Tower, that name was really given to only the bell itself. It was finished in 1859 and rang its first tone on July 11th of that year. The Clock Tower has now been renamed the Elizabeth Tower to honor Queen’s Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Certainly worth seeing, it is the world’s largest four-faced clock that chimes.

Transport

Use an Oyster card which you can buy from a newsagents, garages, post offices, train stations or hundreds of other locations with prices starting at £2.00. This is also good for buses, London Overground Stations, National Rail Stations, and Tram stops. For 7 days or longer, look at a Travelcard.

  • London Underground station (recommended): Closest station is the Westminster, on the DistrictCircle and Jubilee Lines. Look for the red circle with a horizontal line to mark a station. Maps are available at all the stations.
  • Taxis: Taxi fares begin at £5.60 for a 1 mile journey with a minimum charge of  £2.40. Booking a taxi by telephone incurs an extra £2.00 charge.
  • Double Decker buses: Purchase Pay As You Go tickets starting at £1.35. Discounted fares are available for students and children. Bus routes going past Big Ben include:
    Westminster Station – 3, 12.
    Parliament Square – 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 148, 159, 453.
    Westminster Abbey – 88, 148, 211.
  • Barclay’s Cycle Hire: There’s an access fee plus usage charge. Check their costs page for full details. The nearest Docking Stations to Big Ben are:
    – Abbey Orchard Street
    – Westminster and Abingdon Green
    – Great College Street.

History

The story of Big Ben begins on the night of October 16th, 1834, when the old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire. Built in a Gothic Revival style, the Clock Tower nicely compliments the Neo-gothic technique in which the new Parliament was built. It stands a stately 315 feet tall and commands the view from the River Thames. Although it is not certain, one theory suggested that the 16 ton Big Ben bell was named after Sir Benjamin Hall. A competing theory is that it was named after former heavyweight champion boxer Benjamin Caunt. On May 10, 1941, during a bombing raid by the Germans, two dials of the clock, some of the roof, and a chamber of the House of Commons were damaged. Throughout the war, the clock was never silenced though. The clock tower has been renamed the Elizabeth Tower to honor Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. It follows a renaming of the large west tower to honor Queen Victoria on her Diamond Jubilee. Unfortunately, international visitors are not allowed to visit the interior; however United Kingdom residents can prearrange a tour through their Member of Parliament.

Interesting Facts

  • The architecture of the clock and the tower was designed by Augustus Pugin. Although Pugin had completed similar building designs, this was his final architectural achievement before he went mad and died.
  • The clockmaker who designed the clock mechanism was Edward John Dent, and after he died in 1853, his stepson, Frederick Dent finished the task. The mechanism was newly invented by Edward Dent and included a 660 pound pendulum.
  • The mechanism itself weighs 5 tons. A stack of old pennies sits on top of the pendulum and is used to regulate the timing. Each penny changes the timing of the clock by 4/10s second each day.
  • The dials are 23 feet in diameter. The clock itself is known for its reliability. At the bottom of each dial there is a Latin inscription in gilded letters saying, “DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM.” Translated this means, “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.”
  • The original bell was transported by a horse drawn trolley. However, it was not meant to be. The bell was mounted and tested and suffered irreparable damage during that process. A 13 ½ ton replacement bell was cast and hoisted to the tower, but it also cracked after just two months use. It was repaired and rotated slightly so the hammer struck in a different location. This is the bell that is still in use today.
  • Since construction, changes in the ground and the construction of an extension of the Jubilee Underground line have now caused the tower to visibly tilt to the northwest.

25 Reviews

  1. tinathanabalan
    tinathanabalan 37 Comments
     -  14 Aug 2018

    Iconic

    Probably the most well known building in London so definitely go there to take a photo. Walk along the bridge so you can get a full view of the building.

  2. kscott 25 Comments
     -  13 Aug 2018

    Classic London

    While traveling it is nice to see some of the main attractions that are on every advertisement for a certain location. Big Ben is definitely a must see while in London. It is quite hard to miss and is just amazing to see. Something you see in every picture involving London and there it is, quite impressive, definitely historic. Awesome.

  3. AndrewPiper
    AndrewPiper 29 Comments
     -  09 Aug 2018

    Everything you’d imagine & more

    You’ve probably seen photos or videos before, but seeing it in person takes it to a completely new level of beauty. You can take yours if you’d like, but you won’t feel incomplete if you just decide to roam the exterior and take photos. Pro Tip: visit it at nighttime also, because it is even better all lit up an makes your photos even more impressive.

  4. Tracey Best
    Tracey Best
    Australia 26 Comments
     -  24 Apr 2018

    Ah Big Ben

    It is one of the iconic features of London, or even the world. It’s in the perfect spot with Houses of Parliament, Westminster Bridge, The London Eye, Sea Life, London Dungeon and red double deckers and black cabs going past. It’s a great sight. I don’t think anyone would go to London and not see Big Ben. Unfortunately, it’s under maintenance and won’t ring for quite a while. I feel lucky I’ve heard the bell ringing several times. Everyone stops to listen (upon from the locals).

  5. lilyardenlao
    lilyardenlao
    Philippines 75 Comments
     -  23 Apr 2018

    Just like how I imagined it

    Couldn’t help but look up at this icon. I especially loved looking at it while on the London Eye. Such a picture perfect attraction! It made me feel like, yes, I’m really in London! Lol. However, if you’re expecting more, well, there’s nothing more because it’s just a clock tower.

  6. Nicholas Jayaputra
    Nicholas Jayaputra 25 Comments
     -  23 Mar 2018

    Fantastic attraction

    See you in 2021!

    It is a pure iconic symbol of London. You can never say that you’ve been to London without seeing or taking a picture with this clock. Situated beside the House of Parliament, this tower is really high. Unfortunately, it has undergone renovation works until 2021. Now, what you can see just a peek of the tower and sometimes the clock if you are lucky enough.

    To reach the place is very easy. Take the tube, stop Westminster, and you have arrived at your destination!

  7. bailey
    bailey
    United States 47 Comments
     -  04 Jan 2018

    Fantastic attraction

    Due to jet lag, we were up before the sun on our first day in London, which ended up being a great time to do a self-guided tour of the city. We got to Big Ben just as the sun was rising and it was beautiful! There isn’t really a whole let else to do at the clock but take a picture or two, but it is well worth it. It is surrounded by countless other attractions, so really there is no excuse to miss it.

  8. tamara-v
    tamara-v
    Yugoslavia 26 Comments
     -  30 Dec 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    Unfortunately, currently Big Ben is under renovation. Personally, the best view is night view from the river, when it is perfectly lightened. Sadly, I haven’t been in the inside, but will do it for sure ex time. Big Ben is definitely unavoidable London’s attraction.

  9. lhajro
    lhajro
    Bosnia and Herzegowina 49 Comments
     -  18 Dec 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    It’s truly the coolest thing to take a double decker bus to see the legendary Big Ben. It’s like a tourists fantasy to get a photograph of Big Ben, and I am so lucky to be able to have done so. Seeing Big Ben is something everyone really should go and do in their lifetime.

  10. Angelo S
    Angelo S
    Indonesia 27 Comments
     -  29 Nov 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    This Big iconic ‘clock’ is one you must see. The only thing you can do here is to take photos and enjoy the view. You haven’t seen London if you haven’t visited the Big Ben!

  11. dewimayangsari
    dewimayangsari
    Indonesia 26 Comments
     -  28 Nov 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    It’s always fun to see big ben during day or night, take pictures from every angle you can get, use your creativity and enjoy the wonderful icon of London while you’re there. I personally love it during the night, the lights highlights its beauty even more.

  12. NicoleH
    NicoleH
    Canada 60 Comments
     -  15 Oct 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    Big Ben is something you must see when you’re in London. It is right next to Westminster Abbey and Westminster Bridge where you can take some great photos. You can also take a free walking tour around London and this is one of the main stops along the tour. Learned some interesting history about the clock tower itself and the parliament buildings.

  13. wclarkh
    wclarkh
    United States 33 Comments
     -  04 Aug 2017

    Excellent

    Big Ben is a staple on any visit to London! There are a few great places to view the clock tower, including a lawn area near Parliament and of course on Westminster Bridge. This is a must-take photo opportunity.

    1. wclarkh
      wclarkh
      United States 33 Comments
       -  05 Aug 2017

      Excellent

      Big Ben was great!

  14. dzammit
    dzammit
    Canada 59 Comments
     -  03 Aug 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    You have to see it! Big Ben is actually the bell in the clock tower, which is now called the Elizabeth Tower. No trip to London is complete without a picture of this iconic tower! Located at the House of Parliment, next to Westminster Abbey. I must have taken a hundred pictures from various view points….it is truly remarkable to see.

  15. Nemanja Popović 45 Comments
     -  28 Jul 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    We were lucky to have this landmark close to the hotel we were staying at. It’s a truly remarkable building and it gives me chills every time I see it. This is a fantastic site to visit when in London, costs no money and is located right next to the Houses of Parliament. It got restored recently and looks even better now than before.

  16. Uswa Shamail
    Uswa Shamail 13 Comments
     -  15 Jul 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    I love Big Ben. its one of the most iconic architectural landscapes in England, and a visit to England is nothing without seeing Big Ben. We were staying at the Marriot and our hotel room overlooked the Thames and Big Ben, and it was the most glorious sight to wake up to a sunrise against the Ben.

  17. shae23
    shae23
    Australia 115 Comments
     -  03 Jul 2017

    It was good

    Maybe the most iconic building in the world so you have to get a photo with big ben! We accidentally stumbled across the base of when we came out of a tube station so it is very easy to get to. To be honest there is not much more to it than taking you pictures.

  18. thewizardoflozz
    thewizardoflozz 10 Comments
     -  17 May 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    Incredible stature, towering over the skyline whenever you look from a high point, this place to me would mark the middle of London. I would consider it to be bigger looking in photos, but it’s definitely a massive tourist grab, the area is extremely near a tube station, and sits by Westminster – plenty of history there, a historic area!

  19. lowkey 10 Comments
     -  10 May 2017

    It was good

    It’s the most popular landmark of London, so I had to take a picture with it before leaving the country. It has a beautiful architecture design that someone with more knowledge can appreciate. Other than the picture, there really wasn’t anything else to do. Just a short stop to appreciate London’s history as an old city

  20. Sarah 10 Comments
     -  20 Apr 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    It was such a joyful feeling to be able to a snap a photo with Big Ben on the background. I stared for a good 5 minutes to meticulously examine each detail of the clock. I went both day and night to have a better photo opportunity.

  21. lindseyg 9 Comments
     -  09 Mar 2017

    Excellent

    Big Ben is probably London’s most recognizable landmark, so you just HAVE to snap a photo of it when you visit London! You can actually get right underneath it, which is pretty cool. Other than that… it’s just a clock tower, so there isn’t a whole lot to see. Worth a visit, but only for a few minutes.

  22. ChristineIv
    ChristineIv 11 Comments
     -  25 Feb 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    Just seconds away from the Westminster Station, go by and take a picture. Beware of pick-pocket-ers! Otherwise, iconic place.

  23. rao111 9 Comments
     -  20 Feb 2017

    Excellent

    It’s iconic. It’s lovely. And it’s there anytime you’d like to visit. Big Ben rises up along the north end of the Palace of Westminster, adding a bit of 19th-century romance to a stroll across Westminster Bridge. Go at sunset for the best viewing: you can stand on the northern bank of the Thames and watch the sun decline to the southwest. The tower lights up beautifully at twilight.

  24. Celina Tolbert 17 Comments
     -  21 Jan 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    The bridge right in front of BIg Ben is a great photo op spot!

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