Photo of lunamarina. London is a city full of surprises and iconic places to visit, among these obviously cannot miss what we could consider a bit the symbol of the city itself, namely Big Ben . The most famous clock tower in the world can only be the starting point for a visit to the English capital: it is located in the district of Westminster , which was the headquarters of William the Conqueror after the invasion of England in 1066, along the banks of the Thames.
Opening times and prices
Unfortunately, Big Ben cannot be visited. It is under renovation until 2021, and even from then on it will still be open to British citizens only. You can still admire it freely from the street, or from the famous red double-decker buses, and visit the Houses of Parliament (Westminster)
- Hours: (Palace of the Parliament) guided tours Saturday 9: 15-16: 30. In August: Monday 13: 15-17: 30; from Tuesday to Friday 9: 15-17: 30. In September: from Tuesday to Friday 9: 15-16: 30. Parliamentary sessions (from October to June): Monday and Tuesday 14: 30-22: 30; Wednesday 11: 30-19: 30; Thursday 10: 30-18: 30
- Costs : (Palace of the Parliament) full ticket £ 18.00 and £ 28.00 (approximately € 20.00 and € 30.00), respectively with audio guide or guided tour; reduced £ 15.50 and £ 20.00 (approximately € 17.00 and € 22.00)
Online tickets and guided tours
- 4-hour guided tour of the Abbey and Palace of Westminster : from € 89.00 – Find out more
- 2.5-hour Westminster tour and visit to Churcill rooms : from € 49.00 – Find out more
- Royal London Tour with Changing of the Guard : from € 45.00 – Find out more
Where it is and how to get there
Big Ben is located in the borough of Westminster, in London’s West End, along the north bank of the River Thames, easily reachable by tube and on foot.
- On Foot : From Buckingham Palace in approximately 20 minutes, skirting St. James’ Park and continuing straight to Parliament Square – Get directions
- In bus: n. 24 da Buckingham Palace, n. 381 da London Bridge, n. 11 e 211 da Victoria Station
- By tube: nearest stop is Westminster, served by the Circle, District and Jubilee lines
Useful tips for visiting the attraction
Although Big Ben is not accessible, it is still possible to visit the Palace of Westminster , only on Saturday mornings and in the summer months. Furthermore, if you wish, it is possible to attend a parliamentary session by going to the building from Monday to Thursday at the entrance to St Margaret Street.
- Get up early : tickets for the Palace of Westminster can be purchased at the ticket office, we advise you to go early in the morning to avoid long queues.
- Buy the city card : it can be an excellent idea to buy a London Pass, a magnetic card that offers many advantages to those visiting London, in fact with the pass you can have free access to over 60 attractions in London, and skip the queue at the entrance.
- Minimum time to visit the attraction : the guided tour lasts about 75 minutes, given the vastness and beauty of the building, we recommend that you take your time.
- Tour reservation : to participate in the guided tour, a reservation is required, which you can make here.
- Security checks : in order to access the building you must pass strict security checks, as happens at the airport, pay attention to what to bring with you: sharp objects, noisy objects, ropes and chains are strictly prohibited. You could wait about twenty minutes for the check, so plan your times well.
History, curiosities and practical information: what to know in brief
Big Ben, built in 1858 together with the Palace of Westminster (seat of the British Parliament), is a 96-meter high Gothic-style tower with four huge clocks located along the its facades, each facing a cardinal point: its famous chime is marked every 15 minutes, and at night the tower is illuminated by 113 electric bulbs.
It is the largest clock tower in the UK , as well as the third tallest in the world. Always known as the Clock Tower, on the occasion of Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in June 2012, it officially became the Elizabeth Tower .
The name Big Ben refers to thehuge 14-ton bell located inside the tower. Regarding the huge proportions of the watch: the dials measure 8 meters, the hour hand 2.7 meters and the minutes 4.3 meters.
Big Ben History
When the original palace of Westminster was destroyed in a fire in 1834, the architects of the city were invited to submit plans for the new palace and a commission was set up to select the most deserving. Sir Charles Barry’s design was chosen, however this did not initially feature a clock tower, which was only added in 1836.
To help Barry in the design of the tower was Augusto Pugin, and the works for the construction began on September 28, 1843 and lasted for 16 years (due to accidents and delays). Since Charles Barry was not a specialized watchmaker, in 1846 he decided to organize a competition to find an expert who could develop the design of the tower clock. Edward John Dent won the competition and based his project on the mechanism developed by Baron Edmund Beckett Denison (we owe the iconic chimes to the latter). Upon Dent’s death, his stepson Frederick completed the clock in 1854.
In April 1859 the clock was installed on the tower leading to the completion of this historic architectural work.
5 Interesting curiosities about the tower
- The origin of the name is not certain, but there are two theories: the most accredited one, claims that the name derives from Sir Benjamin Hall, member of the House of Commons and supervisor of the works for the reconstruction of the Palace of Westminster; the second theory claims that the name derives from the heavyweight boxing champion Benjamin Caunt.
- The first bell mounted on the clock was to be called the Royal Victoria. She was greeted with a grand ceremony, transported along the River Thames by barge and then pulled by a Carriage with 16 white horses across Westminster Bridge. Unfortunately that bell broke during tests in 1857. It was replaced the following year by another bell, but that too was damaged. on that occasion, however, the problem was solved by turning it a quarter clockwise and replacing the original hammer with a less heavy one.
- The musical note emitted by the bell at each stroke is an E.
- Currently, to reach the top of the bell tower it is necessary to climb 334 steps.
- The Elizabeth Tower has appeared in dozens of films and TV series , among the most famous: 28 days later, V for Vendetta, Lost, Doctor Who, Thunderball and Mary Poppins.
The tower is currently undergoing renovation. Big Ben struck its last toll at noon on 21 August 2017, before returning to ring again in 2021. The tower is currently half-wrapped by scaffolding, however one of the clock faces will always remain visible marking the time via an electric motor. Obviously the bells will remain silent until the end of the works.
The renovation plan includes several structural changes, including the installation of an elevator and the creation of the first bathroom.