Big Ben Clock Tower, Facts & Travel Guide
Welcome to the Big Ben Clock Tower. It is the most famous clock in the world, one of the most famous and recognized images on the planet, an edifice that takes neither the years nor the ravages of time into account and is remembered: Big Ben.
There is absolutely no doubt that this tower is the most representative image of London, its hallmark. It is simple, there is no other building that is so iconic in the whole of the UK.
The article covers the location of Big Ben Clock Tower, facts, visiting schedule & prices, things to do, history and more to make the most of your visit to London’s most famous landmark.
Table of Contents
Where is Big Ben located
Big Ben is located in the center of London. The full address of Big Ben clock is:
Elizabeth Tower – Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA.
You will have no trouble finding Big Ben, its location makes it accessible from almost any transport.
The nearest station is Westminster Station, which is only 2 minutes away. It is accessible via the District, Circle or Jubilee lines.
Other nearby stations are St James’s Park Tube Station and Embankment Underground Station, 8 and 10 minutes away respectively.
You will find a large number of buses passing through Parliament Square, on Victoria Street or near Trafalgar Square: lines 3, 8, 11, 12, 16, 24, 38, 52, 53, 73, 82, 87, 88, 148 , 159, 211, 436 and 453.
If you want to get to Big Ben from the center, know that you can reach it from the Westminster and Waterloo bridges (both adapted for people with reduced mobility) as well as the Golden Jubilee pedestrian bridges which connect South Bank with Victoria Embankment.
The bike parks are quite close, opposite number 7 Millbank Street, just behind the Houses of Parliament or Palace of Westminster. If you want to hire a bike you can find one in Smith Square about a 5 minute walk from the Houses of Parliament and in Abingdon Green opposite Victoria Tower Gardens.
Coaches can stop at Abingdon Street after passing the entrance to Victoria Tower Gardens. This is where they can drop off and pick up visitors, on the left side only before the second pedestrian crossing.
Although there is no specific location for coaches, you will find different spaces in Westminster to park coaches hourly.
First of all, you should know that when you drive into central London, you enter what is called the congestion charge zone, a kind of congestion charge affecting certain categories of vehicles. In addition, parking areas are limited.
That being said, if you are one of the non-British driving in England , you should be aware that there are disabled parking spaces available at Great Peter Street, Smith Square and in the Methodist Central Hall at Matthew Parker Street.
There is also an underground car park in front of the Parliament, managed by Q-Parks, with 183 spaces. You can reserve your place in advance.
5 Facts about Big Ben Clock Tower
🔵 Though the landmark tower in the British Parliament building is often referred to as Big Ben, but that is not the name of the tower itself.
Instead, the original name of the tower was Clock Tower, which later renamed as Elizabeth Tower in 2012, to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In fact, Big Ben is the name of the bell of this giant clock placed in the Clock Tower or Elizabeth Tower.
🔵 There is a sweet debate going on about the origin of the name Big Ben. Many think that the bell is undoubtedly named “Big Ben” after the first part of the name of Sir Benjamin Hall, who was its first supervising commissioner.
The second opinion is that the belt is named after Ben Caunt, the then heavyweight champion boxer.
But last but not least, Big Ben’s official name is “The Great Bell.” Although everyone, even the British, affectionately calls it Big Ben.
🔵 Big Ben was designed by architect Charles Barry in 1856, following the great fire which ravaged the Palace of Westminster in 1834. The bell rang for the first time inside the Elizabeth Tower on July 11, 1859. It is around 7 meters in diameter and weighing more than 13 tonnes, the dials are made of iron rails and 312 pieces of glass. The weight of the hammer hitting the Big Ben is 200 kg.
At the base of each face of the clock, we can read the Latin inscription “DOMINE Salvam FAC Reginam nostram Victoriam Primam” which translates as “Lord, protect our queen Victoria first” more simply today by “God, save the Queen!”
🔵 The BBC first broadcast Big Ben’s chimes on the radio in 1923.
🔵 The Big Ben Clock Tower is 315 feet high and has 11 floors.
Big Ben Clock Tower: Visiting Schedule & Prices
Unfortunately, visiting Big Ben Clock Tower is a privilege reserved for people permanently residing in London.
If this is your case, then you will need to talk to the parliamentary representative in your area or with a member of the House of Lords.
In addition, it is a long visit that awaits you and there are no less than 334 steps that you will have to climb and descend.
We recommend that you book your visit in advance, more or less six months in advance. And be flexible about dates and times, then you’ll have a better chance of getting a seat.
The only days when there are no visitors are Bank Holidays and during the Christmas period from December 24 to January 2. The rest of the year there are always three visits per day, at 9 am, 11 am and 2 pm.
From May to September, one more visit is organized at 4 pm. During this visit you will be able to climb to the top of the tower to observe the mechanism of the world’s largest four-sided clock and listen to the sound of its 13.7-tonned bell.
For anyone living in the UK, the tour is completely free. Children under the age of 11 are prohibited from entering.
Things to do on Big Ben Clock Tower
Let’s remind the little thing again: when we talk about Big Ben we all think of the tower but in the strict sense the term Big Ben normally only refers to the bell. The tower actually should be called as Big Ben Clock Tower or The Elizabeth Tower or The Tower of Westminster.
During the visit, you will have the opportunity to see the interior of the tower which counts, as we have already told you, 334 steps. The Big Ben Clock Tower has many types of rooms. For example, there is a room that was used as a prison cell in the past. It was last used in 1880, when newly elected Member of Parliament Charles Bradlaugh was arrested for refusing to take a religious oath.
One of the ‘U’-shaped rooms houses a collection of artefacts. The upper floor is an old pantry.
If you continue your ascent you will be able to admire the scaffolding and the winch that were used during the construction of the tower.
It is at the top of the building where that huge clock is placed, and it has the Great Bell “Big Ben” hanging on it.
As we have already explained to you, this last part is only accessible during summer when additional visits are allowed.
Is it worth visiting Big Ben?
Knowing that we are talking here about the iconic image of London, its fame alone is in fact a valid reason to visit it. In addition, Big Ben Clock Tower is elated with magnificent architecture which has earned the rank of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
So, if you have the chance, why not visit the world’s most reliable clock on the Palace of Westminster which, even under the bombardments of WWII, has never stopped?
And even if you don’t have the possibility to enter it, you have to approach it for a typical photo and admire all the beauty of its architecture.
History and curiosities of Big Ben
Big Ben, the 13.7-ton bell installed in the clock of Big Ben Clock Tower, or, the Palace of Westminster, was cast on April 10, 1858 at the Whitechapel foundry in east London. The day before its 150th anniversary, a poll published on April 9 revealed that it was the favorite monument of the British. But what is the story of this bell which has become one of the emblems of Great Britain?
A fire in 1834 devastated parts of the Parliament building. Following this event, a commission is set up to choose the new design of the building. The winning plan is that of Charles Barry who plans, among other things, to integrate a bell tower into the building. It was in 1859 that we hear the first bell sound of Big Ben.
Drawn by sixteen horses
The first bell was cast in 1856. To be able to transport it to the clock tower, it was then installed on a cart and drawn by 16 horses. But it splits after a few months of installation. A second bell was then cast at the Whitechapel foundry on April 10, 1858. In October of the same year, the bell was moved 61 meters to the belfry of the steeple in 18 hours!
What is certain is that the Clock tower and its four sides were inaugurated in 1859. A year earlier, its construction began, exactly twenty-four years after the great fire which ravaged the Parliament building. Today, officially known as Elizabeth Tower, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, it still retains the nickname “Big Ben” in general.
From Gothic and Victorian style, like the rest of the building, Big Ben is 95 meters high and stands on a base of 15 meters.
The clock mechanism benefits from a prodigious technique for the time. Thanks to the perpetual movement of its secondary pendulum and its star shape, neither snow nor water can accumulate there. This allows it to maintain its reliability.
The big bell of Big Ben Clock Tower, which has passed through the foundry more than once, rang for the first time on May 31, 1859. It has been ringing every hour since then.
- The midnight bell sound is broadcast live by the BBC
since 1923 . Unlike many other bell towers, the first bell ring is the one that indicates the time.
- It is considered to be one of the most reliable clocks in the world. Despite this, on New Years Eve in 1962, Big Ben was historically 10 minutes late and Londoners celebrated 10 minutes late too.
- During the two World Wars, the clock did not stop working. However, the lights were turned off on the tower at night to prevent it from being targeted by bombers.
- The Big Ben Clock Tower has been gradually tilting since 2002, by a few millimeters each year, which is a source of great concern among the population.
8 places of interest near Big Ben
- Palace of Westminster: The Palace of Westminster is glued to Big Ben. This is where the House of Lords and the House of Commons (Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, Reino Unido) officiate.
- Westminster Abbey: Westminster Abbey is often considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the British capital (Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London, SW1P 3PA, Reino Unido).
- Horse Guard: Set of buildings that house the royal cavalry. You can visit the Household Cavalry Museum there if you are interested in the subject. Don’t miss the changing of the guard.
- Buckingham Palace: Royal Residence in which the Royal Collection is located and where the changing of the guard takes place. Here you can discover some of the secrets of royalty (Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA).
- Hyde Park: Hyde Park is located within 3 miles of Big Ben Clock Tower. The most cost-effective way to get there is on the Line 9 bus, which costs $2 and takes 39 minutes.
- James’s Park: Near Buckingham Palace, this is one of London’s favorite parks. It is the oldest of the Royal Parks (St. James’s Park, SW1A 2BJ).
- London Eye: It is the big watch wheel of London. Its height is equivalent to a 40-story building (The London Eye, Riverside Building, County Hall Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB).
- SEA Life London Acuario: The London Aquarium is one of the largest concentrations of marine life in the world (County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 7PB).
Visiting Big Ben is a must between the London journeys that you can take, even if it is only from the outside. Have any of you made it to the top? If so, do not hesitate to tell us about your experience!