Big Ben
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London's Big Ben: Top 5 historical facts

No single landmark is as representative of London as the iconic Big Ben. Despite its fame, the monument is shrouded in mystery – even its name is a source of misunderstanding! Here are 5 fascinating facts to take with you when you visit the British capital.

What is Big Ben?

What is Big Ben?

Though most assume Big Ben to be the name of the beautiful bell tower, it's actually the nickname of the largest bell hidden inside. The entire structure is called Elizabeth Tower.

How did the bell get its nickname?

How did the bell get its nickname?

Officially, the 13-ton bell is called Great Bell. The monicker Big Ben was given to honor Sir Benjamin Hall, the Commissioner of Public Works whose name is inscribed on the bell.

When does Big Ben chime?

When does Big Ben chime?

Big Ben's accompanying bells chime every 15 minutes, whereas Big Ben only chimes on the hour. The sound can be heard as far as nine miles away!

How old is Big Ben?

How old is Big Ben?

Big Ben was cast on the 10th of April 1858, so it turned 157 in 2015. However, it only chimed for the first time on the 11th of July 1859, which some argue is its real birthday.

How does the clock tower remain accurate?

How does the clock tower remain accurate?

Incredibly, the clock tower's pendulum still depends on pennies for its accuracy. If a penny is added, the clock will run 40% of a second faster every day, and vice versa.

Our insider tips

Get a closer look

The exterior of the clock tower has countless beautiful details and ornate decorations, many of which are all but impossible to see with the naked eye from below considering the tower's height of 96 meters. To really admire the tower's beauty, it's a great idea to bring a pair of binoculars.

When to visit

The favorite time to listen to Big Ben is at noon, when the large bell chimes 12 times. However, it's also the busiest time of day. To avoid the crowds, it's best to come in the early morning or at night, and weekdays are less busy than the weekend.

Good to know

  • When should I visit?
    Tours of the Big Ben tower are reserved to UK residents, however visits to the Houses of Parliament are available through the official website: www.parliament.uk/visiting/.
  • Is it expensive?
    Free to check out the tower, but a tour of the Houses of Parliament building £25.00 for adults, more with added perks.
  • Will I need a guide?
    Every hop-on-hop-off bus will pass by Big Ben, but you should look into getting a tour through Parliament in order to learn about Big Ben up close.
  • How to get there
    Take the District, Circle or Jubilee tube lines to Westminster, or check the bus schedules for other options.
  • Additional information

    • Photography, filming and mobile phone use are prohibited inside the Parliament buildings.

What people are saying about Big Ben

Overall rating
4.4 / 5
based on 1,157 reviews

Good option to see the big ticket sights

Gets u round London but does take a while to get through traffic so expect to cover 2 to 3 places a day at a push

Highly recommend the walking tour of London - very entertaining

Our guide Geoff was very passionate about his country and the city of London. He was friendly and personable, engaging with all the tour group members and answering all our questions.

London: 8 British Foods and 20+ sights Tour Reviewed by

Great friendly service with a brilliant tour guide!

We were greeted warmly by the staff and then guided to our bus, the bus tour was great (even with a little rain, ponchos were given). The information on the tour was fun to listen to for all ages. We also really enjoyed the bonus river cruise to Westminster, which was a welcome surprise! All in all a lovely tour at a reasonable price. Thanks!

This was a terrific tour. Very well informed tour guide.

The tour guide was very safe and took us at our own pace. We visited the well known sites but went around back ways which most tourists would not know or go down. Well worth the money.

Grand London Half-Day Bicycle Tour Reviewed by

Brilliant, great way of seeing London. Both in the eye and on the boat

Views were amazing from the eye. Great photo opportunities. Got there for 10am to try and avoid the bank holiday queues and was lucky not to wait to long to board. I am a londonder and this was my first time. Getting the tickets was easy enough at Westminster pier. Boarded the boat at the eye pier and braved the weather up top... great views of the bridges down to Greenwich. Highly recommend this to the tourists and the londonders like me that have never taken the time to see our city.

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