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?

    1. 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?

    2. 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?

    3. 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?

    4. 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?

    5. 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.

Planning Your Visit

  • 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

4.2 / 5

based on 2,852 reviews

Really enjoyed our trip to London and our package we purchased. We wanted to do the London Eye and hop on hop off bus - the river cruise was an additional extra thrown in and ended up being the highlight. We ended up walking most of the way around the city, only using the bus twice - both times to go just one stop. Magnificent views from the London Eye - but the cruise was just wonderful. We went from Tower Bridge to Westminster. The guy speaking was really funny and the facts super interesting. The baileys hot chocolate on board also delicious. Would absolutely recommend.

Brilliant tour, our guide Chris was very knowledgeable about the areas we visited and the history too. Make sure you have a good breakfast as the food stop is right at the end of the tour at Borough market.

Our tour guide was called Henry and he was brilliant. He was knowledgeable, funny and very friendly. The tour was amazing and the information really brought the history to life. Thank you Henry

Had a great time - our guide Chris was really good and although we have lived in London over 60 years we still learnt some great things about Palaces and Parliament

We had a really lovely day , we learnt lots , things we didn’t know , the staff were exceptional , really helpful , polite and knowledgeable .