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Top sights in London
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
Protesters in London caused all Tour Buses lots of problems on our trip. But the staff that greeted us at The Aldwich were professional and efficient. Once the bus arrived Shane took over and he was fantastic. What a great asset to your company. He apologised many times for events that were totally out of his control (protesters/diversions) We were on the bus much longer than we intended and missed a few things due to the diversions. The weather changed in an instant from blue skies and sunshine to heavy rain but my friends and I stayed put with Shane on the top deck, he stood up throughout. He entertained with great information and humour and even played "Its Raining Men" for us when we were totally soaked. He apologised again & kept us informed when he got off it was so very different. We could not really hear Luke and didn't actually see him - he sat somewhere but we didn't know where. It was disappointing that our £34 each trip was so badly disrupted but Shane made it great fun!
We were a group of four, with 3-day tickets. We saw everything we wanted to see. The life commentary on the red tour was instructive and fun. The river cruise to Greenwich was included, again, the commentary was interesting. The traffic in London was bad due to roadworks, but the tour buses made a good job of it. However, we were not informed in time that one of the stops was not open, and so we had to walk back a while to get where we wanted to be. There had been a lengthy raft of instructions, as well as a change of bus, and so what was being said may have made sense to the staff, but we did not hear it. That was the only negative of the three day experience.
We really enjoyed the tour itself - there were adequate buses and the guides were informative and entertaining. The issue we had was that we didn't know in advance that it was the last round of the day, so when the bus ended its route, we, along with many others, were stranded far from where we needed to be. We were lucky that one amazing tour guide happened to be heading in our direction, so she brought us along with her to the subway (the tube), rode with us and showed us where to get off.
Even though our trip was somewhat interrupted by major protests on the streets Big Bus did there best trying to navigate the unexpected road closers. We have been on other tours they offer in other city’s and have always had good service.
Were disappointed that agents selling your tickets on the street were very unhelpful and rude in helping us locate bus stop to start and get tickets. When we FOUND lady at Piccadilly she was most helpful.