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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
We've joined a lot of walking and guided tours while visiting other countries over the years and thought we would try one in our own Capital City. We were seeking a tour with someone who was native to London with local knowledge who could show us places not on the normal tourist trail and give us an insight to London from a Londoner's perspective. Stuart delivered on this and some! He led us to some gems of places, most of which we wouldn't have known about and it was a joy to be on such a relaxed meander. Stuart is great company and the whole tour felt like we were being shown little known places by an old friend. We both thoroughly enjoyed the tour and I am sure Stewart enjoyed it too. We would recommend Stewart to anyone looking for this type of tour in the knowledge they would enjoy the experience.
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.
Superb, Fernando down from Euston station was brilliant in explaining it all to us - sat 29 Alieta??? On bus to Tower of London was amazing - service was phenomenal and so well organised. Really enjoyed it - Cruise was a bonus - just 1 grumpy driver from westminstervbridge to abritish museum as we were a bit slow realising it was our stop would definitely recommmend and use service again, it was smashing
We had Chris as our guide. He was knowledgeable, engaging and considerate of the group’s needs. It was a terrific experience which our family of two adults and one college-aged son really enjoyed. Would highly recommend this tour even for folks who have been to London several times but have never had an ‘insider’ view of the history. Thank-you Chris!!
Good tour both the recorded guide and the live guide were informative. Currently not all of the stops are stopped at and the bus is intermittent. We weren't told this on booking. We ended up missing out on some of the things we wanted to see and couldn't get to the stops for pickup in the afternoon so walked back and got the tube to places we wanted.