Big Ben
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Big Ben: Tours & Tickets

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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
4.2 / 5
based on 4,234 reviews

Protesters & rain but still great thanks to Shane

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!

Loved the tour but the food part disappointed.

The tour was outstanding but the food tour was basically the guide finding us a place to sit near Bourough Market and he went around and collected the foods and presented them all at once like a waiter. I’ve been on a few food tours and it’s never done that way.

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

It was a very nice bicycle tour with very competent guide.

The weather was a little cold, this was a small problem for us. May be the lunch break in the Covent Garden should be longer, around 1 hour for example, because we hadn´t enough time for a easy meal and for a toilet.

Grand London Half-Day Bicycle Tour Reviewed by

A one time super event, I wouldn't miss it never again

It was a beautiful day, our driver Alan and Debbie our guide. They were both very nice and took care of us and exceeded all our expectations. It couldn't be described better. We hope they see this feedback also

London: Full-Day Private Car Tour Reviewed by

very Informative by the live guide talk.

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.