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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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.

Big Ben: Our 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 to 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:
  • What is the price?
    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 tips
    • Photography, filming and mobile phone use are prohibited inside the Parliament buildings.

What People Are Saying About Big Ben

Get rid of the silver tins lads, its expensive enough

Great Thames trips love it, the narration from the crew was funny, though obviously very well rehearsed, only real gripe is the silver buckets being pushed forward on exiting the boats, the trips are priced high enough, if you use the boat all day, its really good exiting value, but the silver bucket could add £10 to £20 to your day, as a Cornish pensioner I can tell you that this a lot to give away.
River Thames Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Cruise Reviewed by Alan, 10/02/2016

A must for anyone from the British Commonwealth.

Brush up on the Parliamentary System and British History before the visit. There is a lot of information presented. The Guide was excellent, moving our group around to our best advantage.

Fantastic tour and great value for money !

I booked this trip online and this was very simple to do. We arrived at Westminster Pier to obtain our printed tickets and were met by a friendly and cheerful member of staff at the kiosk. Throughout the tour the staff were informative and polite. I would recommend taking this tour to anyone - Many thanks
River Thames Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Cruise Reviewed by Christopher, 09/25/2016

Relaxing and exciting experience: must do it!

One way we had a sailor explaining us everything we saw, in a very nice and humoristic manner and it was really enjoyable! On the way back from Greenwich we listened to a recorded explanation (it was a smaller ship) and that was interesting too, not interactive as the first tough.
River Thames Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Cruise Reviewed by Lorena, 09/20/2016

Excellent value and good service from all on board

Had a wonderful day on the Thames. The crew were very helpful on all the boats we travelled on. Excellent value.
River Thames Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Cruise Reviewed by a GetYourGuide Customer, 09/13/2016

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Big Ben
Based on 128 reviews by GetYourGuide customers