Big Ben – the Most Famous Clock in the World. History of Big Ben, Tips for Visitors, Interesting Facts

London is known for many things: the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, and of course, Big Ben. This famous landmark is actually not the name of the clock tower, but the bell inside. Learn more about this iconic attraction.

big ben

No visit to London is complete without a stop at the famous Big Ben clock tower. Learn about the history of this iconic attraction and find out what makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Plus, get some tips on how to make the most of your visit!

Big Ben. History of the Most Famous Clock (and Bell) in the World

Big Ben is the name of the clock tower situated at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, England. The clock tower is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. When finished, it was the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world!

The name “Big Ben” refers to the bell, the clock, as well as the clock tower. The official name of the clock tower since 2012 is Elizabeth Tower (to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II).

The origin of the nickname Big Ben is unsure, some people believe that it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw its installation. Others say that the name refers to Benjamin Caunt, a 19th-century English heavyweight boxer.

After the old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire in 1834, Big Ben was created as part of Charles Barry’s new Palace of Westminster design. Although Barry was the main architect of the neo-Gothic building, he turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the Clock Tower.

Big Ben was built in 1859 and is 316 feet (96 meters) tall. The main clock face is 7 meters (23 feet) in diameter and has a four-second pendulum. The clock tower is also home to the Great Bell of Westminster, which weights 13.5 tons. The clock dials are 22.5 feet in diameter, and there are 334 steps from the ground to the belfry.

The clock’s movement system was designed by Edmund Beckett Denison and George Airy.

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Big Ben has become a symbol of London and Britain, and is often featured in films and television shows set in London. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

When Will Big Ben Chime Again?

There is no set date for when Big Ben will chime again. The iconic clock tower has been silenced since August 2017, when it underwent extensive conservation work. It is expected to remain silent (with a few exceptions, like the New Year’s Eve or the Remembrance Sunday) until the completion of the project, which is currently scheduled for 2022.

Interesting Facts About Big Ben

Did you know that the original bell cracked during testing and had to be recast in 1858 at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry? The original bell is said to be heavier than the current one, weighing around 16 tons. And here are some other interesting facts about this tourist attraction:

  • In addition to the Great Bell, the belfry also houses four quarter bells, which play the Westminster Quarters on the quarter hours.
  • It is said that the bell was originally to be called Victoria or Royal Victoria in honor of Queen Victoria.
  • The first time the Great Bell chimed was on July 11, 1859.
  • The bell’s chimes have been silenced on a number of occasions, including during both World Wars.
  • The clockwork mechanism was invented by a clockmaker named Edmund Dent. However, Edmund Beckett Denison altered Dent’s design so much that he became known as the principal designer. Interestingly, Denison wasn’t a clockmaker, but a lawyer.
  • The tower was damaged in 1941, when a German aircraft dropped a bomb on it.

Can You See the Big Ben’s Interiors?

The Elizabeth Tower, often referred to as Big Ben, is currently undergoing the most extensive conservation effort since it was made in Victorian times. Visitors are unable to access the inside the tower while the work is underway. Soon you will be able to see the newly conserved tower and clock face!

We do not yet have a confirmed date for when the Elizabeth Tower will reopen to visitors. In the meantime, you can still enjoy views of the tower from across Westminster Bridge or from one of the many river cruises that operate on the Thames.

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Things to See Near Big Ben

Big Ben is one of the most iconic landmarks in London, and it’s no wonder that tourists flock to see it every day. But what else is there to see near Big Ben? Here are some of our top picks:

  • Buckingham Palace – one of the most iconic buildings in London, Buckingham Palace is the primary residence of the British monarch. Located just a short walk from Big Ben, it’s easy to include a visit to the palace on your itinerary.
  • The Houses of Parliament – home to the United Kingdom’s government, the Houses of Parliament are located on the banks of the River Thames, adjacent to Big Ben. A visit to this historic building is a must for any traveler to London.
  • Westminster Abbey – one of the most famous churches in the world, Westminster Abbey is a must-see for anyone visiting London. Located just a short walk from Big Ben, the abbey is home to many important historical figures, including British monarchs and Nobel Prize winners.
  • The London Eye – located on the banks of the River Thames, the London Eye is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. A ride on the Ferris wheel offers stunning views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
  • St. James’s Park – a beautiful green space in the heart of London, St. James’s Park is the perfect place to take a break from sightseeing. The park is home to many birds and squirrels, and offers lovely views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
  • Trafalgar Square – one of London’s most popular tourist destinations, Trafalgar Square is home to Nelson’s Column, the National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery. The square is also a great place to people watch and take in the sights and sounds of London.
  • Hyde Park – a large green space in the heart of London, Hyde Park is one of the city’s most popular parks. The park is home to many monuments and statues, as well as a lake where you can go for a rowboat ride.
  • The Tower of London – a historic castle located on the banks of the River Thames, the Tower of London is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. The tower is home to the Crown Jewels, and you can also take a tour of the castle grounds.
  • Piccadilly Circus – a busy square in the heart of London’s West End, Piccadilly Circus is home to many theaters, restaurants, and shops. The square is also a great place to people watch and take in the sights and sounds of London.
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Other Famous Clock Towers and Bells in the World

There are many other clock towers and bells around the world that are famous in their own right. Here are just a few of them:

  • The Tower of Pisa is another world-famous bell tower. The tower is actually the freestanding tower of the cathedral of Pisa, and it is famous for its lean. The tower was completed in 1372 and stands at over 180 feet tall.
  • The Liberty Bell is one of the most famous symbols of the United States. The bell is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was commissioned in 1751. It originally hung in the steeple of Independence Hall but now resides in its own glass pavilion.
  • The Zytglogge is a medieval clock tower in the city of Bern, Switzerland. The tower is home to a clock that dates back to the 13th century. The Zytglogge is a popular tourist destination and is one of the most photographed landmarks in Switzerland.

Have you ever seen the Big Ben or any other famous clock or bell tower? Leave a comment!


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