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Sights worth seeing,

July 03 2024

Visit London’s Big Ben

London’s Big Ben is iconic. This symbol of British identity is inside the clock tower at one end of the capital’s Houses of Parliament. Its famous chimes ring out across London and over the airwaves of BBC Radio Four, and the clock face keeps Londoners on time. It’s a must-see for visitors to London, so here’s where to go to get up close, the best viewing spots and how to go inside Big Ben. 


Facts about Big Ben

Did you know every New Year’s Eve, Big Ben has rung in midnight across the nation since 1923 when a BBC engineer climbed the tower to record the sound. Here are a few more Big Ben facts for you:


  • Construction of the bell tower began in 1843 and finished in 1859 

  • Big Ben refers to the great hour bell, but it’s commonly used to refer to the tower 

  • To honour Queen Elizabeth II’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee, the clock tower was renamed the Elizabeth Tower

  • The clock hands are 9- and 14-feet long, and the tower is 320 feet tall 

  • The clock is famous for its accuracy, but it does occasionally go wrong 

  • Legend says if Big Ben rings 13 times, Trafalgar Square’s lions will come to life 


Is Big Ben open?

Yes. Big Ben closed for a restoration between 2016 and 2023. Scaffolding covered the tower, and the famous chimes fell silent. The work is now complete, and Big Ben has fully reopened to visitors. So here’s how you can do a tour of Big Ben. 


How to visit: Big Ben Tour

For tickets to visit the Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben), go to the UK Parliament website. It releases tickets at 10am on the second Wednesday of every month. Tickets for the Big Ben tour cost £30 for adults and £15 for children between (minimum) 11 and 17. Be quick if you want tickets during peak season or at the weekends, as they often sell out quickly. 


The tour takes 90 minutes. You need to be comfortable climbing a narrow 334-step stairwell and be prepared for the loud sound of chimes and clock mechanism. You’ll have ear plugs to help muffle the sound, and the climb to the top is well worth the effort.


Explore around Big Ben

If you haven’t got tickets to go inside Big Ben’s clock tower, it’s still worth visiting to see it up close from the outside. Big Ben is a natural addition to a tour of some of London’s most famous landmarks. It’s close to Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, St James’ Park – and the Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament.


It’s very easy to add Big Ben to your stroll around London – and do time it for the top of the hour, so you can hear the famous chimes for yourself. To elevate the experience, pop to Parliament Square to see the red telephone boxes too.


Best Places to See Big Ben

For iconic views of Big Ben and the ideal photo opportunity, head to Westminster Bridge. Walk halfway along and you’ll get an excellent snap. For a bit of greenery and the chance to add in a passing red bus, Parliament Square is another top place for a great photo. The best place to see Big Ben is from the South Bank, across the Thames. You can also get an interesting perspective from Victoria Embankment. If you fancy photographing Big Ben from the water, take a Thames river tour

For a hotel close to Big Ben and London’s other central landmarks, stay in one of our Thistle Hotels. It’s easy to visit Big Ben from Thistle Trafalgar Square, Thistle Piccadilly, Thistle Marble Arch. Thistle City Barbican has impressive Big Ben views.