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London’s Big Ben

Photo credit: maipatana / Foter / CC BY-SA
London’s Big Ben
  • (interesting)
  • less than 1 km
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  • Free
  • 1 hour or less
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London's most iconic tower and clock

Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, United Kingdom

The Big Ben of the Palace of Westminster is one of the most famous and most well known landmarks of the world. It has also become London’s main symbol and most important icon. Many ignore that the name “Big Ben” is in fact, not the name of the tower itself, but the nickname of the bell inside the clock at the north end of Westminster Palace. The actual name of the tower is Elizabeth Tower, however, it is acceptable to refer to the tower along with its bell and the clock as Big Ben.


Located in the heart of the city of London, the bell inside the tower’s official name is “Great Bell” and weighs around 14 kilograms. The bell chimes every fifteen minutes and it can be heard at a distance of fourteen kilometers. The bell chimed for the first time on July 11th, 1859.


The design of the clock is the work of Edward John Dent, after he won a competition on February 1952. After his death, his stepson, Frederick Dent, completed the construction of the clock in the year 1854 but the clock did not begin to keep the time until May 31st, 1859.


Under the clock, there is an inscription of words in Latin language and they read: DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM, which translates into: “Oh Lord, keep our Queen Victoria the First safe.”


The construction of Elizabeth tower was begun on September 28th, 1843 as part of the new palace that was going to be the new parliament after the former palace was destroyed in 1834 as the result of a fire. The palace was designed by Charles Berry, however, the tower is the work of Augustus Pugin, an architect who designed it in a Gothic revival style.


The tower’s original name was simply “The Clock Tower”, but it was renamed after Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II on 2012. At one point, during the reign of Queen Victoria, it was called St Stephen’s Tower. However, most Londoners and visitors refer to it simply as “The Big Ben Tower” to save themselves the trouble.


The tower itself has a height of 96 meters, and its clock is the second largest four-faced clock in the world. The clock looks even more spectacular at night when it lights up.


Unfortunately, the Elizabeth Tower is not open to general public and only residents of the United Kingdom can arrange a visit. Still, the sight of the tower from outside is breathtaking and well worth a visit!

How to get there

Tube: Westminster