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Big Ben

One of London’s most resounding landmarks is a treasured emblem of England.

Catch a glimpse of Big Ben across the River Thames and you’ll know you have truly arrived in London. Featured in British films, such as “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Notting Hill” and “Love Actually,” Big Ben is best viewed from the Thames’ east bank or while strolling along Westminster Bridge, on route to see the Houses of Parliament.

Big Ben was the name originally given to the largest of the clock tower’s bells. The Great Bell, as it is otherwise known, weighs 13 tons (13,760 kilograms). Listen for its deep knell as it strikes on the hour, peeling high across the rooftops and rush of London’s traffic. Nowadays, the name Big Ben is synonymous with the bells, the clock and the tower.

Since first sounding in July 1859, the clock’s reliability and reassuring chime have become a national symbol of British resilience. When the sun sets, its four ivory-tinted faces are illuminated so the clock can still be seen from miles away. The faces have only ever been dimmed in times of national crisis: for two years during World War I, to avoid German zeppelin attacks, and at night during World War II to disorient German Blitz pilots. 

Completed in 1858, the clock tower was supposedly named after London’s Commissioner of Works, a large man called Benjamin Hall. Designed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin in classic Gothic Revivalist style, the brick and limestone tower rests atop Britain’s Houses of Parliament. The clock is the largest four-faced chiming clock in Great Britain. Each face is 23 feet (seven meters) in diameter and contains 312 pieces of opal glass. 

Despite its status as a popular landmark, Big Ben only opens its doors to British citizens who can schedule a tour through their parliamentary representatives. Still, this exclusivity won’t stop it from giving you a little rush of excitement the first time you see and hear it.

In June 2012, Big Ben was officially renamed Elizabeth Tower, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, but it is still known colloquially as Big Ben. 

Big Ben is located in central London. The nearest Underground station is Waterloo. 

Get the most out of your visit to Big Ben. Here is a list of the best activities:

Do you want to make your visit a bit more special? A 1-hr Westminster Walk with Big Ben and Houses of Parliament and a The Great Game Treasure Hunt Westminster with real treasure! are both worth considering.

Have a look at our London things to do page to learn about many more activities in the area.


Guide to Exploring around Big Ben


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Best Lodging Options Near Big Ben

See all 17,289 properties near Big Ben
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London CA $198
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London

200 Westminster Bridge Road, London, England
     
    4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in London City Centre, this spa hotel is steps away from Southbank Centre Book Market and Florence Nightingale Museum. St. Thomas' Hospital and Sea Life London Aquarium are also within 5 minutes. Waterloo Underground Station is only a 4-minute walk and Lambeth North Underground Station is 6 minutes.

    Park Plaza London Riverbank CA $170
    Park Plaza London Riverbank

    Park Plaza London Riverbank

    18 Albert Embankment, London, England
       
      4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in London City Centre, this eco-friendly hotel is within a 15-minute walk of St. Thomas' Hospital and Houses of Parliament. Westminster Abbey and Coca-Cola London Eye are also within 1 mile (2 km). Vauxhall Station is 8 minutes by foot and Lambeth North Underground Station is 16 minutes.

      Park Plaza County Hall London CA $198
      Park Plaza County Hall London

      Park Plaza County Hall London

      1 Addington Street, London, England
         
        4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in London City Centre, this spa hotel is steps away from Southbank Centre Book Market and Florence Nightingale Museum. Jubilee Gardens and The Vaults are also within 5 minutes. Waterloo Underground Station and Lambeth North Underground Station are within a 5-minute walk.

        Marlin Waterloo CA $155
        Marlin Waterloo

        Marlin Waterloo

        111 Westminster Bridge Road, London, England
           
          4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Located in London City Centre, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of St. Thomas' Hospital, Westminster Bridge and Coca-Cola London Eye. Big Ben and Westminster Abbey are also within 15 minutes. Lambeth North Underground Station is only a 2-minute walk and Waterloo Underground Station is 8 minutes.

          The Strand Palace Hotel CA $178
          The Strand Palace Hotel

          The Strand Palace Hotel

          372 The Strand, London, England
             
            4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in London City Centre, this eco-friendly hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Covent Garden Market, Piccadilly Circus and London Dungeon. Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are also within 1 mi (2 km). Charing Cross Underground Station is 5 minutes by foot and Covent Garden Underground Station is 5 minutes.

            Park Plaza London Waterloo CA $170
            Park Plaza London Waterloo

            Park Plaza London Waterloo

            6 Hercules Road, London, England
               
              4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in London City Centre, this spa hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Florence Nightingale Museum, Imperial War Museum and The Vaults. Southbank Centre Book Market and Lambeth Palace are also within 10 minutes. Lambeth North Underground Station is 6 minutes by foot and Waterloo Underground Station is 11 minutes.

              St. James' Court, A Taj Hotel, London CA $241
              St. James' Court, A Taj Hotel, London

              St. James' Court, A Taj Hotel, London

              54 Buckingham Gate, London, England
                 
                4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Located in London City Centre, this spa hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Buckingham Palace, Victoria Palace Theatre, and Apollo Victoria Theatre. St. James Park and Westminster Abbey are also within 10 minutes. St. James's Park Underground Station is only a 3-minute walk and Victoria Underground Station is 7 minutes.

                Sea Containers London CA $233
                Sea Containers London

                Sea Containers London

                20 Upper Ground, London, England
                   
                  5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in London City Centre, this luxury hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Tate Modern and Coca-Cola London Eye. The Shard and Big Ben are also within 1 mi (2 km). Southwark Underground Station is 8 minutes by foot and Blackfriars Underground Station is 8 minutes.