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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 that 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, en 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, pealing 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, affectionately known as 'Big Ben'. 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 metres) 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 that you see and hear it.

In June 2012, Big Ben was officially renamed Elizabeth Tower, in honour 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.


Guide to Exploring Big Ben


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Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London €143
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London

200 Westminster Bridge Road, London
     
    4.4
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    4.0 out of 5.0

    Located in Waterloo, 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.

    The Strand Palace Hotel €104
    The Strand Palace Hotel

    The Strand Palace Hotel

    372 The Strand, London
       
      4.0
      of 5, from 9,060 reviews
      4.0 out of 5.0

      Located in City of Westminster, this eco-friendly hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Covent Garden Market and Piccadilly Circus. London Dungeon and Big Ben are also within 1 mi (2 km).

      St. James' Court, A Taj Hotel, London
      St. James' Court, A Taj Hotel, London

      St. James' Court, A Taj Hotel, London

      54 Buckingham Gate, London
         
        4.4
        of 5, from 2,053 reviews
        4.0 out of 5.0

        Located in City of Westminster, this spa hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Broadway, Buckingham Palace, and Victoria Palace Theatre. Big Ben and St. James Park are also within 15 minutes.

        The Grosvenor Hotel €126
        The Grosvenor Hotel

        The Grosvenor Hotel

        101 Buckingham Palace Road, London
           
          4.2
          of 5, from 1,480 reviews
          4.0 out of 5.0

          Located in City of Westminster, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Victoria Palace Theatre, Buckingham Palace and St. James Park. Big Ben and Sloane Square are also within 1 mile (2 km).

          Park Plaza County Hall London
          Park Plaza County Hall London

          Park Plaza County Hall London

          1 Addington Street, London
             
            4.4
            of 5, from 3,968 reviews
            4.0 out of 5.0

            Located in Waterloo, this spa hotel is steps away from Southbank Centre Book Market and Florence Nightingale Museum. The Vaults and Jubilee Gardens are also within 5 minutes.

            Park Plaza London Waterloo
            Park Plaza London Waterloo

            Park Plaza London Waterloo

            6 Hercules Road, London
               
              4.5
              of 5, from 1,547 reviews
              4.0 out of 5.0

              Located in Waterloo, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Florence Nightingale Museum, The Vaults and Imperial War Museum. Old Vic and Southbank Centre Book Market are also within 10 minutes.

              DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London - Westminster
              DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London - Westminster

              DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London - Westminster

              30 John Islip Street, London
                 
                4.3
                of 5, from 3,144 reviews
                4.0 out of 5.0

                Located in City of Westminster, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Tate Britain, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey are also within 15 minutes.

                The Royal Horseguards
                The Royal Horseguards

                The Royal Horseguards

                2 Whitehall Court, London
                   
                  4.5
                  of 5, from 1,266 reviews
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                  Located in City of Westminster, this luxury hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Nelson's Column, Big Ben, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields. National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are also within 10 minutes.