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Big Ben

Towering over the River Thames, Big Ben stands as a majestic symbol of London and the United Kingdom. But did you know “Big Ben” isn’t actually the name of the tower itself? It’s the nickname for the Great Bell housed within the Elizabeth Tower, officially renamed in 2012 to honor Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Intrigued? Let’s delve into the fascinating history, facts, and tours surrounding this iconic landmark, ensuring your next London visit includes a memorable Big Ben experience.

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When Was Big Ben Built?

The construction of the Elizabeth Tower began in 1843, aiming to replace the previous Palace of Westminster clock tower destroyed by fire in 1834. The project faced numerous challenges, including cracks in the tower’s masonry and the casting of the Great Bell, which required three attempts to achieve the desired tone. Finally, in 1859, the clock tower and the Great Bell, nicknamed “Big Ben,” chimed for the first time, marking the end of a 16-year endeavor.

Big Ben Tickets: Can You Go Inside?

Unfortunately, due to extensive renovations and concerns about structural integrity, public access to the Elizabeth Tower is currently unavailable. This includes guided tours and climbing the tower’s 334 steps. However, there are alternative ways to experience the magic of Big Ben:

  • Virtual Tours: Immerse yourself in the history and architecture of the Elizabeth Tower through interactive virtual tours offered by the UK Parliament website.
  • River Cruises: Take a scenic Thames River cruise and marvel at the iconic silhouette of Big Ben from different perspectives.
  • Guided Walking Tours: Many London walking tours include photo stops near the Elizabeth Tower, providing insightful commentary about its history and significance.

Big Ben Facts: Unveiling the Secrets of the Clock Tower

  • Big Ben is the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world.
  • The bell chimes are played on a set of 23 bells, each tuned to a specific note.
  • The clock faces are made of opal glass, allowing them to illuminate at night.
  • The hands of the clock are 9 feet (2.74 meters) and 14 feet (4.27 meters) long, respectively.
  • The tower has nicknamed its four clock faces “Glory,” “Erica,” “Victoria,” and “Edmund.”

Big Ben Clock: A Masterpiece of Precision

The Great Clock at the heart of the Elizabeth Tower is a marvel of engineering. Here’s what makes it special:

  • The clock mechanism is incredibly accurate, losing only about two seconds per year.
  • The clock faces are set using a system of counterweights and pulleys.
  • The chimes are manually tuned every few months to maintain their perfect pitch.
  • The clock mechanism requires ongoing maintenance and repairs to ensure its continued accuracy.

How Tall is Big Ben?

So, how tall is Big Ben? While the nickname often refers to the tower itself, the actual height depends on what’s being measured:

  • Elizabeth Tower: 96 meters (315 feet)
  • Clock Face: 55 meters (180 feet) above ground level
  • Spire: 61 meters (200 feet) above the clock face

Big Ben Tours: Exploring the Palace of Westminster

While access to the Elizabeth Tower is restricted, you can still explore the Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament, through guided tours. Book Now for these tours offer insights into British politics, history, and architecture, including fascinating facts about Big Ben and its role in British life.

While Big Ben is a must-see, London boasts countless other historical landmarks, vibrant neighborhoods, and cultural experiences. From exploring the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace to wandering through Hyde Park and enjoying the vibrant theater scene, London offers something for everyone.

So, the next time you find yourself in London, remember that Big Ben, though currently inaccessible, stands as a symbol of resilience and tradition. Use this guide to explore its history, facts, and alternative ways to appreciate its grandeur, and let Pick Drop UK help you discover the magic of London.