How big is Big Ben

Big Ben & Houses of ParliamentTop 10

The Houses of Parliament are a superlative in every respect. They house the oldest parliament in the world, which met here as early as 1295. And in the 97 meter high clock tower hangs by far the most famous bell in the world, Big Ben. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the throne of Queen Elizabeth II, the clock tower - "The Clock Tower" - was renamed Elizabeth Tower.

Big Ben - the proud symbol of London

Big Ben is one of the five bells that sound an unmistakable bell chime every hour on the hour, corresponding to the current time. When Big Ben strikes five times, it is the signal for many English tourists to stop their stroll through town and go to a café for the typical British "5 O'Clock Tea Time".

Between the chimes of the hour, a small melody is played regularly, which the Londoners proudly call "The Voice of Britain". The sound sequence comes from a work by the famous German composer Georg Friedrich Handel. The tone sequence is known as the Westminster strike and many alarm clocks and doorbells use this harmonious and memorable signal.

Although the name Big Ben originally only applied to the bell, which weighs almost 14 tons, in common parlance the name applies to the entire clock tower with its huge clock that can be seen from afar. Its dial is around 30 square meters and a dedicated team of specialists takes care of the smooth functioning of the clock, which consists of over 300 parts. A lamp is attached above the dial. It always lights up when Parliament meets. Unfortunately, the tower and clock can currently - and probably until 2021 - be partially covered due to restoration work on scaffolding and tarpaulins.

The Palace of Westminster - birthplace of Western democracy

The origins of the Palace of Westminster go back to the 11th century when the Anglo-Saxon King Edward had a fortification built here, which was gradually converted into a palace-like by subsequent rulers. As early as 1295, the Palace of Westminster was the regular gathering place of the Anglo-Saxon nobility and until 1529 it was also the London residence of the English kings.

After that it served exclusively as a parliament, in which the representatives of the nobility and the bourgeoisie came together. Little has survived from the original building, as it was almost completely destroyed by a large fire in October 1834. Only Westminster Hall and the Jewel Tower were spared the fire and are still part of the Houses of Parliament today.

The monumental building, which now stands so impressively on the banks of the Thames, was built on the old foundation walls and has been called the Houses of Parliament since 1870 as the seat of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Visit Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament

There are several ways to visit the Houses of Parliament. The public sessions of the House of Commons and the House of Lords take place on weekdays and anyone can attend as a spectator. Guided tours through individual rooms take place on days when there are no sessions, Saturdays and during the parliamentary break. Unfortunately, the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben are only accessible to residents of the United Kingdom who have applied for individual permission from their MPs.

The best view of Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament is from the gondolas of the "London Eye", the ferris wheel on the opposite bank of the Thames. The nearby Westminster Bridge also offers beautiful views of the historic building complex and, especially after dark, you can take atmospheric souvenir photos from there.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Can you visit Big Ben?

No. Only British citizens are allowed to visit the Elisabeth Tower and the inside of the bells. And then only at the invitation of a member of parliament. This regulation was adopted in 2010 in response to the threat of terrorist attacks.