All About Big Ben: This Famous Tourist Destination is Under Renovation

23 Apr 2020
Big Ben

Every major country has tourist sites that are their calling card. That symbol of Great Britain is Big Ben, the northern tower of London's Westminster Palace. 

Important news! 

Big Ben has been closed for renovation since 2017. 

Big Ben

On August 2017 at 12 pm, the bells rang for the last time before the renovations. 

The updated northern clock-face is open 

On March 21, 2019, the restored northern clock-face of the Elizabeth tower was opened. 

The clock-face facing Whitehall and the bank is now completely visible, since the scaffolding around it has been completely removed. The eastern clock-face that was open is now being blocked by scaffolding and work is beginning. 

The new northern clock-face's appearance is different than the one we knew, but it isn't a new design. It's actually a return to the original design of Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. The large clock's hands and the surface's iron frame were completely cleaned and repainted in a dark Prussian blue color. The stonework was also stripped of its black paint and the clock-face's corners were painted in a bright cobalt blue with gold. 

Big Ben

The former black-gold paint on the clock-faces was added back in the 1930s. 

Big Ben's bell celebrates 160 years 

On July 11, 2019, Big Ben, the Elizabeth Tower's large bell, rang for the 160-year anniversary and mid point in the renovative works. It's remained in place during the renovations while the experienced clockmaker team has been laboriously taking the large clocks apart and replacing their parts. 

What other changes are planned? 

During the renovations, the architects solved an important technical problem. There was no elevator in the tower. All this time, the tower had just one 334-step spiral staircase that didn't meet safety standards in case of a fire or unforeseen circumstances. An elevator was built in one of the existing ventilation shafts just for this. It won't carry passengers because of its size, except for handicapped people that previously couldn't get inside. The elevator won't change the tower's appearance since it's in an existing shaft. 

When will the renovations finish and when can we see Big Ben? 

The large-scale renovations should be finished in 2021. 

Big Ben

About Big Ben 

Big Ben (officially the Elizabeth Tower) is a tower with world-famous clocks on top. It is set to the international time standard. Specifically, its chiming at midnight on December 31 is the moment when the planet enters the new year. The 96-meter tall tower overlooks the River Thames's waters. Big Ben is actually the name of the huge bell, although most tourists are used to calling the tower Big Ben. 

One of the most interesting things about the tower is that the accuracy of the clocks are regulated by a coin, an old English penny. It's on the fourth pendulum and is able to slow down the movement by about 0.4 seconds. A special observer watches over this and adds or removes a penny, depending on the weather conditions that can affect the pendulum's speed. 

What's inside the clock? 

The bell tower has The Great Bell (the official name) that announces every hour, along with the clocks and four quarter bells that announce every quarter-hour. Their melody is made by 20 accompanying Cambridge chimes. Every quarter hour has a its own composition. The first 15 minutes have chimes 1-4, a half hour has chimes 5-12, and at 45 minutes chimes 13-20 play, and then it repeats with chimes 1-4. 45 seconds before the new hour, the 5-20 chimes play and then the Big Ben bell rings on the first second. 

How can I visit Big Ben? 

Big Ben

You currently cannot visit due to the Big Ben renovations. Parliament promises that visitation can resume right after the renovations are finished. You can find tickets for other British tourist sights here

Going to Big Ben and the city's other main symbols is very easy using a tour bus and a personal audio guide. It includes a cruise on the Thames that will add more places to your trip! The ticket costs 35.10 pounds. Use this link to learn more

Don't forget to buy a souvenir with Big Ben on it! 

» READ MORE - 16 Ideas for London Souvenirs

How do I get to Big Ben? 

The address is Palace of Westminster, Old Palace Yard, London SW1. 

You can get there on a bus that goes to Parliament Square or to the Trafalgar Square Whitehall street stop. If you want to take the Underground, then you need to get off at the stations Westminster on the District Line or Victoria on the Jubilee Line. 

Look for hotels that are near the main tourist sights to save money on travel. 

Big Ben, London: book hotel in

Have a great trip! 

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