Think you've know everything about Big Ben? Well, think harder! While it might sounds surprising to you, Big Ben is actually a part of House of Parliaments. The gothic-style building is one of the most well-known landmarks in the world. The building you see today is actually a restored version, while most parts of the original building was engulfed in fire decades ago. One of the building's room that is still intact after the huge fire is Westminster Hall, a hall where most lively debates are held. Who would have thought that the clock tower is actually an addition for the new House of Parliament building after the original building was destroyed in fire! Most people assume that the name 'Big Ben' refers to the clock tower as a whole, while at the beginning it was actually referred to the 13 tons massive bell inside the clock tower. More than your average clock tower, Big Ben has been operating since 1859 until present day, without missing a second. The only time the clock stopped running were during a war between British army and Germany. The clock's light was turned off and the bells were silenced to avoid further casualties from British' side. The clock was also silenced during the funeral of Winston Churchill and Baroness Margaret Thatcher. You might also are curious of the tower's name origin. While the real origin regarding it is still unknown, until now there are two theories that has been sparking debates among historians. The first theory is the clock tower was named after a commisioner Sir Benjamin Hall, well-known for his big and tall stature and also a figure behind Big Ben project. The second theory mentioned that a heavy-weight boxer named Ben Caunt was a figure behind the naming of 'Big Ben'. Since 2012 a new bill was passed and the clock tower obtains a new name, 'Elizabeth Tower', to honor Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee.
Pose for Your Selfies and Discover Unexpected Facts of World's Most Famous Big Ben
The Bell's History
At first, the bell in Big Ben was meant to be called Royal Victoria. A big celebration welcomed its arrival when it was brought down the Thames by barge and then taken across Westminster Bridge by a carriage drawn by 16 white horses. Sadly, the bell broke for three times in the 1800s before it was replaced and repaired.
Big Ben's Chime
A lot of people visit Big Ben not to just take photos but to also hear its chimes. Four quarter bells chime at 15, 30, and 45 minutes past the hour, just before the Big Ben tolls the hour. The melody's name is 'Westminster Chimes', which is Big Ben's trademark, and if you're wondering, will not likely be changed. Best place to hear it is from the belfry, where you can also feel the vibration fully. Sadly, last year, Big Ben bongs for the last time in 4 years due to its need of repairment. So, until 2021, people can only take photos of Big Ben without witnessing its glorious sound.
Big Ben's Structure
Its height is 2.28 metres / 7 feet 6 inches and its wide is 2.75 metres / 9 feet. If you're wondering how long does it take to climb it, the answer is half an hour, if you're fit. Those 334 steps will definitely have your heart pounding. It weighs around 13 an a half tons, which is quite similar to a small elephant. Made out of tin and copper, Big Ben has the colour of grey with some green marks.
The People of Big Ben
Our common sense might say that Big Ben is owned by the country, but actually, not really. Big Ben is owned by the citizen of the UK. Everyone in the UK who has its citizenship and pay the taxes are owners of Big Ben. The Tower itself is taken care by a team of people, including the Keeper of the Clock and a few clock engineers. They have to wind the clock and check it three time a week to make sure it's fine. This is also to make sure the clock shows the correct time. Plus, they have to change the lightbulbs that make Big Ben glows every night. What about the cleaning? Every five years, a team of window washers clean it with (suprisingly) only soap and water! They have clean each faces of the clock very carefully, to avoid breaking the glass. How much does it cost? Less then you think.
St. Thomas Hospital
A lot of people wonder if the chime keeps the patients in St. Thomas Hospital (across Big Ben) awake. The answer is yes, it does! But most patients said they actually felt comfort hearing the chimes instead of feeling annoyed. Apart from that, the maternity ward of the hospital has a panoramic view of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster. Most new moms don't notice right away. Why else if it's not because they're busy giving birth?
Best Photo Spots
What's the point of visiting Big Ben without taking pictures with it? There are four best spots to take those memorable photos. First is the left sidewalk of Westinster Bridge, across Big Ben. Please note that this place is crowded due to its reputation as the best spot. Take photos here before 9 am to avoid backlight and the crowd. Try not to take your photos here after sunset if you're only using camera phone since the result might be really bad because of the darkness. Second option is from London Eye. It's better to take your photos 30 minutes to 1 hour after sunset since you can also capture the sky's beauty. You can also snap the Parliament House together with Big Ben. Third option is right sidewalk of Westminster Bridge in line with Big Ben. This side is not as crowded as the left side mentioned before because it won't give you the full background of Big Ben and the Parliament House. Still, the result of the photos can be counted as iconic. So if you don't want to go there too early in the morning but still want to avoid the crowd, this is is perfect. Fourth option is The Parliament Square. From here, you can get Big Ben, the London Eye, the Parliament House, and also the iconic black cabs and red buses in one picture!
How to Get Tickets?
Visiting Big Ben and checking out the tower is free, but there is a tour of the Parliament House which costs £25.00 for adults. The most convenient way to purchase tickets to enter the Big Ben tower is by online. However, be aware that the government regulate strict rules for visitors who want to go up to the tower. One main rule to follow is you should be registered as an UK residents. The visitors should also be in a good health with no heart-related illnesses or pregnant.
How To Get Around?
Getting around the Big Ben is fairly easy. Since the clock tower is located at the center area of London, it's fairly easy to reach other London's key attractions such as Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, and Westminster Abbey on foot.
Best Time to Visit
It actually depends on what do you want to do at Big Ben. If you want to have panoramic view of the clock tower and its surrounding, it is best to visit the Big Ben at night when the site is illuminated with lights. If you are more interested in taking closer look of its structures, early morning is the best time when the place is not too crowded and the weather is much cooler.
Will I Need a Guide?
How To Get There?
The most common way to reach Big Ben is by Metro train. Take a metro train on Bakerloo, Waterloo, or Jubilee lines and stop at Waterloo Station. It only takes few minutes walking which won't feel boring since you can capture scenic scenery of Thames River along your way. You can also try the bus since every hop-on-hop-off bus will pas Big Ben.
Swearing words are considered very rude, so don't say it out loud, especially to the locals. Don't skip the line as it's also considered as very rude. Don't throw any trash or cigarette on the streets because you will get an £80 fine. Always be polite by smiling, saying thank you, excuse me, sorry, and cover your mouth when yawning.