It’s not everyday you get to visit the iconic Big Ben (aka Clock Tower) in the Royal Borough of Westminster. Viewed and admired from the street by thousands of visitors daily, the tower is open for guided tours for the residents only. To be honest, only until recently I didn’t know a guided tour of the belfry was even an option.
How to visit Big Ben aka the Clock Tower
If you are a UK resident, all you need to do is send a letter to your local MP and he/she will set the time and date of your tour. You might need to organise a day off though, my tour started at 11.15 am. Don’t forget to bring your ID and proof of address. Unfortunately this tour is unavailable for overseas visitors.
Your correspondence should be addressed to:
Big Ben Tours
Houses of Parliament
London SW1A 0AA
The guided tour
The tour is a good fun. Make sure to arrive promptly for your slot. The guide will meet you at the designated area (check your letter) to take you to the Clock Tower after briefly explaining the house rules. Photos are not allowed inside. Sob. I am sure you will be tempted to snap a couple of shots with your Iphone, I was, but you shouldn’t really.
Have you ever looked up to the Clock Tower and thought of a chance to stand behind the massive Clock face? Well, that’s where we stood when the guide was telling us interesting facts about the tower. It was incredible.
Just before 12 o’clock, we climbed to the belfry and listen to the Great Bell strike the hour, with earplugs, of course! Don’t forget to look out the belfry, the views of Westminster are really good.
The facts about the Clock Tower
All the guides are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and will tell you various facts about the landmark and here is what we’ve learnt during our tour:
The British Summer Time changeover causes Big Ben to fall silent twice a year. Didn’t know that!
The Great Clock was installed in 1859 and its first tick was heard on 31st May. The Great Bell, Big Ben, began striking the hours on 11 July 1859. Didn’t know this either!
The proof of the visit to Big Ben
As you get down from the tower, you start thinking, how am I going to prove ‘ve been here. Well, you get a certificate, the proof that you climbed the 334 steps to the belfry tower! Ta da!
The Clock Tower has now been renamed The Elizabeth Tower to mark the Diamond Jubilee, but I think everyone will carry on calling it Big Ben.
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