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Catch a glimpse of Big Ben across the River Thames and you’ll know you have truly arrived in London. Featured in British films, such as “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Notting Hill” and “Love Actually,” Big Ben is best viewed from the Thames’ east bank or while strolling along Westminster Bridge, on route to see the Houses of Parliament.
Big Ben was the name originally given to the largest of the clock tower’s bells. The Great Bell, as it is otherwise known, weighs 13 tons (13,760 kilograms). Listen for its deep knell as it strikes on the hour, peeling high across the rooftops and rush of London’s traffic. Nowadays, the name Big Ben is synonymous with the bells, the clock and the tower.
Since first sounding in July 1859, the clock’s reliability and reassuring chime have become a national symbol of British resilience. When the sun sets, its four ivory-tinted faces are illuminated so the clock can still be seen from miles away. The faces have only ever been dimmed in times of national crisis: for two years during World War I, to avoid German zeppelin attacks, and at night during World War II to disorient German Blitz pilots.
Completed in 1858, the clock tower was supposedly named after London’s Commissioner of Works, a large man called Benjamin Hall. Designed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin in classic Gothic Revivalist style, the brick and limestone tower rests atop Britain’s Houses of Parliament. The clock is the largest four-faced chiming clock in Great Britain. Each face is 23 feet (seven meters) in diameter and contains 312 pieces of opal glass.
Despite its status as a popular landmark, Big Ben only opens its doors to British citizens who can schedule a tour through their parliamentary representatives. Still, this exclusivity won’t stop it from giving you a little rush of excitement the first time you see and hear it.
In June 2012, Big Ben was officially renamed Elizabeth Tower, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, but it is still known colloquially as Big Ben.
Big Ben is located in central London. The nearest Underground station is Waterloo.
Located in London City Centre, this spa hotel is steps from Southbank Centre Book Market and Florence Nightingale Museum. St. Thomas' Hospital and Sea Life London Aquarium are also within 5 minutes. Waterloo Underground Station is only a 4-minute walk and Lambeth North Underground Station is 6 minutes.
Located in London City Centre, this apartment building is within 1 mi (2 km) of The British Museum, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Piccadilly Circus. Hyde Park and London Eye are also within 2 mi (3 km). Goodge Street Underground Station is only a 2-minute walk and Warren Street Underground Station is 7 minutes.
Located in London City Centre, this luxury hotel is steps from Charing Cross and The Strand. National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are also within 10 minutes. Charing Cross Underground Station and Embankment Station are within a 5-minute walk.
This family-friendly London hotel is located in the historical district, within a 10-minute walk of Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and Oxford Circus. Buckingham Palace and Green Park are also within 1 mi (2 km). Piccadilly Circus Underground Station is only a 2-minute walk and Leicester Square Underground Station is 7 minutes.
Located in London City Centre, this eco-friendly hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Covent Garden Market, Piccadilly Circus, and London Dungeon. Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are also within 1 mi (2 km). Charing Cross Underground Station is 5 minutes by foot and Covent Garden Underground Station is 5 minutes.
Located in London City Centre, this luxury hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Horse Guard's Building, Trafalgar Square, and National Gallery. London Eye and Piccadilly Circus are also within 15 minutes. Embankment Station and Charing Cross Underground Station are within a 5-minute walk.