Many tourists visiting London ask, can you go inside big ben? The clock is one of the most iconic landmarks in London, drawing millions of visitors every year. It may be one of the world’s most famous and photographed clocks.
But with the thousands of photos snapped daily, almost none are of the real Big Ben. Most people don’t know Big Ben is the bell hanging inside the clock tower.
If you’re planning a trip to London and want to experience this city’s rich history and culture, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are a must-visit.
Big Ben, a masterpiece of architectural brilliance, has captivated people’s imaginations worldwide. But the burning question remains, can you go inside Big Ben?
Well, it depends. The tour up the clock tower to Big Ben is usually reserved for only British citizens. More so, they have to be given person by some in parliament. Very few Americans have ever climbed the big ben.
Before the construction of the iconic Elizabeth Tower, a clock tower already stood at the location of the Houses of Parliament.
Many people are unaware of this fact, but it is a fascinating part of the history of Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower.
Although there are no records of the first clock tower built on the site in the 1290s, it is believed to have existed. 1367 a clock tower was erected, which may have replaced the original one.
1698 the medieval clock tower was demolished and replaced with a sundial. By 1699, the clock tower had fallen into disrepair, and its bell, intended for St. Paul’s Cathedral, broke during transportation.
However, in 1716, the bell was recast and placed in the South West Tower of St. Paul’s, ready to ring if Big Ben’s bell ever failed. The Palace of Westminster housed the clock tower and suffered a major fire in 1834.
And the reconstruction efforts led by architect Charles Barry began in 1840. Barry’s vision for the new palace included a clock tower, and he commissioned Augustus Welby Pugin to bring the Gothic Revival style to life.
Construction work commenced in 1843. To determine the clock’s builder, a competition was held in 1846, and John Dent was appointed to bring the designs of Edmund Beckett Denison to fruition.
And in 1852, the clock tower was completed, coinciding with the opening of the New Palace of Westminster by Queen Victoria.
The year 1854 witnessed the completion of the clock mechanism, and in 1856, the first “Big Ben” bell was cast. However, it soon developed a crack during testing, leading to the casting of a second bell in 1858.
The Great Clock started ticking on May 31, 1859, and Big Ben’s chimes echoed for the first time on July 11.
During World War II, blackout regulations enforced darkness upon the clock dial from 1939 to 1945, but they were re-illuminated after the war.
In 1976, a mechanical failure caused severe damage to the Great Clock, rendering Big Ben silent for nearly nine months.
However, repairs were completed for the bells to ring in Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in May 1977. To honour Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Clock Tower has renamed the Elizabeth Tower.
Then, in 2017, an extensive conservation project began to preserve the tower for future generations. Finally, in 2022, Big Ben returned to regular service, marking the completion of the conservation efforts.
Up until recently, everyone was allowed to climb the big ben. However, in recent times, the famous clock tower has become off-limits to non-residents due to security concerns.
Clearance checks for foreigners had become increasingly complex and costly to prevent terrorists from targeting the historic tower. And therefore, they decided to do away with all overseas visitors completely.
Well, while it’s disappointing to many people not being able to climb the big ben, there’s nothing much they can do.
It’s more of a renaissance of what Moses went through, being able to see the promised land but being able to reach there.
For what’s worth, here is what Michael McCann, the Keeper of The Great Clock, has to say about the tour.
The tours are limited to 16 people and happen up to three times daily. Before beginning the 75-minute tour, you must go through strict security checks at the house.
Armed police officers will supervise as you pass through a metal detector, and a camera takes a picture of your face before being issued a photo security pass.
The guide will take you through all the fascinating details and stories behind Big Ben. The tour culminates at the top of this iconic landmark, where you can marvel at the clock’s intricate mechanism and see the clock faces up close.
Several vantage points offer breathtaking views for those who want to capture a picture-perfect moment with this masterpiece in the background.
One of the best places to take a shot of Big Ben is Albert Embankment, opposite the River Thames bank.
Another great spot is Westminster Bridge – a prime location for taking panoramic shots of the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.
Victoria Embankment Crossing Bridge Street is also a great location for capturing Big Ben in all its grandeur. You also have an excellent opportunity from Parliament Square to capture a close-up view of the bell tower.
Adult tickets cost £15, while families can purchase tickets for £37. Students can enter for £10, and children between the ages of five and 16 can purchase tickets for £6. However, if you’re travelling with children under five, they can enter for free.
Big Ben’s chimes can reach up to 118 decibels, louder than most construction and industrial equipment.
To put this into perspective, a typical conversation is around 60 decibels, and anything above 85 decibels can cause hearing damage over time. Therefore, it’s no surprise you can hear the bell 5 miles away.
Its last known use was in 1880 when Charles Bradlaugh, an atheist MP, refused to swear allegiance to the Crown on the Bible. Bradlaugh was released after spending only one night in prison.
Can you go inside the Big Ben? Sorry, it’s only for British residents. However, overseas visitors can still admire the stunning architecture and take pictures of the clock tower from the outside.
Additionally, plenty of other attractions are located nearby, such as the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, which are also worth visiting.