Big Ben & Houses of Parliament, London

Big Ben & Houses of Parliament, London (must see)

Famously recognized as Big Ben, this iconic tower stands as a prominent feature of the London skyline. At its pinnacle lies a four-faced Great Clock with a set of five bells, the largest of them bearing the name Big Ben, which is not attributed to the tower itself. Astonishingly, this mighty bell weighs no less than 15 tonnes! It resounds with a resounding toll every hour, while the smaller bells chime every quarter past.

Prior to 2012, the tower bore the official title of the Clock Tower but was subsequently renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honor of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The origins of the name Big Ben remain a subject of debate. Some believe it is linked to Benjamin Hall, the overseer of the bell's installation, while others suggest a connection to Benjamin Caunt, a heavyweight boxing champion of the era. In any case, Big Ben holds a significant place as a cultural icon, and its Victorian mechanism provides precise timekeeping for all of Britain, including the members of Parliament who occupy the nearby Westminster Palace.

Also known as the Houses of Parliament, this palace serves as the home to the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Ironically, following the destruction of the Old Westminster Palace in a fire in 1834, there was a proposal to relocate the British Parliament to Buckingham Palace, which was suggested by King William IV. However, the proposal was ultimately rejected, as Members of Parliament found Buckingham Palace unsuitable for their purposes, sticking with the good old Westminster instead.

Today, the House of Commons frequently captures headlines, with its sessions drawing significant attention, especially during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesdays. Both the Commons and the Lords offer regular access to visitors, with public viewing galleries available. To attend Parliament sessions, one can either request a free ticket from their Member of Parliament or join a live queue outside, which is often a simpler option. There's tight "airport-style" security at the entrance, including baggage scanning and inspection of visitors' shoes, belts, and metallic items. It's not as time-consuming as at the airport, though.

Tip:
If politics isn't one of your prime interests and your only care for Westminster for its architectural splendor, you may simply take a memorable photo of Big Ben and Houses of Parliament from a distance, at the nearby Westminster Bridge some 500 yards away.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in London. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Big Ben & Houses of Parliament on Map

Sight Name: Big Ben & Houses of Parliament
Sight Location: London, England (See walking tours in London)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in London, England

Create Your Own Walk in London

Create Your Own Walk in London

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
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Harry Potter Walking Tour II

Harry Potter Walking Tour II

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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London Introduction Walking Tour

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With the Romans gone, Londinium was Anglo-Saxon Lundenwic. Until...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Harry Potter Walking Tour I

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Kensington/Knightsbridge Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.5 Km or 2.8 Miles
City of London Walking Tour

City of London Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles

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