Houses of Parliament & Big Ben
The best ways to see Big Ben is from afar, to both appreciate the scale of the 315-foot (96-meter) clock tower and avoid crowds nearby. Popular ways to admire the clock include taking a ride on the nearby London Eye or opting for a Thames River cruise. Alternatively, city tours of London—on foot or by hop-on hop-off bus—typically pass by Big Ben, also stopping at Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London.
To go inside the Houses of Parliament, arrange an official tour or watch a debate from the public galleries. Big Ben is only accessible to UK residents.
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Things to Know Before You Go
Big Ben is visited on most half- and full-day tours of London, whether on walking, biking, or bus tours.
Take 10 minutes to admire the statues in Parliament Square, all of which depict famous political figures.
Guided tours of the Houses of Parliament run most Saturdays, and the public galleries are open when parliament is in session.
Big Ben is only accessible to UK residents, who must request permission from their local member of parliament to visit.
Stop by after dark to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament illuminated.
How to Get There
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are located on the north bank of the River Thames, easily accessible from the Westminster underground tube station, which is serviced by the Jubilee, Circle, and District lines. Alternatively, hop off at Waterloo station to wander along the vibrant South Bank past the London Eye, before crossing Westminster Bridge to reach Big Ben.
When to Get There
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are staple must-sees of London vacations year-round; however, a particularly great time to visit is on New Year's Eve when fireworks light the sky in a riot of color right in front of Big Ben. Ensure you book tickets for the firework display well in advance to avoid disappointment and guarantee an unforgettable evening.
Why is Big Ben Called Big Ben?
Big Ben, the popular—if not strictly official—name for the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament is an iconic part of the London skyline. Debate rages on over the famous nickname, though, with some attributing it to Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the Great Bell's installation, and others giving the credit to English heavyweight boxer Benjamin "Big Ben" Caunt. (Also, Big Ben is technically the name of the Great Bell, not the tower as a whole.)
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