Your travel to London will not be over if you do not see the Big Ben of London. Many people who travel to London from foreign lands tend to identify the clock tower as the Big Ben which is a wrong perception actually. The world famous Big Ben is basically the bell of the clock tower which is at the north end of the Westminster Palace in London. While the clock tower is officially called the Elizabeth Tower since 2012, the bell of the tower has earned its nickname of Big Ben since the time of its setup on 31st May 1859.
It was in the year 1834 when a fearsome fire completely destroyed most part of the Palace of Westminster in London. When the reconstruction was being done, it was decided by the Parliament that there would be a clock tower with the palace building as well. That is when the WhiteChapel Bell Foundry casted the bell which became famous in the whole world as the Big Ben.
The history behind the name
There are two schools of thoughts that suggest two different reasons behind the naming of Big Ben. It is commonly believed that the name Big Ben came after Sir Benjamin Hall who happened to be the first commissioner of Works that supervised the construction and setup of the bell, and was affectionately called by the name Big Ben by his colleagues. Another theory suggests that the bell was named as Big Ben after Benjamin Caunt, the heavyweight boxer of the time.
However, there is a third and more convincing theory that says that Englishmen used to use the nickname Big Ben to refer to any object which was the heaviest or biggest in its class and hence when the 13 and a half ton bell was being heard chiming it was lovingly given the common nickname of Big Ben by local Londoners which stayed and the bell was being called as Big Ben thereafter.
Tips to visit Big Ben
While you travel to London and pay a visit to the Houses of Parliament, you will get to see the clock tower of Big Ben. The tower, which is now called Elizabeth Tower, is not open to public hence one has to be satisfied by taking a glimpse of the clock tower itself. Residents of UK can send written applications to their MPs or any Member of the House of Lords. Due to extreme high demand and very low acceptance of applications, one has to make a booking at least six months prior.
Usually the trip to Big Ben is not allowed to people who are on travel to London and are not residents of UK. Otherwise, the guided tour of Big Ben takes the visitors to the top of the tower to give a stunning panoramic view of the city of London from a height of 62 meters. The trip happens thrice a day at 9AM, 11 AM and 2 PM on all weekdays except bank holidays. During the Christmas and New Year time (24th December to 2nd January) the tours do not happen.
The best transportation option to reach Big Ben is by means of Tube or underground rail of London. The Westminster Tube station is just at a distance of two minutes from Big Ben. The nearest mainline station is Charring Cross Railway station which is around 10 mins away from the historical Big Ben. Number 11 bus that travels from Chelsea to St. Paul’s Cathedral can be availed to pay a visit to Big Ben.