Lucky enough to have got tickets to the Big Ben tour at Parliament? Or are you doubting if it’s worth the climb? Read on to find out what to expect before and during the 90 minutes tour. Fun fact – Big Ben actually refers to the big bell inside the tower, which itself is known as the Elizabeth Tower.
Going up the Elizabeth Tower and seeing the iconic Big Ben up close was one of the things I had been longing to do in London for an eternity, and, in June, I finally managed to make it happen.
Before the restoration from 2017 to 2022, it was only possible for UK residents and selected VIPs (Michelle Obama and Bill Gates apparently were given a tour) to go up the Clocktower. They had to write to their MP to request access. Now, you can book a tour for £10 per person and simply show up. One person can book multiple tickets, they just check the ticket purchaser’s name.
What to Expect from the Big Ben Tour?
To start your journey, make your way to the Cromwell Green visitor entrance, which is clearly marked if you are coming from Westminster Station. The queue starts outside the building, so make sure you dress appropriately for the weather.
Once you reach the front of the queue, your tickets will be scanned, and then you’ll proceed through an airport-style security check. You’ll need to place any bags, jackets, and belts into a tray.
Upon entering Westminster Hall, you’ll notice a sign for the Elizabeth Tower Tour on the left-hand side. Check-in there and wait for the tour to start.
Before your tour begins, you’ll need to store your belongings, including cameras and mobile phones, in a secure locker. You’ll also have the opportunity to use the toilet before and after the tour. And make sure you do as they are one of my favourite ones in London.
Climbing Up the Elizabeth Tower
During the tour, you’ll climb a total of 334 stairs, but don’t worry, it’s divided into manageable sections, so it isn’t very physically demanding. If you’re concerned about the space feeling narrow or claustrophobic, rest assured that the stairs are spacious, well lit, and equipped with handrails. If you have a fear of heights, it’s best not to look up or down. Additionally, if you have knee issues, it might be a bit challenging. I encountered three individuals who decided not to continue the ascent—two due to their knees and the other due to the height.
The first set of stairs will lead you to Room 3, where you’ll be provided with earplugs to use later. Here, you’ll have the chance to sit down and listen to a brief history of the building of the tower and how the clock and the bells were brought together.
Next, you’ll proceed to the next room, where you’ll witness the mechanics of the clock and observe its workings as it strikes quarter to the hour. Again, you’ll have the opportunity to sit down during this portion.
Finally, you’ll ascend all the way to the top, where you’ll experience a breathtaking view of London and stand next to THE Big Ben bell as it strikes the hour. Despite wearing ear defenders, you’ll still be able to feel the impact of the chimes.
Before descending, you’ll make one more stop—a walk behind the four dials. If you’re fortunate enough to visit on a sunny day, you’ll have the chance to see the dials’ silhouette up close.
After the tour, feel free to explore the medieval Westminster Hall, browse the gift shop, or enjoy a drink in the Jubilee Cafe.
Big Ben summer tours will go on sale on Wednesday 14 June at 10:00. You will be able to book here.