Important note:They are no longer offering tours of Big Ben due to renovations. The tours are not expected to start again until 2020
Big Ben is the most famous landmark in London, but did you know that you can actually get permission to climb the clock tower? A tour will take you up all 334 steps to the belfry, where you'll stand ten feet away from the bell as it strikes the hour (don't worry, earplugs are provided!). It's easily one of the Top 10 things to do for free in London.
On the way up the tower you will stop in two rooms to see the pendulum and mechanism, and on the way back down he'll take you behind all four of the giant clock faces.
Unfortunately, it's a lot harder to get into Big Ben than it is to get into Parliament itself. You can't just turn up on the day and ask for a tour -- you have to jump through a few hoops first.
First of all, you have to be a UK resident, and you must obtain a ticket by writing to your local MP. (Work out who your MP is by looking here.) They will then undertake a security check on your details before giving you a slot. You should be prepared for a very long wait -- tours are often booked up three of four months in advance. You should also expect some very tight security on the day -- you will be expected to bring two forms of ID with you.
Craig has been on this tour himself and thoroughly recommends it. Read his review of the Big Ben tour before you go, so you can get an idea what it's like. Feel free to ask him some questions as well. You can also post a question on the forum.
Whilst you're at the Houses of Parliament you might like to watch your MP in the House of Commons. Or maybe you can come back at the weekend for a Saturday tour of Parliament, and see the rest of the building?
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