Big Ben, the famous London icon, is off limits to foreign tourists now. Due to rising terrorist threats and safety concerns, officials have made the big clock inaccessible to visitors. Security measures in place to deal with overseas tourists had become too costly and complex, leading to the current ban. British citizens still have the opportunity to go on a tour — of which there are still up to three per day — but they must submit a request to their local MP in writing stating why they want to go. It’s also recommended that they plan 3-6 months in advance.
The tour lasts 75 minutes and takes visitors to the top of the clock, around the mechanisms, the clock faces, and the bell. Before entering, visitors must pass through a metal detector and face a wall-mounted camera that snaps their photo, which is then issued as picture ID. A spokesman for the House of Commons confirmed the ban, and stated:
The house does not comment in detail on security matters. The process involves people approaching their MP and some kind of security checks take place, based on their residency in the UK.
Since you are no longer allowed to visit, I thought I would share some interesting facts about Big Ben:
- It is the largest 4-faced chiming clock in the world
- It is the third-tallest free-standing clock in the world
- Its first tick took place on May 31, 1859
- There are 334 steps to the top of the tower
- The tower leans slightly to the north-west due to changing ground conditions since construction
- A German raid in 1941 damaged two of the clock’s dials and part of its roof; however, the clock continued to keep accurate time and continued to chime throughout the Blitz.
[Image: apdk / Flickr]