We arranged a tour of Elizabeth Tower (the name of the tower that houses Big Ben, which is the bell, not the building) through our local MP, and were allocated a time slot. You go through strict airport-style security just to get in to Portcullis House on the opposite corner where there is a small waiting room with a few seats, and toilets are available.
Bags and cameras are not allowed up the tower, and mobile phones must be switched off (partly for security reasons, but also because of the time restraint - a dozen people taking photos of each other all the way up could take half a day!). There is a locked cupboard where bags and coats can be stored, although it is advisable to keep your coat on as the top of the tower is open to the elements, and it can be windy and cold.
You get taken under the road and into the Tower by two guides, one at the front and one bringing up the rear. Any health and safety issues are raised before you set off, and anyone who is pregnant, suffers from asthma or vertigo, high or low blood pressure etc, are advised to stick to the back end of the group, so as not to feel any pressure. There were about a dozen or so people in our group.
Although there are 334 steps in a spiral staircase, the climb is not as difficult as it sounds - the pace is relaxed, and you can take it at your own speed (hence the guide at the back to bring up the rear); also the steps are not all that steep. You also stop to rest a couple of times on the way up, with seats to relax while the guides fill you in on the history of the tower and bells.
The aim is to make it to the level where the Big Ben bell is for the chime on the hour - it is extremely loud and I would recommend that you wear the earplugs that are issued to you. The whole floor vibrates, and it is an amazing experience to be up there for the chime. The view from there is pretty good too.
On the way back down you get to walk behind all the four the clock faces (VERY cool!) before descending to the bottom again.
You even get a certificate to prove you did it! It was well worth it!
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.