The iconic image of Big Ben is a postcard standard along with red double-decker buses and public telephone boxes. Formally titled Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament's most famous resident is the legendary Big Ben, which is the nickname of the bell and not the clock tower it is housed in (called Elizabeth Tower, by the way). The official name of Big Ben is the Great Bell.
Big Ben is the 'hour' bell and, weighing 13.7 tonnes, is the largest of the five bells inside the 96m-high Victorian Gothic clock tower, which was completed in 1856. The dials are seven metres in diameter and the faces are comprised of small pieces of opal glass assembled like a stained glass window. Tours of Big Ben are only available to UK residents who can climb the 334 stone spiral steps of Elizabeth Tower to see the views from 62m high and hear Big Ben strike on the hour for free by contacting their local MP.
Overseas visitors will have to view Big Ben from afar. At night, the clock faces are illuminated and best seen to breathtaking effect from Westminster Bridge or the Thames. Tourists from outside the UK are able to tour the Houses of Parliament, watch laws being made, attend debates on current issues and legislation in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords, and watch committees when Parliament is in session for free on a first-come, first-served basis. The 75-minute guided tour of the Houses of Parliament delves into the history, politics, art and architecture spanning 1,000 years. The tour is £16.50 for adults and one child enters for free with a paying adult or £7 for any additional children aged five to 15 years. The Palace of Westminster dates from the 11th century but its current Neo-Gothic incarnation was completed in 1860. The remains of the original medieval Palace of Westminster are the Jewel Tower and historic Westminster Hall.
To visit Big Ben and Palace of Westminster, take the tube to Westminster station. From here, it's a four-minute walk down Bridge Street and left onto St Margaret Street.