Everyone knows of Big Ben, the famous clock tower in London. People travel from all over to see it, though these days, its appearance is a bit of a mystery due to the current renovations. And since those aren't slated to be finished until 2021, we thought we would introduce you to — or remind you of — equally spectacular clock towers throughout the world. For some reason, these clock towers don't have quite the same claim to fame as Big Ben. But each has a unique history and its own beauty. Here are seven of the most incredible clock towers:
Philadelphia City Hall (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
When you think of a trip to Philadelphia, you might think of visiting the Liberty Bell while eating a cheesesteak. That's a warranted move, but don't miss Philadelphia City Hall. This stately building is several centuries old and the largest municipal building in the United States. The clock tower is covered with intricate statues representing the seasons. At the very top is a statue of William Penn, which majestically looks over the City of Brotherly Love. You can visit the observation deck at the tower and take in a stunning view of the city.
Makkah Royal Clock Tower (Mecca, Saudi Arabia)
This awe-inspiring clock tower is in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the place of pilgrimage for devout Muslims everywhere. Construction took 10 years, with the finishing touches completed in 2012. Of the towers on our list, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower is the newest and most massive structure. The clock tower, also known as Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower, is the third tallest building in the world and has the largest clock face in the world too.
Its presence brings a modern flair to this historic city. And unlike the other towers on our list, Makkah Tower was designed to provide visitors a place to stay. The faithful who visit Mecca can spend a few nights in this government-run hotel complex.
Prague Astronomical Clock (Prague, Czech Republic)
The Prague Astronomical Clock is certainly unique and stand apart from the other selections on this list. Instead of a typical clock face, this clock tower features intricate clocks from medieval times. The clock tower was built in 1410, making it the oldest clock tower to still operate today. The astronomical dial is a mechanical astrolabe, a medieval device that tracks the placement of the sun, moon, planets, and the zodiac. And at the stroke of the hour (between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.), the bell triggers a procession of statues of the twelve apostles.
Peace Tower (Ottawa, Canada)
The Peace Tower, a gift from the U.K., stands 322 feet tall and serves as a replacement for the previous iteration, the Victoria Tower. The Victoria Tower burned down in 1916. Since the tower was built shortly after World War I ended, Prime Minister Robert Borden dedicated the tower to the fallen soldiers from the Great War. Prime Minister Borden named it the Peace Tower in hopes of what the future would hold. Oddly enough, the clock cannot be set back, so when Daylight Saving Time happens in the fall, a government employee stops the clock for an hour during the night to ensure the correct time is displayed.
Spasskaya Tower (Moscow, Russia)
The Spasskaya Tower is an ornate clock tower in the Kremlin, the fortified city center of Moscow. While the tower was designed in 1491, it wasn't installed for over 100 years, in 1625. This four-sided clock tower boasts brilliant black clock faces with gold details on each of the four sides. During the time of the czars, the clock tower was the entrance to the Kremlin and seen as a protective feature. People entering the fortified city would remove any head coverings and cross themselves when passing the clock.
Zytglogge Tower (Bern, Switzerland)
Another medieval clock tower worth visiting is the Zytglogge Tower in Bern, Switzerland. The clock tower is a UNESCO World Culture Heritage Site, making it a valuable place for those who desire to see the wonders of the world. Since the Zytglogge Tower was built in the 13th century, its walls have served many purposes over the years. It's been a prison, a guard tower, and a civic memorial. When the clock strikes on the hour, a gilded, larger-than-life figure of Chronos, the Greek god of time, hits a bell with a hammer, something worth waiting for if you're visiting.
Rajabai Clock Tower (Mumbai, India)
The Rajabai Clock Tower sits in the Mumbai University Fort Campus. It towers above the rest of the campus at 280 feet tall. Rajabai Clock Tower seems like a fitting way to wrap up our tour of clock towers since it was modeled after Big Ben. During the British rule in India, the clock tower would chime with patriotic tunes. Now, however, it chimes every 15 minutes with a simple bell. Just last year, in 2018, UNESCO recognized the clock tower as a World Heritage Site.