Big Ben set to open up to tourists for the first time after scaffolding starts to come off in 2020

Tourists will get a chance to see Big Ben up close and personal for the first time, under new plans.

Visitors from other countries are not able to visit the famous bell inside Elizabeth Tower as it was only permitted to UK residents who contacted their local MP.

However, plans to turn the iconic London landmark into a fully fledged tourist attraction would see foreign tourists be able to visit a brand new viewing platform and exhibition space.

And for those worried about the 334-step climb to the top a lift is set to be installed.

The clock hands of Elizabeth Tower at the Palace of Westminster have been removed for maintenance and restoration work as the tower is undergoing a £61m refurbishment, up from the original estimate of £29m.
Scaffolding is set to be removed from Big Ben by the end of next year (PA)

Restoration work on Elizabeth Tower is finally set to come to an end in 2020, allowing the scaffolding to be taken down.

Renovation on the tower reaches its halfway point today, meaning tourists will be able to get the perfect selfies outside from next year.

Charlotte Claughton, Senior Project Leader, said: "We are really excited to be reaching the halfway stage in the Elizabeth Tower restoration project.

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"Late next year we will be in a position to start taking down scaffolding to reveal this much-loved landmark restored to its former glory."

Big Ben - the bell that resides inside the tower - has remained in place as restoration of the clock continues and marks its 160th birthday on 11 July.

However, it has remained largely silent throughout the work, aside from striking for Remembrance Sunday and the New Year.

UK, England, London.  The British Houses of Parliament, housed in the Palace of Westminster.  Big Ben clock tower featured prominently.
How Big Ben usually looks without the scaffolding (Getty)

Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock, said: "It is a testament to the craftsmanship that went into its creation, and the expert team maintaining it, that 160 years since Big Ben rang out on 11 July 1859, both the Great Bell and the Great Clock still remain in fantastic condition.

"The Great Clock and its bell have become much loved representatives of our democracy and the conservation works currently taking place will ensure that it continues to be so for generations to come.”

The birthday coincides with the half-way point of the restoration project, with one face of the clock already completed.

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