From antique watches to magnificent clock towers, the beauty of clocks and their workings have fascinated people all over the world. Not only used for their time keeping functions, clock towers have been made to act as a memorial of events or showcase clockmaker talents. Here’s a list of the most beautiful clock towers you can visit on your travels.
The Philadelphia City Hall clock is a special marvel that has a strong presence in Philadelphia, standing 167 meters tall. It was created by chief architect John McArthur and the tower was completed in 1901, after being started in 1871. The plan for the tower was to be the tallest structure in the world but the Eiffel Tower beat the tower to the punch, measuring in at 301 meters; however, the City Hall maintained the title of tallest occupied building until 1908. You can witness the spectacular workings of the clocks and towers as you ascend the lift to the observation deck at the top of tower. The clock tower also features several bronze statues at the top that represent William Penn and the first people of Philadelphia, who were Swedish and Native Americans immigrants.
This impressive and beautiful clock was completed in 1410 and stands at 59 metres tall. The clock was created by clockmaker Mikulas of Kadane and based on the calculations of a math and astrology professor at Charles University, Jan Sindel. At the top of the tower is an observation deck, above the clock so you can look over the stunning view of Prague. Witness the clock in motion from 9am to 9pm, as every hour models of the Twelve Apostles move. Each apostle has a recognisable feature, such as St Peter clutching the key to the Kingdom of Heaven. The other figures in this clock ‘play’ include the Grim Reaper and a man who stares into a mirror, whose figure represents man’s vanity.
Unlike standard clocks the time-keeping function is just a secondary feature, with the astrology functions (the moving of celestial bodies) the main purpose of this beautiful structure. On leap years’ the clock will stay still, not moving for the whole day!
As the stories go the clockmaker, Mikulas, was blinded by the city councils to prevent him from making another similar clock.
The clock tower on the Ferry Building in San Francisco is a breath-taking structure. Situated perfectly central of the Ferry building, this clock tower stands out against the backdrop of the water and the San Francisco bridge behind it. This is definitely one to visit for people who love architecture and photography. The building below is still in use today, with markets, restaurants and shops. If you can visit this impressive structure on Saturdays and Tuesdays you can join in with the free walking tours that coincide with the farmers’ markets. The building is still standing strong after major earthquakes that hit the city in 1906 and 1989.
This stunning stone-white structure was completed in 1922 in Montreal, Canada. It stands at around 45 metres tall. The clock mechanism was actually built in England in 1921 by Gillett & Johnson, who were based in London. The original plan for the tower was to have an accompanying bell that would chime on each hour but this was never installed. The tower was built to honour the men of the Navy who were lost at sea during World War 1.
The observation deck can be accessed between May and September, coinciding with the opening of an urban beach at the base of the tower, if you fancy walking the 192 steps to the top! You can make a day of visiting this clock tower as the urban beach has a restaurant and bar. You can even take the trip into the night with live entertainment every night during this period and the tower being brightly lit.
This beautiful clock was made in 1405, and rebuilt in 1527. The tower is only 16 meters tall but this structure has a dominating presence in Bern because of the intricate detailing, bright colouring and animated figurines. The figurines that frame the clock rotate around, and on the hour, a large figure will hammer the bell that rings at the top of the tower. The clock acts as a time-keeper but also with astronomical feature such as a lunar dial, 12 zodiac signs, calendar dial and star chart.
The clock tower has had a colourful history, with it being used as the first western city gate during an expansion in 1220, as well as being a prison before being solely used as a clock tower.
This stunning red brick clock tower comes in at an impressive 71 metres tall and is a key feature of the Kremlin wall that houses cathedrals, palaces and the residence of the country’s president. The tower was made by architect Pietro Antonia Solari. The clock tower, that looks like something out of a fairy tale, has several endearing features including a short and sweet chime that plays every 15 minutes and a star perched at the top of the tower. The star was introduced to the roof by Joseph Stalin, and is a symbol of Tsarist Russia.
The Glockenspiel building in Germany was finalised in around 1900 by architect Georg Hauberrisser. From March to October the clock will ring daily at 11am, noon and 5pm, with a 12-minute show consisting of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. The show tells the story of the wedding of the Duke Wilhelm V and Renata of Lorraine, the jousting tournament and the traditional coopers dance.
The Sultan Abdul building clock tower was finished in 1897, and comes in at 40 metres tall. It was the vision of A.C. Norman that brought this quintessentially Mediterranean building to life. The clock tower features a golden dome top.
The clock tower was made as a symbol of the country’s independence, when at midnight on August 31st 1957 the Malaysian flag was raised for the first time.
The clock tower, one of the youngest in our list, stands as the centre of a main roundabout in the city. This golden masterpiece reflects the distinctive style of Thai architecture with the use of gold and the embellished design. Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, who also built the White Temple in Chiang Rai, designed the clock tower. The clock tower puts on a light show at 7, 8 and 9pm every night.
Big Ben is probably the most renowned clock tower in the world,drawing in tourists from all around the world. The tower is part of the Westminster Abbey and was completed in 1859. It stands at 96 metres tall. The name Big Ben was originally for the biggest bell in the tower that chimed on the hour; it cracked only two months after the first chime and was silent for a subsequent four years. The bell was turned so that a smaller hammer can hit an intact portion of the bell.
The four clock dials have Latin inscriptions which can be translated to “O Lord, save our Queen Victoria the First.”
You can access a special tour of the tower if you are a UK resident; these are arranged through your local MP or Member of the House of Lords.
The tower was once used in 1880 to lock up a Member of Parliament, Charles Bradlaugh, in a small prison room located in the tower. He had refused to swear allegiance to the monarch on a Bible and was subsequently imprisoned for one night.
Michael Righi, Available under Creative Commons.
Moyan Brenn, Flickr. Available under Creative Commons.
Ken Lund, Flickr. Available under Creative Commons.
abdallahh, Flickr. Available under Creative Commons.
Abhijeet Rane, Flickr. Available under Creative Commons.
Sergey Rodovnichenko, Flickr. Available under Creative Commons.
Allen Brewer, Flickr. Available under Creative Commons.
Ahmad Rithauddin, Flickr. Available under Creative Commons.
maximusina, Available under Creative Commons.
Ben Cremin, Flickr. Available under Creative Commons.