10 clocks that tower over the world

The most famous clock tower in the world is undoubtedly the Elizabeth Tower in London, which is commonly called 'Big Ben'. Speaking of which, let’s take a quick look at some other beautiful clock towers around the world and, while we’re at it, learn a little about the cities they are located in.

A clock tower is a type of building that houses a turret clock and has one or more clock faces on the upper exterior walls. Many clock towers are freestanding structures but they can also adjoin or be located on top of another building.

There are many structures which may have clocks or clock faces attached to them and some structures have had clocks added to an existing structure. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a structure is defined as a building if at least fifty percent of its height is made up of floor plates containing habitable floor area. Structures that do not meet this criterion are defined as towers.

A clock tower historically fits this definition of a tower and therefore can be defined as any tower specifically built with one or more (often four) clock faces and that can be either freestanding or part of a church or municipal building such as a town hall. Not all clocks on buildings therefore make the building into a clock tower.

The most famous clock tower in the world is undoubtedly the Elizabeth Tower in London, which is commonly called ‘Big Ben’ (although this name strictly refers to the bell inside the tower). Speaking of which, let’s take a quick look at some other beautiful clock towers around the world and, while we’re at it, learn a little about the cities they are located in.

1. Prague Astronomical Clock / Orloj

Let’s begin with Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Prague is bisected by the Vltava River and is nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires.” Prague is known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colourful baroque buildings, Gothic churches and the medieval Astronomical Clock known as the Orloj. The Astronomical Clock is certainly one of the most evocative in Europe, if not the world. The movements of its allegorical mechanical figures always draw a crowd to the Old Town Square. It was installed in 1410 and death, portrayed as a skeleton, strikes the time.

The astronomical clock.

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The city of Prague marked the clock’s 600th anniversary in 2010 with a light show depicting its creation and key moments in its history. If you have 10 minutes to spare, watch the show.

2. The Zytglogge Tower (Bern)

A few hours away from Prague stands Bern, the capital city of Switzerland. Bern is built around a crook in the Aare River. The city traces its origins back to the 12th century, with medieval architecture preserved in the Altstadt (Old Town). The Swiss Parliament and diplomats meet in the Neo-Renaissance Bundeshaus (Federal Palace). St. Lambertus Church and Castle Tower both date to the 13th century. And so does the clock tower, the Zytglogge. While it may be less lofty than the one in Prague, the Zytglogge is no less photogenic. It is found in the old part of the city, which is a UNESCO heritage site, and was built between 1218-20.

#Zytglogge #Bern #SwissGrandTour #SwissSelfie

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3. Jam Gadang (Bukittinggi)

Far away from Bern, in a completely different part of the world lies the less well-known city of Bukittinggi, the second largest city in West Sumatra, Indonesia, with a population of over 117,000 people and an area of 25.24 km². It is in the Minangkabau Highlands, 90 km by road from the West Sumatran capital city of Padang. Now clock towers around the world bear subtle influences of local architectural styles. And so does the one called Jam Gadang (literally “Big Clock”) in Bukittinggi, which has a distinct south-Asian flavour.

4. Khan al-Umdan (Acre)

From Indonesia we move to Acre in Israel. Acre, most commonly spelled as Akko, is a city in the northern coastal plain region of the Northern District at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. The city occupies an important location, as it sits on the coast of the Mediterranean, traditionally linking the waterways and commercial activity with the Levant. Acre (much like Varanasi) is one of the oldest inhabited sites in the world. This caravanserai in Acre, Israel is known as the Khan Al-Umdan. It was built in 1784, with the clock tower overlooking granite pillars that surround a courtyard.

5. Hamidiyyeh Clock Tower (Beirut)

While in the Middle East, let’s hop over to Beirut, the capital and largest city of Lebanon. In May 2015, Beirut was officially recognized as one of the New7Wonders Cities together with Vigan, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and La Paz. In this wonderful city, you will find the elegant Hamidiyyeh Clock Tower, originally built in 1897 and reconstructed following the civil war.

#clocktower #downtown #hamidiyyeh #beirut #lebanon

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6. Rathaus-Glockenspiel Clock (Munich)

Germany is a few hours away from Beirut. And Munich is one of the most important cities in Germany and the capital of the federal state of Bavaria. Munich is home to centuries-old buildings and numerous museums. The city is best known perhaps for its annual Oktoberfest celebration and cavernous beer halls, including the famed Hofbräuhaus, founded in 1589. In the walkable Old Town, Marienplatz is a central square containing landmarks such as Gothic Neues Rathaus (town hall), with a popular glockenspiel show. It is here that you will find a grand, European clock tower. Its gothic style is reminiscent of Big Ben, but it was built much later, in 1908. Its mechanical figures re-enact stories from the 16th century to a little tune, ended by three chirps from a little gold rooster.

You can watch the show below.

7. Kremlin Clock

North and East of Germany is Russia. Moscow is the capital and the largest city in Russia, with 12.2 million residents within the city limits and 16.8 million within the urban area. Moscow has the status of a federal city in Russia and is situated on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District of European Russia, making it the world’s most populated inland city. In Moscow, you will find the Spasskaya Tower that flanks the eastern wall of the Kremlin and is the complex’s main tower, built in 1491 by an Italian architect. The clock, also known as The Kremlin Clock or Kremlin chimes, appeared later. The clock dial is situated above the main gates to the Red Square. For decades, the chimes have rung on the quarter hour, with bells tolling for each full hour.

8. The Clock Tower at the Old Kowloon Railway Terminus

From the one of the largest cities in the world we move to one of the most densely populated ones, Hong Kong. The city is a former British colony in south-eastern China. Hong Kong is vibrant, densely populated, and a major port and global financial centre famed for its tower-studded skyline. In this tower-studded skyline stands the Old Kowloon station clock tower, one of Hong Kong’s most recognisable landmarks. It is 44m tall and was completed in 1915 and has been ticking continuously ever since, except during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in the Second World War.

9. Deira Clock Tower, Dubai

Much like Hong Kong in many ways is Dubai. Dubai is a city in the United Arab Emirates. It is known for luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture, a lively nightlife, and the most famous skyscraper in the world, the Burj Khalifa, an 830m-tall tower. Also noteworthy in Dubai is the Deira Clock tower, sited one of the city’s busiest roundabouts. The arms of this Sixties’ concrete structure gracefully arc towards a boxy clock that balances on their tips in the centre.

Deira Clocktower (Arabic: ‎), originally referred to as the Dubai Clocktower, is a roundabout in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Clocktower is located in eastern Dubai in Deira, at the intersection of Umm Hurrair Road and route D 89 (Al Maktoum Road). Situated in the locality of Al Rigga, the Deira Clocktower, now a prominent monument in Deira, provides access to the Al Maktoum Bridge, the first land crossing constructed between Deira and Bur Dubai. Dubai Clocktower was designed by Architect Ziki Homsi, a partner at Architecture Design Construction (ADC) Office. Also ADC was the builder of the clocktower in 1965. #deiraclocktower #interior #architecture #mep #design #sustainable #projectmanagement #businessbay #mycitydubai #mydubai #dubai #uae #gebraconconsulting

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10. Old Joe, Edgbaston

Finally, we head back to the country we began this trip with, England, to meet Old Joe. The Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, or simply Old Joe, is a clock tower and campanile (a term for free-standing Italian bell tower) located in Chancellor’s court at the University of Birmingham, in the suburb of Edgbaston. It is 100 metres (328 ft), was completed in 1908, and remains the tallest freestanding clock tower in the world.

…Almeno fuori c’è il sole… #oldjoe #sunnyday #erasmuslife #erasmus #england #uob #universityofbirmingham

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This is how weird British weather can be. @unibirmingham #nofilterneeded #oldjoe

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A World of Clocks

If the world of clock towers fascinates you, you might like to take a closer look at a world of eye-catching clocks we have in store for you.

Avinash Subramaniam

Avinash has been an advertising writer, fiction writer, poetry writer, freelance writer and serial wronger. Other roles he has been in include those of an editor, brand builder, and teacher. His interests include advertising, scrabble, body building, chess, cinema, making money, reading, internet culture, cricket, photography. To hear him air his thoughts, follow him on Twitter @armchairexpert.


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