It’s as much a London icon as Beefeaters and double-decker buses, but from today Big Ben will fall silent for four years as it undergoes restoration work.
Marking the longest period of quiet for the great bell in its 157-year history, it leaves a gaping hole in the city’s soundscape. Without those familiar chimes, London literally won’t have the same ring.
That got us thinking: what are the noises, anthems and aural keynotes that sum up our favourite cities?
Listen out for these defining urban sounds…
New York – boisterous yellow taxis
Honking horns, squealing breaks and the sharp grind of tyres on tarmac – where else could you be but the Big Apple? Throw in a few hollers from impatient drivers and the scene is perfectly set.
Paris – clattering tableware
Whatever time of day cutlery can always be heard jangling in Europe’s epicurean centre. Whether it’s the sound of a sharp knife cutting through tender chateaubriand, or the clinking of two weighty Bordeaux glasses – a dining symphony plays out from every brasserie.
Vienna – trotting horses
Year round, horseshoes can be heard clip-clopping across cobblestones as tourists take carriage rides through this regal Austrian city. It’s also home to the 450-year-old Spanish Riding School, so hoof hops are just as common as footsteps.
Havana – renditions of ‘Guatanamera’
Ringing out from bars, cafes and crumbling buildings, this popular song is heard all over Cuba’s colourful, time-warped capital. Every traveller who’s been will likely know the chorus off by heart.
Salvador – non-stop berimbau
If you’ve never visited this Unesco-listed Brazilian city, the sound of the berimbau may be unfamiliar – but the twang of this one-stringed instrument echoes around every colonial corner. It’s used to accompany acrobatic martial art capoeira, which was brought here by Angolan slaves.
Milan – whirring espresso machines
From the grinding of beans, to the hum of high-pressure steam pulsing through metal, every part of the coffee-making ritual forms an orchestral masterpiece. It’s an anthem Italians demand again and again.
Bangkok – manic rickshaws
The rattle of tuk-tuks careering round corners is barely audible above the general din of traffic in Thailand’s frantic capital. If mayhem had a sound, this would be it.