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.

[Read more: 7 ways to explore Stockholm no matter what kind of traveller you are]

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


Morning traffic

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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’


Sonecitos cubanos. ❤️🇵🇷 #Guantanamera

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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.

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Salvador – non-stop berimbau


Tentativa #1 hahah Pensa numa pessoa descordenada #berimbau #axé #capoeira #euqueroaprender

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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


1952, LaCimbali Brillante like a spaceship 🚀

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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.