Tower of London

Visit the Tower of London

The historic Tower of London is an absolute must-see for any history lover, specifically the history that commences after the Norman invasion of 1066.

Highlights

  • See the crown jewels and other gems in the Royal Collection room
  • Meet the royal guards who stand as a security force outside the inner circle entrances
  • Relive historic events by participating in an audio guide tour of the entire complex

What To See And Do

When visiting the Tower of London, these attractions are not to be missed:

The Bloody Tower

The Tower of London was once the most famous prison in all of England. When kings pronounced charges of major crimes — including high treason — on supposedly disloyal subjects, this is where the unfortunate spent months or even years awaiting trial. 

Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Thomas More, and many other notables were held in this prison fortress. Visitors will relive some of the atrocious acts performed in this room as professional actors recreate torture, the rack, and even mutilation. Caution: Some of the performances may not be suitable for younger preteens.

The Crown Jewels

There’s likely no more famous set of jewellery than this famous crown. It sits in a heavily guarded section of the tower and is never displayed anywhere else. Part of the Royal Collection that includes more than 25,000 gemstones, the crown is infrequently worn by the Queen at certain national ceremonies. Recently added to the collection in this part of the tower is the Prince of Wales Investiture Coronet.

The original Crown Jewels were destroyed during a civil war, and the present crown was constructed for the coronation of Charles II in the year 1661. The collection is part of the grand tour of the Tower. Visitors will be taken via a stone stairway to this secluded room, and the guides will explain each exhibit in detail.

Yeoman Warder Tours

This is the most popular guided tour at the Tower of London. Yeoman Warders were originally known as the Beefeaters, and they shared historic stories through verbal recollections. Today, these master storytellers take visitors throughout the Tower and the entire property. Visitors must purchase tickets for this specialized tour in advance. 

The tour includes visiting of the Queen’s Tower and the White Tower. While visiting the latter, guests will have the opportunity to shoot medieval bows and arrows, assemble firearms, and brandish 15th-century swords.

The stories told by these Yeoman Warders include the history of the tower as a prison, fortress, and palace. Visitors are taken up and down stone staircases and along uneven cobble pathways and sidewalks. One of the highlights of this tour is the re-creation of the entry of prisoners through the infamous Traitors’ Gate.

Guards At The Tower

Everyone knows about the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, but the Tower of London has its own special regiment of guards dressed in red and black and wearing the traditional shako headgear. 

Each regiment has its own special dress that represents what they are posted to guard. Some stand outside the Jewel House, and others “guard” the entrance to the Queen’s House. As visitors are guided to the entrance of the inner palace, they watch as the security force performs choreographed marches. Visitors are allowed to ask questions, but only the guides can answer. The guards are not allowed to interact with civilians.

Three daily ceremonies take place, and all are open to the public. Although it’s mostly for show, these are real-life sentries who in a flash can spring into action should a security alert be sounded.

Did You Know: (5 interesting facts!)

  1. The palace is located right on the banks of the Thames River, and to this day, ongoing maintenance is required to keep the lower levels from flooding.
  1. The Tower is a World Heritage Site, however, this does not necessarily protect the structure from possible removal or relocation if future development proposals are approved.
  1. At least a half-dozen ravens are kept on-site in support of an old superstition that states that the absence of ravens will cause the kingdom to fall. The birds’ wings are clipped to keep them from flying away.
  1. A total of 22 executions have taken place at the Tower. The last was the German spy Josef Jakobs, who was caught parachuting into England. He was seated in a chair and shot in August of 1941.
  1. In November of 2012, someone made off with the key that unlocked the internal door to the Tower. The locks were replaced immediately. It’s unclear whether the stolen key has any underground market value.

History

  • Tower grounds laid out in 1066 by William the Conqueror
  • The White Tower was completed in 1078
  • The Inner Ward was built in the late 12th century
  • By the mid-16th century, the Tower was no longer a permanent royal residence
  • The first ticket-purchase tours were offered in the late 19th century
  • In 1974, a bombing left one person dead and 14 others injured
  • In 1988, the Tower became a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Facilities And Accessibility

The Tower of London is more than just a historic landmark. There are several gift shops and cafes on the premises. The jewel store is always crowded, but the wait to view the offered items is worth it. Keep in mind that no precious gemstones are on display at the jewel shop, for obvious security reasons.

The cafes are limited in the bill of fare, but visitors can procure sandwiches, chips, and drinks. Food and drink are not allowed inside the Tower of London buildings, however. Also prohibited are knives or other sharp objects. Photos can be taken anywhere except in the Jewel House and the Martin Tower.

The Yeoman Warder tours are one of several audio tours available, and they can be booked in advance. Wheelchair-bound individuals are welcome, but wheelchairs are not permitted on the stone walkways. Two buggy parks are located on the property, and five baby changing stations are also located on the Tower grounds.