The Tower of London, the name deceives you if you take it at face value based upon its modern appearance.  Today, The Tower of London is much more than a tower, it’s actually the oldest castle, fortress, and prison in London.  Intrigued by the colorful history of death and imprisonment, the Tower draws visitors from all over the world!  The Tower of London is packed with things to see and can get a little overwhelming if you aren’t careful.  To help you out, I have put together this post to ensure you don’t miss any of the good stuff.  LOL!

Getting to The Tower of London

The Tower of London is easily accessible by bus, train, or car.  The nearest underground station is Tower Hill accessible from the District and Circle Lines.  Overground, you can get off at Fenchurch Street and have a short 5-minute walk to the Tower, or take bus 15, 42, 78, 100, or RV1.

If you’re just visiting for a few days and want convenience, consider taking a Hop-on, Hop-off bus.  These tours are a great way to get the layout of the city, and they always stop at all of the major attractions.  Marty and I had fun on the BigBus Tour through London, and it dropped us right at the corner of The Tower of London!

General Information

Hours:  The Tower of London is open Tuesday -Saturday from 9:00-17:30, and Sun-Mon 10:00-17:30 March-October.  The tower closes one hour earlier Nov-Feb.

Tickets:  At the time of this posting, tickets were 25 pounds/person, or 63 pounds/family (includes 2 adults, plus up to 3 kids age 5-15).  Visit the Tower’s website to verify current ticket prices.  When buying your ticket, they are going to include a voluntary donation onto the price noted above, just politely tell them that you do not want to do they voluntary donation if you are not comfortable paying it.  Avoid the lines by buying your tickets at the Trader’s Gate gift shop, located down the steps from the Tower Hill Tube stop.  You can also buy tickets online or by phone and pick them up at the group ticket office.

History in a Nutshell

I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of historical facts, just the basics to help bring the Tower to life for you a little.  The original tower, now called The White Tower, was constructed in 1078 by William the Conqueror and later completed by his sons, William Rufus and Henry I.  The White Tower is awesome with its 15-foot thick walls that stand 90-feet high, now that’s some protection!

The Tower is now a complex made up of many towers surrounded by protective walls and has served many purposes over the years.  Through history, it has been a prison, a palace, a library, a treasury, a bank, an observatory, and an arsenal.  It was also here that Sir Walter Raleigh became a prisoner.  Numerous beheadings and executions have also taken place on the Tower grounds including William Hastings, Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Catherine Howard, Jane Boleyn, and Lady Jane Grey to name a few.  This sorted past gives the Tower intrigue and mystery drawing countless visitors each year.

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Navigating the Grounds

Entering the Tower

After purchasing tickets, everyone must enter through the same area.  Look just down the hill from the ticket office and you will see the queueing area just outside the drawbridge.  Wait in line, show your ticket, grab a free map if you haven’t already, and then take off!   I really loved walking over the drawbridge and seeing the old moat down below.  Of course, today there isn’t water in the moat, it’s a beautiful green grassy area which we will discuss later on.  This is where you will meet for the Beefeater tour, also discussed later.

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The Crown Jewels

I recommend getting to The Tower of London right when they open, check hours on their official website here.  Once you are in the gates, head immediately toward the Jewel House, where the Crown Jewel display.  This way you can beat most of the other people and have a much shorter wait. This is exactly what Marty and I did on our visit, and we only waited about 10 minutes, just some of the interior queue had built up.  Later in the day when we walked by, the queue was outside wrapped around and around, I can only imagine how long they waited.

The Crown Jewels are absolutely stunning and are truly indescribable.  Here you will see a large collection of everything that is used during a coronation ceremony, even the eating utensils.  Gaze in awe at the 530-carat diamond, the “Great Star of Africa” that is in the Sovereign’s Sceptre.  I honestly don’t know how Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was able to hold up that crown containing the beautiful “Mountain of Light” or the 2,800 other diamonds in her crown.  I think my neck would snap!

Be ready for them to watch your every move in here, so be on your best behavior.  The jewels are under armed guard at all times, and the massive vault doors that weigh over 4,400 pounds are sure to keep anyone out.  No photos are allowed inside, so I don’t have any of Marty’s amazing pictures to show you, but trust me, the Jewel House is so worth your time.

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Yeoman Warder Tour

Check your program for times of the Yeoman Warder Tour, also known as the “Beefeaters”, and make sure to be there for the tour.  This tour makes a huge difference on the overall visit, as you get to hear history from the men who have been standing guard over this fortress for years.  If you are thinking of applying for the job of Yeoman Warder, you need to have some serious qualifications.  In order to be a Yeoman Warder, you must have served honorably in the armed forces for at least 22 years before even being considered for the job!

The tour occurs every 30 minutes and can get very crowded.  Despite the crowds, the Yeoman do a great job of ensuring you can hear as they generally have loud, booming voices.  The hour-long tour will teach you about the intriguing history of the Tower including the people who were imprisoned, tortured, and executed here.  They will delight and disgust you with their humor and gruesome stories.  They will let you know that the grass is so green in the moat area because of it gets fertilized by all the carcasses, rats, poo, and plague victims that used to be here.  The Beefeaters will entertain the kids with stories of the zoo animals that once roamed these grounds, and they will intrigue history lovers with true stories from behind the walls of the Tower.

Head inside the White Tower

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The White Tower is the oldest part of the Tower of London.  When built, it was a symbol of power as it was the tallest building in London. When first erected, the White Tower was a safe refuge.  It didn’t have as many windows, and the stairs used to get in, and the ones you see once inside, could be removed, ensuring your safekeeping during times of attack.  Stepping inside, you feel as if you have been instantly transported to the past.  Notice the thick walls and the gorgeous doors as you enter.  The main attraction here is ‘The Line of Kings’, where you can see the armor arranged on life-sized wooden horses, some of which were carved back in the 17th-century!

In addition to the ‘Line of Kings’, the White Tower also contains the Royal Armory.  I was amazed at the size of some of this armor.  Man, the old Henry VIII was a big man!  Also, notice the child-size armor displayed.  I couldn’t imagine putting a child in this and setting him off on a horse.  Upstairs from the Royal Armory is the chapel, St. John’s Chapel that dates back to 1080.  St. John’s Chapel is the oldest church in London, be sure and give it a visit.

Are you planning a trip to London? Then you must visit the Tower of London. This post provides you with insightful information to make the most of your visit to the Tower of London. #toweroflondon #london #londontower #visitlondonAre you planning a trip to London? Then you must visit the Tower of London. This post provides you with insightful information to make the most of your visit to the Tower of London. #toweroflondon #london #londontower #visitlondon

On the top floor, you will see the awesome dragon, named “Keeper”.  Keeper was made up of materials that represented the different roles that the Tower has been involved in during its history.  There were ruby eyes representing the Jewel House, guns, and armory representing the armory house, a cage for his ribs that could have represented the prison or the zoo, and telescopes for legs to represent the observatory.  He was really cool, and honestly, seemed right at home in this medieval fortress.  The top floor also displays the chopping block and execution ax used at the Tower.

Look at the Execution Site

On Tower Green, right outside of the White Tower, you will find a memorial to all of the people who were executed at this site.  Three queens lost their head here-Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Catherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey.  The Yeoman taught us that even though the tower is known for execution, there have only been 22 people who have lost their lives here.  The majority of the executions took place at Tower Hill.

Go Up the Bloody Tower

The Bloody Tower is where the two princes were said to have been murdered.  The two young princes, Edward V and his little brother Richard are said to have been sent to the tower by their uncle.  He then had them declared illegitimate so that he could take the crown from Edward V.  It worked.  The uncle was crowned King Richard III and the boys were never seen again.  But the story doesn’t end there, almost two centuries later, the remains of two young boys were found here.(cue dramatic music)

The Bloody Tower is also where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned for 13 years, and where he wrote his History of the World.  You can view his bedroom, study, and walkway while visiting.

Beauchamp Tower (Prison)

Take a few minutes to tour Beauchamp Tower.  This tower was the prison that housed “important prisoners”.  Inside, you will find the walls covered with carved messages.  The inmates would spend hours carving out artwork or messages into the stone walls surrounding them.  The graffiti seems to speak to you as you read it, still telling the stories of the past.  Lady Jane Grey’s husband, Lord Dudley, carved “IANE” into the stone during his time here.  It’s labeled #85 if you want to check it out on your visit.

Traitors’ Gate

Traitors’ Gate was mesmerizing to me.  Traitors’ Gate was the boat entrance to the Tower from the Thames River.  I could envision Princess Elizabeth I, later Queen Elizabeth I, being escorted in through this gate before being imprisoned here.

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See the Ravens

Ravens have been a part of the Tower of London for years.  The myth says that if the ravens leave the Tower, then the Crown will fall and Britain with it.  The birds have been well protected and well taken care of here since King Charles II.  One of the Beefeaters is in charge of caring for the ravens, and seeing that they get their daily quota of raw meat.  The Tower tries to keep seven ravens on hand at all times.  The tradition requires six, and then they keep one extra, “just in case”.

Walk the Wall

The large defense walls offer you an excellent view of not only the Tower grounds but also the famous Tower Bridge.  On a crowded day, you will definitely have to wait your turn for a selfie from this vantage point, but it is well worth it.  The wall also offers a great view of the river, City Hall, and the Shard.  During your walk on the wall, you will be lead into several reconstructed rooms of the palace.  During our visit, one of the rooms had Queen Elizabeth I in it!  Ok, she was only an actor in character, but still.

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Watch the Key Ceremony

The tradition of locking up the Tower has taken place every night for hundreds of years.  At exactly 9:52 p.m., the Chief Yeoman Warder comes out with a lantern in one hand and the keys in the other.  He meets the other soldiers, and the ceremony takes place.  You can book free tickets to watch the ceremony online, but you need to do it fast as tickets for this ceremony fill up months in advance.

During our visit, Marty and I just happened upon the morning unlocking of the gate.  We stood down by the river and were able to watch the guards open the Tower for the day.

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You can easily spend several hours exploring the Tower of London.  After visiting, I understand why it is one of the city’s top attractions.  I felt as though history had come to life for me as I roamed the castle grounds.  There are so many interesting exhibits and history at the Tower, that adults and children will have a great time visiting here.  If the Tower of London is not on your sightseeing list, add it!  The Tower is so worth the money and time.

We would love to hear from you.  What was your favorite part about the Tower of London?  If you haven’t visited, what do you look forward to seeing?

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Are you planning a trip to London? Then you must visit the Tower of London. This post provides you with insightful information to make the most of your visit to the Tower of London. #toweroflondon #london #londontower #visitlondon

 

 

 

26 Comments

  1. Jenn

    The Tower of London was one of the highlights on our trip. Sadly we got there later in the afternoon and didn’t get to spend as much time there as we would have liked. Next time we will go earlier! Thanks for the info on the ceremonies, I didn’t know that!

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      You’re so welcome, Jenn. I hope you get to go back and experience it to the fullest. We loved it!

      Reply
  2. Anisa

    I loved the Tower of London and agree it is definitely a must when visiting London. My favorite thing of course is the Crown Jewels. I haven’t seen the key ceremonies, so that is still on my list.
    Anisa recently posted…8 Ways to Maximize Amazon Prime Benefits for TravelersMy Profile

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      Yes, Anisa, the Crown Jewels are so amazing. I really loved the whole place, but I often think I’m a princess. LOL!

      Reply
  3. Leah

    I love reading about the history of places like this. London especially! I’ve done my fair share of traveling, but still need to make it there.

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      Me too, Leah! I was so pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it and really, loved all of London.

      Reply
  4. Nicola | suitcase and wanderlust

    Thank you for freshen up my history knowledge. I admit, I’ve never visited the Tower of London, but your post inspired me to do so on my next London visit. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      You’re so welcome, Nicola. We just love history. I have to be careful and not put too many boring facts on the blog. I get so excited about the history part of travel. I hope you do make it to visit the Tower. It’s so worth it!

      Reply
  5. Emma

    Love your article, so much helpful information! Looks like an incredible experience 🙂

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      Thanks, Emma!

      Reply
  6. Anu

    Ah, your post reminded me of an old visit to the tower of London. As an Indian, I wanted to see the Kohinoor Diamond and was actually disappointed to see it. Wonder if the real one is on display.

    Thank you for taking me down the memory lane.

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      Thanks for reading, Anu. I hate to hear you were disappointed with the diamond. There were so many beautiful treasure on display in the Crown Jewels exhibit it was almost overwhelming. LOL!

      Reply
  7. Talia

    Wow, this is quite a detailed account of what to do. Very glad I had read it as I had never seemed to justify spending so much money but now I think I just might. I had known about the ravens and the key ceremony but had never thought of watching them open up the tower. Great tips!

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      Thank you, Talia. I was also apprehensive about the admission cost, but it was well worth it.

      Reply
  8. Chantell Collins

    I visited the Tower of London many years ago and was surprised by how much there is to see and do there. I definitely recommend doing your research first and this is a great guide.

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      Thank you, Chantell. You are so right, it can get a little overwhelming if you aren’t careful!

      Reply
  9. Jas

    After a couple bus transfers and getting splashed at by a puddle by car passing by whilst wearing my brand new light pink blazer, I finally got to here only to find out it was closed lol! Such a major fail and so here I am living vicariously thru you! Will definitely keep their opening hours in mind next time and can’t wait to revisit hahaa.
    Jas recently posted…Vegas Day Trip Ideas ❥ If you’re not too drunk to function.My Profile

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      Jas, that made me sad. I could just see you standing there feeling defeated :(. I hope you get to make it back and experience the Tower for yourself one day!

      Reply
  10. Marcela

    I’ve read a lot of articles about the London, but your is so detailed and I love it! I would love to visit London some day. I’ll definitively save some of your tips what to see 😀

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      Thank you so much, Marcela! I really appreciate that! I hope you get to London, and anywhere else you wish to go, very soon!

      Reply
  11. Whitney aka Mrs. Millennial

    Wow! I had no idea there were so many different things to see at the Tower of London. Makes me want to visit even more now. Thanks!

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      Glad to hear that Whitney! I was really surprised as well!

      Reply
  12. Charlotte

    I can’t believe I went to London and didn’t explore Tower of London!! Will definitely not miss it the next time I’m in the city 🙂

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      It was well worth the time and money Charlotte. I hope you get to experience it next time!

      Reply
  13. The Jetset Boyz

    If you happen to live in London borough of Tower Hamlets you can visit the Tower of London for just £1. Yes, you read that right… £1.

    To take advantage of this special offer all you need to do is take along your Idea Store or Tower Hamlets Library card along with your proof of name and address. That’s a brilliant discount and means you can experience the Tower of London whenever you want. Especially handy if you’re playing tour guide to friends visiting London.

    Reply
    • thattexascouple

      Wow! Too bad we don’t live there, but that’s great news to share with those that do. Thanks so much for posting!

      Reply

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Are you planning a trip to London?  Then you must visit the Tower of London.  This post provides you with insightful information to make the most of your visit to the Tower of London.  #toweroflondon #london #londontower #visitlondon