Visiting the Tower of London
Visiting and getting inside the Tower of London is on every tourist’s bucket list when they come to London. The Tower of London’s lurid terrible history is a major part of my obsession with British history and I couldn’t wait to get inside the Tower of London. Yeah I know that sounds so dramatic but please this place has seen more tears and drama than any other in London so go with it.
Funnily enough, some visiting tourists find the Tower of London, boring, misogynistic, traumatic for children and terribly violent and upsetting for kids. Guess they didn’t learn any history anywhere lol.
>We were very lucky to have received complimentary passes to the Tower of London from the Historic Royal Palaces they bring the six historic Palaces and their stories to life.
Getting to the Tower of London
Grab some Tube tickets and head towards the Tower Hill tube stop. There’s a fabulous view over the Tower from the platform next to the Underground sign. From there you cross the road and can walk along the castle or take the tunnel to the entrance area to the Tower. The ticket booths are here if you haven’t booked a ticket online.
Tips for touring the Tower of London
1) It’s an expensive tour that’s for sure so my top tip is to use the London Pass. For a two day, London Pass you are looking at 99 Euros but it includes entry to over 80 attractions and includes the Hop on Hop Off bus, The Tower (which is 30 alone), the Shard’s brilliant views and much more.
Map of Tower of London
2) Keep in mind that it is incredibly busy in the summer months and you may get really annoyed with the crowds and crowds of people. So a great tip is to visit the Tower in the winter months where there are still hordes but considerably less.
3) The only way to see the Opening ceremony of inside the Tower of London is to take an “early bird” tour. These tours cost a lot more than just the entry fee however they allow you to see the ceremony and explore areas without being crushed to death by other tourists. Get your Guide has an awesome early bird tour. This is a skip the line and the crowds access for around € 64.63 per adult.
4) Book your tickets online if not taking a tour it’s the easiest way Buying your tickets online is the cheapest and most convenient way to visit the Tower.
- Members: Free
- Adult: £30.00 booked online £28.00
5) You are not allowed to take photos of the Crown Jewels and of the displays within the White Tower so keep that in mind.
6) The inside of the Tower of London is accessible to the mobility impaired and wheelchair users and you can download a guide here. There are wheelchairs for hire and carers do get in free. It is a LOT of walking and steps up and down into the various Towers so be prepared if you have mobility or walking problems.
7) if you can’t afford the early bird tours then go as early as the place opens so Tuesday-Saturday: 09:00-17:30 and Sunday-Monday: 10:00-17:30. So get there right a 9 am or 10 am depending on the day. Now the last admission is 17:00, they reckon it takes around 2 hours to see the whole site so if you get there around 15:00 the crowds will be thinning a little.
Inside the Tower of London and its history
The Tower of London is officially speaking Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. It is located on the north bank of the Thames in Central London and is pretty hard to miss. It was founded in around 1066 as part of the Norman conquest.
The oldest building inside the Tower of London is called the White Tower, which essentially gave the Tower of London its name. The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and the people of London just hated it. It became a prison from 1100. That was not its purpose though in its early days it did serve as a royal residence and had two rings of defensive walls and a moat.
The White Tower
The White Tower was the scene of one of the most infamous murder mysteries in British history. That of the Princes of the Tower and of course Shakespeare wrote about in Richard III. There is a beautifully preserved 11th-century chapel located in the tower.
These days though it seems that historians are turning up the truth about the murders and noticing that this story may have just been what we call today a spin put on the disappearance of the two Princes to discredit Richard.
Historians are turning up new evidence every day and are still awaiting the possibility of DNA evidence on the two young sets of bones discovered in the 1600s to see if the truth will out as Shakespeare would say.
The White Tower also includes some incredible displays of suits of armour and arms that have been on display for over 300 years. You can even get a close-up of Henry VIII’s jousting armour and codpiece. The White Tower also includes masks of all the medieval monarchs carved out of wood.
The White Tower at the Tower of London is a fascinating recreation of the 13th-century palace and you can see how Henry VIII would have lived in the ultimate of luxury for the times. There is also an exhibit of artefacts from the Kings who lived here.
Is an exhibition that details the history of the Royal Mint which used to be based inside the Tower of London before being moved to Wales. This exhibit has displays for many of the actual artefacts produced in Mint Street and lots of tales of robberies and infamous thefts.
The absolute most famous execution site in the world this site was used for executions for Henry VIII wives, Anne Boleyn and Jane Grey right up to those convicted of spying during WWII.
The Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula
The Chapel is fascinating but you will only get to see inside it as part of a Yeoman Warder led tour. A Chapel Royal, in existence since the 12th century, St. Peter ad Vincula is the final resting place of those executed within the walls of the Tower.
It is the designated place of worship for all of those who work (and live!) inside the Tower. With memorials and statues designated to famous faces of the church’s history, buried inside are two of Henry VIIIs wives, as well as two saints: Sir Thomas Moore and Bishop John Fisher.
Inside the Tower of London – Visitor Tips
To get inside the Chapel, one can only enter as part of a Yeomen Warder led tour, and you can find these tours which are signposted throughout the Tower of London. The Beefeaters or Yeoman will fascinate you and regale you with tales of intrigue, murder, ghosts and the legends of the Tower of London’s ravens. This is a free tour when you are inside the Tower of London.
Towers within The Tower
There are in fact 9 towers within the Tower of London they have held prisoners including Sir Walter Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth, Lady Jane Grey and many more not so well known.
The Salt Tower, The Bloody Tower, and The Beauchamp Tower tours give you a chance to see some of those prisoner’s final words. Scratched into the stone walls these words are graffiti left by prisoners in their final hours.
One of those tortured at the Tower was Guy Fawkes, who was responsible for the Gunpowder Plot to blow us the Houses of Parliament. He was brought to The Tower on the 8th of November and tortured to sign a full confession of the Plot.
Traitors’ Gate faces the Thames River and is believed to be the entrance through which many prisoners of the Tudors, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I arrived. The gate was built by Edward 1st to provide a water entrance to The Tower.
There is a pool behind Traitors’ Gate where an engine sat that worked by the force of the Thames tide and assisted in raising water to a cistern on the roof of the White Tower. When the tides weren’t great enough horsepower was used and then that changed to Steam. In the 1700s the engine was used to drive the machiner to bore gun barrels but is was removed in the 1860s.
Prisoners were brought by barge along the Thames, passing under London Bridge, mainly to intimidate them as they could see the heads of the executed displayed on pikes along the river. Sir Thomas More entered The Tower by Traitors’ Gate but Anne Boleyn did not.
It is often told that Anne Boleyn entered The Tower from the Gate but she was actually brought in through the Court Gate which stands in the Byward Tower.
Anne Boleyn was beheaded in 1536 and her ghost is said to haunt the Church of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower, where she is buried. The legend says that she has been seen walking around the White Tower carrying her head under her arm. Legends say that other ghosts include the two Princes, Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey, and Lady Margaret Pole.
There have been several ghost stories told by the night staff of The Tower over the years. In 1816 a sentry claimed to have witnessed a bear coming towards him, it is said he died of fright several days later. In 1817 a glowing apparition was seen by the Keeper of the Crown Jewels. He claimed to have seen a glowing ghost over the shoulder of his wife which led her to scream “Oh, Christ! It has seized me!”
The line ups to see the Crown Jewels will be large at any time of year. We went in December and it still took 30 minutes to pass through the exterior and interior lines.
Once you go through the internal corridors and see a few sceptres and orbs you are ushered into the Jewel Room where you hop on an escalator which literally whisks you in front of the Crowns and you barely get a moment to see the various crowns. That, to be honest, is very disappointing. There is the final crown before the exit which you can study however with such crowds it is almost impossible to see.
The Ravens at the Tower of London
You may get to see one or more of the six ravens that are kept at The Tower. These ravens are believed to be a good luck charm of sorts and if they leave The Tower the Kingdom will fall. There is a Ravenmaster who is one of the Yeoman Warders who tends to the Ravens.
These birds are so much bigger than you expect and there are warning signs all around to be careful they may not fly since their wings are clipped but they do bite.
The Ravens are very well cared for by the Yeoman who live on the premises of the Tower. These Yeomen do allow women into the ranks, although these days there is only one.
You have to have served for 22 years in the Armed Forces before you can apply to become a Yeoman and Amanda Clark, from Lancashire, became a Yeoman in 2017. The Yeoman even have their own pub.
At least six ravens are kept at the Tower at all times, in accordance with the belief that if they are absent, the kingdom will fall. In 2019 the first baby ravens were born at the Tower.
Muninn and dad Huginn are the new babies parents and they live with seven other ravens at the Tower, including females Erin, Poppy and Merlina, and males Jubilee, Harris, Gripp and Rocky. The birds have all been bred in captivity. Muninn and Huginn arrived at the Tower at the end of 2018, and babies were not expected so quickly.
Chris Skaife is the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London and he has written a fabulous book called The Ravenmaster: My life with the ravens which is a great read.
The Animals of the Tower of London
Henry I, the fourth son of William the Conqueror, founded Britain’s first “Zoo” at Oxford’s Woodstock Park in 1100. It wasn’t to enjoy the looks of them, oh no, but simply an easy way for him to contain them before hunting them down.
King John brought the animals to London from the remains of Henry 1 zoo at Oxford. Over the years the zoo would contain zebras, tigers, polar bears, lions and elephants. Sadly many of the animals died due to unsuitable diets and disease.
Scattered throughout the Tower are statues of the types of animals kept there. Keep an eye out for the monkey on the roof.
The Tower will keep you busy for a minimum of 2 hours, probably a lot more considering the crowds. You can grab a snack or lunch at one of the 4 cafes around the Tower. There is the Wharf Kiosk where you can grab a snack by the river, the New Armouries Cafe which does hot meals, tea and coffee and light snacks, or how about the Raven Cafe which serves a variety of gourmet sausages and last but not least have a great meal in the Sargeant’s Mess which serves locally sourced British classics with absolutely stunning views.
I have to admit I found these cafes a tad pricey and was pretty glad I brought my own snacks and water with me.
England has so many castles, in fact apparently between 600 and 700 depending on what you would call a castle. I am planning to visit Warwick Castle, Blenheim Palace and a few others in the near future. If you want to explore Britain’s 17 most amazing castles this is an article you should read if you are planning a trip to the UK it has lots of great information on castles from N. Ireland to the south of England and even a note on buying one – if you have deep pockets.
So have you managed to get inside the Tower of London? What did you think?
Love to see more places to visit in the UK?