Tower of London

Attractions, Historic buildings and sites Tower Hill
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The Tower of London (© Jonathan Perugia)
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© Jonathan Perugia
A beefeater (© Jonathan Perugia)
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© Jonathan Perugia
 (Richard Lea-Hair)
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Richard Lea-HairPictures by Richard Lea-Hair. 02/04/14Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London today (wednesday 2nd April 2014) unveiled a working draw bridge, a site not seen for over a generation.FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT - CAT STEVENTON - catherine.steventon@hrp.org.uk -0203 166 6302
 (Nick Guttridge)
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Nick GuttridgeTower of London,The Byward Tower, west elevation and part of the south moat
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The White Tower was the original Tower of London. Begun by William the Conqueror around 1080, it would have made a safe and impressive home for the newly crowned Norman invader. During its long life - it is almost as old as the Millennium - it has served many purposes including Royal residence, Royal Observatory, Public Records Office, State Prison, gunpowder store and is still home to the Royal Armouries.
 (Richard Lea-Hair)
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Richard Lea-HairThe White Tower was the original Tower of London. Begun by William the Conqueror around 1080, it would have made a safe and impressive home for the newly crowned Norman invader. During its long life - it is almost as old as the Millennium - it has served many purposes including Royal residence, Royal Observatory, Public Records Office, State Prison, gunpowder store and is still home to the Royal Armouries.Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk
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The towers (© Tove K Breitstein)
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© Tove K Breitstein

Experience London’s multifarious history, from the flamboyant to the frightful, with a nosey around this eleventh-century fortress

While it sits low in the London skyline, the Tower of London remains one of the capital’s best and most well known historical attractions. Plus it’s situated next to the iconic Tower Bridge, so you’d be hard pushed to miss this medieval spectacle.

Exhaustively huge throngs of people visit daily, but don’t let that put you off, because if you can handle them then you can delight at the sight of the crown of Queen Victoria or the prodigious codpiece of King Henry VIII (whatever floats your boat more).

This towering fortress goes back over 900 years, which covers a hell of a lot of torture, prisoners, weapons and exotic animals. No you haven’t misread that last bit: up until the closure of the menagerie in 1830 many beasts were kept at the Tower, including King John’s lions and Henry III’s three leopards, a polar bear and an African elephant.

There’s easily a whole day’s worth of activities here, beyond the long-emptied moats of this great castle. Interactive displays showcase the ostentatious and contentious lives of British monarchs of yesteryear. Get the nitty gritty lowdown on a tour led by one of the brilliant Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters), dressed in full costume. But know that despite its bloody reputation (and boy was it) the Tower wasn’t a place of murder, with only 19 executions ever having taken place there. And interestingly enough, it was used as a prison right up until the ’50s, when the East End’s notorious Kray Twins were briefly banged up there

Arrive early to get a glimpse of the infamous Crown Jewels, because later in the day the queues grow to ginormous proportions. If jewellery is not your bag, head on over to the White Tower where you’ll find a collection shiny torture tools. Known as the Royal Armouries, this ancient Norman keep contains swords, suits of armour for both humans and horses, poleaxes, halberds, morning stars (spiky maces) and other means for separating limbs from torsos.

There's also a redisplay of the Line of Kings – an original exhibition dating back to the 1680s – which includes wooden horses carved by the prolific sculptor Grinling Gibbons, Henry VIII's armour and a scale model of tilting knights.

For the little ones, there are swordsmanship games, coin-minting activities and even a child-sized longbow.

VIDEO: Inside the secret pub where only Beefeaters are allowed

By: Danielle Goldstein

Posted:

Venue name: Tower of London
Contact:
Address: Tower Hill
London
EC3N 4AB
Opening hours: 9am–5.30pm Tue–Sat; 10am–5.30pm Sun–Mon
Transport: Tube: Tower Hill/Tower Gateway DLR
Price: £25, £19.50 concs., £12 children (ages 5–15), £45–£63 family
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tastemaker

Visited the inside of the Tower of London a few weeks ago and I never imagined it could be that big!! I realised that people are actually living in the Tower of London etc... We joined a guided tour on arrival and learnt so many things about the Tower and the prisoners who visited it. The guide, who was a member of the Army explained that you had to reach a certain level in the British Army, as well as 22 years of service if you wish to become a protector of the Crown Jewels and be a guide in the Tower. The whole thing was extremely interesting and I recommend it, the only downside being the price of the visit... (we did spend 3,5 hours there though)

tastemaker

If you only visit one place in London it should be the Tower.


My expectations were high when I visited this iconic landmark but I was still blown away by the overall experience. I spent about 4 hours here, tried to read and have a look at everything and there wasn't a boring moment.

I enjoyed learning about the history (from the life of historical figures through the story of the Beefeaters til the list of once"resident" animals), the architecture (I could truly feel like I'm walking in medieval times), the Crown Jewels and discovering some fun facts (Did you know that people actually LIVE in the Tower at this very moment? They have BBQs at their roofs and everything!).

The whole Tower experience is exceptional and very high standard: entertaining, educating, engaging. It should be on everybody's London "To do" list

tastemaker

I came here for the first time just recently when my parent's were visiting from Australia. Fortunately as it was a Monday it wasn't as tourist heavy and we didn't even have a wait to view the Crown Jewels. Really enjoyable morning wandering around and learning about the history, I was taken aback but just how much history there was and how it had taken me 2 years to experience this for the first time! It was surreal to wander around a place so historic whilst seeing all the new buildings and London's evolution in the background (Gherkin, Shard etc.). I would like to go back and do the bits I missed such as the beefeater tour and the chapel so I will be back for sure.

Tastemaker

My favourite place to visit, so much that for 4 years I have purchased an annual pass. I always take visitors here and enjoy it every time and it seems I learn something new as well.

I can't really discribe it with words, it needs to be experienced, so instead, I'll tell you a few things I've learned over the years.

Go early and get your tickets. The lines get horrendous in tourist season. Even if you book online, you still need to take your paper ticket to the ticket window. After you have your ticket, right behind the offices there is a Starbucks, Subway, pret,and Paul's to purchase water, coffee, snacks, or lunch to take with you so you don't have to pay the higher prices inside.

Make your way in, bags open for the security checks. Head straight in and make your way to see the Crown Jewels. The lines for this can be ridiculous and it's best to see it first while there is no queue. Spend all the time you want and make sure you've had a good eyeful of those jewels!! You can go around them as many times as you want, I think 5 times is my personal best.

Next, if you need the loo, head straight down past the White Tower until you hit the wall, men's are right there, ladies are near the outer wall just a bit further. You can then do the White Tower which is full of Armour (King Henry VIII always cracks me up), there are a lot of stairs and it's hot in there in the summer.

I really recommend going back to the entrance and joining a full tour. It is one of the best tours anywhere. The Beefeaters are hilarious and make it so enjoyable that you'll forget you're learning. But if you are on a tight schedule and don't have time to relax, after coming out of the Crown Jewels or the White Tower, head back along the building toward the chapel. Wait there for or join an already in progress tour at that point. They talk about the beheadings but most importantly, you can't get into the chapel without being on a tour and that's one of my favourite parts.

When you're finished and you head out, straight in front of you will be a great photo opp for Tower Bridge. Turning left toward the bridge you can find the dead mans hole, keep walking at you'll hit St Catherine's Dock which is beautiful. If you come out and turn right, consider taking the commuter boat (not the tour boat) to Greenwich.

Tastemaker

This would be my top recommendation for people visiting London.  When we say a building is old, it really is old - building started in 1078 by William the Conqueror.


It is a fascinating enough building as it is, with all the various different exhibitions dotted around the walls and the White Tower and not forgetting the crown jewels, but by far my favourite bit is the Beefeater tour.  I hope the PC brigade never stop them doing what they do best, because they are both very informative and funny. 


We get to find out all of its various guises over the centuries - prison, Royal Mint, zoo, army barracks etc and the area is large enough that most of the time it does not seem overly crowded.


You could easily spend the whole day here.  Although it seems expensive, it is worth the money and if you come by train, you can normally get a 2 for 1 offer.


Looking at the display of torture equipment and hearing all the grisly stories, I wonder to myself, what people 500 years from now would find odd and fascinating about our lives today.

Tastemaker

Of all the attractions in London that I have been, the Tower of London is my favourite. Upon entry, a well-informed and mildly comical Beef Eater introduces you to the grounds and dark history of the Tower. After about twenty minutes or so, you're able to work around the Tower itself. There is something very exciting about hearing history as you actually walk around a historical place, and I loved the freedom to explore on my own (as so many historical attractions are roped off and directed). 


If you're going to hit one big London attraction, I would say definitely make it this one!

tastemaker

You can easily overlook the pricey entrance fee when you step inside the fortress walls and get lost in the rich history of this British icon for the day. The armoury was a highlight and be sure to check out the Crown Jewels which are well worth the wait.

tastemaker

Tower of London is one of my top places to bring visitors to in the capital. It is beautifully preserved and is rich in history. There are free guided tours done by the Beefeaters at certain times of the day. They are friendly, witty and excellent at story telling. It is worth joining the tour as it feeds you with interesting history about the place. Inside the wall you will find a building containing a humongous safe. You walk into this safe to see the crown jewels. You can easily spend half a day here admiring the building, history, and taking pictures.

If you visit at winter time, they often have a skating rink adjacent to the tower. The atmosphere is romantic and special. Great for a date!

Tastemaker

Probably one of the most iconic buildings in the world, and definitely one of the most famous landmarks in London, this is a must visit location on any trip to London.


From the outside, it holds a striking position on the Thames next to the spectacular Tower Bridge. Inside, it is beautifully opulent and elegant. You can really imagine kings and queens of the past holding banquets in the huge halls and dozing in the stunning boudoirs!


The tower is full of history, and the tour guide beefeaters are incredibly knowledgeable and ready to answer any questions you might have. Of course make sure you visit the famous crown jewels. They really are as stunning as you would imagine them to be.


Even children will love wandering the tower rooms.. our daughter thought we had gone to visit Anna and Elsa's castle in Arendelle!


All in all a fantastic day out.

tastemaker

If you're a history buff and are keen to know what time travel feels like then I'd definitely recommend visiting the Tower of London! At £21.50 it's not cheap (if you're a Tower Hamlets resident and bring proof--library card and utility bill-- you can get in for a quid!) but it's one of those tourist places in London that is in fact worth it. They run beefeater tours by the hour, which are fun and informative and you'll be treated to insider tidbits and some really juice historical gossip. I would of course recommend visiting the Crown Jewels (a girl can dream!) but don't miss the armoury section in the middle either. It's pretty cool to see how the armours made for Henry the VIII became bigger and bigger with time due to his weight gain. All in all a fantastic day out in the city!

tastemaker

What a great day out. The Tower of London has been on my list of things to do for a while and it did not disappoint. There is so much to see and so many interesting facts to learn. The highlights included the Beefeater Tower and the Crown Jewels. Even though the queue was long for the Crown Jewels you continued to move the whole time so was not too bad. The Beefeater tour was also good fun but can have a lot of people on one tour so you need to make sure you get near the front to hear everything. The staff are very knowledgeable on all things related to the Tower of London if you do have any questions. I would recommend spending most of the day here as they is so much to see and enjoy.

Tastemaker

Such an amazing and well preserved space! The Tower of London breathes London history, with its own little gathering of different era buildings. The castle-made-to-prision will give you insight on kings and queens living in the city, changes in society over time, as well as the Crown Jewels, that deserves a whole building to display them here. What I find fascinating is that it has its own community of keepers, or Wardens, that actually live here and still close the gates at night to protect this little island of history, just like they would protect the city gates at old times.

Tastemaker

This is basically a dream come true for my Tudor-loving-self. Following Henry VIII. footsteps and travelling in time. The Tower is not only full of history, but also a stunning building.


It is definitely on my top 5 list of places to visit in London - I usually spend a full day there, as there is so much to see and learn (and I would never recommend a visit if people are only in the city for a couple of days).


Being my first time to London it went without saying that I needed to visit one of the most iconic locations, the Tower of London. Being a history geek, I was tingling with excitement when entering this place. Although full of tourists, it's large and so well organized that you really can move around freely. Before.you start exploring torture chambers and suits of armor, get on a free tour with the Tower Guards affectionately known as the "Beefeaters". There commentary on this historic site is both witty and extremely interesting and sets up a good foundation for the rest of the tour. Really the only time you are going to wait for something is to see the Crown Jewels but they try keep the line moving as much as possible. It was an absolute pleasure reliving both the fascinating and obscure facts of the Tower and a must see.

Tastemaker

Tips for the future, go on a Sunday to the church and you don't need to pay entry fee! Our tour guide told us that, so I'm just a messenger. Our tour guide told us a many things, he made us laugh, cry and cringe. Billy the Beefeater (only calling him that as that's his social media name, other Yoeman Warders don't particularly like the beefeater nickname) has got 1.5 million views on YouTube and we were lucky enough to have him as our guide. To hear a story and all the gossip that's behind it from a Yoeman's mouth is better than just reading the information cards, which are highly informative too. The free tour guides go every hour and are free, so why not? Just be aware for parents with kids, they do not leave out any gruesome details.

Tastemaker

Despite being a born and bred Londoner I've actually been to the Tower of London before and I learned a lot on my first visit. 

My visit was actually after official opening hours for The Ceremony of the Keys, a ritual that dates back 800 years. In addition to witnessing a historic event inside a palace (which I didn't realise is what the Tower of London is) you'll learn about the history of the palace and have the opportunity to ask Yeomans (Beefeaters) some questions.

The sessions are free to book but booking is now for 9 months in advance so book as soon as you can. The ceremony is completely outside so remember to dress appropriately.

Tastemaker

A lovely visit that every London enthusiast should do!


Because of its extraordinary role in history, this place is filled with stories and astonishing facts. You’ll love learning about it all on your visit. Plus, the exhibits are very fascinating and manage to bring life to historical facts pretty well. Very interesting indeed.


Don’t hesitate to talk to the Beefeaters. Friendly and welcoming, they will happily answer any questions you might have.


And to top it all, from the fortification walls, you can enjoy beautiful views over Tower Bridge and the Thames.


A few tips though. Wear comfy shoes. Because this place is bigger than you think. If your kids will love running around, you might get tired pretty quick.

And go straight to the Crown Jewel. This exhibit usually has long queues – unsurprisingly. So head there as soon as you can or during lunch time, when everyone else is eating – it’ll save you a little waiting time.


Enjoy!

Tastemaker

This is, if you will excuse me, a real gem in the crown of London's history. Tickets can be pricey but there is often a 2-4-1 deal with train tickets. Get on a free tour with one of the beefeaters their knowledge and passion for the place is infectious. You can't beat seeing the crown jewels in real life even if your viewing time is minimal. The armoury and torture devices are captivating. It is a prime tourist hot spot so try to visit out of season or first thing, but make sure you leave enough time as it is deceptively big. 


Like many other reviewers I was surprised at just how big this place is, it's a mini medieval town, and just how much there is to see.  It almost justifies the admission price!  My daughter is studying the Tudors at school so really enjoyed herself, but there's more to learn about than just Tudors, there's ravens, the Fusilier museum, exotic animals, torture and of course you can stand on a conveyor belt and drift slowly past the crown jewels.

moderatorStaff Writer

Be prepared to spend longer here than you might think! Best to avoid school holidays if possible, but even without queues you could easily spend a whole day here immersing in a London icon - you can literally feel the history!

Tastemaker

Love this place! If you are a Tudors/English history fan, you are going to love this place too.

Be prepared; a whole day spent here is not enough! There are so many things to do and see.

Such a variety of different attractions - the Crown Jewels, the White Tower with the huge armory collection, the torture building with all the torturing equipment of that period, the mint where all English coins were minted till the 1800s etc. I would totally recommend the Beefeaters tour that run every half an hour and is included in your ticket price. The tour lasts 45min roughly and gives you a good overview of what was once happening inside the walls of this marvelous tower.

This London attraction is a must & truly worth its admission ticket.

tastemaker

The Tower of London is rightly known as one of the must see sights of London. I have been there a few times, most recently in December to enjoy the ice skating rink outside.. It is a good idea to get to the Tower as early as possible (not sure what time it actually opens though) and head straight for the Jewel House.

It is quiet at this time of day and gives you an opportunity to get in and see the Crown Jewels without a crowd around you 'oohing' and 'aahing' After that you can set your own pace and explore the walls and the various buildings. I have never joined one of the Beefeater tours as I have a great love of history and therefore know a lot about events and people who inhabited the Tower. However the tour is the only way you can get into the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula and having never managed to do that before I tagged on to a tour just before they got to the chapel and was able to get inside. The restaurant inside the Tower is quite good but I did see all the school parties tucking into their packed lunches so that is also an option. Bottom line - it's expensive but well worth the visit.
Tastemaker

As a history fan, I have to give this five stars because it is rammed full of information on its bloody past. First things first, the ticket price is fairly steep so make sure you have plenty of time to spend here - at least half a day. Secondly, try and go when it is likely to be quieter - avoid school holidays if poss. Third, you're around the corner from Borough Market, Tower Bridge and Southbank so go and explore afterwards. The building itself is super impressive and you can have a guided tour for free (which I did!) The Crown Jewels are so impressive and you will literally be in the place that poor Anne Boleyn was beheaded and the famous Princes in the Tower were found. There's also a cafe within the grounds if you fancy lunch. If you like this, and you have time, make sure you visit Hampton Court Palace too.

Tastemaker

Look, you've got to do it. Yes, it's jam-packed with tourists, but it's well worth braving the throngs, the steep entrance fees, and the ridiculousness of the conveyor belt around the crown jewels, because this is a legitimately fascinating slice of British history. Allow plenty of time and, for the love of god, don't go on a weekend.

Tastemaker

The Tower of London is a must for any history buffs, especially those interested in medieval/early modern history.I would definitely recommend taking a Beefeater tour, which is free, as you are able to access areas otherwise inaccessible.The Crown Jewels are also beautifully displayed, but the queues can be long and you will only get a quick glimpse.

Staff Writer

Most people visit as schoolkids but a return visit is worthwhile. I'd forgotten how big it is – not just the famous towers but a whole mini town is enclosed within its ancient walls. Sure, there are crowds, especially during the summer but the place is actually large enough to cope with them and there's really enough to see to spend at least half a day here. Seeing the crown jewels entails a long, slow shuffle in the dark. Walking the walls that encircle the Tower was more of a highlight, not least because fewer people seem to get up to the top and you get a glimpse of 'real' life – the day-to-day goings on of the Yeoman Warders and their families who live there. One minute your considering 900 years of history, the next your looking at a rotary washing line and wondering if it's part of some elaborate experiential display.


Always like the visit to the Tower of London. The tour is amazing. The guide was informative but not boring. 


This was utterly fabulous, i mean, Wow! The whole place reeks of rich history and (golly gosh) i learnt so much about myself from this unforgettable joyous journey of an experience!


My family and I have never been to The Tower of London before, my youngest son (8 yrs old) is learning about The Tudors and Henry 8th at school, so we are thinking of visiting soon to learn more and see Henry's Armour. The review was clear and helpful. Thankyou


A Fantastic day out! Well worth having the guided tour with a Beefeater, you learn so much more than simply wandering about just looking. Crown jewels a must too!


This is easily one of the most popular attractions in London. My best photo of the Tower was taken from a boat cruise on the river Thames and there was a wedding taking place at the same time. Before visiting the Tower you need to practice being calm and patient as there are slow moving queues. If you need something to amuse yourself while waiting, you could check out the Party Ideas Incubator on YouTube from your smartphone.


I think it was a great day out but the crowd is sometimes suffocating and there's huge queues everywhere....obviously it's plenty to see but should have choosen a cold rainy day :)


If you can handle the queues and crowds, it is well worth a visit.


Excellent museum. The kids especially enjoyed the yeomen's tour. Food and drink is reasonable too.


It was really crowded at the end of July, but very interesting for me and my 11-year-old daughter. History alive! Also the shops were good and there were enough toilets (which is important when travelling with a child).