Visiting the Tower of London: tips and advice

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Peter Dragicevich
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Visit the Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the city's most iconic and popular landmarks, welcoming millions of visitors each year.




In 1988, the Tower of London was listed as World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

History of the Tower of London

In 1080, following the conquest of England by the Normans, William the Conqueror had the White Tower built in order to protect himself from external attacks and to assert his power.

Numerous modifications ensued between the 12th and 14th centuries under the reigns of Richard I, Henry II and Edward I. During this period, two concentric enclosures, bastions and ditches were added to make it an impregnable fortress.

Used for centuries as a royal residence, the Tower of London successively became a minting workshop for coins, a menagerie, an observatory and treasure chamber, and finally a state prison under the Tudor era.

This last function will last until after the Second World War.

In 1971, the Crown Jewels were transferred to the former Waterloo barracks located within the Tower of London.


What can you visit at the Tower of London?

The site covers almost 5 hectares, therefore there is a lot to discover. The visit is free and you do not have to follow a particular route. Remember to pick up a map at the entrance or print the one in the article to better orient yourself. Each site or tower is indicated by the presence of a sign on the facade.


La White Tower (White Tower): This massive dungeon was the residence of William the Conqueror before it became a prison.

It houses the chapel of St Jean and the royal armory.

 

 

La St Jean chapel: Dating from the 11th century, this chapel of Norman architecture is the oldest in London.


 


THEroyal armory: brings together a very fine collection of weapons, cannons and armor, including the impressive armor of Charles I.

 

 

The Salt Tower (Salt Tower): It is on the first floor of this tower that the Scottish king Jean de Bailleul was locked up from 1296 to 1299.

 

 

 

La Tour Beauchamp (Beauchamp Tower): Built in the XNUMXth century with a first defensive purpose, it was then used as a prison for important figures. Many “graffiti” sculpted by the prisoners are still present and well preserved.


 

 

La Bloody tower (Bloody Tower): where the writer Sir Walter Raleigh was locked up for 13 years.

 

La Bell tower (Bell Tower): Elisabeth, future queen of England, was locked up by her half-sister "Bloody Mary"

 

 

La St Thomas Tower (St Thomas's Tower): where the dwelling of Edward I is reconstructed.

Commemorative monument of the executions of the Green Tower: pays tribute to those who have died by order of the state. The best known are the 3 queens of England: Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII and Lady Jane Gray, great-niece of King Henry VIII.

The Crown jewels : are exhibited in the former Waterloo barracks. We discover the largest diamond in the world (530 carats): the African Star, but also the 2800 diamonds of the imperial state crown worn by the Queen for the opening of the cession of Parliament and the famous Koh -I-Noor, which adorns Queen Victoria's crown.

 

La chapelle St Peter ad Vincula : a Norman chapel where rest Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane and Catherine Howard.

Le Royal Fusiliers Museum : traces the history and campaigns of the British Infantry Regiment. Many uniforms and badges are on display.

 


The battlements : the promenade which takes the rampart walk, offers a beautiful overview of the Tower of London but also of the Tower Bridge.

 

La door of traitors (Traitor's Gate): used to disembark prisoners who had just been sentenced to Westminster.

 


The aviaries: where the crows of the Tower are welcomed. Legend has it that if the crows left, then the Tower would collapse!

 


Animal reproductions (monkeys, elephants): a reminder for the visitor that the Tower of London also housed a menagerie, where exotic animals were kept. The construction of the menagerie was necessary in the Middle Ages, to house the gifts of the other sovereigns of Europe. It was customary to treat yourself to exotic animals. The menagerie will finally be closed in the XNUMXth century, moved to London Zoo located in Regent's Park, much more suited to the reception of wild animals.

Finally, actors in costumes epochs offer shows of historical reenactments, making the visit entertaining.

Who are the Yeoman Warders?

Integrated into the Tower of London in 1485, the Yeoman Warders formed the close guard of King Henry VII. They are also called Beefeaters, because of the daily ration of meat they were entitled to. An incredible privilege in the Middle Ages !!

They are easily recognizable thanks to their round hats and their Tudor uniform, dark blue and red, embroidered with the initials EIIR for Elisabeth II Regina, better known as Queen Elisabeth. The guards live with their families in the Tower of London and are made up of veterans of the English army. Only one woman is one of the Tower Guards. Her name is Moira Cameron and took office in September 2007.

Today the 38 guards live inside the tower and serve as guides to visitors. One of them is responsible for looking after the six crows that live in the medieval fortress. Legend has it that if the crows leave the Tower, the kingdom will be plunged into misfortune. To be on the safe side, we trimmed a few feathers for them.

The highlights of the visit not to be missed

I advise you to take the guided tour - which is included in the entrance fee :-))) - with a Yeoman Warders who will tell you with a lot of humor and realism the history of England and the anecdotes of the place. This 45-minute tour runs daily, every 30 minutes. The last visit takes place at 14:30 p.m. in winter and 15:30 p.m. in summer.

Be careful if it rains, which is not completely excluded in London, the visit time is shortened by canceling the visit to the outside part (the mops!) To keep only the mini-conference in the chapel (which lends itself well because everyone can sit down). But, even in this case, it is still worth it, provided you have a good command of English.

Another time to visit the Tower of London is the Crown Jewels. It is a unique opportunity to see so many beautiful gemstones beautifully displayed.

My tips and advice for a successful visit to the Tower of London

First of all, I recommend that you take the tour because during the tour you will have to go out several times!

If you visit the monument during the summer holidays or on weekends, come in the morning when it opens because the site attracts many visitors and long queues are formed; especially to access the Crown Jewels.

The visit of the monument is rich and varied because of the many exhibitions and activities offered to adults and children alike.

Therefore, I advise you to plan to devote half a day with your family to take your time. In addition, you can take the opportunity to have a picnic where you can eat on site. There are tables and benches outside where you can sit and enjoy the surroundings.

My good photo plans !!!

Take advantage of your visit to take beautiful photos of the Yeomen Warders' uniform! They are very friendly and always willingly take a pose.

 

In the White Tower and more precisely in the armor room, you will be able to have a magnificent view of Tower Bridge that you will see through the stained glass windows of the room. Whether the window is open - or not - this is the perfect place to take an original photo of the famous bridge!

 

You failed to take great pictures when Changing of the Guard in Buckingham ? Nothing is lost !!!! At the Tower of London, there are also Guards with their magnificent red uniforms and their black bear hair caps! They are posted in different places of the Tower of London, impossible to miss them!

And unlike in Buckingham, you won't be bothered by crowds or a grid for taking pictures. Best of all, you can even approach them !!!

Events at the Tower of London

  • Le Gun Salute : Cannon shots fired outside the Tower of London for special occasions (birthdays of the royal family, births, state visits, etc.).
  • La key ceremony : This 700-year-old ceremony consists of closing the Tower of London every evening to protect the Queen's jewels.

  • Nightwatchers: Guided night tour with a Yeoman Warders.

  • Tower Twilight Tours: Atypical and unique visit accompanied by a Yeoman Warders outside the usual opening hours.

  • La rink (end of November-beginning of January): Installed in the moat of the Tower of London.

Map of the Tower of London

 

How much does the Tower of London visit cost?

The entrance fee is around € 30 and can seem relatively expensive, hence the interest in making the most of the place by planning a visit of at least 3 hours.

 

How to book your visit to the Tower of London?

The best plan is to visit the Tower of London with the London City Pass,  London Pass or iVenture London Attractions Pass that will give you priority access.

If you just want to visit the Tower of London during your stay, I advise you to book online at GetYourGuide or on the tourist office website where you can pay in euros and not have exchange fees imposed by your bank.

You can of course buy your tickets on site 😉

The Tower of London tour is free for children less than 5 years old.

What are the Tower of London's opening hours?

 

Closed from December 24 to 26 and January 1.

Where is the Tower of London?


Metro bus River shuttles Tower Hill15, 42, 78, 100, RV1Tower Pier

 Conclusion

Although admission is expensive, the tour is nonetheless entertaining and informative, worth doing at least once to gain a better understanding of British history and traditions.

Do not rush through the visit and take your time in order to better appreciate the places and thus not be saturated with information.

 

  Book on Visit Britain Book on GetYourGuide  

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