Tower of London
On the Thames embankment outside the moated walls of the Tower of London, in the City of London.
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The Tower of London complex is an unexpectedly spacious and varied cluster of structures, starting life as a simple fortress with moat in 1078 and later known as the White Tower after it was whitewashed inside and out.
Building began on command of William I, 'The Conqueror'.
The White Tower is 30m (90ft) high and has walls 5m (15ft) thick and is still the centre of the fort, but over hundreds of years under various kings and queens the complex has been strengthened and expanded to include a city arsenal (weapons storage), the Royal Mint (producing and storing coin of the realm) and the Crown Jewels (the spectacular ceremonial jewellery of the monarchs of England).
The Tower of London on the left and Tower Bridge on the right.
The Tower as seen from the outside on the Thames embankment. Tourists who choose not to visit the Tower for whatever reason can still enjoy a free and scenic walk around the perimeter of the complex and over Tower Bridge.
A Map of the Tower of London as it is today.
The Tower's best sights and activities
- A Yeoman Warder guided tour, one hour and free, telling gruesome stories about captives and executions may be both interesting and laugh-out-loud. Some of the Yeomen are very funny, stand-up comedians manqué with practiced patter and great subject matter. Line up early to get within decent earshot and stick close as your tour group wanders around the main attractions.
- The Tower Green Tudor village ambience (33) along with the execution site of two of Henry VIII's wives (30).
The well-presented and hands-on collection of weapons, armour and medieval warfare information in the White Tower (43).
- The Crown Jewels, even if they are all behind armoured glass and you are standing on a moving belt! (40).
- Beauchamp Tower prison graffiti (1).
Even starting early before the crowds a family could spend 2 or 3 hours on those sights and having a bit of a wander.
We were not impressed by the Bloody Tower which was a constricted labyrinth that lacked any bloody feeling. How about a bloody tableau guys?
Nor did we become overexcited by the the Medieval Palace or the Fusilier's Museum which both lacked colour and X Factor. Is it too much to ask for a strangled bloody prince to be left lying around?
The White Tower at 9.30am. Notice the visitor numbers visible on the right. Two, and no queue to see the Crown Jewels.
The White Tower (left) and line to see the Crown Jewels in the Waterloo Block. It's 12.30pm and a one hour queue - at least - to see the Royal bling thing.
Opening times are:
Tuesday to Saturday 9.00 - 17.30.
Sunday and Monday 10.00 - 17.30.
Last admission 5pm. It's advisable to get there 10 minutes before opening if possible and buy tickets at the Welcome Centre outside the walls if you didn't get them online (bottom left on map above). Better to book online and get a good discount.
Our verdict: We were pleasantly surprised by the spacious and tranquil nature of the Tower complex (and really glad we got there at 9am!), but also disappointed that it was not dark, dangerous and bloody. Although it's obviously the real thing it's been sanitised and organised to deal with the staggering number of tourists, so the real medieval feel has been lost and replaced with Disney stories and distant nightmares.
In these days of explicit slasher movies and vampire goths we expected something more visceral and scary.
One of the most popular things to do in London
these days for kids are dungeon and monster experiences where they scare the bejesus out of everybody. Head for London Bridge/Southwark area for a variety of nasty experiences that teens love, not far from London Bridge station up the South Bank.
Standing on a moving belt to ensure tourists don't hang about.
More Tower of London Pictures
Certainly it's a fine collection of priceless jewelled Coronation ornaments hoarded since the 17th century - crowns, orbs, sceptres, rods, staffs and so on - but somehow we were not especially impressed. Massive diamonds behind glass passing at speed might just as well be imitations, which considering the value of this lot they may be.
Map of The City of London
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