Comprehensive Visitor’s Guide to Tower of London: Exploring 950 Years of History (2023)
Steeped in intriguing and gruesome history, the 950-year-old Tower of London stands tall as one of the oldest intact buildings in the city. Over the centuries, this imposing structure has served as a royal residence, fortress, treasury, and prison. Due to the many incidents that took place here, this imposing structure holds numerous secrets waiting to be discovered.
To make the most of your visit, we bring you this carefully crafted comprehensive visitor’s guide to the Tower of London. Whether you choose to explore independently or take a guided tour, you will love your experience.
Unveil the legends of the ravens, witness the Crown Jewels’ splendour, and delve into the rich and glorious past of this royal palace and fortress. Let’s embark on a journey through time and make your Tower of London experience truly unforgettable.
The Iconic Tower of London- An Overview
London’s Iconic landmark, the Tower of London, is nestled in Central London on the north bank of the River Thames. Officially recognized as “His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London”, this historic castle is over 950 years old, probably the oldest standing building in the city. The structure has witnessed centuries of England’s history since the Norman Conquest in 1066. The White Tower was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror and has since lent its name to the entire castle. The Tower of London then became a symbol of oppression by the new Norman ruling class.
Throughout history, the Tower of London has served various roles. Initially, it started operating as a royal residence and a grand palace. Soon after, from 1100 to 1952, it also operated as a Prison, which wasn’t its primary purpose. Back then, it comprised numerous buildings featuring a moat and two defensive walls. Its expansions were undertaken in the 12th and 13th centuries under the reigns of Richard I, Henry III, and Edward I.
Being the centre of English history, the Tower of London holds significant importance for the entire United Kingdom, especially England region. Over time, the iconic structure has been utilized as an armoury, treasury, menagerie, Royal Mint, and public record office. It is now proudly the home of the Crown Jewels of England. As it stands as a testament to the nation’s past, never miss a chance to explore it.
Tower of London Address and Location
London EC3N 4AB United Kingdom. This iconic Tower stands strongly on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. Tower Hill, an open space, separates the Tower of London from the eastern edge of the City of London. It can be reached within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
Tower of London Opening Hours
Different Opening Hour Schedules:
On Mondays, 10 am to 5:30 pm
From Tuesday to Sunday: 9 am to 5:30 pm.
The Tower of London operates during the 28th August Bank Holiday as well. However, Operating Hours may change occasionally (On 5th September, 9 am to 12 pm); thus, refer to the Official Website for precise information.
Also, consider reaching an hour early before the closing hour since entry inside the Tower is only granted an hour prior.
The Tower of London remains closed from 24th to 26th December. Whereas from 27th to 31st December, it closed an hour early.
The Wharf is open daily: 7 am to 7 pm.
Wharf closes an hour before the Gun Salute ceremony.
Gun salutes take place at 1 pm and each salvo usually consists of 62 rounds. This tradition is rooted in the royal protocol. A basic royal salute involves 21 rounds. However, when the salute is conducted from a royal park or a royal palace, an extra 20 rounds are added. Furthermore, since the Tower of London is located within the City of London, which is a Royal Liberty, an additional 21 rounds are added, thus making the total 62 rounds. This display of pomp and pageantry is a long-standing military tradition to mark special royal occasions.
Please learn that Yeoman Warder Tour is canceled during the Gun Salute Ceremony and operates from 1:30 pm after that.
Tower of London Tickets and Admission
An entry ticket to the Tower of London involves access to the following places:
The Crown Jewels, The White Tower, Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Battlements, Medieval Palace, Bloody Tower, Torture at the Tower exhibition, Fusiliers Museum, and Royal Mint exhibition.
Adult (18 to 64 years of age) £33.60
Children (5 to 15 years of age) £16.80
Children (Under five years) Free
Seniors (65+), Full-time students, and Disabled Concessions £26.80
Disabled Companion or Carer Free
Group of 15 or more £27.60
How to Reach the Tower of London?
The best way to reach the Tower of London is via local transport, preferably by train. Several London Underground and national train stations have easy walking access to this iconic tourist attraction.
From London Bridge and Fenchurch Street stations and Monument, Bank, Aldgate, Aldgate East London Underground stations 10 to 15 minutes.
From Tower Hill Underground station 5 minutes.
From Liverpool Street station and London Charing Cross station, 20 to 25 minutes.
Or, visitors can take a river boat to Tower Pier, which is right next to the Tower entrance. River Boats operate from Pier Westminster and London Eye frequently.
Or take Bus 15, 42, 78, 100, 343 and RV1 as they stop right next to the Tower of London.
Sightseeing bus tours also pass by the Tower of London and are a great option to get here and explore.
Individuals visiting by their personal vehicle can park in either Car Park or Tower Hill Coach. Drop-off locations for coaches or taxis are at Lower Thames Street, a minute or more from the Tower of London.
The Tower of London offers access to people with different kinds of Disabilities (hidden disabilities as well). Wheelchairs are available for free, and visitors with mobility issues are assisted with ease. In fact, the majority of riverboats as well have dedicated space for Wheelchairs.
Things/Places to See and Visit in the Tower of London
1. Checkout White Tower
The oldest part of the Tower and the central keep of the fortress White Tower is a must-visit. It was built back in 1078 by William the Conqueror and is the most iconic part of the Tower of London. Presently it is home to arms and armour display. The highlight of this place is the famous Line of Kings exhibit.
2. Do Not Dare To Miss Crown Jewels
It is one of the most precious and significant treasures in the United Kingdom. The Crown Jewels are a symbol of the monarchy’s authority and history. It is home to some of the most iconic pieces, including Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, the most prominent item that represents King’s authority. Further, it also houses the Crown of Queen Elizabeth, aka Queen Mothers’ Crown, the Imperial State Crown, St Edward’s Crown, and the controversial Koh-i-Noor Diamond, once the famous and largest diamond in the world.
3. Join Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters)
The Yemoan Warderns aka Beefeaters are ceremonial guards and guides responsible for leading guided tours. These iconic figures are professionally dressed, and their involvement enhances the tower tours. Their captivating stories about the Tower’s history and legends truly add to one’s experience.
4. Visit Tower Green
This historically significant site is an enclosed space within the Tower complex. It is where prominent individuals, including royalty, were executed, especially by beheading. The most famous executions in this place include Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey. It today acts as serves as a solemn memorial, and one can respect it here to pay respect.
5. Explore Medieval Palace
It was once the residence of royalty and today allows visitors to take a look back at the time. Visitors can explore the restored rooms and chambers of the medieval palace. Some of the notable rooms here include King’s Privy Chamber, Queen’s Chamber, Chapel, and Great Hall. Throughout the palace are period furnishings, decorations, and interactive displays.
6. Explore White Tower and Medieval Palace Gardens
Both of these attractions are a captivating blend of history and natural beauty. While the White Tower offers a rich historical past, the gardens offer to relax and reflect on the centuries.
7. Witness “The Ravens”
This legendary section has so many tales associated with it. As per old rumours, if the ravens were to ever leave the Tower, it would bring about a catastrophic event. This integral part of the Tower of London houses at least six ravens, including a spare raven, as a precautionary measure. These birds are specially cared for and clipped to prevent flying too far; however, they can be seen flying within the Tower grounds.
8. Visit Fusilier Museum
This museum is home to the heritage and contributions of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. A collection of artifacts, memorabilia, uniforms, weapons, and documents can be found here.]
9. Take the Medieval Wall Walk
Take a walk along the walls of the Tower and enjoy panoramic views of London and the River Thames. As you stroll along the ancient walls, you’ll have the opportunity to see various parts of the Tower of London complex from a different perspective.
10. Check out the Medieval Mint
If you are interested in coins, the tools and equipment used, and the design and distribution of coins, do check out the Medieval Mint.
11. Do visit Beauchamp Tower and the Prisoners Exhibition
Last but not least, check out the inscriptions and carvings left by prisoners in the Beauchamp Tower. Many individuals of significance, including nobles, religious figures, and political prisoners, were held captive in this Tower over the centuries. A visit here helps in learning about prisoners’ life from close and personal.
Tower of London Eating and Shopping
There are several in-house restaurants inside the Tower of London for quick snacking or dining. Checkout:
- New Armouries Café for hot meals and a family’s day out.
- Ravens Cakes for tasty and loaded hot dogs as well as Vegan options.
- Jewel Kiosk for fresh juice and snacks.
- Numerous Ice Cream carts from Devon.
For Shopping, some of the finest options include:
- Tower of London Shop outside the main entrance for souvenirs, jewellery, gifts, toys, and books.
- Beefeater Shop inside the tower entrance for an audio guide or guidebook.
- White Tower Shop via the White Tower exit opposite the Crown Jewels exhibition for gifts and souvenirs, ideally swords, shields, etc.
- Jewel House Shop right next to the Crown Jewel exhibit for a gorgeous range of jewellery and gifts.
- Ravens Shop next to the raven’s cages for kid-appropriate items.
Tips and Tricks Before Visiting the Tower of London
- Get early to avoid crowds. Aim to arrive as soon as the tower gates open for visitors.
- Consider a guided tour for a more worthy experience.
- Avoid visiting at weekends as London and its surroundings are on a city break, and thus the Tower is very crowded.
- Exploring different sections of the Tower of London will take a lot of time; thus, come prepared.
- Wear comfortable shoes, and avoid heels since the Tower of London demands too much walking.
- Make the Crown Jewels your first stop since it is the most iconic place you will ever check.
- Try attending the Ceremony of the Keys, one of the oldest surviving military ceremonies in the world. It takes place at 9:53 pm (21:53) local time for 25 minutes as a solemn evening ritual of securing the Tower for the night. Reach Middle Tower, the main entrance, by 9:30 since security checkups take a lot of time. Please note that this requires a free ticket that must be booked in advance as this event is often fully booked.
Overall, visiting the Tower of London is something you should not miss whenever in London. This iconic landmark has so much to check out that even multiple visits won’t let you get bored.