About The Tower of London
The Tower of London is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London that has played a prominent role in English history.
History of The Tower of London
The Tower of London, originally known as the White Tower, was commissioned by the first Norman king, William the Conqueror and work on it was underway by the 1070s. It was designed as a fortress-stronghold, a role that remained unchanged right up until the late 19th century.
The Tower of London was also used as a residence for monarchs of England, and was traditionally used by monarchs in the run up to their coronation. However the Tower is most famous for its use as a prison.
The Tower of London held prisoners for over 850 years – from Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham who was imprisoned for extortion in 1100 and who managed to escape, to infamous East London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray in 1952 for going AWOL from the army.
Elizabeth I was even imprisoned here by her half-sister Mary I. She allegedly sat on the steps by the watergate (known now as Traitor’s gate) and wept, and was later forgiven and released.
Only 7 people were executed within the Tower’s walls.
02 September – 20 October 2023
- Sundays and Mondays: 10:00-17:30
Last admission: 15:30
- Tuesday to Saturday: 09:00-17:30
Last admission: 15:30
Last Yeoman Warder guided tour (included in your ticket): 15.30
Wharf Opening times: Daily: 07:00-19:00.
The Tower of London today
There is a great deal to see and do at the Tower: the beefeaters, ravens, site of the menagerie and just walking around it to soak up the history.
The spot near to the scaffold where Boleyn, Howard, and Grey were all executed is marked with a memorial, and they were buried in the nearby church of St Peter ad Vincula which may be explored.
Allow plenty of time for your visit. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions of the United Kingdom.
When was the Tower of London built?
Early foundations, believed to have been a wooden palisade made from timber, were laid in 1066. The White Tower, a keep located in the innermost ward, is the oldest part of the castle and dates back to the 1070s.
Why was the Tower of London built?
The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror to secure his position in London against the backdrop of fierce opposition from the conquered Saxons who inhabited the city. The keep acted as a powerful and intimidating projection of Norman military might, although to locals it was a resented symbol of oppression.
What was the Tower of London used for?
The Tower has been used and repurposed to fulfil many roles throughout its long history. A grand royal palace in its early history, it was later used as a fortress and prison, place of execution, an arsenal, royal mint, and menagerie (or zoo) and is currently home to the priceless Crown Jewels of England.
Who lives in the Tower of London?
The Tower is home to 37 Yeoman Warders, a body of men and women drawn from the British military who each must have recorded at least 22 years of active service. Nicknamed ‘Beefeaters’, they have been guarding the Tower since Tudor times. It’s also home to the famous Tower Ravens, whose departure would, according to legend, herald the ‘fall of the kingdom’ if they ever flew away.
Who owns the Tower of London?
The Tower of London is owned by The Crown Estate, which belongs to His Majesty The King in ‘the right of the Crown’ by virtue of being the reigning monarch. It is not the private property of the crown, and therefore cannot be sold.
What is there to see at the Tower of London?
Must-see highlights include the White Tower, the Jewel House – home of the priceless Crown Jewels – The Royal Mint, the ‘Bloody Tower’ and Tower Green; site of many of the executions that took place at the Tower. There’s also the chance to watch the ‘Ceremony of the Keys’ – the 700-year-old traditional ‘locking up’ of the Tower gates each evening.
Things You Shouldn’t Miss at the Tower of London
The Tower of London is an iconic site of the city and a UNESCO heritage site. Moreover, the Tower has always been a symbol of the state, royal power, and military prowess. The tower was commissioned by King William the Conqueror commissioned in 1078 to serve as a castle and royal residence of the Kind of England.
Many kings after him incorporated their own additions. For example, there used to be a Royal Mint to produce the wealth of England, as well as a royal menagerie (a kind of zoo or animal collection). However, in Tudor times, the role of the tower changed. In the 15th century, it served as a fort to host the armories and prisons.
Most of the original constructions dating from the Middle Ages were destroyed or repurposed by the 19th century. However, in the 20th century, the Tower of London was renovated to turn it into a museum.
The White Tower
This is all that remains of the medieval fortress commissioned by William the Conqueror. Furthermore, it is one of the largest remaining castle keeps in Europe. It received its name because the walls were covered in white plaster and whitewashed. It was built in the Romanesque style.
From the architectural plans and the layout of the building, historian Lise Hull states that it was not intended just to keep royal apartments. It was essentially the king’s house and office from which he could guard the river Thames and look out for any potential attacks. When you visit this building, don’t forget to stop at the crypt of St. John’s Chapel.
The Chapel of St. John the Evangelist
The chapel dates from the 12th century and is one of the greatest examples in the UK of Norman religious architecture. It has been renovated a few times throughout history, though. According to Stephen Porter, Henry III ordered three new stained-glass windows for the chapel. He also commissioned it to be painted.
The historical record shows that this chapel was more often used as an archive of records than a place of worship. This was already documented by the 19th century. One of the earliest modern histories of the Tower of London written by William Ainsworth reinforces the fact that, despite the chapel holding records, these were not open to the public.
This is one of the coolest and most peculiar things you can do here (particularly if you have children). These beautiful birds are known as the guardians of the tower.
According to Chris Skaife, chief Ravenmaster and Yeoman at the Tower, legend has it that if the ravens were to leave the site, both the tower and the kingdom of England would fall! So, these ravens have been protected since the reign of Charles II.
All the care of these birds is done by the Yeoman Warders, also known as Beefeaters, to keep these guests comfortable in their homes at the Tower of London. The Beefeaters are also the custodians of the tower, so don’t be shy, ask them questions and take a photo with them in their rather awesome outfits.
You are bound to see the guards in their spectacular uniform across different sites in London. However, the Tower of London is the best place to see them up close. Remember to be respectful, however, as these people are working and performing military service.
You can see the guard post by the Jewel and Queen’s House, but for a more spectacular display be sure to check out the three daily ceremonies where the guards perform their duties. If you take a tour here, you’ll probably learn about their quarters and which one is supposedly haunted too.
The Tower Green
You can find Tower Green immediately to the west of the White Tower. This area was reserved for the executions of the upper class. The type of execution often depended on the person and the type of crime they committed according to Daniel Diehl and Mark Donnelly.
The historical records show that a total of 10 people were executed on Tower Green that we know of. Three were former queens of England: Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard after Henry VIII divorced them and accused them of adultery. The last one was Lady Jane Grey, whose tragedy inspired countless works of art and literature.
The Bloody Tower
Previously known as the Garden Tower due to its location, this building’s main purpose was to act as a prison. The Princes in the Tower were kept here, alongside many other famous and infamous enemies of the state.
But perhaps the most famous resident of this building was Sir Walter Raleigh, according to Nigel Jones. Best known for his explorations in America that led to the legend of El Dorado, he was charged with treason against King James I and locked up in the tower for 13 years.
The historical record suggests that at least 8,000 people were incarcerated at the Tower of London throughout its use. So, it’s no wonder that ghost stories are a popular aspect of this site. In fact, it’s supposed to be the most haunted castle in England!
If you’re into spooky stories or are visiting when it’s dark, you may want to wander over to the Salt Tower. This building is famous for its haunting noises, to the point of making guard dogs and warders uneasy according to Daniel Farson.
Another building haunted for centuries is the Bloody Tower. The ghosts of the young princes allegedly haunt this place since they died there in their imprisonment in the 15th century according to Alison Weir.
Their skeletons were allegedly found on-site during the reign of Charles II in a chest. He then buried them at Westminster Abbey. Nevertheless, the most famous ghost at the tower is Anne Boleyn, but more on that a few lines down.
One of the nicest views you can get from the ramparts of the Tower of London is the iconic Tower Bridge. The bridge, unlike the tower, dates from the late 19th century. According to Brian Cookson, the bridge was designed as a way to connect both sides of London across the river Thames to improve traffic without disrupting the traffic from the river.
There was a public competition to come up with the design of the bridge, and Sir Horace Jones won it. He gave us the design you see today, which is constructed in the Neogothic style.
Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula
This chapel used to be the parish church for the Tower of London. It’s located facing Tower Green, and the current building dates from the 16th century. However, the history of this church is relatively unknown, because the chapel itself has been built, demolished, and moved several times throughout its history.
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting place to visit because it’s the burial site of several prominent people in British history, including the executed queens and Sir Thomas Moore. According to Daniel Farson, this is also the place that’s supposedly most haunted by the ghost of Anne Boleyn and where you may find her soul roaming at night.
Line of Kings
Do you love military history, weapons, and armor? Then you need to see this exhibition. It’s housed inside the White Tower on the entrance floor and contains one of the largest armories in the country, with pieces dating back to the 15th century. Also, it’s the oldest museum exhibit at the Tower of London. It’s been used for the display of these amazing items since the 17th century.
Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The crown jewels have been kept in the Tower of London for over 600 years. These are not the original jewels of the kings and queens of England. However, this is the collection kept to date since the restoration of the monarchy in the 17th century.
Leslie Field explains the original pieces were actually destroyed, sold, or melted during the rule of Oliver Cromwell. This was an attempt to erase all traces of the monarchy. Nonetheless, when Charles II became king after the death of Cromwell, he commissioned the new royal ceremonial regalia of the kings and queens of England.
My favorite piece in this collection is one of the most coveted jewels in the world and it represents the might of the old British Empire. The Koh-i-Nûr, meaning “Mountain of Light” in Persian, was discovered in the Indian subcontinent in the middle ages.
According to William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, a dark legend tainted its fate: the diamond is supposed to be bad luck for men. Therefore, it has only been worn by women such as Queen Alexandra in the 19th century or the Queen Mother.
Bonus: The Gift Shop
What is a trip without buying souvenirs and gifts for your loved ones? Sure, London has a plethora of shops where you could buy all sorts of trinkets for cheap. But the range of stuff at the Tower of London is sincerely impressive. They have unique items you won’t be able to find elsewhere.
In addition, as they are a self-funded organisation, all the sales from the shop contribute to their upkeep, so you’d be helping to preserve history. If you happen to miss the gift shop, their online shop offers worldwide delivery.
The Tower of London Tour Experience
The Tower of London has also played a part in literature and history, and till today, it is contributing to English history. As the Tower houses all the royal artifacts and crown jewels, it gives a very fleeting experience that all the wars, deaths, and conquests were real and not a figment of fiction. The Tower of London tour is an experience to behold for a lover of history.
Private Tower of London Tour
The private tour offers a personalized and intimate exploration of this storied fortress. Guided by a knowledgeable and engaging Yeoman Warder, also known as a Beefeater, you’ll be transported through time as you meander through the vast complex. From the chilling Traitors’ Gate to the splendor of the Crown Jewels, each stop is a revelation of history and intrigue.
As you traverse the winding cobblestone paths and the hallowed chambers, your guide will unravel the rich tapestry of stories that makes the Tower a living chronicle of England. Hear tales of love, treachery, power, and demise that have played out within these ancient walls. Whether it’s the legends of the ghostly queens or the enchanting lore of the ravens, the private tour ensures an experience tailored to your interests.
Away from the bustle of large tour groups, the private tour allows for moments of reflection, personal interaction, and the opportunity to ask detailed questions. The insider’s perspective transforms a simple visit into a profound experience, connecting you to the soul of this enduring symbol of British heritage.
Items You Need to Prepare for the Tower of London Tour
Only small daypacks are permitted on the Tower of London tour. Since you’ll be spending a few hours at the Tower of London, you should bring comfortable walking shoes, a water bottle, and a rainproof jacket. You will visit a few outdoor areas, and the weather can get unpredictable, even during the summer.
Best Time to Do the Tower of London Tour
It’s always best to remain updated about the opening and closing times of the Tower of London tour to avoid any uncertainty.
No matter the opening time, you should consider visiting during the weekday as it’s always crowded with tourists. We recommend you arrive early in the morning, even on weekdays, as crowds are expected after 3 pm or all day on weekends.
Getting to The Tower of London
The Tower is located within easy walking distance of several mainline stations including London Bridge Station (15 mins), Liverpool Street Station (20 mins) and Charing Cross Station (25 mins). The nearest tube station is Tower Hill station (5 mins), served by the District and Circle lines. Other nearby tube stations include Aldgate, Aldgate East, Tower Gateway, Monument, Bank, London Bridge and Fenchurch Street.
Tower Pier is served by river boats travelling from various piers including Westminster and London Eye, located next to the Tower entrance. A variety of bus routes stop nearby the Tower, including Routes 15, 42, 78, 100, and RV1, along with all major sightseeing bus tours.
Sights to Look Out for During the Tower of London Tour
Once you have entered the Tower, there are numerous places you can visit and look at various crown jewels. A few of the hotspots in the Tower of London are listed down below:
- The Tower Mint
This place was specifically used to make coins for trade. The remnants of the craftsmanship are displayed here, and the tourists can enjoy a number of activities that are offered here.
- The Crown Jewels
The Tower has been used as safekeeping for all the royal jewels since the 1600s. The jewels may not be appealing to some, but the history which comes with them is.
- Medieval Castles
This is the ideal place for all history lovers to understand how life was in the past and how different monarchs lived in luxury. The walls of the castles are the witness to all the events which took place starting from the reign of William the conqueror.
How to Get Tickets for the Tour
In order to book the Tower of London tour, there are numerous options available. The entire tour lasts up to 60 minutes if you are visiting with a group and almost three hours if you want to visit every place in the fortress and look at everything in detail.
The easiest way is to buy your tickets online. Click any of the tour links in this post to make a booking.
One other option is to purchase the city pass. This will allow you a full free day entry and has a plethora of other activities to offer. The pass has two options from which you can choose; the London Pass allows you to access the other attractions in the city. It has a list of 80 tourist spots you can choose from, and the other pass is called the Gocity London Explorer Pass. It is for those who prefer to visit one or two places per day. Both tour options are offered at the Tower’s main entrance.
Another way to book the Tower of London tour is via a travel guide. If you are not fond of looking for directions and waiting in long lines and you have to travel with children and older people, then booking a guide is the most suitable option for you.
Facts about the Tower of London
There are several curious facts about the Tower of London, and we are here to share some of them with you.
- The Tower has ravens that cannot leave
The ravens living in the Tower are regarded as its guardians; they can be found on the south lawn and love to mimic sounds and play with each other. Most of the ravens there have a name too. It is said that Charles II insisted that the ravens should be kept in the Tower.
- The ceremony of the keys is the oldest ritual remaining
The ceremony of the keys happening in the Tower is one of the oldest rituals that has been going on for the past 700 years. The ceremony used to take place even during the world wars and the great plague.
- The Tower can be haunted
A lot of people have reported strange sightings in the Tower. Some of them even said that they had seen the ghost of Anne Boyln walking in the fortress.
- The Tower of London has a secret pub
Yes, there is a secret pub on the premises of the Tower called the Keys.
- The White Tower is the oldest and the most famous part of the building
The top block of the White Tower was last used in 1747, and its basement is thought to be a torture chamber in the past.
Other Places to Visit Nearby:
Despite being the main tourist attraction, the Tower of London has many other places you can visit nearby. Some of them can be visited on foot; for others, you may have to use a cab or bus.
The most famous places you can visit are:
- The London Dungeon
- Shrek’s Adventure! London
- Houses of Parliament
- The London Eye
- HMS Belfast
- Tate Modern
- Tower Bridge
- Restaurants near the Tower of London
Visit the Tower of London with The London Pass
- With us, there are no entry fees on the day – all you’ve got to do is show your pass.
- Explore the Tower of London: one of the world’s most famous fortresses and home to the Crown Jewels.
- Discover the Tower’s long and storied history.
- 10% discount in the on-site retail outlet (restrictions apply).
- 10% discount in all on-site catering outlets (discount excludes alcohol).
See the world-famous Crown Jewels and meet the Beefeaters on a tour of the highlights at the Tower of London.