Tower of London: the 2020 guide

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What to see at the Tower of London?

What to see at the Tower of London?

The Tower of London is located in the center of the English capital, on the north bank of the Thames, next to the famous Tower Bridge.

The Tower of London was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1988.

History of the Tower of London

Construction of the Tower of London began in 1066 as part of the Norman conquest of England.

It is a complex made up of several buildings surrounded by two concentric defensive walls and a moat.

The White Tower - central building of the Tower of London - was built by order of William the Conqueror in 1078, a symbol of the oppression inflicted on London by the ruling class. A 4th level was added to it in the 15th century.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, under the reigns of Richard I, Henry III and Edward I, the fortress underwent several phases of expansion. The plan established at the end of the 13th century no longer evolved.

The Tower of London has played a vital role in the history of England. Besieged several times, used as a prison and place of torture from 1100 (until after the Second World War), it also served as royal residence, treasury, armory and menagerie - also hosted the Royal Mint (until the second half of the 19th century) and public archives. Today it houses the collection of the British Crown Jewels.

The first Norman castles were usually built of wood, but by the end of the 11th century many of them - including the Tower of London - were renovated with stone.

Visit the Tower of London

The Tower of London is a place steeped in history - recognized as one of the most unmissable sights in London.

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Allow at least half a day for the visit.

The Tower of London is managed by the Historic Royal Palaces - a recognized non-profit association, which receives no government or crown support and is funded by entrance fees and donations.

The main attractions to discover at the Tower of London are:

The Crown Jewels

The exhibition "Crown Jewels" presents the sacred and ceremonial objects of the royal family: crowns, costumes, swords and scepters of inestimable material, historical and religious value.

This collection of 23 578 gems and objects is one of the favorite attractions of visitors!

In 1669, the Jewel House - built during the rule of Henry III to house the Crown Jewels - was destroyed and the jewels were moved to the Martin Tower (1669-1841) - then known as the Tower of Jewels. Talbot Edwards, the first guardian of the tower, was the victim in 1671 of the first attempt to steal the jewels by Thomas Blood and his accomplices.

It is advisable to start your visit with this exhibition in the morning, when it opens.

Photos are prohibited inside this building.

The White Tower

The White Tower - central building of the Tower of London

The White Tower corresponds to the central building of the Tower of London. It is the oldest part of the building. Inside is the collection of royal armor used under Henry VIII, Charles I and James II - as well as the royal arsenal.

Many animations and interactive activities are also offered.

The medieval palace

The Medieval Palace is a reconstruction of the royal apartments with some remains of the furniture dating from the time when the fortress served as royal palace for the king and the queen.

The Guards of the Tower

The Tower Guards - called Beefeaters or Yeomen Warders - are dressed in black and red uniforms. The inscription "EIIR" on the front of their costume designates the current monarch: the queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth II Regina).

Originally, their role was to monitor prisoners held in the Tower of London and to ensure the protection of the Crown Jewels. Today, they mainly provide guided tours of the fortress.

These guards are recruited from former members of the British armed forces. They must have at least 22 years of service and hold the Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct. There are currently 37 of them.

Your entrance ticket to the Tower of London includes the “Yeoman Warder Tour”: a guided tour - approximately 1 hour - by a Beefeater.

Ravens of the Tower

The other celebrities of the Tower of London are its legendary ravens: officially 6 in number (but 7 actually - in case one of them escapes!) - they are usually positioned on the South Lawn and are considered the Guardians of the Tower of London.

Indeed, legend has it that if the 6 ravens were to disappear, the tower would collapse along with the kingdom.

The Ravenmasters are therefore in charge of the monitoring and protection of these birds.

The 7 ravens are named Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, Poppy and Merlina.

The tips of their wings are cut off to prevent them from escaping.

The royal beasts

From 1200 to 1835, the Tower of London hosted many exotic animals: tigers, lions, elephants - and even a polar bear!

These animals were gifts from other kingdoms or relics of wars.

These animals were subsequently transferred to London Zoo.

Of this menagerie, only statues and an exhibition retracing its history remain today.

The Bloody Tower

Better known as The Bloody Tower, the Lower Wakefield Tower of the Tower of London houses the exhibition "Torture at the Tower" which presents the different methods, instruments and tools of torture used in the past to punish or make prisoners talk.

It was in the 16th century, following the assassination of the young princes Edward and Richard in the tower that it was nicknamed the Bloody Tower.

The Tower prison

The Tower of London is also known to have been a prison during the two world wars.

The Beauchamp Tower houses an exhibition on the famous prisoners of this prison (Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Anne Boleyn, Baron William Hastings, Queen Jane Gray, writer Thomas More, Guy Fawkes, etc.): the rooms where they were imprisoned and the various texts they carved on the walls of their cells.

The Royal Chapel of St Peter-Ad-Vincula

Built in 1520, the Chapel of the Tower of London - the Chapel Royal of St Peter and Vincula - is where the bones of the most famous prisoners who were executed are kept.

Today, the chapel remains the place of prayer for the 150 people who live in the tower.

Plan of the Tower of London

Plan of the Tower of London

Plan a half-day (around 4 hours) visit to discover all of the Tower of London's attractions and exhibitions.

Tower of London prices

The ticket price for the Tower of London includes access to most of the shows and activities on offer:

  • Adult: from £24.70
  • Child under 16: from £10.75
  • Child under 5: free
  • Senior (over 60) and student: from £19.30

Entry is free with the London Pass.

Tower of London opening hours

The Tower of London is open all year round:

  • From March to October:
    • Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 5:30pm
    • Sunday and Monday from 10am to 5:30pm
  • From November to February:
    • Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 4:30pm
    • Sunday and Monday from 10am to 4:30pm

Getting to the Tower of London

The Tower of London is located in the City district at St Katharine's & Wapping, EC3N 4AB, London.

To get there, 2 options:

  • Tube: Circle, District lines and DLR, stop Tower Hill.
  • Bus: lines 8, 9, 11, 15, 15B, 22B, 25, 133 and 501.

Close to the Tower of London

Take advantage of your visit to the Tower of London to visit:

  • HMS Belfast
  • London City Hall
  • The Monument
  • The Shard
  • Tower Bridge