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Tower of London Tour: History, Tickets & What to See

Tower of London Tour: History, Tickets & What to See

The Tower of London is a castle that was built under orders of King William the Conqueror. It has most famously been used as a prison and is now the home of Britain’s Crown Jewels. It’s also a marvelous attraction to go see.

A tour will give you an insight into this fascinating building and its historical significance in England’s rich heritage making it not only one of the best attractions in town but also one worth visiting time after time.

The Tower of London is not the official name of this imposing ancient fortress. The full name of the Tower is actually; Her (or His) Majesty’s Royal Palace And Fortress, The Tower of London.

Situated on the banks of the River Thames at Tower Hill, this near thousand year old castle is a sight to behold.

See related: 25 Interesting, Fun Facts About London

Tower of London Tickets

There are several ways you can get tickets to visit the Tower of London.

First, if you intend on visiting multiple attractions or doing multiple London tours, you need to purchase the London Pass which will be your all-inclusive pass for visiting all the top attractions and museums in the city.

There are two principal lines to London Tower. The first is the ticket sales queue to purchase tickets.

The other can be skipped by buying tickets in advance online, which is strongly advised.

Most tickets that advertise skip-the-line privileges refer to the ticket line. If accompanied by any London Pass, you can normally bypass the ticket line and go straight towards the entrance.

The second line is the entrance line with a security check. It’s a security procedure that requires everyone to undergo security checks prior to entry.

London City Passes that include the Tower of London

A pass is a great option if you’re going to travel a few days or weeks to a place where it is a bit less expensive to get a tour. A pass typically includes access to various attractions for a single fee.

Typically, a city pass saves you money if you plan to visit several attractions in London. We typically use the London Pass. We’ll provide a detailed overview of the London Pass here and other options below.

Let’s look at the best options available:

  • London Pass: With its wealth of history and culture, London always has plenty to offer visitors, though it is not always the easiest or cheapest of experiences! The London Pass allows you to bypass the ticket line and gain entrance to more than 80 top attractions, tours, and museums.
  • London: Go City Explorer Pass: With a London Explorer Pass, you may save time and money while still making your own itinerary in the city with your digital sightseeing credits package. Redeem your Explorer credits against 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 attraction visits from a variety of over 65 monuments, tours, cruises, dining experiences, and more. Each attraction visit equals 1 credit used.
  • London Sightseeing Pass: The London Sightseeing Pass This is one of the best options available for those looking to visit multiple attractions in London. This pass offers access to a number of top attractions and museums, including the Tower of London, for a single fee. The pass can be purchased online and is valid for 6 months or 1 year depending on the location.
  • Idea Store Card or Tower Hamlets Library Card: You can visit the Tower of London for only £1.00. This offer is possible because of an agreement with Tower Hamlets Council and the offer is valid all year round. However, only one ticket per adult cardholder can be purchased per day.

Tower of London Tourist Information

Tower, Green Field, and Skyline

The Tower of London is one of the most popular attractions in London. There are many ways to plan your visit, including online, which is the preferred method.

How to Get to the Tower of London

The Tower of London is a location that is easily accessible via London’s outstanding public transport. You may rent a car at Kayak if you don’t want to travel by public transportation, but be warned; although the Tower is easier to reach by car than many attractions in London, driving around London can be tricky AND expensive!

Here are a few easy steps to get to the Tower of London using the best method of transportation; the London Underground.

London Underground

  • Take the London Underground to Tower Hill Station: Tower Hill Station is easily accessed via the District and Circle lines on the tube.
  • Walk from Tower Hill Station to the Tower of London: Once you exit the underground, simply head straight towards the Thames River. The Tower of London lies just to the right of the Tower Bridge along the Thames River.

Walking from Central London or City of London

Claustrophobic? Want to save money on the far? The walk takes about 15 minutes and you can see many of London’s landmarks along the way, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Borough Market and Southwark Bridge.

There are also a number of other attractions in close proximity to these two points such as Shakespeare’s Globe, Tower Bridge, the Shard, and the City of London, so consider visiting them on your journey too.

Other ways to reach the Tower of London

You can also take a river taxi if you’re not within reach of the underground and you’re coming from West End.

Alternatively, you can rely on London’s ubiquitous Black Cabs to get you there in a jiffy.

An overview of the Tower of London

The Tower of London Virtual Tour: Uncovering the History 4K
Watch this video on YouTube.

What to see and do at the Tower of London

The Tower of London is an iconic landmark located in the heart of London and features an incredibly rich history so do your homework in advance. It is a popular tourist destination, with people coming from all over the world to visit it.

There are a number of things to see and do at the Tower of London, so allow plenty of time to explore this attraction fully.

The first place to visit is the Crown Jewels exhibit. This is home to some of the most impressive jewelry in the world, including the Crown Jewels worn by the Queen, her ancestors and will be worn by her successors.

Then there’s the White Tower. This is the oldest part of the Tower of London and is where you’ll find a number of historical items, including armor and weapons.

Finally, take your time exploring around Tower Green. You won’t be able to enter all areas of this green space, but it’s worth at least walking through it to see the beautiful buildings and the famous ravens hopping about.

See Related: London vs Paris: What’s the Difference?

Tower of London History

In 1066, following his victory in the Norman Conquest of England, William constructed the tower in order to consolidate his control over the city.

It was built in a strategic location, chosen by William the Conqueror so that it could be seen from a distance, as a reminder of who was now in charge. Of course, the city has evolved dramatically since then, and the tower is dwarfed by the skyline of the twenty-first century.

Due to the fact that you access the grounds by the Byward Tower in the southwest corner, the grounds are now operating on a one-way basis.

The Yeoman Warders, commonly (and slightly erroneously) known as Beefeaters, greet visitors as they pass through the portcullis. Since the 1400s they have served as guardians of the tower, and have protected the Crown Jewels and provided guided tours since the Victorian era. All are veterans of the British Armed Forces, and have been so for centuries.

Until 1810, the Royal Mint was located near the Tower on Mint Lane, right in the heart of London.

Believe it or not, the Tower of London was home to London’s first zoo, which was established as a consequence of kings trading exotic animals as presents – such as elephants.

In the 12th Century, the King of France sent an elephant to London, and the city’s residents rushed to view it, resulting in more royal presents being added to this living collection.

By the nineteenth century, the menagerie had begun to deteriorate, and many animals were relocated. The animal population of today’s London Zoo is based on the original collection.

Traitors Gate

Continuing along Water Lane, you’ll arrive at Traitors Gate, which was once a canal access to the Tower of London from the Thames for King Edward I, but became more famous for the transportation of captives to the Tower.

According to accounts from the time, a barge may have brought Anne Boleyn through here before she was executed for high treason on the orders of King Henry VIII.

The famed “Bloody Tower” was given this nickname because of the strange disappearance of two young Princes detained there by dastardly Richard III, ostensibly for their safety.

After imprisonment in 1483, the young deposed Edward V, and his brother Richard, Duke of York, both known as “the Princes in the Tower”, were never seen or heard from again until the remains of two boys were discovered beneath the steps in one of the towers in 1674.

The remains were interred in Westminster Abbey, where they are widely thought to be the Prince’s remains, which has yet to be confirmed.

Tower of London Ravens

Raven in the city

While you’re visiting the tower, you’ll likely run into the Ravens that live there. It is supposed that if the resident ravens ever depart the castle, the monarchy and tower will come crumbling down.

After being informed of this potential calamity, it is believed that Charles II, first on the English throne after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, was the first to request that the ravens of the tower be safeguarded, according to legend.

Today, tradition is kept, and seven ravens, six of whom are breeding and one who is not, are allowed to wander the grounds that are lovingly cared for by the warders.

If there are any real Beefeaters at the Tower it is the Ravens, who are each given a healthy daily ration of beef, four times a day, sourced from a local butcher.

White Tower & Chapel of St. John the Evangelist

White Tower

On top of this world-renowned white structure, which is also the tallest and most valuable tower from a military standpoint, lies the former residence of William the Conqueror and select members of his court. It is also home to a Royal Chapel.

Today, the White Tower is a museum and ticket office for visitors. When you leave the building, take a moment to visit the New Armouries Café before going on with your tour.

The White Tower, constructed to ward off foreign invaders and intimidate the inhabitants of London, is arguably the most recognized castle keep in the world. The UNESCO World Heritage Site regularly receives almost 3 million visitors per year.

Since the 15th Century, the White Tower has housed an extensive collection of armaments and armor.

The department, which was known as the “King’s Privy Wardrobe” at the time, was located within the walls of the Tower of London and was responsible for producing armor and weaponry for the king and his armies.

By the reign of Charles II, the tower had a permanent collection of captured Spanish weapons on display, making it the world’s first museum.

A great collection of antiques, many of which belonged to the past Kings of England, may be found on display today, however only a portion of this prized collection is on display at any one time.

Take care not to lose track of time as there are no clocks or watches permitted within this area!

On the second floor you’ll find the chapel of Saint John the Evangelist. It’s widely recognized as one of the finest specimens of Romanesque architecture in the world, and was almost certainly frequented by William’s royal family when residing in the Tower.

Here you can still see an authentic executioner’s block from the 18th century, as well as an ax that may have been used in Tudor times for snicking necks!

Templar Church

Old Church
“Temple Church” by It’s No Game is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As we turn around the corner, we come across what used to be Templar Church.

Despite being destroyed in 1312 by King Edward II, it has left behind some interesting ruins that are worth viewing before continuing through the White Tower courtyard.

Near this area, you can also see a section of one of the original ramparts from when the tower was first constructed.

By this point, you’ll have come to the crisscross of cobblestones that signal the three main towers: Brick Tower to the left and Salt and Coldharbour Towers on the right.

See Related: How to Take a Day Trip from London to Stonehenge

Tower Green

Tower Green is a lovely plaza within the castle, but there is much more to it than meets the eye!

According to historical records, the Tudor era structures, including the Queen’s House, were most likely constructed for Anne Boleyn before her coronation in 1533.

Ironically, it was also the location where she was detained before her death. The home is continuously guarded by a sentry to this day.

Residences and offices for the Yeoman Warders, some of whom reside on-site, are housed in the various cottages that are dotted around the green.

It was Sir Walter Raleigh who looked after the little apothecary garden near the entrance to the Bloody Tower, which has been recreated near the Tower entrance. He was formerly a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, but after a falling out with King James I, he was imprisoned here (three times) before being executed at Westminster.

In the shadow of the Royal Chapel, a number of heads rolled on Tower Green. 

The most notable are three former Queens: Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey.

Both Anne and Katherine were married to cantankerous Henry VIII and were accused of infidelity, among other things. Coincidence? The same bastard husband!

Lady Jane Grey, the Nine-Day Queen, legal heir to Edward VI, and innocent victim of a Catholic coup, was also executed here, by order of the brutal Bloody Mary I.

A sculpture here pays tribute to people who were sentenced to death by the state.

Crown Jewels at the Tower of London

Waterloo Block, a former barracks for 800 troops is now home to the Crown Jewels, and is the final destination in the Tower.

Armed guards monitor the perimeter of the Jewel House to ensure that no one enters or leaves the building without permission.

On the inside, you’ll find the most powerful emblems of the British Monarchy, as well as a world-famous collection of diamonds valued at a whopping three billion pounds!

The Coronation Regalia and Imperial State Crown, which are at the center of the collection, are the highlights.

Unfortunately, these treasures are so sacred, there is no video or photography allowed inside.

See related; 11 Interesting, Fun Nicknames for London

Book Your Tower of London Tickets

Lights on a Tower and River  at Night

The Tower of London will take you on a journey through British history, from being home to some very famous prisoners like Anne Boleyn or Guy Fawkes, all the way up until the World Wars, to being a zoo and the vault for Britain’s sacred Crown Jewels.

For information on advanced reservations such as a private tour, contact the ticket office for more details. Otherwise, you can easily access the Tower of London by purchasing a London Pass as well as gaining access to several other iconic London experiences.

Check out our Tower of London video for additional information on well-known London attractions, and consider subscribing to the ViaTravelers YouTube channel if you enjoy our videos and material.

Until next time, best wishes on your journey guv’na!

See Related: Ultimate Packing Checklist for Traveling to London

FAQ

Can you tour the Tower of London?

There are many tours of the Tower of London that you can do including Yeoman Warders tours. To check out a list of all the options, head here to the official Tower of London page for more information about scheduling.

How long does a tour of the Tower of London take?

Essentials tours are included within your ticket and depart every 15 minutes. It takes about 60 minutes to get there from a central point. To learn more please visit Tower of London’s website.

It takes about 60 minutes to get there from the central point starting point. Tours are included in ticket prices and are run every 15 minutes.

Does anyone live in the Tower of London?

Yes, 37 Yeoman Warders live in the Tower of London, which are men and women from the British military.

How long is the Tower of London experience?

We recommend spending three to four hours touring the entire medieval palace.

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