How to make the most of beautiful Tower of London
Do you want to make the most of the Tower of London? This ultimate guide to the Tower of London will give you all the information you need to know about one of our top 10 attractions. You’ll discover the Crown Jewels, meet the ravens, join the guided Yeoman Warden Tour, explore 1000 years of British history, visit The White Tower and the areas where they beheaded kings, queens, prisoners for hundreds of years and many more.
The Tower Bridge, The Shard, and the River Thames, are a few attractions you must visit before or after the tour, and it’s just a few miles to London Bridge Station and Borough Market. The Tower of London was also used as a prison from 1100 for the Norman Bishop Ranulf Flambard, but its purpose was to serve as a Royal residence. If you only one day in London or 2 days in London to spare, the Tower of London is too long of a tour to visit, but if you have 3 days in London, 4 days in London or more, then you can somehow fit it in for one day.
The Tower of London is one of the most famous buildings in London. This guide will cover the secrets inside the tower, general information about the nearby attractions, how long to spend in the tower, tips, and useful insider’s information.
As I stepped out Tower Hill Underground Station, the Tower of London’s 1000 year old stoned wall was already in full view. The first thing that came to mind was “How can a 1000 year old wall, rough and rigged in texture still be standing in 2019?” It still baffles me to this day. The location is at the heart of the hustling central London. Cars, the iconic red buses, the black taxis going left and right. 21st Century buildings and office blocks can be seen on the other side of Tower of London. When you cross the road at Tower Hill, it just looks like a normal road, but during 18th and 19th Century, a lot of people were beheaded here. A wide grey smooth pavement with many cafes, tour offices for day trip out of London, fish and chips shops can be seen overlooking Tower of London, and you can see small people walking on the grass, over the walls. It shows this place is huge, even the patch of grass. On the other side, you can see the view of the River Thames, Coppa Club Tower Bridge Igloo Restaurant, The Shard and Tower Bridge further up.
I went before COVID, and at 1:30 pm, it was already busy with people joining the same group, and if you have the London Pass, even better, you skip the queue and it’s free to get in, but you have to be at your allocated time slot otherwise, you’ll have a bad experience. I bought my tickets on the door, but it’s better to buy it online on their website in advanced. For more Tower of London tickets discounts, check this website for more options other than the London Pass and booking online. You’ll also find the Tower of London 2 for 1 ticket there as well.
History of the Tower of London
My hunger for knowledge inspired me to write about certain topics, current affairs, geography, science fiction, and many others. Today, I was hungry for history, British history to be exact.
Located in the banks of the River Thames and founded in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England, the Tower of London is what shapes London today, and it’s near major attractions in the South Bank. The Tower of London is one of the many things to do in Southbank. Bloody stories lie behind the walls, so read on to find out more about the secrets of the tower.
Throughout the years, British history is known for its line of long-standing monarchy, kings, queens, princes and princesses, prisoners, and peasants. The Tower of London had been treated unfairly by wealthy, powerful people while inflicting harm upon the rest of London. It is also what shapes the modern royal family today. Between them, there have been bloody murders, torture at the towers, chambers, and gruesome stories told for a thousand years. The Tower of London has all of these rolled into one.
Since COVID, safety procedures have been put into place, so if you want to know more about safety procedures and how to buy a ticket online, click here for the Tower of London website.
How to get to the Tower of London
There are many ways to get to the Tower of London. The quickest way is to take the tube to Tower Hill, the District and Circle Line (yellow and green), cross the road and it will be just in front of you. If you want to walk across the Southbank from London Bridge, it’s only a few minutes-walk. The major station is London Bridge, and from London Bridge, you can take bus numbers 15, 42, 78, and 100 which stops outside the Tower of London.
The Yeoman Wardour Tour and The Beefeaters
Beefeaters are protectors of the Tower of London, the bodyguard, and the royal bodyguards. Back in the olden days, their nickname derived from the fact they could eat as much beef at the King’s table as they liked. There are still beefeaters roaming the Tower of London, and what’s so special about them is that they give guided tours to a group of people wanting to know about the stories behind the Tower. You can ask them any questions you may have regarding the Tower of London or the Royal Family.
The guided tour comes with the entrance fee and always starts every half an hour at the beginning of the tour. The 1:30 pm slot was already full of people and the group was larger than expected. Because I went during the school holidays during the Easter Break, I was worried there would be a group of school children, but there was space to walk around the grounds of the tower. The weather was still windy, so don’t expect London to be sunny during Easter.
The Beefeater stood at the side of the entrance introducing himself and what he could offer us. He’ll use British humour, but I felt he spoke fast, too fast for non-English speakers to understand. Scanning the crowd with frowned faces, I knew they were trying to catch what he was saying, some had already lost interest but there are other Beefeaters around, you might be lucky, they may speak slowly. If not, after the tour, just ask them questions you might have missed from the Wardour Tour.
Throughout the visit, the Beefeater chose his words carefully. We walked through each part of the Tower, and he explained different stories and deaths happening in and around that part.
Stories were told, bloody and torturous scenes ingrained in our heads. Heads chopped off in different areas of the Tower, archbishops, politicians, kings, queens, and prisoners who made their residence here paid the price and suffered until they died. Religion, politics, treason, adultery played a part in all these deaths. Prisoners locked up in towers for hundreds of years and ravens flying around, queens beheaded for adultery, witchcraft, and treason.
The Beefeater Tour
In the Beefeater Tour, you’ll learn many stories about the Tower.
William the Conqueror built the Tower in 1078 when he defeated England against King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. 200 years later, monarchs have built defensive walls to protect themselves.
Important people that changed the world lived here and we walked in the footsteps of people like King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Sir Walter Raleigh, and many others.
At the Bell Tower, Sir Thomas Moore and John Fisher were imprisoned for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England. They suffered terribly for fifteen months at this tower, but they didn’t want to change their beliefs, so remained there until their deaths, consequently, they were both beheaded at Tower Hill in 1535.
Conclusion to The Wardour Tour
As the tour continued, he resumed with a joke, “Beefeaters do sleep, they do breathe, they do eat and yes, they do live in the Tower. I couldn’t order pizzas since the delivery guy could never find the address. They pass the most famous landmark in London every day. They couldn’t miss it, but still adamant the delivery guys couldn’t find it.”
“Teenagers coming home to the grounds drunk. I know I can’t do anything about it because they could get away with it. My dirty washing line could be seen through this window, but it wasn’t a sight to see”.
The guided tour lasted 50 minutes, and after the tour, you can roam around the grounds like there’s no tomorrow. You can get a free map or an audio guide in more than five languages. The map is coloured and easy to read so it’s clear to cover all the grounds.
After the tour
The first leg of my self-guided tour was the Crown Jewels stored there since the 15th Century. I recommend you start with the Crown Jewels found in the Martin Tower.
Two British guards stood outside the Martin Tower to protect the jewels, and two canons stood between them. Pictures aren’t allowed there but all the crowns, jewels and armouries were kept in great condition. The dark and warm entrance to the Martin Tower goes back to the 1400s. The slow but steady queue took us to different items belonging to various members of the royal family. Just imagine these shiny golden swords that were engraved personally belonged to the great kings and queens. You could see videos of kings and queens crowned projected on the large walls, and the dates of their coronations were included at the bottom.
The White Tower
The White Tower was built to defend foreign invaders back in the day, and there, it hosts various armories owned by Henry VIII, Charles I, and James II, who were the three of Line of Kings. From the White Tower steps, there is a really good view of Tower Bridge, the strip of the River Thames, and the South Bank. Feel free to take photos by the stairs and take a 360-degree video of Tower Bridge, the River Thames, the roof of The Shard, and The White Tower here.
Dates were included next to the armouries and it’s the oldest museum exhibit showcasing King Henry VIII’s, Charles I, James II’s horses, and armours from the 17th Century. The life-sized statues of kings and their horses are a sight to see and not to be taken for granted. After all, the horses that played a part in battlements must be acknowledged too. The live-sized plastic horses were made from horsehair and can be mistaken for taxidermy.
The armouries and shields were designed intricately with precision. It gave it a personal touch to its rightful kings. Stories engraved in the armours, iron plates, and shields tell stories of Alexander the Great. Take half an hour here and learn all about the Line of Kings of England going back to the 14th Century. It’s incredible what you learn and discover at the Tower of London.
The third point of my visit was The Battlements. On the way there, there were groups of people crowding around a raven standing on an iron staircase. I wanted to be careful not to scare him away since there weren’t any restrictions on how close you could get. They flew around the Tower just like any other birds. I thought ravens are another version of crows but really, they’re bigger and squawked louder.
The ravens had been around London during the 16th Century, and they are thought to protect the Tower of London. Legend has it that if there were no ravens, then the Tower of London would collapse. Ravens should not be mistaken with crows that you see in and around London, they’re different species altogether. They have bigger beaks and larger in size. Read more about the ravens at the Tower of London.
The many towers in the Tower of London
After the Battlements, you’ll see many small towers scattered around the grounds. These towers held prisoners captive for many years. It’s great to see since all prisoners engraved written notes and symbols to say that they were prisoners. Judging by how narrow the towers were, prisoners were kept in cramped conditions, starved to death, and not to mention how cold it was. I felt claustrophobic just being there for 2 minutes, and it did feel cold. I really felt for the innocent prisoners, no one should be executed for their religious beliefs.
London was fixed in their religious denominations, and if you were from a different denomination, you’d get executed or imprisoned. England was predominantly Protestant, so any Catholics were either hung, executed, or imprisoned, so, many would not change their beliefs to conform to society, therefore, sacrificed their lives for their own beliefs.
One prisoner took his time to engrave pictures of dead bodies and tell people that all will die here, and nothing can be done about it. For example, a Catholic Queen held a Protestant prisoner here for believing in his faith. After I visited the towers, I felt so grateful to be in the open air again. If you want to visit the towers, take around 20 minutes in the prisoners’ towers.
What are some interesting facts about the Tower of London?
The Tower of London is all about torture, executions, and imprisonments. It was also the home of the Royal residents and a place to defend against invaders during battlefields. Visitors often find the gruesome and bloody stories interesting, and when we curse, we say “bloody”. The reason behind it was, London was bloody and gruesome between the 12th and 14th Centuries. Take around 20 minutes here.
“They executed many famous people here at the Tower Green, including Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn,” said the Beefeater. Lady Jane Grey was a teenage queen, married to Lord Guildford Dudley, an English nobleman for 9 days between the 10th of July to the 19th July,1554. She was later buried in St Peter Ad Vincula Royal Chapel. Lady Jane Grey was executed for high treason, witchcraft, and adultery alongside her husband, where he was executed in Tower Hill too.”
A cart had his body dragged into the Tower, and Lady Jane Grey stood watching in one of the windows. A few hours later, they executed Lady Jane at Tower Green. The sad and horrific story of a loving couple, only teenagers then, wed so young. Along with Lady Jane Grey, Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s wife, was also executed at Tower Green for treason, witchcraft, and adultery.
Tower of London hours
Summer 1 March – 31 October – Tuesday-Saturday: 09:00-17:30
Winter 1 November to 29 February – Tuesday-Saturday: 09:00-16:30
The majority of us have had our vaccinations for COVID, including the third booster shot. Even some 12 – 16-year-olds have had them. So, if you plan to visit us, make sure you click the link which will take you to the government Border Control page. It will give you all the information you need to visit London.
If you want to find out more about discounts, visit www.discount-britain.com for cheap tickets. I usually go to this site for future bookings to major attractions. Check out the Tower of London’s website for next year’s bookings.
Check out the Golden Tours website for Hop on and Hop off tours here. Outside the Tower of London, there is a bus stop for Hop-on and Hop-off tours from other companies too, but Golden Tours is the best one, although a little bit more expensive. Hop-on Hop-off tour guides are always there for any questions.
The best time to visit the Tower of London is either in the morning or the last attraction you see at the end of your day since it can take 2 – 3 hours to make the most of it. After it rains, a few people buy tickets to go inside, and they have found that there are fewer people during this time. During school holidays, it does get busier but when I visited, the grounds were large enough to run around in.
You can pay by cash and online for discounts and packages, but it’s recommended to buy your tickets online. It’s cheaper than paying at the kiosk.
A few fish and chips stalls, coffee shops, and other restaurants can also be found here. Book coach tours and explore places outside London like Stonehenge from the nearby Visitor Information desk.
Itinerary list of things to do around Tower of London
Tower Bridge – Take a few minutes for photos by the River Thames and 45 minutes for the tour.
Walk towards Borough Market – fruit and veg stalls, dairy, and fish products.
The South Bank area – Stroll through the South Bank area overlooking the River Thames. You will see several British pubs, European restaurants including Greek and Italian, cafes, cocktail bars (always busy and you may be lucky to find a table), Shakespeare Theatre, the National Theatre, parks, Tate Gallery, the London Eye, Shrek the Experience, Sea Life London Aquarium, the London Dungeon, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. All are next to each other.
Bus journeys can also be cramped and claustrophobic, not to mention traffic, but it saves you from walking long distances.
When you’re in Trafalgar Square, go through the Admiralty Archway, walk through The Mall, and visit Buckingham Palace, St. James’ Park, and Green Park – Spend 30 minutes each. Admire the Victoria Memorial statue. These places are walking distances from the South Bank, and it’s situated in the West End. Click for the West End Walk for more information about these attractions.
The Mall is a wide road leading to Buckingham Palace from Admiralty Archway and is used for major ceremonies, including royal events.
Hidden Gem: All Hallows by the Tower Church and The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garrett
Over the years, All Hallows by the Tower Church has survived a number of disasters, including the Great Fire of London and German bombers during the Blitz. Since everyone will be attracted to the Tower of London, it can also be missed. If you’re interested in Roman floors, the history of the Anglo-Saxons, or Ernest Shackleton, then this is the one if you don’t like crowds. It’s an intimate experience compared to Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London. Check out the crypt museum and the stained-glass windows with their multicolored glass crests. It is historical, spooky, creepy, and interesting at the same time.
It’s been an experience learning about British history. I learned that British history can be gruesome, sad, bloody, prosperous, and happy at the same time. Kings and queens came together to reign England and prisoners were left suffering.