Perhaps the most feared building in all London throughout history has been the Tower of London. Once the fortress and prison of kings and queens and still an active military base, the Tower of London is now invaded daily by tourists.
Even though thousands of people visit the Tower of London every day, it is such a large site that you can often find an area that is not crowded. The Tower of London is well worth the visit because it is so rich in history and so well preserved.
How to Get to the Tower of London
The best way to get almost anywhere in London is by using the Tube, which is their subway or metro system. To arrive at the Tower of London you will want to get off at Tower Hill Tube stop. From there you really can’t miss the tower, it will be the large castle just South of the Tube stop over looking the River Thames.
Sometimes people can be confused because the name Tower of London seems to imply that it is a single tower when in fact it is an entire fortress. This confusion sometimes leads people to think that Tower Bridge nearby is the Tower of London. Don’t get confused, the full fortress is what you want (although you should also visit Tower Bridge).
You enter the Tower of London from the West side. If you have a London Pass (like we did) you can skip the lines at the ticket kiosks and go in through the fast track lane. Earlier in the day the lines are not as bad as they are in the afternoon. If you don’t have the London Pass or didn’t order tickets online you will get tickets outside the gates at the rows of kiosks by the information center.
Be aware that there a bathrooms for 50p outside the Tower of London, but once you are inside the bathrooms are free. There are also drinking fountains inside, always a blessed site in Europe.
5 Things to See at the Tower of London
The Tower of London is big. You could spend all day there, but if your time in London is limited you may be able to only do a few things. This is especially true if it is a very crowded day and the lines are long. We have picked out a few of the highlights we think you should see.
Make sure to pick up a map at the information point just inside the entrance to help you find your way.
1. See the Crown Jewels
Although the tower is probably best known as a place of executions, its number one attraction has long been the English Crown Jewels. If you want to see them you should go there first. They are housed in a separate castle looking building behind the central White Tower (follow the signs).
We went to the see the Crown Jewels first when we visited and we were able to walk right inside the building and through some of the exhibit before running into line. Later in the day the line grew extremely long, winding all through the outside line barriers.
The Crown Jewels are awesome to see. Once you got through the exhibit you will actually get onto a slow moving walkway that will take you right past them. If don’t get enough of them on one pass you can walk back over a little non moving platform and go past again.
You are not allowed to take pictures in the Crown Jewels building which is why we don’t have any.
2. Walk the Battlements
One of the most fun parts of the Tower of London is walking along the battlements and through the old palace. This is the outer wall of the tower complex and you should get up on the battlements near where you entered the castle (but only after seeing the Crown Jewels).
Once you are on the battlements it is a one way walk around the perimeter of the wall and you will also go into areas that were once the royal apartments.
The battlements provide excellent views of the city, Tower Bridge, and the River Thames.
3. Visit the White Tower
The White Tower is the central keep of the castle complex. It is the most iconic part of the Tower of London. If you go inside the White Tower you will need to climb quite a few steps so be prepared for that.
The White Tower is now a museum dedicated to military history. In particular it has tons of armor. This includes a series of full plate armor known as the Line of Kings. These used to be the armor worn by various kings of England. Although some historians doubt the accuracy of that, they are still pretty cool to see.
4. The Bloody Tower
The Bloody Tower was part of the area of the Tower of London used for prisoners. You can tour this tower today to see where those prisoners would have lived. Some of the stories of royal prisoners are quite interesting and there is one very sad story.
The Bloody Tower is located just inside the inner wall of the castle.
5. The Ravens
No trip to the Tower of London is complete without seeing the Ravens. Legend holds that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower of London that both the tower and the kingdom will fall. Just to be safe the keep a set of ravens with clipped wings on the tower grounds at all times. You can see the ravens either in their cages or walking around near the front of the White Tower. A great place to see them from is the battlements.
The Tower of London is a must see site when in London. You should allow at least 2 hours to visit, but you could spend all day there if you had the time and interest. Some areas of the tower, but not all, are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers (prams as they would say). There are a few options for food at the site.
There is an app called Time Explorers that will help you experience the Tower of London through “missions”. We did not get to use it but you may want to if you have children with you or extra time.