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Visiting the Tower of London
Reading about the Tower of London previously, I imagined it as being one building. However, we found it is a series of palaces, barracks, towers and chapels within the fortress walls. Each has its own unique and often sinister history. You will need a whole day to thoroughly explore everything there is to see at the Tower of London.
This Lonely Planet London Travel Guide available on Amazon may be useful when planning your trip to London
In view of the iconic Tower Bridge you will find “traitors gate” on the River Thames. It was from here that many famous prisoners made their final fateful journey into to fortress. Grassed lawns today replace the boggy moats which once surrounded the sprawling palace.
Explore the fortresses
The Tower was built as an impenetrable fortress with impenetrable defences. Walking around the fortress you will find displays displayss including a reconstructed fighting platform. Lifesize metal soldiers line the medieval part of the battlements, ancient weapons adorning the walls.
Yeoman and beefeaters
Within the castle keep you will find yeoman warders and beefeaters in traditional costume standing guard. They provide an informative commentary of the history of “The Tower” and add a touch of authenticity to the “Tower experience”
Yeoman warders provide hour long tours every 30 minutes daily, the final tour commencing at 3.30.
Regular costumed events are scheduled throughout the year. It is worth checking out the Tower of London website to see what events may be on when you plan your visit, so you can book ahead.
Ravens in the Tower
Here six ravens have guarded the tower, in the centuries old belief that if the ravens vacate the tower, the tower will fall. Legend has it that Charles II first insisted the Tower ravens be protected. You will still see the ravens around the grounds today.
From the time of King John in the early 13th century, the Royal Menagerie at the Tower was home to more than 60 species of animals. Lions, tigers, monkeys and elephants, bears and zebras were often gifted between European royals and used as entertainment for courtiers.
Today you will find many life size animal sculptures by artist Kendra Haste, symbolising the history of the menagerie.
Viewing the Crown Jewels
Visit the Crown Jewels, including the Imperial State Crown, St Edward’s crown and the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross. Due to the throngs of visitors who visit the heavily guarded Jewel House each day, you are conveyed along a narrow moving walkway past the glass display cabinets. This prevents crowding around exhibits and enables everyone to get a fair view of “The Jewels”. Visiting the Jewels should be the first item on your day’s itinerary as it is the most popular exhibit, with long queues later in the day.
The Royal Mint
A permanent exhibition “Coins and Kings is housed in the former Royal Mint at the Tower is a permanent exhibition at the Tower of London, detailing the history of the Mint from 1279 to 1812.
The White Tower
Central to the tower complex is the”White Tower”. The oldest structure within the complex is a world heritage listed building and an example of Norman architecture.
It is the most famous castle keep in the world. Inside you will find displays of armoury and historic artefacts as well as the 11th century Chapel of St John the Evangelist.
The Line of Kings
Established in the 17th century for Charles II, the Line of Kings is one of the oldest museum exhibits. Today you can view the royal armouries collection dating back to Henry VII, as well as a display of implements of torture and execution used during the period of history.
The boys in the Tower
A narrow winding brick staircase in the White Tower is reportedly where the two princes, Edward V and Richard of Shewsbury were entombed in 1483. Richard Duke of Gloucester had imprisoned his nephews in the Tower in his quest for power.
Tower Green was the execution site of Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and Kathryn Howard among others. They were laid to rest in the adjacent Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula. The green today is such a seemingly peaceful spot. A round glass monument marks the execution site. It is hard to imagine that 500 years ago it was the scene of so many violent deaths.
The adjacent tower block was home to many royal prisoners over hundreds of years. It still bears the marks of many of it’s Royal prisoners, with “graffitti” etched into the stone in many of the rooms. The palace is made up of three towers, St Thomas’s Tower, the Wakefield Tower and the Lanthorn Tower. You will find recreations of the living quarters used by medieval kings and queens
St Thomas’s Tower was built by Edward I in the late 1270s. Here you will find a recreation of his bedchamber
Built by Henry III around 1240, the Wakefield tower houses an intricate replica of a canopied throne.
The Lanthorn tower was home to the royal children, housing a displays of medieval artifacts including toys.
The Fusilier Museum houses 12 Victoria Cross Medals won by the Regiment and the uniform and bearskin of King George V included in its displays.
The building dates back to 1685, when it was built as the officers quarters. Today, apart from housing the regimental museum, it is used for ceremonial occasions.
The museum iums housed in a building originally built as officers’ quarters. The building still houses the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers’ Regimental Headquarters and the Officers’ Mess, which is used for formal dinners and ceremonial occasions.
We visited the tower as part of a day-long tour, however individual and self guided tours can also be arranged.
Purchasing tickets on line is the cheapest Adults 22.70 GBP, children under 16 are 10.75GBP. You can also get discount tickets as part of the London Pass.
The tower hosts a number of educational events throughout the year in addition to the normal exhibitions.