The Ultimate Tower of London Guide
After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the French king William the Conqueror was crowned king of England. During the 1070s, almost a thousand years ago, he sealed his victory by building a massive, threatening stone tower in London, designed to squash any remaining resistance from the locals. William was illiterate and didn’t speak English, but ruled the nation with an iron fist until his death in 1087. Today, the Tower of London still inspires awe.
These days the Tower is the official protector of the Crown Jewels, and is home to the Yeomen of the Guard – the Beefeaters – as well as the tower’s famous ravens. More than 3 million of us visit every year, an experience rich in ceremony, thrilling ghost stories, glittering reproductions of the fabulous Crown Jewels – guarded by soldiers – plus a collection of remarkable ancient objects including King Henry VIII’s suit of armour, enormous codpiece and all!
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Tower of London: History and Facts
- Over the centuries the Tower has housed the Royal Mint, the Royal Armouries, and a zoo
- The Shard of its time and the tallest building in London way back then, the Tower took two decades to build, made from stone brought from Caen by Normandy masons
- More or less enslaved, gangs of Englishmen were forced to provide the labour
- The Tower has only been breached once, during the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt
- The Tower was expanded by Henry III between 1216 and 1272 and again by Edward I between 1272 and 1307. They added vast defensive walls and a series of smaller sub-towers, then made the moat bigger
- Why ‘Beefeaters’? Because they were originally allowed to eat as much beef as they liked from the King’s table, a serious luxury
- The Beefeaters have their own pub inside the Tower
- During the Wars of the Roses, in 1471, King Henry VI was murdered here
- The two male children of King Edward IV – the Princes in the Tower – vanished here in 1483. In 1674, two skeletons of boys were found, and in 1933 it was proven they were indeed the two lost princes. They’re thought to haunt the Tower
- In Tudor times this was the country’s most important state prison
- Anne Boleyn was held here before being executed on Tower Green, and apparently, she still haunts the Green
- The future Elizabeth 1st was sent here by her father King Henry VIII before becoming queen
- Lady Jane Grey, Sir Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkes were all sent to the Tower
- The headless bodies of the executed Queens were buried without ceremony under the chapel
- The Tower has seen a total of 21 executions, 11 in the 1900s, mainly German WW1 spies
- Henry 8th was the king who decided the Yeoman Guard would always stay to guard to Tower
- In 1240, King Henry the Third painted the keep white, and it fast became known as the White Tower
- Coins of the realm were made at the Tower Mint from Edward the First’s time until 1810
- Look out for the firing of the cannon on the Wharf, events called the Gun Salutes. There are several a year and the number of rounds that get fired depends on the location and occasion
- Legend has it that if the ravens leave, the Tower will fall, as will the nation
- Seven ravens currently live at the Tower, looked after by a special Yeoman Warder called The Ravenmaster. That’s what we call a cool job title!
You want to make the most of your visit to this totally spectacular attraction, with its extraordinarily violent history and absolutely beautiful setting. It’s so amazing to be there in person, easy to imagine its chequered past. You’ll adore the iconic exhibits, the ravens, the Beefeaters’ uniforms, the stunning buildings themselves and, of course, the mighty River Thames winding her way along outside the walls. Here is some handy information for you.
Tower of London events and exhibitions
Tower of London events include the brilliant FREE Yeoman Warder Guided Tour – and it’s amazing. If you haven’t seen the Beefeaters in action look them up on YouTube to have a sneak preview of what you can expect to see. Their presentations are famously thrilling, funny, and highly entertaining with plenty of fun and interaction for the kids. They last about an hour and kick off every half hour – near the main entrance – until 3.30pm in summer and 2.30pm in winter.
The Tower of London ravens
The Royal Ravens are a popular attraction. Every bird is named and they’re all different, full of personality. Head for their home on the South Lawn to meet them.
Discover the royal beasts
For 600 years the Tower was home to collections of wild, exotic animals from around the globe. Find out why, where they came from and lots more at the Royal Menagerie.
Spooky experiences at the White Tower
Here you’ll see the very axe that beheaded the last person to be executed at Tower Hill in 1747. See the place Guy Fawkes and other famous prisoners were interrogated and tortured. Experience the Royal Armouries collections for yourself. Walk the walls of the Tower itself, and explore weaponry throughout the ages.
The ceremony of the Word
Every day at 2.45pm The Word ceremony takes place outside the Jewel House. The secret word is provided by the MoD and is used as a password to let people leave or return after the Ceremony of the Keys. You’ll love seeing the Military Guard being inspected before marching to the Byward Tower to collect The Word of the day.
The awe-inspiring Crown Jewels
Dazzling crowns used by kings and queens since 1661 are on display, many still worn by The Queen. Your eyes will water at the sight of some of the world’s finest and biggest gems, and their remarkable history will fascinate you.
The Royal Mint and Mintmaster game
This is where the money’s made. And the Mint has plenty of amazing stories to tell about its 500-year history at the Tower. There’s also a fun game to play where you try to manage the Mint, called Mint Master.
How much does it cost to visit the Tower of London?
Want to know the Tower of London ticket price? No problem:
- Members go free – Membership costs from £53 a year, and membership includes all six Historic Royal Palaces
- Adults aged age 18-64 – £24.70 without a donation, £27.20 with a donation
- Concessions (age 65+ or 16-17, full-time student, or disabled) – £19.30 without a donation, £21.30 with a donation
- Child age 5-15 (must be with an adult) £11.70 without a donation, £12.90 with a donation
- Children under 5 get in for free
- Family saver 1 – One adult and as many as 3 kids – £44.40 without a donation, £48.90 with a donation
- Family saver 2 – Two adults and as many as 3 kids – £62.90 without a donation, £69.20 with a donation
- Various discounts for groups of 15 plus
You can also pick up excellent audio guides from £4.00 and guidebooks from £4.99.
Tower of London Opening Hours
Tower of London opening times are as follows:
- 1st March to 31st October: Tuesday – Saturday 9am to 6pm, Sunday – Monday 10am to 6pm, last admission 5pm
- 1st November to 28th February: Tuesday – Saturday 9am to 5pm, Sunday – Monday 10am to 5pm, last admission 4pm
- Closed 24th to 26th December and 1st January every year
Where to eat near the Tower of London
Looking for great places to eat near Tower of London? Here are five of the best.
- Armories Restaurant on Tower Hill itself, great for casual eats
- Wagamama at 2B Tower Hill is a popular venue for casual Japanese dining
- Brasserie Blanc at 14 Trinity Square is a very smart French restaurant associated with Raymond Blanc
- La Damme de Pic London at 10 Trinity Square and serves high end French cuisine
- Zizzi Tower Hill is at Plaza Level in West Tower Place, great for tasty pizza and pasta
Getting to the Tower of London
Walking: Walk along the bank of the River Thames to discover a London you might not have imagined, a place of ancient wharves, sunny riverside pathways, posh river edge developments and green parks.
Underground: Your nearest tube station is Tower Hill, accessible via the District or Circle line and just 5 minutes’ walk from the Tower.
Bus: You’ll find the Tower on bus routes 15, 42, 78, 100, RV1. It’s also on the Citysightseeing London bus tours route.
Train: The nearest mainline railway stations are Fenchurch Street, 5 minutes’ walk away, and London Bridge 15 minutes’ walk away. You can also take the Docklands Light Railway to and from Tower Gateway Station.
Bicycle: Hire a bike for £2 a day at 3 stands close to the Tower.