Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of Britain’s major tourist attractions, a fortress with a history dating back nearly 1,000 years.
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For nine centuries, the royal Tower Castle has been a grim symbol of cruel justice, imprisonment, torture and execution. Apparently its grim reputation is what draws so many tourists here. Add to that the befitters in red uniforms, the legendary ravens and the glitter of the royal jewels and you begin to understand how enormously popular the Tower is.
www.hrp.org.uk Tel: 020-7709 0765 Admission paid Tower Hill Metro
Construction of the Tower of London was begun in 1078 by William the Conqueror to control the vital route from the sea to London. The White Tower was England’s first stone watchtower. Henry III founded a palace here in the early thirteenth century, and although no monarch has lived here since Henry VII, the Tower officially remains the Royal Palace.
At various times it housed an astronomical observatory, royal archives, a royal menagerie and a royal arsenal.
As a result of numerous reconstructions, the Tower became a fortress of irregular hexagonal shape, surrounded by a moat and double defensive walls with jagged towers. The narrow outer courtyard (patrolled space) is guarded by cylindrical towers.
Behind the wall there is an inner courtyard, a wide space closed from all sides. It was here that barracks for soldiers, houses, chapels and other buildings were built for centuries. In the center is the donjon, the ancient White Tower, topped with four onion domes on the corner turrets. It is one of the largest donjons in the medieval architecture of Western Europe.
The Tower is now famous primarily for housing the Crown Jewels. However, the great fame of the Tower came from its bloody history, as for centuries the Tower remained a prison where torture and execution took place.
Legends and stories
During the 900 years of the Tower’s existence, legends and historical facts have become inextricably intertwined. On the south side of the outer wall is the Tower of St. Thomas and in it is the “Traitor’s Gate” overlooking the Thames.
Those convicted at the Palace of Westminster for high treason were taken to this entrance to the Tower by boat, which was considered a great disgrace.
Immediately behind the “Traitor’s Gate” in the inner wall is the Bloody Tower, facing the courtyard. Here in 1483, just after King Edward IV died, Prince Edward, heir to the throne, and his younger brother Prince Richard were brought here on the orders of their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester. No one outside the Tower walls saw the boys again, and “Hunchback Dick” was crowned as Richard III that year. In 1674, the skeletons of the two boys were unearthed from the ground nearby, giving even more reason to speculate that the ambitious duke had ordered his nephews to be put to death. They were not the only royals murdered here. It may have been their father who ordered the murder of his predecessor, Henry VI, who suffered from mental illness. In 1471 Henry VI was deposed, sent to the Tower and executed, and the people were told that the king had died of sorrow.
Torture and execution are an integral part of the Tower’s history. Traitors were executed publicly in Tower Hill, the square inside the fortress, but the “privileged” minority parted their heads on the Tower lawn in front of the White Tower. Among them were two of Henry VIII’s wives: the indomitable six-toed Anne Boleyn (second wife), mother of Queen Elizabeth I, beheaded with the sword of a French executioner, and the foolish Katherine Howard (fifth wife), whose head was also hacked off with an axe like most other traitors.
Guarding the fortress and the 2.5 million annual visitors to the Tower are 42 Beefeaters, the Tower’s lieutenant guards. A key ceremony is held daily at 9:35 p.m. (If you want to attend the ceremony, write in advance to the Tower Constable, Tower, EUS) . One of them holds the title of caretaker of the crows, and it is he who is responsible for them. According to legend, if the ravens fly out of the Tower, the kingdom will fall, and so they get their wings clipped!
You have to wait in line to get into the Waterloo Barracks, where the crown jewels of England are on display, but they are worth it. Here you will see the crown of Elizabeth II with the famous Cochinor diamond and the crown made in 1837 for Queen Victoria. It is decorated with the Little Star of Africa diamond and a sapphire that belonged to Edward the Confessor.
The Tower of London. Interesting and useful information
The Tower of London is an ancient fortress in central London, one of Britain’s main symbols and a popular tourist attraction.
Explore 1000 years of history of the famous London castle and UNESCO World Heritage Site. See the Crown Jewels, take the legendary Yeoman of the Guardian tour and meet the crows.
History of the Tower
The stone castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 (nine and a half centuries ago!) to consolidate power over the conquered Anglo-Saxons. It was called the White Tower and was used as a royal residence, military base and dungeon. It was a massive, well-built fortification, suitable for all-round defence (sides 32×36 metres, up to 30 metres high) – a formidable barrier for any army of the time.
Under the legendary Richard the Lionheart, the fortress was enlarged, received external walls and towers, and acquired modern outlines. Its descendants did not forget to watch over the fortification, until the defensive function of the Tower disappeared with the creation of powerful cannons. Then the narrow loopholes were replaced by glazed windows.
The next centuries the Tower was a real center of turbulent English royal life – important documents were kept here, the mint worked, criminals were kept and tortured (among these unfortunates – the famous Guy Fawkes), weapons were stored for the needs of the army. Until the 19th century, the fortress housed the royal menagerie, where dangerous and bizarre animals were kept for the amusement of the court. Yet the Tower is most famous as a sinister prison. Countless generations have languished within its walls, but few have escaped. Seven heads were beheaded in the castle (which was a great privilege) – Anne Boleyn, for example, lost her head there. Another fifteen hundred and fifty prisoners were executed in the city, combining justice with the amusement of the crowds.
There are a huge number of different stories and legends connected with the Tower. One of them is about the crows that have lived there since the dawn of time.
The legend says that the kingdom would fall if the ravens left.
To prevent this from happening, a special caretaker was appointed for the birds, and they also had their wings clipped (which completely eliminated the possibility of misfortune).
Another interesting tradition, preserved to this day, is the institution of the Tower guards. Once these carefully selected men guarded the kings and watched over the prisoners, now their function is more peaceful, but no less responsible: they keep order in the Tower and impress tourists, in this they help a special uniform.
Today the Tower is a carefully preserved monument of architecture and history, open to tourists. There is a museum and an armory with countless interesting exhibits.
Interesting events in 2020
At the end of this article, you can download a prospectus with all the events and tours that take place at the Tower.
Every day from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., you can join the Yeoman Warden to learn more about the lives of the famous crows. Hear where they sleep, what they eat, what their personalities are. In 2019, 4 new crows were born in the Tower, which was a significant event! Meet at the Crow Pen.
Every Sunday from November 2019 through April 2020 at 7:00 pm.
Yeoman Wardens lead exclusive tours of the tower, telling gruesome, unusual stories. See the Traitor’s Gate, the scaffold and the Bloody Tower, and hear about prisoners and past residents, royal gossip and secrets stored within these ancient walls.
April 21 – Gun Salute.
Tuesday, April 21 is Queen’s Birthday. The gun salute takes place at the gun park located on the wharf. You don’t need a ticket into the tower to watch them as they can be seen from Tower Hill, but the best views will be available inside the tower for ticket holders.
The pier will be closed an hour before the start, for the installation and the gun salute itself. The cannon firing will begin at 1 p.m. and will be 62 shots.
Where to eat in the Tower?
If you want to have a delicious lunch at the Tower and grab a bite to eat before or after your visit, head to one of the 3 cafes.
New Armory Cafe. Hearty lunches and dinners are served at Armouries. There’s always hot food, including fish and chips, sandwiches, soup, salads, pastries and cakes, hot and cold drinks and a kids menu.
Ravens Café. Delicious snacks on the go. The cafe has a large selection of gourmet sausage and vegetarian dishes, and you can have a great snack with a breathtaking view of the tower.
A kiosk on the pier. Guests can order delicious snacks and enjoy the spectacular views of the tower and the Thames. The cafe serves hot and cold drinks, great food and delicious cakes.
Have a picnic in the moat! During the summer months, guests can have a picnic in the Tower Moat. Bring your own food and a comfortable blanket from home, and enjoy this unique picnic spot.
Souvenir Shops in the Tower
There are 5 themed stores within the Tower.
Tower of London Shop. This is the largest store selling a wide range of souvenirs, jewelry, gifts, toys and books. Located next to the main entrance to the Tower of London and you do not need an entrance ticket to enter.
Beefeater Shop. Pick up a guidebook or audio guide here to walk around the tower. The store also sells small souvenirs and gifts. Located just outside the entrance to the Tower of London.
The White Tower Shop. It sells gifts and souvenirs inspired by the ancient White Tower, weapons and armor. The store can be reached by elevator through the exit of the White Tower opposite the Crown Jewels exhibition.
Jewel House Shop. After the dazzling Crown Jewels, visit this store to see the magnificent assortment of jewelry and gifts inspired by the collection. Located near the exit of Crown Jewels.
Ravens Shop. A children’s gift and outfit store for little kings and queens, knights and princesses. It can be accessed through an archway leading to the cages with crows.
How to save on souvenirs?
Take advantage of the Tax-free shopping program for non-EU residents if you spend more than £50 in a store. It allows you to get back VAT on things you buy.
You’ll save 10% in all stores if you show your London Pass card.
The Tower of London is a historic site with uneven, worn and sometimes slippery surfaces. Please be careful when walking and wear comfortable clothes and shoes!
There is no checkroom here, so leave your bulky bags in your hotel room. You’ve already booked it, right?
There is free Wi-Fi on the Tower grounds.
Photography is allowed in most of the halls. The exceptions are the Jewelers House, Martin’s Tower, St. John’s Chapel (in the White Tower), and Inside the Royal Chapel of St. Peter’s in Vincula. The administration also reminds us that it is not recommended that other visitors be filmed.
The restroom is located behind the Jewelers House.
How to get there?
The address is Tower of London, London, EC3N 4AB.
The nearest subway stations are Tower Hill station (District Line) and London Bridge station (Northern Line).
At the end of the article you can download walking routes from the Tube to the Tower.
Buses: Routes 15, 42, 78, 100 and RV1 stop near the Tower of London.
All sightseeing bus tours in London pass by the Tower of London, you can disembark at the stop and see the landmark. After walking around the castle, just get on the approaching double-decker with the same ticket. You can buy your pass here.
Parking: There is no parking at Tower Hill. If you come in your own or rented car (you can pick one up at this link), leave your car in the nearby parking lots:
Tower Hill Coach and Car Park (2 minute walk) – 50 Lower Thames Street, London, EC3R 6DT.
Minories car park (10 minutes walk) – 1 Shorter Street, London, E1 8LP.
River transport: There is a pier opposite the Tower which handles cruise ships. A 24-hour tour costs just £15.40. You can disembark at Westminster Pier, Tower Pier, Greenwich Pier and near the London Eye. Look for tickets at this link.
Tower of London opening hours.
In summer (March 1 to October 31), Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday and Monday from 10:00 a.m.
In winter from 9:00 to 16:30.
The Tower of London is closed to the public on 24, 25, 26 December and 1 January.
Ticket prices for the Tower of London
Your admission ticket gives access to: the Crown Jewels Hall; all public areas of the Tower of London, including the White Tower, Bloody Tower and Tooth Walls; the iconic Yeoman Warden tour; children’s activities and trails.
For adults, £28.90 at the ticket office.
For children (ages 5-15) – £14.40.
Family ticket (1 adult and up to 3 children) – £43.30.
Family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) £72.20.
Students and pensioners £25.50.
London Pass card holders will have free entry to the Tower of London! It includes 80 attractions and a guided tour on double-decker buses. The cost of the card is £75. Order at this link.