Located on the banks of the River Thames, the Tower of London is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city because of the mixture of intrigue and fear that inspires its history and all the events that took place here.
There is no doubt that it is one of the essential places to see in London during your trip. It has also been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco since 1988.
If you want to know everything you can see in the Tower of London, I recommend you to read this post and at the end to check the prices of tickets to the Tower of London to buy them online as soon as possible, because the demand is very high and they sell out quickly. Also, be sure to check this post on where to eat near the Tower of London, if the horrors of the visit do not take away your hunger...
1. The Crown Jewels
During your visit to the Tower of London you will have the opportunity to see the Crown Jewels of the British monarchy, magnificent pieces of goldsmithing that you have probably seen countless times in magazines, but here you will have the chance to see them in person as part of a spectacular collection that symbolizes the power and culture of an entire nation.
In addition to the jewels that Queen Elizabeth II of England usually wears in her public appearances, you can also see badges, crowns, swords, scepters and other objects of great value that are used in different events and ceremonial acts.
Some of the most amazing pieces that stand out among all the Crown Jewels are:
- The Crown of St. Edward: It is the most important of the royal collection and the one used to crown monarchs in Westminster Abbey.
- The Imperial Crown of State: It was made for the coronation of Queen Victoria and is the one used for the opening ceremony of the British Parliament.
- The Scepter of the Dove and the Scepter of the Cross: Held by the monarch at the moment of her coronation.
- The jeweled sword of the Offering: Created for the coronation of George IV, it is also used in the coronation ceremony of the kings.
An interesting thing about the Crown Jewels exhibition is that you can learn about the symbolism of each one and how they are used in the different ceremonies attended by royalty. Look closely because you will see small signs that indicate which of them are still in use!
All these pieces are heavily guarded in the Jewel House by the royal guard but on one occasion Colonel Thomas Blood tried to steal them! You will only find out the end of this unusual story by purchasing your tickets to the Tower of London.
2. The White Tower
The White Tower is a London icon that has been standing for almost a millennium, which is soon to be said! It is located in the center of the Inner Ward and over time has served as a royal residence, prison and armory. It is so nicknamed because of the white stone that was used for its construction, which gives it such a shiny and beautiful appearance.
Inside the White Tower you can see two very interesting places:
- Line of Kings: one of the first exhibitions held in the world. It dates from the seventeenth century and King Charles II presented this collection of weaponry to the public in order to promote his newly established monarchy after the English Revolution.
- St. John's Chapel It is located on the second floor of the White Tower. It was built in the late eleventh century for use by the royal family while they lived in the fortress. It is a beautiful example of Norman church architecture.
3. The Fortress
The Tower of London was built by King William the Conqueror in the 10th century to protect London and to watch over shipping traffic on the River Thames. Its reputation as a fortress remains unchanged as it was several times besieged but never taken.
During the visit to the Tower of London you can learn about its role as a fortress, explore its impregnable defenses and imagine what it was like to be a soldier in those days with the mission of defending this very important bastion.
In fact, I'd almost say you won't need to imagine it at all as the Tower of London is still a working fortress with a large military presence to protect it.
Don't be surprised if you see soldiers guarding the Queen 's House or Jewel House. You may even run into the famous Beefeaters who have guarded this place with great zeal since Tudor times.
4. The Medieval Palace
During your visit to the Tower of London you will enter the apartments of two English kings, Henry III and Edward I, who in the 13th century expanded the fortress defenses and also built a luxurious new palace inside.
This Medieval Palace is composed of the Wakefield Tower, the Tower of St. Thomas and the Lanthorn Tower. Inside you can see fantastic recreations of the rooms inhabited by the monarchs during their visits.
For example, in the Tower of St. Thomas you can see a recreation of the bedroom of King Edward I with a small chapel. But where I advise you to open your eyes wide is in the Lanthorn Tower as there is a curious collection of rare objects dating from medieval times.
5. The Green Tower
In addition to being a royal residence and fortress, the Tower of London was also used as a prison and scaffold for the execution of those who had been convicted of treason or other reasons.
This is one of the most chilling parts of the visit because during the tour you can follow the steps of those condemned to death in that place.
Death in the Green Tower (located west of the White Tower) was a "privilege" reserved for those of high rank or for those who had great popular support and could not be executed in front of the crowds.
Some of the people who perished here were Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (both wives of King Henry VIII of England) or Queen Jane Grey who occupied the throne for only 9 days. Currently, in Tower Green there is a sculpture in memory of those who were condemned to death by order of the state.
6. The Queen's House
Next to the Green Tower you will find The Queen's House, a half-timbered cottage known for being the place where Queen Anne Boleyn spent her last days before being executed.
However, you may also be surprised to learn that this is where the trial of Guy Fawkes took place. A Catholic revolutionary who participated in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 to kill King James I, who refused to grant some religious tolerance to Catholics in the kingdom.
7. The Bloody Tower
The name already gives you a clue that this was one of the least recommended places to be in the Tower of London.
It is called the Bloody Tower because it is associated with the disappearance and presumed death of the child king Edward V and his younger brother Richard in 1483. Both were confined in this place by order of his uncle the future King Richard III and later mysteriously disappeared leaving the way free to the throne.
Another of the most famous prisoners locked up in the Bloody Tower was Sir Walter Raleigh, the favorite privateer of Queen Elizabeth I of England to attack the Spanish Empire before her fall from grace. You can see his cell as it was during his multiple imprisonments here before his execution for treason.
8. Tower of London Torture Exhibition
Another of the most sinister parts of the visit to the Tower of London next to the Bloody Tower or the Green Tower is the exhibition on torture in Lower Wakefield Tower.
The period between the 16th and 17th century was a time of extreme religious and political turmoil in England, which resulted in a multitude of executions and torture for its inhabitants.
There is evidence that nearly 50 people suffered physical and mental torment in the Tower of London for practicing Catholicism, in order to force them to confess to acts or inform on others before being taken to the scaffold.
In this exhibition you can see some of the elements of torture that were used in the tower as handcuffs, the rack or a creepy compression method called "the scavenger's daughter".
Isabel's Traveler Tip
This exhibit is hair-raising, so if you visit the Tower of London with children or if you are a sensitive person, it is best to avoid it to avoid nightmares.
9. The Crows at the Tower of London
The Tower of London's most famous inhabitants are its beautiful black crows. Did you know that a legend has been circulating since the time of King Charles II that states that if these crows were to disappear from the Tower of London, it would collapse and with it the entire kingdom?
The English take this superstition very seriously and make sure that there are at least seven ravens roaming the Tower of London gardens at all times. However, they also take some extra precautions by clipping the birds' wings so that they can't wander off.
In any case, the ravens at the Tower of London are very well cared for and fed by a "Ravenmaster" and even in recent times several raven chicks were born here as part of the breeding program carried out at the Tower of London.
10. The Tower of London Menagerie
Did you know that in the Tower of London there was a menagerie? They were there from the 13th century until the 19th century, when they were moved to Regent's Park Zoo.
The function of the menagerie was not only to entertain the royal family and their guests by watching exotic animals (there was even a polar bear!) but also to guard the Tower of London itself. That is why the animals were placed in strategic locations near the middle tower and the moat.
Today you can see some sculptures depicting those wild animals (of which the famous "Beefeaters" were in charge) and the spaces they occupied.