I know that if I had titled this article “Why You Should Visit London”, you would have thought, “Well that’s a no-brainer!” Because we all know there are so many reasons why the city of London is visit-worthy. But I’d like to go a step further and tell you why you should visit the Tower of London once you are there.
Let me first explain why I’m qualified to make this suggestion. I love history, especially the stories behind medieval buildings and castles. I enjoy exploring new places — like REALLY exploring all the nooks and crannies. As a result I’ve traveled to many of Europe’s castles, and I’m telling you the Tower of London is one of the best history “adventures” I’ve experienced. Oh, and I like to laugh — some of the tour guides are hilarious!
So here are my reasons why you should visit the Tower of London:
1. It’s one of the oldest buildings in London
If you are fascinated with historic architecture, or are just wondering “how in the world did someone build a structure like this without modern tools?”, then you’ll love learning about the Tower of London. The original White Tower is actually the oldest structure (completed in 1086), but there are many other buildings in the complex — an old mint, several towers, two concentric rings of fortifications, a moat, and a chapel, plus living quarters.
2. You should visit the Tower of London because it’s infamous
William the Conqueror built the Tower to show some muscle, and ever since it has been the site of royal tragedy and death. It’s been used as a state prison and a place of torture for anyone who didn’t please the current monarch. Well-known prisoners have included Lady Jane Grey, two of Henry VIII’s wives (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard), the royal twins Edward of England and Henry of Shrewsbury, and the religious martyr John Frith.
Lots of information is available on printed signs and memorials, as well as the tours given by the Beefeaters. You should visit the Tower of London just to learn the details you might not have known otherwise. Some of the stories were deeply moving. Prisoners held here weren’t just criminals. You could end up on the wrong side of the monarchy just by being a different religion, or being related to a traitor.
3. Because of the Beefeaters!
The Beefeaters are the ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. Their official title is Yeomen Warders of the Fortress of the Tower of London. The name Beefeaters comes from the fact that until the 1800’s, part of their salary was paid with chunks of beef. Today, the Beefeaters are charged with looking after Tower prisoners (though there aren’t any) and guarding the Crown Jewels. But practically speaking, they act as Tour Guides. They will tell you all the stories about the Tower of London and the people who lived there or were imprisoned there. Some of the stories are tragic, but many are quite funny. This was the best part of my Tower of London visit. I suggest joining a Beefeater tour first when you visit, because it gives you a wonderful overview. Being entertained is included with the admission price, so don’t miss it!
The Beefeaters wear a distinctive uniform, consisting of a dark blue and red tunic with the large initials “E.R”, meaning Elizabetha Regina (Regina is Latin for Queen). I learned that the families of the Beefeaters live at the Tower of London, too; here’s a fascinating article about what it’s like to live within the Tower compound. My Beefeater tour guide just happened to be Moira Cameron, the first and only female Beefeater!
4. It’s got some royal bling
Yes, the Crown Jewels are here! And you can see them for yourself. It’s another reason why you should visit the Tower of London. It literally is the only way you will ever get to see them up close. The ‘Crown Jewels’ include crowns, robes, and other ceremonial regalia and have been under guard at the Tower of London since the 1600’s. The Crown Jewels are significant because they represent authority being passed from one monarch to another during the coronation ceremony.
I couldn’t take photos of the Crown Jewels; you might be interested in this description of what can be seen. The collection on display is rotated, so you might not get to see them all at any one time. Lines to see the jewels can be long, but I didn’t wait in a line at all, so I guess it just depends on when you visit.
5. The Tower is at the heart of historic London
Within a two-mile radius, you’ll find Tower Hill, the Tower Bridge, sections of the old London wall, the HMS Belfast, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Leadenhall Market, the Bank of England, St. Dunstan in the East church, Finsbury Circus Gardens, Borough Market, and so many more historic London gems. Of course, a short tube ride will take you to Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster.
Learning about the Tower of London and its history sets you up to better understand and appreciate so much about London. You can’t really know London without learning its history! It is such a huge part of what London is today. Here’s an overview of London that highlights many of the historic sights and attractions.
Any more reasons why you should visit the Tower of London?
- It’s very affordable education/entertainment. Adult tickets are £24.70 and children £19.30. Considering you could easily spend half a day here or more, it’s about the same rate as watching a movie at the theatre.
- There’s a gift store and several dining options.
- You’ll see views of the Tower Bridge that are spectacular!
- You’ll learn about the famous Tower of London ravens and why they are protected.
- See extensive collections of armor, cannons, weapons, and so much more!
I’m really grateful I took the time to visit the Tower of London — it was fascinating to me. I hope I’ve convinced you it’s one of the first places you should visit in London.
As is common in the travel industry, I was invited to visit the Tower of London and share my review with you. My husband accompanied me and he paid for his own admission. We both highly recommend it, based on our experience!