8 Valuable Pieces of Advice For Visiting the Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the most important landmarks in England, and has played a significant role in shaping the country's history. Since being built in the 11th century, it has been used as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, the home of the Crown Jewels of England, and perhaps most famously, as a prison that held (as well as tortured, sentenced, and executed) notable figures such as Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes.
Today, the UNESCO-designated site of the Tower of London is one of the most visited places in the United Kingdom, and with such a far-ranging background, it's easy to understand why. If you're planning to go see this historical structure, here are 8 valuable pieces of advice to ensure you make the most of your visit!
#1. It’s bigger than it looks.
When I first looked at the Tower of London, I thought the White Tower (the central tower built by William the Conqueror) was the only thing that could be visited, and in all honesty it seemed rather small (at least in comparison with many other European castles).
But don’t be fooled by the exterior! The inside areas of the Tower of London contain tons of walkways, as well as various buildings and exhibits that you can tour. To explore everything at a leisurely pace give yourself at least four hours. However if you're strapped for time, you can get still get an overview of the Tower of London in about two hours.
#2. Be there right at opening time.
In order to get a head start on the tour groups, school classes, and the general masses that visit the Tower of London every day, be there right at opening time (9 am Tuesday to Saturday and 10 am on Sundays and Mondays ) to avoid the bustle. This way, you'll have about an hour or so before it gets really packed.
#3. Head to the Crown Jewels exhibit first.
While there is so much to see in the Tower of London, the exhibit displaying the Crown Jewels is justly the most popular. You'll be able to get an up close look at over 100 ceremonial items worn by British kings and queens at their coronations.
Head on over to the Crown Jewels exhibit before you go see anything else to avoid competing for a view with the crowds later in the day. Note that photography is not allowed in the exhibit.
#4. The Queen's Guard aren't only stationed at Buckingham Palace.
In movies, books, and media, the Queen's Guard are always shown to be stationed outside Buckingham Palace. For visitors, getting a photo of one of these stern-faced Guards is part of the quintessential London experience, but it can be really difficult to get a decent shot because of the distance between where the Guards stand and the gates that keep the general public out.
But did you know that you can also see them up close in the Tower of London? The Queen's Guard are tasked with guarding the official royal residences in the UK, which include Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Tower of London.
#5. You might be surprised at the number of executions that took place.
Despite its often gruesome reputation as a place of horrific torture practices and death, only seven people were executed within the Tower of London before the World Wars.
Executions were more commonly held on the notorious Tower Hill to the north of the castle, with 112 occurring there over a 400-year time period. During World War I and II, the Tower was used as a prison and witnessed the executions of 12 men for espionage.
#6. It’s worthwhile to sign up for an after-hours tour.
To learn more about the Tower’s unique history, you can sign up for an after-hours Twilight Tour (available on select Sunday evenings throughout the year) where you’ll be led by one of the Yeoman Warder, the ceremonial guards more commonly known as Beefeaters.
Soak up the full creep-factor listening to mysterious and grisly tales at some of the Tower's most bloody sites. Tours take place in the evenings at 7 pm.
#7. There’s a tube station conveniently located next to the Tower of London.
The tube is a quick, convenient, and cost-efficient way to get around London. The closest tube station to the Tower of London is Tower Hill (District and Circle lines). The entrance/exit to this station is right across the street from the Tower of London entrance!
#8. Don’t forget to walk the perimeter wall.
While there is plenty to see inside the tower walls (suits of armor! ravens! medieval torture devices!), if you walk the elevated outer perimeter wall you’ll have a fabulous view of the London skyline, including the famous Gherkin skyscraper.
Tower of London Hours & Ticket Prices
Adult (16+ years old): £21.50
Child (5-15 years old): £9.70
November 1 - February 28
Tuesday - Saturday: 9 am - 4:30 pm
Sunday - Monday: 10 am - 4:30 pm
Last admission: 4 pm
March 1 - October 31
Tuesday - Saturday: 9 am - 5:30 pm
Sunday - Monday: 10 am - 5:30 pm
Last admission: 5 pm