The most popular fee-charging visitor attraction in Britain. The Tower of London combines piles of history, links to royalty, some everyday pomp and ceremony, an extensive ancient castle in very good repair that you can walk all over and that lives up to all your expectations of what castles should be like, museum exhibits to visit, the British Crown Jewels on public display all conveniently situated in the heart of London on the river Thames.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Britains most iconic structures, the Tower was in constant use as a fortress palace from the 11th to 16th centuries, over which time it was extnded and developed. It literally towered over all surrounding buildings until the 19th century.
What is often thought of as the "Tower of London", the large imposing square building with 4 corner towers topped with domes is actually called the "White Tower", the castle keep in the whole fortress complex, which was the first element to be built by the Normans after the conquest of Britain in 1066.
As may be expected from one of London's most popular tourist destinations, the Tower of London can get very busy at times. My last visit was at the end of August and when we arrived around 1pm there was just a short queue to get in but nothing arduous, maybe 5 minutes. Once inside the grounds there was room to move around without feeling crowded, a long queue had formed to see the Crown Jewels when we arrived so we decided to see everywhere else first and come back again.
The White Tower is a must but be aware that there a LOT of steps, this is a huge castle keep that is nearly 1000 years old, forget anything you have seen on any historical drama whether real or fantasy, the thick walls, large internal spaces, not to mention the gardarobes are exactly where royalty and knights once walked (and did other stuff).
The guards change regularly and can be seen marching about (don't get in their way!), take one of the regular guided tours by one of the Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) at no extra cost, they will tell you many stories of the place in an entertaining and very amusing way. There are also actors at various times in costume acting out episodes from the the past, so watch out for the signs that tell you when and where they will be.
Later in the afternoon the Crown Jewels queue was much smaller so we went in to see them, a 10-15 minute wait and you pass by them on a travelator, so everyone gets a good look and not just the little kids in front or the really tall guy.
A great place to visit that really lives up to expectations, not the cheapest but there's a load here to see and it is good value for money.
Large and very impressive 1000 year old fortification in constant use to the present day
In central London, easy to reach
Home of the Crown Jewels
Entertaining and informative FREE tours by Beefeaters
Actors in costume, bring the history to life
A genuine Royal Palace used for hundreds of years
Entrance fee can be pricey for families, but good value for money and cheaper if you book in advance
Can be very crowded during the summer months