23,578 gemstones are stored inside it but when you are walking by the City of London, all you notice are skyscrapers nowadays. Most are business offices for the biggest banks, professional services and law firms. But amongst them, there is a historic fortress, a royal palace and a prison, all known now as the Tower of London. I had the opportunity to make my first visit there recently and see world-famous Crown Jewels of the British Monarchy.
City: London, England
Getting to the Tower of London
There are many ways to get to the Tower of London given its central location. I recommend using the Underground and stopping at Tower Hill Station. Or the DLR to Tower Gateway.
Many buses stop in front of the tower too like bus routes: 15, 42, 78, 100, RV1. Alternatively, London Bridge is a great stop too even though it’s 15 minutes walk away. This way it’s possible to cross the Tower Bridge and get directly to Tower of London.
Tickets and prices of Tower of London
Bad news! From 01 March 2018, entry to Tower of London is increasing to £25 for Adults, £11.90 for Children and £19.50 for Concessions like students. If you’re under 5 years old, you’re not likely to be reading this but you go in for free! The Tower of London offers special rates for families. Members can visit for free.
For more information and booking check here.
History of the Tower of London
I think it is very hard for me to summarise 1,000 years of history in one paragraph of a blog post. But it all started with William, The Conqueror, who began to build a stone fortress in 1070 in London to defend and consolidate his royal power. The tower took 20 years to build. Other monarchs have extended by building series of walls and new smaller towers. The tower was used as a place to defend monarchs and protect their possessions. The tower was also used as a prison, a royal palace and even an exotic zoo throughout history of its existence.
My visit of Tower of London
I went on a Saturday morning to Tower of London. It was quite busy but people spread out as it’s quite large. I actually walked from home as now I live in Wapping and it is about 20 minutes walk. I feel lucky to be living close to such a historic attraction!
Unfortunately – but no surprise-, it was raining that day. But still, my visit was interesting. I always walked by the Tower of London but never imagined it had so many treasures behind its secretive walls. It feels like another city inside the City of London. Once behind the walls, I took an audio guide to understand more about the site but also guide me through the main visitor’s trail.
The highlight of the trail is surely the Crown Jewels from the Royal Collection. Since 1661, the monarchy used the Tower of London to protect and display its possessions and this is happening until now. The jewels are guarded by armed men and are still in use by the Queen.
I really enjoyed seeing all these diamonds and gold jewels in display. I’m surprised that it is very accessible to people to see them in such close contact. However, it also reminded me of the colonial power of the British Empire as most diamonds are from Commonwealth countries. The information on the origins of the diamonds is omitted from the exhibition.
Overall, the Crown Jewels exhibition is impressive and is alone a great reason to visit the Tower of London. I was not really interested by other parts of the Tower as it was rather more about the medieval era with all the armoury and wars fought by Britain but I particularly enjoyed the Chapel and the garden in front of it.
What I love most is how symbolic the Tower of London is, as it stands right beside the skyscrapers of the City of London and contrasts the old with the new. It is an iconic landmark in London and will always be!
Quick facts about the Tower of London
- The Tower of London is home to a large collection of historic royal arms and armour belonging to the Royal Armouries, including the armour of Henry VIII.
- The Tower of London is one of the UK’s most visited heritage attraction. 3 million people visit every year!
- The legend says that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. I saw two of them, so luckily, nothing will fall yet!
- Yeoman Warders have been guarding the Tower of London since Tudor times. Nicknamed ‘Beefeaters’, the Yeoman Body of 37 men and women are all drawn from the Armed Forces.
- The Crown Jewels were guarded at the Tower of London since the beginning of the 14th century.
- From the 1200s to 1835, the Tower of London was home to exotic animals such as North African lions, snakes and even a polar bear!
- 29 October 2018 marks the 400th anniversary of Sir Walter Raleigh’s death. One of the Tower of London’s most famous prisoners. Save the date!