The historical Jewel Tower sits in the heart of Westminster London. Nestled between the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, it is sometimes overlooked by the bigger Landmark buildings. However, this tiny tower has played an important part in England’s history.
The Jewel Tower is one of only a few remnants of the original medieval palace of Westminster that stands today. Westminster Hall, St Stephens’s Cloisters, and the Chapel of St Mary’s Undercroth being the others. All surviving the fire of 1834 and the construction of the present Palace of Westminster.
It wasn’t until I purchased an English heritage membership and was looking for things to do in London that I came across the Jewel Tower. I had passed it many times before but not thought of visiting until now.
I am so glad that I did because it was interesting to learn how it has survived so many points in history. The Jewel Tower is definitely worth the visit if you are in the Westminster London area.
⇒ Love English history how about this read on Historic Pub, Food & Beer – Old Docks along the Thames.
1. Discovering Jewel Tower
There are 3 floors inside the tower as well remains of a moat, medieval quay, and a small outside area. Discovering the Jewel Towel should only take 30 mins to an hour to walk around inside and see the exhibitions.
Afterward, have a snack and drink outside while taking in the views of the Houses of Parliament from out the front. While you are in the area, why don’t you add on a tour inside Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament?
2. Jewel Tower Exhibitions
There are two interesting exhibitions within the Tower about ‘Parliament Past and Present’. Where you will learn about the changing roles of the Jewel Tower over the centuries. The other is on the history of Parliament and its connection to the Jewel Tower.
Wanting to read more on the history of Westminster Palace? Then I suggest taking a look at these books; Royal palace, abbey and town of Westminster on Thorney Island: Archaeological Excavations (1991-8) or The history of the ancient palace and late Houses of Parliament at Westminster
Artifacts inside Jewel Tower
Even though it is called the Jewel Tower, there are no actual jewels kept inside. If you are wanting to see the crown jewels, you will need to visit the Tower of London.
Some of the interesting artifacts you will see on display include the speaker’s robes, an Anglo-Saxon sword, as well as weighting and measuring tools used when it was part of the testing facility for the Board of Trade Standards.
Make sure not to miss
- A model of the ‘lost’ medieval Palace of Westminster on the 2nd Floor
- Ornate ceiling carvings from the 14th century on the ground floor
- A set of gains weight in its original wooden box.
- The eight sculpted limestone capitals, discovered in 1835
3. History of Jewel Tower London
Although small in structure the tower offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and workings of the Palace of Westminster. Built-in 1365 AD it was known as the ‘Jewel House’ to house Kings Edward III’s royal treasures and silver plate. Before later becoming a place where parliament stored import papers and a testing facility for the Board of Trade Standards.
The Tower of the original 14th-century Palace of Westminster was surrounded by a moat linked to the Thames. However, in 1834 the Tower survived a fire that destroyed much of the historic palace.
Today The Jewel Tower is managed by English Heritage and open to the public to appreciate.
4. What’s inside the Jewel Tower
The construction of the Jewel Tower London is in an L shape over three floors with displays across them all. What’s inside Jewel Tower is an exhibition on the history of the Tower and its changing roles over the centuries. As well as artifacts used and kept inside the Tower.
To access these levels, you will need to climb up roughly 42 steep spiral stairs to the second floor. Then make your way slowly down to each floor, taking you roughly 30mins to an hour to visit all three levels.
Unfortunately due to the size and age of the building, there is no lift access to the top. Disabled Access is possible to the ground floor exhibition and cafe.
⇒ Here is the link to the English Heritage website for all types of memberships and costs.
Here is a full guide on what to see and do at Hampton Court Palace
The second floor is a good starting point for visiting the Jewel Tower London and then make your way down. On the second floor, you see a model of the ‘lost’ medieval Westminster palace and replicas of precious objects.
On one side of the wall, there are two panels telling the story of ‘Parliament Past and Present. Against the other wall, are a section of elm piles, which were part of the original medieval foundation of the Jewel Tower. Excavated in 1954 and put on display.
On the first floor, you will see a mortared brick vault added in 1621, and in the middle of the room is an 18th-century clerk’s desk. In the larger room, there are a couple of displays. One on the Royal Treasures another on Parliament paper trail.
In the smaller room, you will see a desk and a wall display showing how records were stored. This is because, during 1580-1964, the official records of the House of Lords were kept in the Jewel Tower.
When you are on either the first or second floor, make sure to take a look through one of the 18th-century windows. Where you will be able to Westminster and Victoria Tower.
The ground floor is the entrance to the Jewel Tower, as well as the combined café and gift shop. From here is also where the spiral staircase is located for reaching both the other floors.
Make sure to look up and take in the fine tireceron vault and sculpted bosses over the main room.
5. Jewel Tower Tickets
Due to the current situation with Covid-19 and social distancing rules, tickets for the Jewel Tower are time allocated. This is so they can limit the number of visitors to keep everyone safe. You can purchase your tickets in advance and choose your time slot online from the English Heritage site.
Individual, family tickets, and concessions are available. As well as group discounts for more than 11 people paying together. As an English Heritage member, your ticket will be free but you will still need to purchase a guidebook.
If you are visiting London from overseas you can purchase an overseas visitor’s pass.
The Jewel Tower is not part of the National Trust.
6. Jewel tower London opening times
Jewel Tower is opened daily from 10 am but closing times vary depending on the month. The last entry is 30 mins before closing time. However, it is closed 24 -26 December & 1 January.
Below are the opening times for the following months
- April – October 10:00 – 17:00.
- November – March 10:00 – 14:00
7. Facilities at the Jewel Tower
Gift Shop & Cafe
A small gift shop and cafe are located on the ground floor of the tower near the entrance. This part of the tower is wheelchair accessible. This is a great little area if you want a little look around or even want to purchase a guidebook.
A small selection of food and drinks are available at the cafe at the entrance desk. These include sandwiches, cakes, and ice-cream. As well as coffee, tea, and cold drinks.
Outdoor area; Just outside the Tower, there is a small grassy area with benches and tables. You can sit here and enjoy a snack from the café while taking in the views of the Houses of Parliament.
⇒ Here are some good suggestions for day backpacks for exploring, London.
Photography and Filming
Photographs and filming are allowed to be taken inside the Jewel Tower by amateurs. If you are wanting to use the pictures for commercial, corporate or professional photography. You need to contact the Tower directly in advance to obtain permission.
8. Getting to the Jewel Tower
As the Westminster area is a must see when in London for many tourists, getting to Jewel Tower is relevantly easy. Located across the road from Victoria Tower at the Houses of Parliament on Abingdon Street. If you visit Westminster Abbey it is only a 2-5mins walk away.
There are various tour companies that will take you to Westminster too, like the Hop-On Hop-Off Open Top Bus Tour.
Address: Abingdon Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3JX
⇒ Travelling by train to other parts of England, Wales, or Scotland? How about the Interrail Great Britain Pass, a convenient way of taking a train journey?
The closest tubes are Westminster and St James’s Park, both are in zone 1. Westminster is roughly 5 mins and St James Park is a 5-10 mins walk.
Another way of getting to the Jewel Tour is via boat along the Thames. You can book a ticket in advance with Greenwich River Thames Cruise to Westminster
9. Additional Information on the Tower
- Dogs are not allowed inside unless they are assistance dogs.
- You only need between 30-1hr here to see all 3 floors and exhibits.
- There are no toilets available at the historical site.
- Drones are not allowed over the Tower or even in the area.
- The Tower is definitely family friendly.
- The chapel of St Mary and St Stephen’s cloister can be visited by special arrangement.
- Stay connected with 4G SIM Card while visiting London to keep update with maps and things to do.
10. Things to do near the Jewel Tower London
Victoria Tower Gardens
How about combining a trip to Jewel Tower with a picnic in Victoria Tower Gardens? Where you can sit have a snack and take a break from visiting the London sites.
Open on a daily basis and free to visit. There are also toilets available in the park for a small fee. It is only 2-5 minutes walk away and is one of the best secret parks in London.
Related guided tours you can book in the Westminster Area
- 2.5hr guided tour of WWII Westminster Walking Tour & Churchill’s War Rooms
- Westminster Abbey Tour with Optional Houses of Parliament
- Westminster: 4-Hour Walking Tour & St Paul’s Cathedral Entry
What I like about the Jewel Tower is that super easy to get to and a great place for families. Not to mention, it is a fantastic addition if you visiting Westminster Abby, the Palace of Westminster or the London Eye.
You only need 30mins to a 1hour to visit all the floors and learn a bit of the history of the grand Westminster. To be honest I did not know much about it until I visited the Jewel Tower London.
12. Consider getting an English Heritage Membership
The Jewel Tower is managed by the English Heritage and members can visit free. Think about getting an English Heritage membership beforehand if you are planning on going to any other of their sites, like Tintagel Castle. As it could save you money in the long run.
Types of English Heritage Memberships
You can get an annual membership for individuals, couples, families, over 60’s, and life memberships. You can even get an overseas visitor’s pass. Please be aware that English Heritage is not the same as the National trust
My husband and I have a joint English Heritage membership, which we have had for the last few years. It has definitely been worth it for us as we regularly use it.
Here is the link to the different types of English Heritage memberships and costs.
Thank you for reading my article on discovering the Jewel Tower London. I hope this gave you some insight into English Treasure that is sometimes often missed.
⇒ Looking to discover other parts of England, please feel free to head to my United Kingdom Page
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Have you been to the Jewel Tower before? Is there anything else I need to add? How was your experience?
Disclaimer: All views are based on my own personal experience and I bought my own English Heritage membership.