Are you considering a visit to the Tower of London when in the capital city, one of England’s most famous landmarks? It is a place that both fascinates and horrifies everyone that visits. More than 3 million people visit annually to see such attractions as the White Tower, the Crown jewels and the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
The Tower of London is one of my favourite places to take family and friends when they come to London. Here are some tips and things to consider before visiting the tower of London to help you get the most out of your visit.
Location the Tower of London
The Tower of London is located on the river Thames next to Tower Bridge in Zone 1 of central London. The closest tube station is Tower Hill, on the district green line and circle yellow line. Monument tube is only an additional 5 minutes walk away so it is also a good option.
Alternatively, you can get a bus or even the river bus service to Tower Millennium Pier in front of the Tower of London. Tube, bus and boat can all be used with an oyster card or contactless bank card. You can also get around the top London sites by a hop-on-hop-off bus.
Tickets for the Tower of London
As the Tower of London is one of the popular attractions in the city there are a few ways of getting tickets. The main method is purchasing tickets from the official ticket office near the entrance of the Tower of London at Tower Hill. If you know in advance that you are going to visit the Tower of London then you can buy tickets online.
Entry ticket inside includes The Crown Jewels, The White Tower, the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Battlements, Medieval Palace, Bloody Tower, Torture at the Tower exhibition, Fusiliers Museum and Royal Mint exhibition.
One of the things to consider before visiting the Tower of London is buying a London Pass. Not only does it include entry to the Tower of London but you get entry into other major tourist attractions in the city.
For Historic Royal Palaces members, your entry ticket is free when visiting the Tower of London. It is not however a part of the English Heritage or National Trust memberships. Meaning you will still need to buy an entry ticket to go inside.
Consider visiting the Tower of London off-peak
As one of the top landmark attractions in England, consider visiting the Tower of London off-peak if possible. The best time to visit the Tower of London is mid-week when it opens or slightly late in the afternoon. To skip the line and go straight through, buy your ticket online. It certainly saves time when you are on a schedule.
If you go first thing in the morning, I suggest seeing the Ceremonial Opening. This involves the Beefeater opening the middle Tower and the Byward Tower for the public. This is held either 9 AM (Tuesday-Saturday) or 10 AM (Sunday-Monday). You can book an early morning access ticket online.
The history of the Tower of London is an interesting one that is brutal and sometimes full of tragedy. Many people were executed here over the years, like three of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey. The Tower was built by William the Conqueror nearly 1000 years ago and was originally a fortress and prison for some of the world’s most prominent people in history.
But for 500 years monarchs also used the Tower as a surprisingly luxurious palace. The Medieval Palace was once home to Henry VIII and his son Edward I. Today, the Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city. It is also one of the 6 properties that make up the Historic Royal Palaces collection.
Things to do inside the Tower of London
It can become a little overwhelming with so much to do and see inside this historical place. Consider visiting the main things first at the Tower of London and then if you have time do the rest. Here are some suggestions of things to do and see inside to help you get the most out of your trip.
Booked a 3-hour VIP early access to view the official opening ceremony of the Tower of London Beefeaters.
One of the first things you will see once you enter The Tower of London is the Traitor’s Gate, originally known as Water Gate. It was used to ferry prisoners of the Tudors into the Tower by water. It also provided Edward I and other royals access by water to the St Thomas Tower, which was designed as additional accommodation for the Royal Family.
Today, what you will see is the top of the gate above the Thames water with a small sign that reads ‘Traitor’s Gate’. You should only need around 15 minutes at Traitor’s Gate if you are not taking a tour.
The White Tower
The White Tower (Also known as a castle) is the most recognisable of the Tower of London. It was constructed around 1080 AD by William the Conqueror and subsequently extended to awe, subdue and terrify Londoners, and to deter foreign invaders. To enter the White Tower you will need to go up a set of solid wooden stairs but once inside you can use the internal stairs. So make sure to be wearing good walking shoes.
Inside you will find the Romanesque Chapel of St John, the history of how the Tower has evolved over time and the museum. As well as the Royal Armouries with an exhibit displaying articles over 350 years old. It includes the magnificent royal armours of Henry VIII, Charles I, and James II. Plus, a collection of life-sized replica horses with suits of armour that look pretty amazing.
Not to mention an original execution block complete with an axe located on the top level dating back to Tudor times. At one stage they thought it was used to behead Anne Boleyn but it was proven incorrect, as she was executed by the sword.
Free guided tour of the White Tower
I recommend taking one of the free guided tours of the White Tower held daily at 10:45, 12:45 and 14:15. You can meet the guide at the start of the tour in the Chapel of St John inside the White Tower.
Torture at the Tower
Located in the Wakefield tower just past Traitor’s Gate is the Torture at the Tower exhibit. The display shows the different methods of torture that were used at the Tower of London, complete with replicas of the instruments which were used to inflict the pain.
Some of these instruments on display are the Rack which caused dislocations to a victim’s hip, knee, shoulder, and elbow joints. Manacles which was used to suspend victims from the wrists for long periods of time. Then there is the scavenger’s daughter that would compress or contort the victim instead of stretching them.
The Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula
Make sure to visit the unique Romanesque Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula. Here you will hear the stories of Royalty and other important people told by the Yeoman Warden. They’ll tell you about the famous people buried there and those executed at the Tower like Anne Boleyn.
The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula is a parish church of the Tower of London. It is still used today for Sunday services and Matins, which are sung at 11 am.
You know that you can visit Hever Castle, where Anne Boleyn grew up?
Beefeater free walking tour
Yeoman Warders, also known as Beefeaters are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. They have long been symbols of London and Britain, like the red telephone box. Before it was open to the public, the Beefeaters were responsible for looking after any prisoners in the Tower.
These days they take free guided walking tours around the Tower of London and safeguard the Crown Jewels. Tours start at the main entrance and are held every 30 minutes. You will hear thrilling and sometimes brutal stories of what happened to Kings, Queens, traitors, prisoners, and even children within the walls of the Tower of London.
This is a great tour to do when you first arrive, as it gives you a better sense of what happened hundreds of years ago. Tours start from 10 am – 10.30 am and finish at 15.30 pm in summer and 14.30 pm in winter. If you are interested in walking tours while in London then there is a unique in CamdenTown.
Seeing the Crown Jewels is one of the main attractions at the Tower of London. They are arguably one of the most impressive collections of jewellery in the world. For over 600 years Kings and Queens of England have stored their crowns and other items of their ceremonial regalia at the Tower of London. Today, some of the items are still worn in royal ceremonies.
The collection is in Jewel House displayed within a huge vault that is guarded by armed guards. There is no photography allowed inside and there is a conveyor belt that moves past the crown jewels. Meaning you can’t stop in front of them and take your time.
Some of these items include a pearl belonging to Elizabeth I that has been incorporated into the Imperial State Crown. One of the largest cut white diamonds in the world at 530.2 carats. Two crowns, one used for the Coronation and the other worn for many state occasions. Do you know that there is a Jewel Tower that you can visit and was a part of Westminster Palace?
Meet the Ravens that live on the south lawn in the fortress grounds around the White Tower. Legend has it that if the Ravens were ever to fly away the Tower of London would fall. You can read about the various stories and myths behind these intelligent birds through displays near their home.
There are currently 6 ravens in residence each with a different colour band, to help easily identify them. They all have their own distinct personalities and are highly intelligent birds. They can even mimic sounds, play games, and even solve problems. Apparently, one of the Ravens likes to lie on her back and play dead if she’s not getting enough attention.
Their enclosure enables them to wander around the grounds freely as they please. Please do not feed the Ravens as they may bite, especially if they feel their territory is being threatened.
The Medieval Palace
The Medieval Palace, comprises St Thomas’s Tower, the Wakefield Tower and the Lanthorn Tower. Inside are reconstructions of the rooms that were used by the Medieval monarchs. One of the rooms not to miss is the small chapel where King Henry VI was praying when he was murdered.
The main things you will see inside are the King’s bed chamber in St Thomas’s Tower. The Audience Chamber in the Wakefield Tower with a replica of King Henry III’s throne based on the Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey. As well as the King’s Private Chapel, just off the Wakefield Tower.
See the Royal Beasts (Menagerie)
Held captive at the Tower of London for 600 years were many wild and exotic animals. They were known as a menagerie and kept by the Kings and Queens. They were a symbol of power and for the entertainment and curiosity of visitors. Unfortunately, back in those days, they were often mistreated and lived in poor conditions.
Menagerie statues are scattered around the Tower of London with interactive displays. They show and tells the stories of what happened to these royal beasts and their fate. Some of the statues you can see are the polar bear who fished in the Thames for his lunch, to the elephant that was a gift from King Louis IX of France in 1255.
Direction on visiting the Tower of London
The Tower of London is in an ideal location, it is central and near other major landmarks in the city. Tower Bridge is next to it and is only a 5mins walk to the main entrance. The monument to the Great Fire of London is 10 minute walk and the Shard is just a 15-20 minute walk. The address is Tower of London, London, EC3N 4AB, if you want to use google maps or GPS.
If you are wanting to use public transport it is super easy as the Tower of London is in Zone 1, which is a part of the central London zone that the transport system covers. Your options are train, bus, boat service and bikes.
You can get either the DLR or Tube, both are a 5mins walk from the Tower of London entrance. The closest underground is Tower Hill on the district green line and circle yellow line yellow. When you exit the tubs the ticket office and main entrance will be on your right-hand side. Another option is Monument tube station on the same train line and only an extra 5 minutes walk away.
Buses you can get to the Tower of London
There are a number of buses that you can take to get to the Tower of London, all using oysters or contactless. These are the numbers 15, 42, 78, 100 and RV1. If you want to enhance your London experience and go over Tower Bridge, then take the 78 and RV1. Read how the 78 bus jumped over the Tower Bridge as the bascules began to rise in this cool facts article.
Alternatively, you can visit the Tower of London by boat along the river Thames to Tower Millennium Pier. TFL boat service or London River Services is a part of the Transport for London system. Meaning you can use your oyster card or contactless. Additionally, there are also a number of tour boats that stop here like the hop-on hop-off.
Here are some options for boat tours that stop at the Tower of London that include entrance with your ticket
Top Tip for Visiting the Tower of London
How much time do you need to visit
I personally think you need around 2-3 hours to visit all the main areas inside the Tower of London. Then I would add on an additional 1hr for lunch or looking around the shops.
Plan your visit and save time
Consider visiting other landmark attractions near the Tower of London, as it will save you journey time. Some of the tourist spots in the same area are the Shard, Borough Market and the Jewel Tower.
Wear good walking shoes
Best to wear good walking shoes as inside the walls of the Tower of London are cobblestone walkways and steps. You will also need them for walking along the outer walls or the stairs into White Tower.
Visit the main attractions first
I suggest seeing the main attractions first inside the Tower of London like the Crown Jewels and White Tower, as it gets really busy, especially during the holidays and peak times.
Things to consider before visiting the Tower of London
- Opening Times – The Tower of London is open from 9 am to 5:30 pm daily (10 am to 5:30 pm on Sundays and Mondays)
- Last entry – If you are planning to go in the afternoon be aware that the last entry is 30 minutes before closing.
- Closed – The Tower of London is closed from the 24th – the 26th of December and on the 1st of January.
- Disability access – The WhiteTower has over 100 steps going up and down, however, I understand that there is a lift for disabled access.
- Audio guide – At an additional cost you can get an audio guide which comes in a number of languages. These are available from the official Tower of London ticket office.
Pubs and Restaurants near the Tower of London
There are lots of restaurants and pubs near and around the Tower of London, which are good spots for a drink or a bite to eat before or after your visit to this historical site. One restaurant that is right close to the Tower Hill tube station is Brasserie Blanc on Trinity Square. A more casual place is Vapiano Italian restaurant, if you want great views of Tower Bridge then I suggest Coppa Club on the Thames.
If you are looking for pubs near the Tower of London then I recommend The Dickens Inn (Historical Pub) in St Katharine Dock one of my favourites to visit. Another is The Horniman at Hay’s situation on the Thames with an outdoor seating area. 5 minutes walk away from the Tower of London is the Traitor’s Gate l recommend for a drink.
Visit free with Historic Royal Palaces
You can visit the Tower of London for free if you have a membership for the Historic Royal Palaces collection. It is an independent charity that manages some of the unoccupied royal palaces in Great Britain. Other properties that are a part of the Historic Royal Palaces collection are Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace.
One of the things to consider getting if you are planning on visiting the Tower of London is the Historic Royal Palaces membership. It will work out a lot cheaper, especially if you are going to the other famous royal palaces that are part of the collection. I had a Historic Royal Palaces card and it is definitely worth it as I used it more than once.
Other historical places in London
Are you going to visit any other historical places while in London? Then head to my history page for some inspiration or read the helpful articles on the following attractions in England.
- How to climb Wellington Arch – Central London
- Bodiam Castle, Inside the Medieval Walls – Day out from London
- How to get to Hampton Court Palace from London – Surrey
Thank you for reading my article on tips and things to consider before visiting the Tower of London. Hopefully, it helps to answer any questions you may have before you go.
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⇒ Looking to discover other parts of London, please feel free to head to my England page.
Disclaimer: I paid to visit the Tower of London, England. All views are my own and based on my own experience.