Officially known as HM Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, this UNESCO World Heritage site on the banks of the Thames is more generally called simply “The Tower”.
Founded by William the Conqueror, the central building – the White Tower – was completed by 1100, the work overseen by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester.
At various times the Tower has been a royal residence, a prison, an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and a place of torture and execution. Here are seven things you really shouldn’t miss on your visit.
- The Crown Jewels: an unbelievable collection of Royal riches, including the St Edward’s Crown (worn only at the coronation), the Imperial State Crown with its 2,800 diamonds, and dozens of precious stones including rubies, sapphires and emeralds; and the Sceptre, with the 530 carat ’Star of Africa’ diamond.
- The White Tower: the historic heart of the Tower of London where you can see suits of armour worn by Henry VIII and Charles I.
- Beefeaters: or, to give them their proper title, the Yeoman Warders, the ceremonial guardians of the Tower. Your guide will tell you all about the ‘Ceremony of the Keys’, the 700 year old tradition that still takes place every night.
- Ravens. Legend has it that if the ravens leave the Tower then it, and England, will fall.
- Execution site: three queens have been executed within the Tower walls – hear about Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard (the second and fifth wives of Henry VIII) and the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey
- Animal sculptures: long the Royal Menagerie, this aspect of the Tower’s history is commemorated with sculptures of baboons, lions, and an elephant, as well as the ‘white bear’ of the medieval king Henry III
- The Queen’s House: a Tudor ‘half-timbered’ building with a red-coated guard on duty, the house is reputedly haunted – ask your guide for the ghost stories!
With a London Blue Badge Tourist Guide you’ll get to really experience the majesty and history of the Tower, hear exciting stories from its past and present, and gain insights into some of the lesser-known aspects of the building and its residents.