The Tower of London is one of the most iconic landmarks along the River Thames. Originally built as a symbol of Norman oppression after the French invasion of England in 1066, the tower shifted shape to play many roles through the centuries. From prison and execution site to animal menagerie, the Tower is a must-visit for any guest of the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms and hotel with an interest in the city’s history.
The Tower is sprawling, which is no surprise seeing as it has been built upon for almost a thousand years. It’s also worth noting that the Tower is still a residence for the Royal Fusiliers and Royal Guards regiments of the British Army, meaning that guests of 5 star hotels in London will have to abide by a few rules when they visit. This blog will outline some of the main attractions one can see at the Tower of London alongside some tips to help your visit run as smoothly as possible.
History Of The Tower of London
Located in the borough of Tower Hamlets, the Tower of London was one of a number of fortifications and castles built by William The Conqueror after his victory over Saxon King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Alongside being a symbol of Norman rule over the country, the tower was designed to have a variety of functions as armoury, defence tower and prison. The first building to be completed was the White Tower, and it was used as a living space for William the Conqueror and the rulers who followed him, whilst also having earned a reputation as an impenetrable fortress due to continuous deflecting of local tribes and invaders attacks.
By the 1300’s, the Tower of London ceased to be a royal residence, more luxurious castles were being built around the city. However, it still maintained many of its other functions. Over the next centuries, this tower was used as a prison, armoury and between the 11th and 18th was even a royal menagerie. This exotic menagerie housed the animal gifts from foreign dignitaries looking for favour from Britain, and it was this collection that eventually became the foundations for London Zoo, the oldest zoo in the world.
From the 16th century onwards, the Tower had been open as a tourist attraction for foreign visitors interested in seeing the royal mint and armouries, even then being a symbol of London’s power and authority over the world.
Across the First and Second World Wars, the tower was used to hold prisoners of war, including several prominent Nazis. During the later part of the 20th century, the tower evolved its tourist attraction features and in the 21st century, draws in over 2 million visitors a year.
When To Visit The Tower Of London
The Tower of London is open between 9am and 5.30pm daily, save for Tuesdays when it closes at 5pm. The closest tube stations to the Tower is Tower Hill on the Circle and District Lines.
Tickets can be bought in advance or at the box office across the plaza from the Tower. Guests of the Crescent Restaurant & Lounge and hotel can buy adult tickets for £29.90, children for £14.90 and students for £24. There are a number of group discounts available too. It’s worth remembering as well that visitors who have invested in the London Pass can visit the Tower of London for no extra cost.
The White Tower
The White Tower is the oldest of the buildings within the Tower of London and its interiors still show signs of its original Norman architecture. Here visitors from the spa at Montcalm will find the original St John’s Chapel as well as several exhibitions, including the Tower Armoury and The Line Of Kings. This exhibition has been a tourist attraction since the 17th century and is housed in what was originally an armoury used to store, test and build weapons till the 18th century. The Line of Kings is an exhibit of royal suits of armour. Henry VIII’s jousting armour and Charles I’s ceremonial armour, as well as armour for children are displayed here.
The Bloody Tower
With links to the disappearances of the “Princes in the Tower” Edward and Richard in 1483 at the hands of Richard III, the Bloody Tower was a prison block within the inner ward that became notorious for its many prisoners. Here visitors can see an installation that tells the story of the Bloody Tower, as well as a small exhibit on one of its inhabitants, Sir Walter Raleigh, imprisoned for 13 years here by James I.
The Jewel House is one of the more popular exhibitions in the Tower of London, as it is where the world famous Crown Jewels are kept. This guarded exhibit contains a number of ancient artefacts that are symbols of monarchic rule in the country, as well as religious iconography and the gifts of foreign dignitaries. It’s unsurprising that royal guards enforce staggered entries and no photo zone around the valuables, any robbery here would be highly lucrative!
Top Tips For Visiting – Take The Tour
Making sure you have enough time to see everything at the Tower of London means getting there early. It’s also advised that visitors take the hour-long tour of the tower as it is guided by a serving member of the Royal Guards. These guards have years of experience as soldiers in the British Army and their position as Royal Guards is highly respected. This also means that they have done their homework when it comes to facts and insider knowledge pertaining to their homestead of the Tower of London. You’ll learn even more from your Yeoman Warder guide than you will from all of the exhibitions combined! You’ll find information about tour times at the entrance to the Tower of London.