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Many London visitors wonder if visiting the Tower of London is truly worth it. The Tower of London is one of the UK’s most iconic landmarks and it appears on just about every “things to do in London” list. If you’re not familiar, it’s a fortress dating back to 1078 that sits along the River Thames in Central London. The tower has been used as a prison (three former queens were held prisoner and executed here), a palace, and a mint, among other things. Today, it’s a museum that comes to life with history.
How to Visit the Tower of London
Purchase your tickets online prior to arriving! The online rate will be £26 per adult vs. the door price of £29 (card only, no cash accepted). There are special rates available for families, senior citizens, and full-time students as well.
The Tower of London is a five minute walk from the Tower Hill underground station. Several city buses also stop nearby. There is no on-site parking available as Tower Hill is within a car-free zone, but there are a few parking lots within a 5-10 minute walk. As a visitor to London, just hop on the tube!
Should You Take a Guided Tour of the Tower of London?
The Tower of London is open 7 days a week, starting at 9:00am Tuesday through Saturday (10:00am Sunday and Monday). The first tour begins at 10:00am and that’s the one you want. The reason you want to take the first tour of the day is so that once your tour concludes, you can head right over to the Crown Jewels without a long wait. I’ll go into more detail about that in just a moment! The guided tour is included in your price of admission, and provides all the necessary context for what you’re looking at. Tours begin near the main entrance, so just join the group that will be forming and look for a guy dressed like this:
The Yeoman Warders (or Beefeaters, as they are colloquially known) live onsite at the Tower of London and provide daily tours, in addition to other duties. To qualify as a Beefeater, one must have served a minimum of 22 years in the UK’s armed forces AND have received a medal of Good Conduct. Their job is to guard the Tower in addition to providing entertaining tours to the Tower’s guests.
A tour with a Yeoman Warder is not your average history lesson — while you learn about the Tower’s violent past and visit its many towers and halls, you will be thoroughly entertained and laughing quite frequently. The Yeoman Warders truly love their jobs (they live in a castle, for free — who wouldn’t?!) and it shows through their tours.
What to See at the Tower of London
The Crown Jewels are the most famous collection of artifacts at the Tower of London. Held in the Jewel House under armed guard, the line to get into the building can be hours long. Above, I mentioned that you should take the first tower tour offered each day. This is because once you’re done with the official tour, you can get in line for the Crown Jewels and go straight in. When I visited the Tower of London in 2019, I was able to walk right in and saw that the line had grown to a two-hour wait by the time I exited the Jewel House!
If you do find yourself facing a long wait to see the Crown Jewels, know that when you get inside, you will be able to see some of the most beautiful, glimmering crowns and jewels. The official Coronation Regalia, in use since 1661, is on display along with the solid-gold crown used only for the coronation ceremony. One of the world’s largest diamonds (530 carats) is on display next to a 317 carat sapphire.
The White Tower is at the center of the Tower grounds, and is known as the most famous castle in the world. The historic tower still holds a centuries-old execution block and ax which date back to the Tudor period. The White Tower’s basement was once used for interrogations of famous prisoners such as Guy Fawkes.
During your time exploring the vast fortress grounds, you’ll be able to see authentic medieval knights’ armor, including several sets worn by King Henry VIII. I was told that there was even a set of armor for his cat on display, but I somehow missed it. There is so much to see at the Tower of London that you should allow a half day to see it all.
The Verdict: Is the Tower of London Worth It?
A resounding YES! My visit to the Tower of London was one of my most memorable and educational parts of my first London trip. Even if you’re not a fan of history or museums, everything is incredibly interactive and you will not be bored. The Yeoman Warders keep you thoroughly entertained and the historical importance of the site cannot be overstated.