What is the Tower of London?
Not just a tower, if that’s what you’re thinking! His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London (that’s the full official name of the site) is a historic castle complex in the center of London. The complex was constructed around the White Tower, a keep which was built by William the Conqueror in 1066.
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Why is the Tower of London a UNESCO World Heritage site?
According to UNESCO, the White Tower is one of the best remaining examples of Norman military architecture in Europe and the buildings surrounding it are also a rare example of royal structures from the 11th to 16th centuries.
The Tower of London was (and still is) an impressive example of Norman power and “a model example of a medieval fortress palace”. It is a landmark building in London and has been the setting of many momentous events in English and European history.
What can you expect on a visit to the Tower of London?
As one of the most important and famous sites in London, there are plenty of informative displays throughout the Tower of London about its history as a palace, a fortress and a notorious prison. Inside the White Tower are rooms set up to look as they would have done through the ages, with displays of armor and weapons alongside stories about the most important historical events to take place here.
The Tower of London castle complex is also the home of the Crown Jewels, with royal regalia, including jewels, plate, and symbols of royalty on display for visitors to see – when they’re not in use by the British royal family!
In the outside areas within the castle walls, there are also interesting displays about some of the animals that were kept in the royal menagerie, and the famous live ravens that are kept at the tower in the belief that the kingdom will fall if they are ever absent. The Yeoman Warders (often known as Beefeaters) in their distinctive uniforms can be seen around the site, and also run guided tours.
Is the Tower of London worth visiting?
The Tower of London is definitely worth visiting if you are at all interested in the history of London and England. There are plenty of displays to interest children as well as those who are more into the grisly side of history – quite a few people were executed here and many reportedly still haunt the site!
Along with Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and the Palaces of Westminster, the Tower of London is one of the quintessential must-sees when exploring London. Be prepared to set aside a few hours, or even half a day if you want to see everything.
Tips for visiting the Tower of London
If you purchase the London Pass, quite a few of the top attractions can be visited for discounted prices in a couple of days. This is a great way to save money if you want to see a few of the ‘big’ sites.
A visit to the Tower of London pairs perfectly with also visiting Tower Bridge, since it’s right next door. This guided tour includes skip-the-line access to both.
There are quite a lot of stairs in the White Tower so not all sections of the Tower of London are accessible to those with mobility issues. Wear comfy shoes as it’s a big site with uneven ground even when you’re not inside the castle tower sections.
For some of the coolest views of the Traitor’s Gate, catch a ferry along the Thames from Tower Bridge Quay. If you go all the way to Westminster Pier you’ll get to see many famous London sights from the river.
While you’re there, make sure to visit London’s other UNESCO sites: Kew Gardens and the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey, as well as nearby Maritime Greenwich.
Where is the Tower of London?
The Tower of London is located next to the River Thames just to the east of the official City of London border. The address is Tower of London, London EC3N 4AB, United Kingdom.
If you are driving from within London or further away there are a couple of parking garages nearby, but remember to pay your congestion charges for the days you’re in the city.
To make things easier and to save spending a fortune on parking and congestion charges, it’s much better to catch the tube to Tower Hill station, or the Light Rail to Tower Gateway. From either of these stations it’s just a few minutes’ walk to the Tower of London.
For more information about the Tower of London, its opening hours and admission fees, see its official website.
Text and photos provided by Kristy of Tassie Devil Abroad. Kristy writes about expat life and travel in Europe (particularly in The Netherlands), along with guides to her homeland of Australia. She tends to focus on quirky, geeky and literary attractions or destinations.
Have you been to the Tower of London? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!