If you flip open any guidebook or chat with any local, visiting the Tower of London is easily towards the top of any recommended list. It’s an unforgettable experience and a fascinating look into medieval England, with all its grandiose pompadour and gory history. As it’s a very popular attraction though, it’s worth being savvy about your visit to save you a major headache. Here’s some things to get you started.
Once you’ve flashed your ticket and stepped back into medieval London, keep an eye out for the yeoman warders (better known as the ‘beefeaters’). Dressed in scarlet vestments, they’re technically official defenders of the Tower – though in recent days, they spend most of their time leading free guided tours around the fortress. The tours run every thirty minutes starting from 10am (Tuesday to Saturday) and 10:30am (Sunday and Monday).
Peak season or low season, the Tower is always brimming with tourists partaking in that great British past time: queueing. Whether you’re trying to get into the gory exhibit on torture or milling about waiting for a tour, you’re going to have to join in. The worst culprit is the Crown Jewels as they limit how many people can be in the exhibit at any time – try and head there early in the morning or around lunchtime on a weekday when it’s quieter.
The Tower grounds are pretty sprawling with numerous sites to visit, including the White Tower, Traitor’s Gate, Chapel Royal and more. Definitely bring shoes you feel comfortable walking around in as you’re going to be doing a lot of it, not to mention the time you’ll spend on your feet standing in line.
If you’re travelling with family, luckily the Tower of London really caters to children with a range of kid-friendly activities. Even before you step beyond the battlements, it’s worth downloading the Time Explorers app onto a phone or iPad. It’ll transform the entire trip into an adventure where you’ll get to meet the Tower’s residents and help them with little missions. If you want to keep them off a screen and firmly in the real world, there’s also their Family Trails programme – a guided tour specifically for families.
Sure, you’ve heard about the Crown Jewels and Chapel Royal – but there’s other secrets tucked away in the Tower’s corners. Keep your eyes peeled and stray away from the beaten path to see other fascinating exhibits like the Coins & Kings offering, the eerie Executioner’s Block where Anne Boleyn lost her head and the number of animal statues dotted about; a throwback to when the first zoo in London once graced the grounds. If you’re lucky, you might even spot one of the Tower’s resident ravens – legend says if the ravens ever fly away, the kingdom will fall.