England

7 Incredible Reasons to Visit the Tower of London

The Tower of London has more historical treasures of England than any other place on the planet. From priceless gemstones to medieval armor, fantastic displays of art to a fabulous military museum, the Tower should be on everyone’s bucket list. It doesn’t matter if you live in the heart of London or halfway around the world; this amazing historical sight has something for everyone. Still need convincing? If so here are several reasons to visit the Tower of London!

1. Surround Yourself with the Most Expensive Collection of Jewels on the Planet

Being able to view the Crown Jewels up close is the #1 reason people visit the Tower of London. Where else can you see these amazing treasures? Sure, some of them are worn by Queen Elizabeth II on special occasions or in processions, but you’ll only see those on television, not in person. And she doesn’t wear the entire collection; much of it never leaves!

Reasons to Visit the Tower of London - The Crown Jewels display
You can’t take photos of the actual crown jewels; it’s not allowed. So you will have to see this one in person! Photo from Getty Images.

As the name indicates, the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom includes a number of actual crowns worn by various monarchs, which are inlaid with priceless jewels. This is the main draw of the attraction, as people love the English monarchy and the pomp and splendor it represents.

The collection holds more than just crowns, though. It includes many objects used during ceremonies and processions involving the Kings and Queens of England, including scepters, swords, maces, robes, and orbs. The entire collection is watched over by the Tower Guards, working alongside the Yeoman Warders.

The Crown Jewels exhibit is the most popular attraction at the Tower of London, so arrive early and start here. Because, unless you figure out a way to marry into the royal family yourself (we’re looking at you, Meghan!) you’ll never have a better chance to gawk at this much splendor!

2. See The Beefeaters and Guards Up Close

If you’re dying to see a Beefeater – more properly known as the Yeoman Warders – up close, then the Tower of London is the place to do it. If you’re not familiar with either term, you’d still probably recognize a Beefeater on sight. They are the ceremonial guards at the Tower of London who are most often seen in dark blue uniforms with red trim, embroidered with the royal cipher of Queen Elizabeth II. (On important occasions, however, they wear Tudor State Dress.)

The Beefeaters offer tours at the Tower, and joining one is entertaining as well as educational.

London District regiment soldiers in bearskin hats outside the Fusilier Museum

In addition to the Beefeaters, you can also get good looks at the Yeoman of the Guard, outside the Fusilier Museum. These are the English soldiers who wear the tall fuzzy hats called “bearskins”. Different London District regiments rotate through the museum, and you can get a much closer view of them than you would at, say, Buckingham Palace.

3. Look for Ghosts at the Tower of London

The Tower of London is said to be haunted by a number of ghosts. The most famous one is, of course, Anne Boleyn, the beloved-then-hated wife of King Henry VIII. She was executed on Tower Green (within the Tower of London complex) on May 19, 1536, and she is buried at the church on site, Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula. It is said her ghost still haunts the Tower grounds, as a headless spirit who carries her severed head under her arm.

Other reported ghosts include:

  • Guy Fawkes – who was tortured at the Tower after his plot to assassinate James I
  • King Henry V, who was murdered in a chapel at the Tower in 1471
  • Sir Walter Raleigh, who spent more than a decade imprisoned at the Tower of London on three different occasions, and who was beheaded (elsewhere) in 1603.
  • Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days’ Queen, also executed on Tower Green
  • The Princes in the Tower, the two young sons of Edward IV who were never seen after their father’s death and purported to have been murdered at the behest of their uncle, King Richard III – a claim that is now questioned and often highly debated
  • A bear, one of the Tower’s menagerie animals

There are other ghosts as well; you can find a full account on the London Walks website.

4. Stare into the Eyes of King Henry VIII

Well, not his actual eyes – that would be creepy. But the Tower has two of Henry VIII’s suits of armor on display, and you can see what it would look like to have met him on the “lists” (the jousting field) or in battle! One of the suits was worn by the King when he was a young, fit man. The other was made for him when he was older and much larger – they say his poor health caused his enormous weight gain.

Armor that belonged to King Henry VIII

There are other places where you can see different suits of armor of Henry VIII as well, including the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Check out my New York City itinerary post for information about visiting.)

5. See the Tower at Night for a Different Perspective

Special events, when you can snag the opportunity, give you a chance to see the Tower of London in a way that almost no one else ever has. These events include Tower Twilight Tours (currently unavailable due to COVID) and the Ceremony of the Keys. The ghosts are said to appear most often at night, so this is your best chance of seeing one of the Tower’s victims from the “other side.”

The Ceremony of the Keys is the tradition of locking up the Tower of London each night, which dates back to the reign of King Edward III. These tickets are highly coveted and sell out very fast, so if you want to go, you need to reserve them early. If you are lucky enough to attend, you will get to see the Chief Yeoman Warder, carrying a lantern lit by a candle, march with his escort from the Bloody Tower to the outer gates, where they perform the centuries-old ceremony.

6. Interact with the Famous Tower Ravens

The Tower of London is known for its resident ravens. There is an old myth that if the ravens ever leave the Tower, then the Kingdom of England will fall. Whether or not that’s true, the Tower places so much emphasis on these beautiful birds that there is one specific Yeoman Warder whose title is The Ravenmaster, and whose sole job it is to take care of the birds. At any time, there are a minimum of six ravens in residence, and possibly more.

Merlina, probably the most beloved raven at the Tower, who disappeared in January 2021, photo from Getty Images

When you visit, you’ll see the ravens around the property. One of their wings’ flight feathers are clipped, so they can’t fly away, but they do often venture outside the walls. Most of the time, though, they can be found on the Tower grounds. They’re very accustomed to people, so it’s a good idea to watch out for them, too. Yours truly got bit by Raven George before he was retired and sent to live elsewhere!

7. There’s so Much Else to See Nearby

If you want to see more attractions in London, then there are plenty that are really close to the Tower of London. These include the Tower Bridge, which you can see when you enter the Tower or from its walls. I’ve already mentioned the old Roman wall on Tower Hill, which is a must-see if you love history. The HMS Belfast is permanently moored in the Thames and visible from the walls, and St. Paul’s Cathedral is only a short walk, too.

Tower Bridge, as seen from outside the Tower of London
Tower Bridge, as seen from outside the Tower of London

If you’re more interested in the current architecture of the city of London, then this is a prime place to see it. Atop the Tower walls you can see much of the skyline of London’s financial district, including the famous Gherkin skyscraper.

The only other part of London where you can see so many points of interested in close proximity would be the areas of Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.

What are Your Top Reasons to Visit the Tower of London?

6 Incredible Reasons to Visit the Tower of London
The White Tower

The Tower of London is maintained by the Historic Royal Palaces. Yes, it’s a palace – it was originally built as a royal residence, not a prison! To visit, you can purchase tickets from their website (click here).

These are just a few of the reasons that people choose to visit the Tower when they are in London. What about you? Have you been to the Tower of London before, or is it on your bucket list? What is your top reason for choosing to visit it? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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