Our time in London would not have been complete without visiting the Tower of London. Located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London and contains over 1,000 years of history, the Tower of London is an impressive structure. Much like visiting an aquarium or large popular museum there was a large line and hundreds of visitor from around the world constantly around you, oblivious to where they are walking or who else may be around them. We opted for a self tour more than joining a paid tour, and note that when you pay for the ticket it includes a “donation” that you can ask to remove beforehand. When Emily and I visited it was very rainy so we didn’t stay outside too long, and the line to visit the crown jewels was directly in the rain and was very long so we didn’t see the jewels.
When you first arrive you walk over the moat and can continue into a courtyard or walk up on the ramparts. The first are we visited was the Tower’s Mint, which as where the coins were made for the realm within the safety of the walls in the tower from c1279 and until 1810. Since tampering with coins was considered treasonous many thieves and forgers were deterred from continuing with their nefarious actions – but as we learned in the Mint they weren’t all deterred. Keep walking along and you arrive at the medieval residence. The Tower was once the residence for the royal family back in the medieval times of the 1200s. Like most medieval residence, the monarchy rarely lived for long periods of times, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t “Fit for a King” in anticipation of their visit. Lavishly decorated and stylishly furnished, the residence and the Great Halls of the residence could be a busy place depending on the night. While wee didn’t get to visit the crown jewels, we were able to walk close by the current residence for the royal family, which had a guard out front! I cannot imagine being so “important” that a guard would need to be in front of my residence! The little lawn was so quaint in front of the apartment but I have to admit seeing such a large, old historic building surrounded by central London was a little off putting. Seeing a monarch’s apartment being guarded even though no one was actually in the apartment was also strange. It was extremely interesting to see history and culture/tradition in action though! The guards also walked in shifts around the entrance to the crown jewels. The jewels are actually underground and heavily guarded. Seeing the uniforms and “changing of the guards” (not the same as at the castles where the royals currently are actually living) was extraordinary!
A notable area to visit in the tower is the historical armaments and the torture areas. I was astonished to see the lack of historical data about torture. It almost seemed as if the museum was trying to gloss over this part of their history. As a self proclaimed historian, I disagree with this method of historical preservation. The tower did a great job of easing into the discussion of England’s role in torture and what took place in the tower, and I do know that torture was not as prolific in the tower as we all originally thought, but they could have done a better job. My opinion! Plus, it was interesting! I wanted to learn and read more but there was only one small room that explained this part of their history. The armaments area was more interesting because a historian for the monarchy admitted to changing history and was caught! To their credit, after the discovery the history was changed and is currently correct. Though it does make you wonder!
Controversial figures throughout the British history have been imprisoned at the Tower of London, including Anne Boleyn. The wife of Henry VIII, she was doomed the minute she fell for Henry. Not much is really known about her but her body does rest in the tower. Princess Elizabeth, imprisoned by Mary I, lived a luxurious life in the tower during her imprisonment until she returned for her own coronation. Guy Fawkes was interrogated and tortured in the tower for plotting to kill James I. He was eventually hanged, drawn and quartered, and his body parts displayed to warn others. How medieval!
The Tower of London was larger than I pictured and had so much more history that I could have imagined. Of course, 1000 year is a lot, but with such a span of history as the #1 in the world it also was really neat to see a timeline of events and evolution. England went through so many changes over their 1,000 years and it is evident visiting the tower. The food is a lot like visiting a cafeteria so if you are looking for more of a British feel, wait and eat in the restaurants around the tower. You can buy tickets online or that morning and of course there are multiple gift shops for you to get your gifts! Take most of the day to visit as there is a lot to cover, and give yourself the time to walk around next to the river Thames. It is very pretty and the bridges that span around the river are remarkable. Take the Underground and get off at the Tower Hill stop and it’s just a short walk into the Tower. Bring a rain jacket if you are visiting during the summer – but also bring your sunglasses because the day could change. And don’t forget to have a great time! Until next time. ❤