I have said it many times and I will say it again, no visit to London is complete without a visit to Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. Standing tall since Norman conquest I would go so far to state that you’re doing yourself a disservice by not visiting this historic site.
Situated in Central London on the banks of the river Thames, I have had the pleasure of visiting the Tower three times now. Once at the age of 19 when I lived in London, then again in the summer of my 24th year as a university student with my mother and again in the winter of 2015 at the ripe old age of 30 with my partner as I lived a dual life between Ireland and England. It is beautifully strange to come back to a monument that stands still in time when you’ve aged and changed so much since your last visit. That is what I adore about historical monuments, their presence in the modern world reminds us of our place in the universe. They will continue to stand tall as we age, thus we inevitably become part of their narrative. To some that might be a confronting notion, but for me it makes me appreciative of the time given to me… and thankful I live in the 21st century.
My attraction to the Tower began long ago. I’ve always had a fascination with British history due to the Welsh and English blood that runs in my veins. As a Protestant and religious studies enthusiast the bloodshed caused by rival Christian denominations fighting for power during and after Tudor England has captivated me for years as my agnostic father always encouraged his children to know the history of our chosen religions. Many lazy Sundays as a child were spent poring through the English history section of my father’s personal library and throughout university I had a remarkable lecturer who further inspired my love of antiquity. Most recently whilst undertaking a guided tour it was our Yeoman Warder, Steve, whose clear passion for his work and dedication to crown and country that really moved me.
In order to truly grasp an inside look into the history of the Tower be sure to join the frequent and free tours conducted by the Yeomen Warders. Famous as the monument they protect, they offer a charismatic, educational and personal perspective to life at the Tower and your visit will undoubtedly be enriched by your 60 minute tour. For tourists where language is a barrier, an audio guide might be a better suited option and are available to hire for roughly £4.00 in a myriad of languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin. Audio guides are also available in English and are a great addition for history buffs after your guided tour.
Formed in 1509, the Yeomen Warders are truly a regal sight to behold in their traditional uniforms which bare the initials of the monarch they serve, Elizabetha Regina, the latter being latin for Queen. In addition to protecting the Crown Jewels, guided tours form part of their duties but it is easy to forget who these men and women really are, members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard and it is a revered position not easily attained. I have the upmost respect and admiration for the Yeomen Warders as to be considered one must have served a minimum of 22 years in the armed forces with impeccable conduct. Steve, our most recent guide epitomised these values and I can’t help but be impressed by such devotion and inspired by the sacrifice and hard work it takes to attain such a position. The Tower of London is a historic gem in its own right right, but it is the Yeomen Warders, like Steve, that bring this national treasure to life and form its formidable spirit.
Crowds and London are synonymous so be sure to arrive early, 9.00am Tuesday through to Saturday and 10.00am for those visiting Sunday or Monday. For those that like to sleep in do not fret as guided tours depart every thirty minutes and though sometimes gory the stories brilliantly presented by the Yeomen Warders appeal to children and adults alike. Just be sure you don’t arrive too late as final tours for the day depart from the main entrance in summer at 3.30pm and 2.30pm in the winter months as darkness sets in earlier.
Tickets are somewhat steep with adult admission starting at £25.00 when purchased in person, but worth every penny to see the White Tower, exhibitions and the glittering Crown Jewels that lie within the fortified grounds. Most importantly a percentage of the admission price contributes towards Tower restoration and maintenance. Particularly in the warmer months I would advise booking online through the Historic Royal Palaces website in order to save time and money. A full break down of prices according to individual or family needs can be found by clicking here. Throughout the week during the winter season you can afford to be a little less organised as crowds naturally aren’t as intense.
For those not living in London, the most economical way of getting around and seeing points of interests would be through the purchase of the London Pass. Not only will you save money but for pass holders you will be offered fast track entry at numerous landmarks, including the Tower of London. In addition, you can utilise your pass to cruise the Thames and arrive in style at Tower Pier. If you are plagued by seasickness the London Pass permits you to use the Free Hop on Hop off Bus Tour which will bring you to the perimeters of the 12 acres of land that make up the famous fortress. If you plan to arrive by tube disembark at Tower Bridge station which is serviced by the District and Circle lines. Be sure to make a day of it as Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast lie within close proximity to the Tower of London.
Open everyday with the exception of New Years Day and the Christmas period covering December 24 through to December 26 be sure to include the Tower of London in your visit to England’s mighty capital and let it become part of your history just as you become part of its.
*Note: Thank you to Yasir Badani for his assistance with the images of myself featured. Follow his adventures around the globe @yasirbad*