Must See Stops at the Tower of London

Five highlights from over 900 years of history

Yeoman Warders at the Beating of the Bounds, Tower of London (2014) by John SherlinHistoric Royal Palaces

Welcome to the Tower of London!

With almost 1000 years inside our walls, let us take you through five highlights from this iconic castle's long and fascinating history.

1. The White Tower

Built by William the Conqueror as a stronghold in the City of London, work began here in the 1070s. 

The White Tower has served many roles over the years - a fortress, a palace, a prison and a storehouse. Today, it is home to the Royal Armories exhibition.

This wooden staircase leads to the White Tower's entrance. The door was built high above ground to help defend the fortress. The original stairs could be removed quickly when under attack, making it harder for invaders to get inside.

The Tower of London (2019) by Mark BothwellHistoric Royal Palaces

These iconic cupolas or 'onion domes' sit on top of the White Tower's turrets.  Henry VIII replaced the original cone-shaped roofs with these domes for the coronation of Anne Boleyn, his second Queen, in 1533.

Inside the White Tower, we find the Chapel of St John the Evangelist. This chapel has been used by royalty and the Tower community for over 900 years.

This Chapel is one of the finest examples of Norman religious architecture in the world.

2. Medieval Palace

Up these stairs is the entrance to St Thomas' Tower and what remains of the Medieval Palace.

Built by Henry III and Edward I in the 13th century, these lodgings were rich and luxurious - though medieval monarchs usually only stayed at the Tower for short visits.

This room is a colorful reconstruction of Edward I's bedchamber, based on real medieval objects, accounts and drawings. 

Tucked away in the corner behind the open door, you'll find the King's colorful private chapel.

This is the Wakefield Tower, built by Henry III to use as royal lodgings along the edge of the Thames. 

This space, complete with a replica throne and canopy, was probably used as a private audience chamber.

Not all of the medieval palace survives today. However, you can still see the stone foundations where the complex of apartments and buildings stood on the lawn beneath the White Tower. 

3. The Crown Jewels

This building, known as the Waterloo Block, is home to the Crown Jewels.

The Tower has been home to this iconic collection since the reign of King Charles II. 

The Crown Jewels on display in the Wakefield Tower, Tower of London, Tower Hill, Tower Hamlets, Greater London (1870/1900) by York & SonHistoric England

The Crown Jewels only leave the Tower for use in state occasions like Coronations, Royal Baptisms and the State Opening of Parliament.

Do you recognize any objects from the coronation of HM King Charles III?

The Crown Jewels have been kept in many different parts of the fortress. From 1669-1841, they were displayed here in the Martin Tower. 

In 1671, this is where Colonel Thomas Blood staged an outrageous heist to steal the precious royal treasure.

4. Prisoners at the Tower

Although the Tower was not built as a prison, hundreds of people have been incarcerated inside its walls. 

Some of the most well known are best remembered here in the Bloody Tower.

This Tower is named for its popular association with the disappearance of 12-year-old Edward V and his younger brother Richard in 1583.

This mystery places the Tower of London at the heart of the Wars of the Roses.

The Princes in the Tower (c1831-99) by Unknown artist after an original painting by Hippolyte-Paul DelarocheHistoric Royal Palaces

The two boys were sons of King Edward IV. After their father's death, they were placed at the Tower 'for their protection' under the orders of their uncle, the future Richard III.

Tower tradition states that the boys stayed here, in the Bloody Tower, before they dissappeared.

We may never know what happened to the 'Princes in the Tower'. Many still debate who was responsible for their disappearance. You can read more on the Historic Royal Palaces website.

We do know that the Bloody Tower was home to Elizabethan explorer Sir Walter Raleigh for over 13 years.

Prisoner of James I (VI of Scotland), Raleigh's status and fame allowed him certain comforts, including servants and a small garden. He was also joined by his wife and family.

Not all prisoners lived as comfortably as Raleigh. 

We believe that Sir Thomas More was kept here inside the lower Bell Tower in 1534. More was imprisoned for refusing to recognize Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England.

As More continued to defy the King, his privileges were taken away. By the time of his execution, the room had been stripped of everything from his books, his warm clothes and even his fire.

Today, this part of the Tower is usually off limits to the public.

5. The Ravens

Legend says that should the Ravens leave the Tower, both the keep and the kingdom will fall.

We don't know how long Ravens have been kept here, but King Charles II was the first to declare that at least six should be kept on site at all times.

Ravens at the Tower of London (2017) by Simon JarrattHistoric Royal Palaces

Our current Tower ravens are named Jubilee, Harris, Poppy, Georgie, Edgar, Branwen and Rex. 

They are cared for by Barney Chandler - Yeoman Warder and the Tower's Ravenmaster. He feeds them twice a day on a special diet of raw meats like mice, chicks, rats. 

Tower of London (2021) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

We hope you enjoyed taking a little peak inside the Tower walls. 

Would you like to see more? Why not come and visit us at the Tower of London!

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