You Can Go Inside This 1000-Year-Old Historic Royal Palace in London – and It Even Has a Pub
Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are well known royal residences, but did you know that the Tower of London, one of the most famous attractions in the English capital, used to be a Royal Palace? Not only that, but it was built nearly 1,000 years ago! So, if you’re visiting London, don’t let Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and all the excellent museums distract you from spending half a day or more at the Tower of London, a monument of immense history that is sure to surprise you.
- Where is the Tower of London located?
- How to get to the Tower of London
- When was the Tower of London built and by whom?
- What was the Tower of London originally used for?
- Eight facts about the Tower of London
- Hours of operation of the Tower of London
- How much does it cost to visit the Tower of London?
- Can you visit the Tower of London for free?
- Where to stay in London to be near the Tower of London
Where is the Tower of London located?
The Tower of London is located on the north bank of the river Thames in Tower Hamlet, one of the 32 boroughs that make up London. One end of the famous Tower Bridge is located in the same borough and the two London landmarks are neighbors.
How to get to the Tower of London
The easiest way to get to the Tower is by taking the subway (AKA “the tube”). The Circle and District Lines (depicted in yellow and green on subway maps) will get you straight to the Tower Hill station that is a five-minute walk to the entrance to the historic royal palace.
When was the Tower of London built and by whom?
The Tower of London and its fortress were originally built by English laborers under the order of William the Conqueror starting in 1070s, nearly 1000 years ago. It took 20 years to complete.
The Tower underwent changes throughout the centuries, including the addition of defensive walls and a larger moat in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the restoration of the Chapel in the 19th century.
What was the Tower of London originally used for?
The Tower of London was originally built as a symbol of power. The Tower was built under the orders of William the Conqueror to assert his authority as monarch and protect London from possible rebellions after he conquered England in 1066 and was coronated king that same year.
Over the centuries, however, the Tower has had many uses. The Tower was a royal palace for five centuries, but it was also a place where royal possessions were kept safe (including the Crown Jewels which are still kept there), and where members of the royal family went to shelter in case of unrest. The Tower of London was also a famous prison, a zoo, and it was home to the Royal Mint and the Royal Armouries.
Eight facts about the Tower of London
- The guards of the Tower of London are called Yeoman Warders and they are nicknamed “Beefeaters”. The nickname is said to come from the fact that those special guards were allowed to eat as much beef as they wished from King Henry VII’s table. There are 32 Yeoman Warders at the Tower — men and women — and they all have at least 22 years of military service.
- There are many people living inside the Tower of London, namely a doctor, a chaplain, the Yeomen Warders and their family members, the Resident Governor (in charge of the daily functioning of the historic palace), and a group of soldiers.
- From the 13th century to the 19th century, the Tower of London was home to a large menagerie or zoo, including lions, a polar bear, and an African elephant, among other animals. Today, there are sculptures of the animals previously kept there throughout the Tower.
- The Keys is the name of the pub located within the walls of the Tower of London. The use of the pub is reserved for the Yeoman Warders and their guests.
- The Tower of London is a UNESCO Word Heritage site since 1988. In total, there are 33 UNESCO-listed property in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
- In 2014, to celebrate the centenary of WWI, the art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was set up at the Tower of London. The art work consisted of 888,246 ceramic poppies (one for each British fatality during the war) seemingly flowing out of the fortification into the moat. This incredibly powerful and popular art installation was created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, and attracted more than five million people. Eventually the poppies were sold individually, raising millions of dollars for military charities.
- There are six ravens kept at the Tower of London and they are cared for by a special Yeoman Warder called the Ravenmaster. It is believed that King Charles II (1630-1685) started the superstition that says that if the ravens were to leave the Tower, the monarchy and the tower would fall. Visitor can see the ravens, but they are asked not to approach them.
- The Crown Jewels, including the Imperial State Crown worn by the king or queen during the coronation ceremony and at the State Opening of Parliament, have been kept at the Tower of London since 1661.
Hours of operation of the Tower of London
The hours of operation change regularly throughout the year. Make sure you check out the Tower’s website for the opening and closing time very carefully while planning your visit.
How much does it cost to visit the Tower of London?
Adults pay $36.40 (£29.90); children from age five to 15 pay $18.15 (£14.90); children below the age of five enter for free. Several discounts are available, so check out the website to see if you can benefit from them. You can choose to add 10 percent to the price of admission to go toward Historic Royal Palaces, a self-funding charity that runs the Tower of London.
Tickets include a guided tour by a Yeoman Warder, as well as access to the Crown Jewels display, entry to the White Tower, Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Battlements, Medieval Palace, Bloody Tower, Torture at the Tower exhibition, Fusiliers Museum, and Royal Mint exhibition.
Can you visit the Tower of London for free?
Only members of the Historic Royal Palaces charity may visit the Tower of London for free. To become a member, visit the Historic Royal Palaces’ membership page.
Where to stay in London to be near the Tower of London
We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend in London! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay.
Doubletree Tower of London
Conveniently located just a seven-minute walk away from the Tower of London, the Doubletree Tower of London hotel also offers great access to the nearby Tower Hill subway station so guests can explore the rest of the city with ease. This property has a fitness center, an on-site restaurant, and a rooftop bar that serves classic cocktails and has extraordinary views of London’s skyline. The modern and elegant rooms offer the comfort of air conditioning and soundproofing, as well as deluxe amenities such as flat-screen TVs, en-suite bathrooms with a mist-free mirror, power showers, and designer toiletries. Every stay at this property starts with a complimentary warm chocolate chip cookie.
CitizenM Tower of London
Situated directly above the Tower Hill subway Station and with spectacular views of the Thames, Tower of London, and Tower Bridge, the citizenM Tower of London hotel consists of 370 stylish luxury rooms, each equipped with free and fast WiFi, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, and an iPad or free citizenM app to control room lights, blinds, curtains, temperature, and more. Request a room with views of the Tower of London which is only a five-minute walk away, or make your way up to the cloudM bar on the seventh floor for a cocktail with views of the historic royal palace.
The Tower Hotel
The Tower Hotel is a four-star accommodation perfectly situated near Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, both of which are less than five minutes away on foot. Each room features a flat-screen TV, desk, and free WiFi. Guests can also enjoy freshly prepared modern fusion cuisine in the on-site restaurant or drinks in the bar while admiring views of Tower Bridge and the Shard. This property is located just eight minutes’ walk away from the Tower Hill subway station.