I always wanted to visit the Tower of London but somehow I always missed it. So, when I was planning my recent trip to UK’s capital, the tour around the Tower of London was an absolute must. And I wasn’t disappointed at all! It is no secret I am a huge fan of Medieval castles, but visiting this one was a beautiful experience itself because I had a private Tower of London tour only for myself!
I met my guide Sean next to the Tower Hill Underground Station and from there he took me to the three hours walk around the Tower of London. We started in a little plateau on the opposite side of the tower itself, where executions were taking place. There is a small memorial there where you can see the names of the people executed there.
Architecture of the Tower of London
While standing in front of the Tower of London I was actually impressed by its size. Rather then standing in front of just the tower, I had the feeling I was looking to the proper Medieval town. It’s really gigantic!
The oldest part of it is the White Tower built back in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. He built it when he and his Norman invaders came to today’s England, to serve as his home there. However, by building such a huge edifice, he definitely wanted to show his power to the locals, and the fact that he is not leaving.
Later on the building was surrounded by two concentric rings of defensive walls, which made it the safest place in London.
During the centuries many different buildings were added on, so today it is a large architectural complex of houses mostly built in 12th and 13th century.
One of the biggest surprises for me, was that Yeomen Warders are actually living in the Tower. And they are living there with their families. Can you believe it? They are really living in a Medieval tower, in probably one of the coolest places in London.
All of them are retired military man and it is a great honor to serve as a Yeomen Warder. Well, not all of them are men, because from this year there is a first lady in history among them, as well.
The Crown Jewels
Probably the most interesting treasure in the Tower, are the Crown Jewels located in the Waterloo Block. Sadly, you won’t see any photos of them here, because it is a heavily guarded place, and taking photos is strictly forbidden.
However, crowns and the objects there are telling the story of the British monarchy in a unique way. It was probably for the first time I understood some of the political and historical relations over there. And could it be a better way then learning about history by looking to the beautiful jewelry and some of the World’s greatest diamonds?
Small tip here: Building in which the Crown Jewels are exhibited is guarded by some of the Queen’s guards. So, here is a perfect place to see the change of the guards undisturbed by horde of people around you.
Tower of London is also well known for many political prisoners that were held there at some point in a history. However, there is a place that tells the story of them in the most suitable way – Beauchamp Tower. Mostly the prisoners of the higher social status were held there so you are not really getting the feeling of a dungeon while inside.
However, what stunned me the most were wall graffiti made by the people that were kept there as a prisoners. They left their messages and their signatures on the walls. Some of them would actually invite a stonemason to do a little relief for them.
One of the oldest guide books about the Tower of London has drawings of the wild animals that were held in it. British monarchs were getting many presents from the foreign rulers, and exotic animals were definitely a very popular gift. Elephants, lions, even the polar bears lived in the castle until they were transfered to the newly opened London ZOO at the beginning of the 19th century.
The Tower of London is an absolute must for anyone interested in British history, medieval castles or an amazing Royal jewelry. Once again, a massive thanks to Sean and a Context Travel for this beautiful experience!
*This post contains some affiliate links.