‘Tower of London: Its history, highlights & a private tour’ article was first published on Culture Tourist on November 21st 2016 and updated on February 22nd 2022.
The Tower of London is one of the most famous landmarks in the UK’s capital. It’s also one of the most well-known medieval fortresses. There is so much history, exciting stories and fascinating traditions linked to it. I had a chance to visit it on a Tower of London private tour. It was such a wonderful experience I recommend it to anyone visiting London.
Tower of London Private Tour
Taking a tour while travelling is a great way to learn about the local history. Even more, it gives you an excellent opportunity to meet a local and ask them all the questions about the destination you’re visiting. I especially like taking these tours when travelling solo, because it provides you with some company.
I met my guide Sean next to the Tower Hill Underground Station. From there, he took me on a three-hours long journey to London’s history. We started our private tour around the Tower of London on a little plateau on the opposite side of the tower itself. That’s where executions were taking place back in the day. A small memorial with the names of people executed there still witnesses about these dark events.
⤷ Read more: The best museums in London
Tower of London architecture
One of the first impressions I had while standing in front of the Tower of London was that it’s huge. Rather than standing in front of just a tower, I had a feeling I was looking at a proper medieval town. It’s gigantic!
The oldest part of the Tower of London is the White Tower. It was built back in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, when he and his Norman invaders came to today’s England. The White Tower was built as his new home. However, by creating such a colossal edifice, he definitely wanted to manifest his power to the locals. And made clear the fact he’s not leaving.
Later on, the building was surrounded by two concentric rings of defensive walls, making it the safest place in London.
During the centuries, many different buildings were added to the complex of the Tower of London. Today, it’s a significant architectural complex of houses, mostly built during the 12th and 13th centuries.
Yeomen Warders at the Tower of London
Yeomen Warders are an unmissable part of this place. During my Tower of London private tour, I was pretty surprised to learn that Yeomen Warders actually live in the tower. And they are living there with their families.
Could you believe that? Imagine living in a medieval tower, at probably, one of the most incredible places in London.
All of them are retired military men, and it is a great honour to serve as a Yeomen Warder. Not all of them are men because, in 2016, the first lady in history was elected as a Yeomen Warder.
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Crown Jewels at the Tower of London
The most valuable treasure of the tower is the Crown Jewels. They are located in the Waterloo Block. Sadly, you won’t see any photos of them here. It’s a heavily guarded place, and taking pictures of that part of the Tower of London is strictly forbidden.
However, crowns and the objects there tell the story of the British Monarchy in a unique way. It was only there that I actually understood some of Britain’s political and historical relations. It’s also a fun way to learn about history by exploring beautiful jewellery and some of the most magnificent diamonds in the world.
⤷ TIP: The Waterloo Block, where the Crown Jewels are kept, is guarded by Queen’s Guards. So, here is a perfect place to enjoy the guards’ change undisturbed by crowds.
Tower of London prisoners
The Tower of London is well known for numerous political prisoners held there at some point in history. However, there is a place that tells the story of them most suitably – Beauchamp Tower. It was primarily a place for prisoners of higher social status. So, you won’t really have a feeling as you’re in a dungeon while inside.
But, what stunned me the most were wall graffiti made by people that were kept there as prisoners. They left their messages and signatures on the walls. It’s fascinating how some of them would actually invite a stonemason to do a little relief for them. Thus making the prison days at least a bit more bearable.
Tower of London’s ZOO
One of the oldest guide books about the Tower of London has drawings of the wild animals held in it. British monarchs were getting many presents from foreign rulers, and exotic animals were definitely a popular gift. Elephants, lions, even the polar bears lived in the castle until they were transferred 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 a beautiful Royal jewellery. Once again, a massive thanks to Sean and Context Travel for this beautiful experience!
If a private tour around the Tower of London isn’t your thing, then check out this small-group tour around the Tower of London. Or if you’d like to visit it yourself, get your entrance ticket on a link here.
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Cover photo by Gavin Allanwood on Unsplash