The infamous Tower of London is one of the oldest and most historical places to visit on a trip to the capital. Although actually a castle made up of 22 towers, its history is both gruesome and compelling. The former royal residence, treasury, mint, armoury and menagerie, is now most remembered as the prison where a king, three queens and many nobles were beheaded.
visit the tower of london
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Today the iconic landmark draws in millions of intrigued tourists looking for an insight into its past and of course to jump on the travelator for a glimpse of the spectacular Crown Jewels.
A visit to the Tower of London never disappoints as there are always a variety of activities running bringing the iconic attraction to life.
This February half term sees the return of Knight School. Enrol the kids and watch your brave defenders rise through the ranks from page, squire and finally Knight. Medieval characters amuse families with jokes and dance moves throughout the session.
Eager trainees can expect to develop their knightly skills from manners, etiquette and entertainment to martial skills and fitness.
All the action happens outside the striking central White Tower, built by William the Conqueror almost a 1,000 years ago. An incredible backdrop for the kids to practice their swashbuckling sword skills and charge at a quintain.
If they make the grade, the finale is a glorious knighting ceremony amongst rapturous applause as they join the Tower garrison.
The live interactive history lesson, combined with actors enacting one of the most highly regarded professions in the Middle Ages, is a brilliant way to educate young minds. If only my history lessons at school were as fun!
There is plenty on offer indoors too with drop-in activities like creating catapults, dressing up and designing flags and shields just to name a few. The adventure doesn’t need to end here either. Explore the Royal Armouries within the White Tower. Take a closer look at the real armour worn by King Henry VIII and the gilded armour of Kings Charles I and also James II.
I don’t think anyone can leave without heading to the Jewel House. Queues can be long, but we were lucky and wandered straight in. Enter the dark rooms, walk past videos showing monarchs wearing the glittering jewels. The spectacular collection of crowns, orbs and sceptres, ceremonial swords, robes and dining vessels encrusted with thousands of gemstones is astonishing.
The jewels are all behind glass, and you can catch a good glimpse guided through the collection on the travelator. We were completely bedazzled by the platinum crown of the late Queen Mother, set with the 106-carat Koh-i-Nûr (‘Mountain of Light’) diamond, and the Imperial State Crown, worn by the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament. You can’t take photos inside the building, so you’ll have to take my word for it – they’re definitely worth visiting.
Guards at the Tower of London
Spot the guards outside Jewel House and the half-timbered Queen’s House which faces Tower Green. Queen’s House looks distinctly different from the rest of the complex. It was built around 1530 in the reign of King Henry VIII for his second Queen Anne Boleyn, who was executed soon afterwards.
There are three daily ceremonies to look out for – the Ceremonial Opening, the Ceremony of the Word and the Ceremony of the Keys.
The Ceremony of the Keys is a 700-year-old ancient ceremony that occurs daily from 21:30 to 22:05 hours. Tickets are free but must be pre-booked online. The event is really popular so make sure you book your tickets months in advance.
Meet the Ravenmaster, who takes care of the most important members of the Tower of London – The Ravens. Legend goes that if the the six ravens ever leave the fortress, the Kingdom will fall. To be on the safe side there are actually seven ravens at the Tower. The ravens are free to roam the grounds during the day and preside over four different territories within the Tower’s walls.
Visitors aren’t allowed to feed them and shouldn’t approach too closely as they can be aggressive if their territory is being threatened. If you’re lucky you may see them snacking on treats of mice, chicks and blood soaked biscuits.
Yeoman Warders tour
Many people also hop onto a Yeoman Warders tour, if they don’t fancy using an audio guide. Also known as Beefeaters they originally formed King Henry VIII’s personal bodyguard. The entertaining 45 minute tours begin near the main entrance daily, every 30 minutes. It’s a great way to discover all the captivating stories of ardor, treachery and torture that went on behind the walls.
Historic Royal Palaces run regular family activities during the school holidays, so it’s worth checking to see what’s on when you want to visit.
The tours and activities like Knight School is included in the Tower of London general admission ticket. Knight School takes place at different times between 11.00 and 16.00 each day from the 15th – 23rd February. The activities are suitable for children aged 5 – 12 years.
other things to do near the tower of London
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