Castles and fortresses are everywhere in Europe. In fact, you kind of have to work hard to avoid them! But why would you? I always enjoy them and I’m just going to assume you enjoy them, too J In England, you’ll be spoiled for choice. One that I definitely recommend is the Tower of London, founded in 1066 by the Normans as they conquered England. Tickets are not cheap, but this is one tourist site that is worth the expense. Read on to find out what kinds of things to expect at the historic Tower of London!
The white tower
The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. There are so many interesting things to check out in it. There is a simple yet lovely chapel that dates to the 11th-century. There is also the fascinating Royal Armouries collection. Check out the Line of Kings exhibition that displays the weapons and armours of various historic kings. My favourite was the many sets of armour that once belonged to Henry VIII – they got bigger over time as the man grew to his notorious size! Oh, and don’t forget to have some morbid fun with the 18th-century executioner’s block.
Some of the jewels used in royal ceremonies can be seen on display here. In fact, there are 23,578 gemstones in the Tower of London collection! You may even get to see THE crown jewels. Keep in mind, though, that some of the jewels on display are rather controversial in terms of how they were obtained, the amount of blood that stain them, that kind of thing…
The most infamous prison at the Tower of London is known colloquially as the “Bloody Tower”. It is here where two child princes, Edward V and Richard, were allegedly murdered on the orders of their uncle, Richard III. Truth is, no one knows exactly what happened to the boys as they disappeared from the tower into the annals of history. Another prison lies in the basement of the White Tower; it was likely the place of “interrogation” for prisoners such as the infamous Guy Fawkes.
There is something about the battlements of a fortress that I love. No idea why but I have always enjoyed standing up in them, staring out in to the distance. I’ve done it in so many different forts and castles in my travels – the Tower of London was no exception! Spend some time here imagining what it would have been like for a soldier, both in times of war and in peace. The views of the city and the Thames are quite nice, too.
The Tower of London is still considered a working fortress, today. As such, certain areas are guarded by soldiers. You’ll also have a chance to play Spot the Beefeater. Okay, they aren’t actually difficult to find due to their coats being embroidered in red. But who are these guys, you may ask? Well, the Beefeaters are properly called Yeoman Warders and they have stood guard at the Tower of London for over 500 years!
the ceremony of the keys
Every night, for the past 700 years, there has been the traditional locking up of the Tower of London. While you cannot take photos during the ceremony, I think the opportunity to watch such an ancient tradition is still worth it! Space is extremely limited, so you have to register early to ensure you get a spot. The ceremony lasts for about half an hour and is entirely outside.