For nearly 1000 years the Tower of London has stood in its place on the Thames, serving over the centuries as a royal palace, prison, place of execution, stronghold for riches, and the symbol of the monarchy in England. With so long a history, there is no shortage of things to see, and tours of the Tower can be booked online and in many London hotels.
The Towers Despite its name, the Tower of London is actually a complex of many towers and structures. The White Tower, actually a medieval keep, is the original structure with surrounding buildings added to over the years, such as the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula and the infamous Bloody Tower, the site of the alleged murders of the young Edward V and his brother by their scheming uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, better known as Richard III.
Prisoners and Executions The Tower housed some of the most notable characters in English history, but none as famous as those associated with the oft-married Henry VIII. Henry sent both his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and fifth wife, Katherine Howard, to the Tower. After convictions for treason and adultery, Anne and Katherine would escape neither beheading nor the Tower itself as both are entombed in the Chapel Royal. They share this tomb with Sir Thomas More, also sent to the Tower by Henry, and Lady Jane Grey, the 9-day queen deposed and executed by Henry’s daughter, Mary Tudor, among many others.
Crown Jewels One of the more popular attractions at the tower is the Crown Jewels. After the demolition of the Jewel House, the Crown Jewels were moved to the Martin Tower. Royal pieces housed in the Tower include the Imperial State Crown worn by Elizabeth II. Each evening the Ceremony of the Keys is performed, locking the Tower and protecting the jewels. Although an original ticket to the Tower is required, tickets to this ceremony are free of charge, making it one of the best free things to do in London.
The Spooky Towers Given its history of execution and murder, it is no wonder that the Tower has more than its share of reports of otherworldly apparitions. Ghosts reportedly encountered at the Tower include a headless Anne Boleyn near her tomb, the two small princes of the Bloody Tower, and even a grizzly bear that may have been housed and died in the Royal Menagerie. Adding to this eerie ambiance are the ravens that call the Tower home. As mythological symbols for the souls of the dead, the ravens are like beastly sentinels, and it is said that as long as the ravens remain at the Tower the monarchy will not fall. The tower is a must see when visiting and with plenty of free things to do in London as well, you are guaranteed an entertaining visit.