The Tower of London

Good afternoon again to everyone.

Let's start from where we left off a few weeks ago, another blog about London. Today I'm going to tell you about the Tower of London and also known as "la torre de Londres" in Spanish.

I'm sure that many of you have heard people speaking about this building and tourist attraction full of British history and culture. For those who haven't been there, here are some pictures below.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-c0f4fc6

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-b12c895

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-b159fb3

This historic castle is situated on the banks of the river Thames between the two bridges called Tower Bridge and London Bridge. For those interested in these two bridges and who want to know about the differences and its history, just to let you know, I have written a blog and you can access it whenever you like.

I have been to this castle many times but I'm going to take advantage and write this blog now given that I visited it less than a week ago and I took some wonderful pictures.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-8783cc9

How do you access it and how do you get there?

Really simple, you have quite a few stations to choose from which are near the building. The closest is Tower Hill Station. But if you're also planning to see Tower Bridge and the Tower of London on the same day, I recommend getting off at the London Bridge Station.

There are also a number of bus routes which stop near. For those who are travelling by car or taxi, this is the address, St. Katharine's & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB.

Why is it necessary to visit it?

Around 1000 D. C., William the Conqueror was the first king of England before having separate kings in every kingdom; in other words, he was the one to unite the whole of the United Kingdom by having only one king. William was of French descent, and that's why during his reign, he wasn't invaded by French colonies. Upon his arrival to power he introduced new construction techniques for castles and defence of the kingdom. That's how during his life he dedicated himself to building castles all around, such as the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Chepstow (one of the most famous) and many more, to prevent future invasions. After his death and with the new king Henry II, England started to be invaded by the French, but thanks to the defence system that William the Conqueror had left in his legacy, it was impossible, or almost impossible to conquer. I'll tell you more about that when I talk about Dover Castle in another blog of mine.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-f16bfee

This building is divided into different parts which were built in different years. First, they built the walls of the castle by making a fort which was the heart of England's defence in 1066. Ten years later as the king wanted a royal residence, they built the white tower/ white castle which is located in the central part of the Tower of London.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-90d5db2

Despite being designed as a defence and royal residence, in the 1100s this building started to be used as a prison and a court of justice where they sentenced people. The prisoners weren't just people from the streets, they were people in senior positions (like dukes, clergy, kings... etc. ) who had committed treason against the crown or were simply enemies. Depending on the sentence they had, they were allowed to go out of their cells and wander around the gardens.

Can you imagine the King in his bedroom looking out of the window at the prisoners?

It's a bit strange. And that's why when the Tudor dynasty came into power (in around the 15th century) it was converted into a prison alone and they stopped using it as the royal residence. This prison closed down in 1952. I suppose that everybody has heard of the Tudors or Henry VII and Henry VIII. Those two kings were the first kings from the Tudor dynasty who committed the biggest purges in the history of England after their coronation.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-7c1fedb

The place where they carried out their executions depended on the social status and sex of the person. In other words, the noble and women were executed in private and inside the castle walls whereas public figures and any other high-class person were executed in public.

As many of you will already know, Henry VIII is not only known for his great purges but also for his 6 wives and their problems of conceiving a baby boy. Two of his wives were decapitated. Actually, Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn was decapitated in the Tower of London. As I mentioned before, because she was a woman and of a high position, it was done in private and as under special circumstances, instead of being decapitated with an axe like everyone else, it was with a sword to make it a quicker and less painful death. Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery, incest and treason against the king although nowadays we believe that it wasn't really about adultery and incest, but the fact that she couldn't give the king a boy and he wanted to get rid of her. In the castle, legend has it that Anne's ghost walks around the castle where she was decapitated.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-9670e9b

The only British king decapitated in public was, Charles I of England. He was accused of high treason. Tired of the village and parliament claiming power, Charles I named himself king of England prevailing himself before parliament and the village. This caused England's first civil war, as he claimed that the power was legally his and that it came from God (just like the ancient Egyptians). After the first civil war came the second when the king made a pact with the Scottish king so that he would be given back the power. Years later the village and part of parliament won and they imprisoned the king in the Tower of London, being sentenced to mass public death in London where you can now find Whitehall (in the middle of Parliament Square in Westminster. ) Also, in that same place, nowadays you can find the statue of Charles I where he was decapitated. Following his death, it led to the first and only republic England has had.

Another interesting fact to note! Did you know that one of Hitler's helpers was in prison for a few days in the Tower of London?

Nowadays the tower is divided into the ground floor, two upper floors and the basement. The main floor guards all the suits of armour used in battles and by many kings of England.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-94cd1c7

On the upper or first floor, there's a room with a projector and they put on documentary films, then you get to the small chapel and finally there's a room with swords and some important objects, such as the castle's account books. The top floor of the castle is made up of an exhibition of contemporary objects. As soon as you go in, there's a dragon made of a lot of different materials. I didn't expect to see that! Here is a photo, although the quality isn't that good because you're not allowed to use flash. Talking of using your camera, it's only forbidden in the chapel.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-485c313

The floor underground is where all the weapons, rifles and cannons used during the British wars are kept.

I'd like to note that they only carried out 22 executions in the inside part of the tower and that the last one was a German spy during the second world war.

A zoo! Did you know that inside the castle there was a zoo full of exotic wild animals which were very rare?

Another building which makes up the Tower of London is the menagerie of animals. A tower which was built in the 13th century and filled with animals taken from another menagerie. For 5 centuries the collection was shown to the public on only a few occasions until the 17th century where it was open to the public. 20 years after it opened, the animals were taken to London zoo.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-ac1e918

After so much history and interesting dates, now it's time to talk about the main function of this place right now. It's a tourist attraction open every day to the public. Guarded for centuries by the guards known as the Beefeaters (No, not the brand of gin you put in your cocktail), nowadays these beefeaters offer guided tours around the Tower, going back in time to the legends of the castle. These guides participate in the Ceremony of the Keys every day. It's one of the oldest rituals which takes place every night at 21:53. This ceremony has only been delayed once and it was during the second world war because of the enemies. There was also a time when a couple of the keys to the Tower were stolen and they had to change all the locks immediately. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay to see the ceremony of the keys. Later I will give more details about not being able to stay and then you'll understand why I have never been able to see it.

Legend has it that the day the crows in the Tower of London disappear, the entire British empire will collapse. And not only one crow! There must be a minimum of 6 in the Tower garden. Just in case you were wondering, they have 7. Since the olden days, they have given them delicacies so that they don't abandon the Tower. But nowadays, to make sure that these birds stay at the Tower, they cut their wings (one or two cuts on each side) so that they can't fly over long distances, only a few steps and leaps which makes them stay in the castle. As I've already said, I was there last week, and I saw a few crows wandering around and others in their large cages. Each one has a name and a different colour band to know who is who. I saw some rather big and chubby ones... but of course if you think that these poor birds can't fly or exercise and they're being fed, it's normal.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-ce072ae

Another building and the most famous and most visited is the Jewel House, with more than 23,500 jewels amongst them are diamonds, emeralds, sapphire, rubies, and other pure gold object. The total value of these objects is more than 20 billion pounds. They are kept in a vault with incredible security measures in place. It's forbidden to use your camera, so I wasn't able to film anything or take photos. As soon as you go inside, you have to go through a few different rooms and if there are lots of people, there's even a queue to get inside, but the times I have been there, the rooms were empty. They normally show videos on the walls of historic eras up till the last one where they show the coronation of the current Queen of England at the age of only 21. Queen Elizabeth II. The jewels you can see are mainly crowns and sceptres from previous kings and queens of England. The current crown has around 3000 diamonds and every kind of precious stone (rubies, emeralds, pearls, sapphire... etc. ). But that's not all, the biggest diamond in the world forms part of this collection of jewels. The crown of the previous queen, Queen Victoria has this diamond. It's incredible to see.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-4edab84

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-1238876

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-5fe5410

The good thing about this room and something which has changed since the last time I came is the mechanic walkways. On both sides of the windows there are walkways which you just stand on and you go super slowly passing through all of the jewels. This avoids people pushing in and people can't complain about not being able to see the jewels. I think it's a brilliant idea.

Another important piece of information about this place which is necessary to talk about is the Great Fire. On 30th October 1841 a fire caught light and attacked the tower at around 10p. m., the origin is yet to be known. Completely burning the white castle and the tower. The guards or Beefeaters managed to salvage all of the crown jewels, by taking them out in fear of losing them. But luckily, the fire didn't get to that building, so none of them were lost. They think that the fire could have been caused due to the use of gas during that time. After many years had passed, the building was repaired, and it was left as almost new.

How much time do you need to see everything?

Well that depends on how much time you have and how much you want to spend. I recommend half a day to visit the place. Or even getting up early to spend the morning there before lunch, or just after lunch to visit the buildings. Yes, it's true that depending on the time you go, you could go to events or performances which they put on inside the castle. Not including any queues to the House of Crown Jewels and to see everything, you'd need around 2 hours to wander around.

There's a performance on every day of around 30-40 minutes which is called "Defend the Tower". The show times are at 11:30, 13:30, and 15:30. I saw the first one in the morning because I got there early on Saturday morning. You'll see lots of actors in their different medieval outfits in different areas of the castle acting out the history. In my case, I didn't know that this went on, and when I was taking photos from the walls of the castle, I saw a woman dressed in old clothes going past shouting "They're attacking us, they're attacking us" in English. The characters gathered below and with the help from the public, they started acting out the history around the castle. It was about the Tower of London suffering an attack from the enemy and you had to help to defend it along with the actors. It's something I really didn't expect!

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-ac20335

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-dfe2ebe

What time can you visit it?

The opening times vary, depending on the day. On Sundays and Mondays from 10:00 to 17:30, and from Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 to 17:30. The last admission is at 17:00.

As I said before, if you want to see the ceremony of the keys, that's at 21:53 and you need another ticket just to go to the ceremony at that time. I found out about that before going to the Tower of London because it's something which I find really interesting and it turns out that the tickets don't cost much at all, only £1 if you order them online. But, Do you know when there are tickets available for? In a year's time! I was having a look and there are no tickets free until July 2018. Incredible! So, if you're thinking about coming to London within the next year and you would like to see the ceremony, you should book your tickets right now.

Cost of tickets

The entrance isn't as cheap as you think, but what is cheap in London?

A standard adult ticket costs £25, and children under 15 cost around £12. There's no discount for the elderly or for students.

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-1964312

Would I recommend the London Pass?

I've mentioned it before in a previous post that there's something called the London Pass you can buy which includes various tourist attractions. And I also said that if you're going to visit everything London has to offer, it's a very good idea. For example, the Tower of London is free with the London Pass. In other words, you don't have to pay anything, and you save yourself £25 from what you've spent on the pass. Therefore, if you're going to visit the list of attractions on the London Pass, it's worth it. Also, you can use the pass in conjunction with public transport tickets to travel all over London.

Is there a lot of security to go through?

Since the first time I visited to the last time, security has changed but it's still not like the security at Buckingham Palace. When you go inside, they check your rucksacks manually. Food and drinks are allowed. The use of cameras too, but inside the white tower you must take off flash. The only place where you can't use your camera to film or take photos is in the Jewel House.

For more information on tickets, timetable, maps... here it's the official page: Tower of London

I've always had a great experience and I encourage all of you to come to this building with almost 1000 years of history but seems like new. It's very well conserved and clean, ideal to spend one of the days of your weekend visiting and of course it's a must to see if you come to England for more than 2 days.

In addition, I would say that if you can go up the walls and go around the whole fort, the view of the river Thames is unforgettable, on one side you can see Tower Bridge and on the other London Bridge just behind with "the Gherkin" and the "Shard".

tower-of-london-la-torre-londres-8fe68db

And to finish, what better way than to recommend this great ultimate guide which you can use to look round the most important monuments and places in London in only four days.


Photo gallery



Comments (0 comments)


Want to have your own Erasmus blog?

If you are experiencing living abroad, you're an avid traveller or want to promote the city where you live... create your own blog and share your adventures!


Don’t have an account? Sign up.

Wait a moment, please

Run hamsters! Run!