Some people may find it cheesy, but I had to visit the Tower of London on my first visit to the city. Especially since I didn’t get to Westminster Abbey or the Wallace Collection, which are on the list for next time.
I arrived via the Tower Hill tube station, just across the street from the main entrance. There are also several bus stops nearby. Upon exiting the station, I saw part of the old city wall and the ruins of a medieval postern (small, sometimes hidden) gate, found during excavations for the subway. As I approached the entrance, a trebuchet sat in the wide grassy moat next to the inner wall. It didn’t look like it would be used like the one at Warwick Castle, though.
There is a lot to see and do. As usual, my time was limited, so I focused on the Medieval Palace and the crown jewels, but I think most things could be seen in half a day with good planning and low attendance.
The Medieval Palace sits nearest to the Thames and be warned, there are some crazily uneven and steep stairs like these. (Notice the rope that can be used as a handrail. Those stairs are so not to code.) The tower originates from the early 13th century, built by Henry III and his son Edward I.
There is absolutely no photography allowed inside. It also looks nothing like the version shown on Sherlock Holmes’ The Reichenbach Fall episode, in case you were wondering.
The room is dark, and there are moving walkways on both sides to keep the crowds moving along the display cases. Guests can view the jewels from one side and then the other.
I made a brief stop at the Scaffold Site where Anne Boleyn and many others were put to death. The memorial is a modern-looking blue glass circle with a clear glass pillow in the center, and it marks the general site of the executions. It seemed a bit strange to me, like it didn’t quite fit its surroundings. Maybe it was the pillow that reminded me more of Cinderella and her missing glass slipper.
I think crowds would be an issue during peak tourist season. I was there mid-morning on a weekday and still had to wait in line to see the crown jewels. If I had a do-over, I would add a visit to the White Tower to see the Royal Armouries and learn about the Royal Observatory. I would also add the prisoners’ exhibition in Beauchamp Tower (shout out to Claire Beauchamp!) as a contrast to what I saw at Edinburgh Castle. This is definitely a great stop for those who are interested in the early history of London. It’s not really cheesy at all!