The Tower of London ★★★

The Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo by Duncan)
The Tower of London, where London began and the Crown Jewels are kept
The Tower of London, where London began and the Crown Jewels are kept, Tower of London, London (Photo by Duncan)
A map of the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo by Thoroe)
Odin and Thor, two of the famed ravens at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo by Colin)
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I, in 2014 the Tower of London spilled over with 800,000 ceramic poppies, one for each British solider killed, Tower of London, London (Photo by Daniel Gillaspia)
The Chapel of St. John in the Tower of London, where knights would pray all night before receiving their knighthoods, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
The Waterloo Block, former barracks that now house the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
The Imperial State Crown worn by George V in 1910, part of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo by Aaron Fellmeth)
The White Tower, the central keep of The Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo by Stephan Brunker)
Displays of firearms in the White Tower at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
A giant's armor and child's armor in the White Tower at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
A beheading block in the White Tower at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
Displays of firearms in the White Tower at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
King Henry V's armor in the White Tower at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
A detail on King Henry V's armor in the White Tower at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
The Line of Kings in the White Tower at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
Gunpowder kegs (presumably now empty) in the White Tower at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
A privy inside the White Tower at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
A Yeoman Warder leads a tour of the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
A Yeoman Warder leads a tour of the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)
The severely decorative Maltese Gun cannon at Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo by Jonathan Cardy)
The Traitor's Gate, the Tower of London's access to the Thames River, Tower of London, London (Photo by Fastily)
Tower Green, on the Tower of London's Inner Ward, with the half-timbered Queen's House in the corner and, to the right, the edge of the house where Lady Jane Grey's spent her last hours, Tower of London, London (Photo by DIrk Ingo Franke)
The Bloody Tower at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo by Richard Nevell)
Graffiti carved by Giovanni Battista Castiglione, Italian tutor to Elizabeth I, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1556. The text reads: "Do not rest your hopes on these vain things that all men desire, but follow the sure road that leads to the highest good.", Tower of London, London (Photo by Accedie)
A Royal Guard at the Tower of London, Tower of London, London (Photo by Steve Evans)

The ancient Thameside castle at the heart of London, where London began, ravens roam, and Yoeman Warders guard the Crown Jewels

You'd best come early to beat the long lines at London’s best medieval attraction, a site of intrigue, murder, and executions galore.

The hour-long tours guided by Yoeman Warder guards (nicknamed "Beefeaters") are highly entertaining and informative—and are included in the admission.

You want to explore more on your own, too, so count on at least another full hour to investigate the Crown Jewels, the Armory, and such.

The Beefeaters take you past the Bloody Tower where Sir Walter Raleigh awaited execution for 13 years and where King Edward IV’s two young sons were murdered.

You walk through the 900-year-old White Tower, still housing an armory of swords and plate mail, as well as a gruesome collection of torture instruments, and into Tower Green, where Thomas Moore, Lady Jane Grey, and two of Henry VIII’s wives (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) were beheaded.

All those gory stories should be enough trade-off for the kids when you have to wait in a long line to be whisked past the Crown Jewels on a moving sidewalk.

As you cruise past the jewels, be sure to drool over the world’s largest cut diamond, the 530-carat Star of Africa (set in the Sovereign’s Sceptre), and to stare aghast at Queen Victoria’s Imperial State Crown (still worn on occasion), studded with more than 3,000 jewels.

Also say hello to the resident ravens on their plot of grass by the White Tower. This is a rather pampered flock of birds, since legend holds that the Tower will stand as long as they remain.

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Tips

How long should I spend at the Tower of London?

Budget at least 2 hours for the Tower, prerferably three. The included tour eats up an hour, and the Crown Jewels and White Tower at least another 30 minutes each.

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