After several years of scaffolding, scrubbing and polishing the Norman architecture of the White Tower is again visible since begin 2011 like it must have looked around 1100 after the death of William the Conqueror the Duke of Normandy who had it built.
It is certainly the most imposing building (36m x 32.5m across and 27.5m tall) of the Tower complex. It is also inside that there is most to see. As the White Tower is close to the Crown Jewels (where you should start your visit early to avoid the lines) continue with the interesting and spectacular Royal Armouries' collection.
"Fit for a King" (open since April 2010) shows five hundred years of spectacular royal armour. The skill of the royal armourers was to combine practical protection for tournaments and battle with breathtaking designs and decoration.
My photo 2 shows the gilt armour of Charles I, the only English monarch ever to be executed. He was beheaded on a scaffold erected just outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall in 1649.
There are also a number of weapons and guns on display; they belong to the Royal Armouries whose main museum is located in Leeds. Photo 3 shows a heavy mortar of caliber 18 1/2 inches used at the siege of Namur (Belgium) in 1695.
I also liked the decoration of a 24 pounder bronze gun (photo 4 & 5) made in Mechelen (Belgium) 1643 and captured from the Spaniards.
Part medieval fortress and part museum, the Tower of London enables visitor to glimpse over 900 years of London’s history. Famous for being a prison, its lesser-known roles include having been a former royal mint, a military garrison, and London’s first zoo (In the Middle Ages monarchs liked sending each other exotic animals.) The execution site may be gore-free (There is only a small plaque listing seven names – most people were executed on nearby Tower Hill.), but to add back the gory details, simply join a Beefeater tour (included in the admission price) and have the place brought to life with an hour of gruesome but supposedly accurate historical tales. Then catch a glimpse than you will ever dream of owning by visiting the Crown Jewels – the queue is inevitable, but they’re worth the wait.
In the old days, this building should impress by its size and strength. Nowadays, surrounded by the high monsters of modernity, it is only an historic curiosity.
It surely deserves a visit, and inside, you will feel back that sensation of power and domination.
The only thing that may become boring is the long visit to the huge collection of weapons, most of them so similar that you feel like being in a armory instead of a museum. Maybe that's the idea...
First thing when visiting the Tower is to hurry up to the Waterloo block where the Crown Jewels are on exhibit. Do it before 09.30 am. to avoid the lines. Visitors are whizzed past the Crowns on a moving walkway.
If you are early you can go back and look again if they are real or fakes because that is an often asked question.
As I believe what the authorities, especially Royals, say and as the jewels are surrounded with Beefeaters, an armed guard at the entrance (photo 1) and also some canons (photo 2) in front of the building they must be real?!
Furthermore the motto on the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom being "Honi soit qui mal y pense" (= shamed be he who thinks evil of it) I can't imagine Elisabeth II making me pay 20.90 £ to see fake diamonds?!
But another thing is sure; replicas of the British Crown Jewels exist because they were shown on an exhibition in Hannover in 1997.
Photos being not allowed inside I took pics of the guard at the entrance. Actually this guard is from the same battalion as the guard at Buckingham Palace.
In August 2011 Guards battalions alternated with the 2nd Battalion of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (PWRR) an infantry regiment for the south east of England, known as "The Tigers" (photo 3).
This month December 2012 various Guards battalions will alternate with the PWRR.
It must be terribly boring to stay in front of the Crown Jewels not even smiling to the pretty girls passing by, just from time to time moving riffle from one hand to another and doing a few steps.
If you want to see more militaria, on the right of the Crown Jewels building has opened the Fusiliers' Museum (photo 4).
On the contrary of what some might think the Tower of London is only the 6th most popular attraction in London with 2.5 million visitors (2011). British Museum (6 million visitors) and other free entry museums are well before the Tower in number of visitors. I think that the adult ticket at 20,90 £, children 6 - 16 yr at 10,45 £, students & + 60yr at 17,60 £ are a reason for this even if the Tower has quite developed its spectacle part (since my previous visit 50 years ago!).
There are actually 3 usual ways of buying your ticket and avoiding lines:
- Go to one of the 4 ticket counters at the opening (Tuesday - Saturday 09.00 h; Sunday & Monday 10.00 h). You can see from my photo 1 that the lines are rather short on a Saturday in August.
- Buy your ticket the day before after 16 h, no line.
- Book your ticket online (small price reduction). You can choose to collect your tickets on the day of your visit or have them posted to you. However, if you are booking less than 7 working days (UK) or 10 working days (non-UK) in advance, you will need to collect your tickets on the day. Information on where to collect your tickets will be provided in your booking confirmation email. Be well aware that you cannot print your tickets at your home as you are often doing for plane or train tickets.
At the entry of the Tower there is some lining up even at 9.00 h because of the security check of your bag (photo 2).
Like already mentioned here there is lining up at the Crown Jewels. Start your visit with this part. Till about 09.30 h you can enter directly the building (photo 4). Later you have to pass by crowd barriers who canalize the flow of visitors (photo 3).
For the other parts there is here and there some short lining to pass narrow doors.
Take also into account there are many stairs.
You can see about everything in 4 hours time.
Should you not wish to spend so much money for the entrance fee you can walk around the grounds outside the gate. Visit the display in the ticket office, the souvenir shop and wander down to Tower Pier, then see the two canons on the grass facing the river. Look at the Dead Man's Hole by the Tower Bridge, and Observe the Tower from the tube station.
Near the Tower of London complex, just by the ticket office there are a row of souvenir shops and snack bars in a covered arcade, just above the vault, offering the usual tourist junk and tasty meals at inflated prices for the visitors
Commonly known as the Tower of London construction began with the White Tower which was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, which was used as a prison although its main purpose was supposed to be a palace for its royal Residents. The Tower is actually several buildings protected by a wall and a moat and was expanded several times by various kings such as Richard the Lionheart, Edward I and Henry III in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Tower has been used for several purposes throughout the centuries including a menagerie, treasury, armoury, public records office, the Royal Mint and the home of the Crown Jewels. the 16th and 17th centuries were the years that it was mainly used as a prison housing such people as Elizabeth I,
Now the Tower is a major tourist attraction and is a World Heritage Site and is open daily from 9 or 10 am to 4.30 pm with tickets running at about £20 per adult but you can buy a family ticket for £55 which will get 2 adults and 6 children through the gate.
Not surprisingly the Tower is famous for ghost stories
A statue of Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus Augustus, or Trajan the Roman Emperor from 53-117 A.D. stands just outside the entrance of Tower Hill Tube Station. Trajan was responsible for the Roman Empire extending its boundaries to the maximum extent during his era and was responsible for public building programs and a social welfare system while he was in power. He was born in Andalusia and he died of edema.
As iconic as the Tower Bridge may be in a visual sense, the Tower of London has an even more powerful hold on the imagination when thinking about the city. The Tower is officially known as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, was built as part of the Norman Conquest of the British Isles (1066) and was used as both a fort (i.e. a protective centre for the regents) and a royal residence. As a fort, it always had a prison, but it was not used intensively as a place of incarceration until after the Tudors, when the Royal Family made the move to other palaces around London as their places of residence. At that point, the Tower of London housed more and more prisoners, as well as the crown jewels. After the Second World War it was turned into tourist attraction under state tutelage. The main component of the Tower is the White Tower, which was built as a keep that would be suitable as the residence of the sovereign. It was thus a complete castle, containing all aspects of safekeeping, residence and defense that would be required in mediaeval Europe. It was here, too, that the crown jewels were stored, as it was one of the best fortified places in all of Europe. Outside of the White Tower – so-called because of the white Kentish stone from which was constructed – is the innermost ward, which was the initial extent of the castle when it was first built. This was gradually taken up with the houses of the royal family as they grew, and thus the inner ward was built to allow for expansion (doubling, even) of the castle’s size. The enlargement was completed in Richard the Lionheart’s time, and it was sufficient until Edward the First’s time, when the Tower took on its current shape. It is slightly ironic that the Tower of London is now one of the city’s best known tourist attractions, as it was built by the Norman overlords in order to control their Saxon subjects. It is yet another example of how a symbol of oppression can be appropriated and integrated into the life of the city.
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