Prior to visiting the Tower of London, my idea of what it must look like came from cheesy Historical Novels, namely those written Philippa Gregory. In Gregory's novels, nothing good ever happens at the Tower of London. I also heard of my aunt and uncle's visit, where my uncle refused to enter the buildings because of "ghosts". He was superstitious like that and I'm not. My poor aunt ended up touring by herself, while he sat outside. In conclusion, in my imagination, I pictured the tower to be a dark and foreboding place.
A little, but really not so much.
We arrived at the Tower of London in the late morning, after touring Saint Paul's Cathedral. As tourists with limited time, there are only so many attractions that we could visit first thing in the morning, effectively beating the rush. We should have done the Tower of London first. It's very popular and although they manage the crowds like pros, it's still a mad house.
Our first stop was the Royal Mint to look at some really old coins.
Next, we did the Wall Walk, which is a one way walk around the stone defensive perimeter with viewing the exhibits in each of its towers. We saw examples of Medieval living, wall carvings by prisoners and examples of period weaponry.
My favorite exhibit involved animals that used to live at the Tower. The tower was once home to all types of exotic animals, including a Polar Bear that would go for swims in the Thames. There was a gruesome story about a visitor, who was mauled to death when a lion decided that he didn't want her stroking his paw. Around the grounds of the tower, there are animal sculptures to show where the real animals used to live.
We got some great views of the Tower Bridge from the perimeter wall.
We ate Tower of London chocolate coins to keep us going as we headed to the White Tower to tour the Royal Armouries.
A very cool fact about the Royal Armouries, is that it holds the distinction of being the World's Longest Running Visitors Attraction. That's impressive.
Truthfully, I felt like I was at Medieval Times, the part before the show, where you can look at all of the replica medieval weaponry and costumes. I have no doubt that the creators of Medieval Times visited the Tower of London, so that they could recreate it for their dinner show. Could I tell the difference between fake and the real deal? Probably not.
We went into the Beauchamp Tower, where prisoners were held. It was fairly cheery.
The most popular attraction at the Tower of London are the Crown Jewels. We waited over an hour in a line that snaked around the front of the building. So tip, if you visit, do this first! The line was long and it was a rare, scorching hot day! It's a quick exhibit, as a some of the more popular pieces are viewed as you are standing on a moving walk way. It's just so busy and popular, that it's not a place that you are allowed to linger. The Crown Jewels are opulent and a sight to see, but seeing them once is enough. It was probably the least interesting exhibit in the tower.
As we walked out, I found a few of the animals.
This is my favorite shot, showing old and new London.
Visit early and be prepared to do a lot of walking and standing.