Visitors to this turreted riverside castle enter a thousand years of history filled with cultural significance (but go early to avoid lines to see the crown jewels). Tudor fans can view the spot where Anne Boleyn was beheaded and the kinds of instruments used to torture Guy Fawkes after the failed plot to blow up Parliament. Statues of the exotic animals that once lived here in a menagerie—from elephants to polar bears—help visitors imagine the pomposity and surrealism that the Tower must once have represented.
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Old and new in London
The Tower of London, built in 1078 by William the Conqueror, sits oddly next to the new buildings made of steel and glass. London is in a continuous state of building. There are cranes and construction sites all around the Tower of London and yet they manage to preserve the old in a beautiful way, surrounded by the modern world.
History comes alive at the Royal Palace and Fortress on Tower Hill. Seeing the armory and the dungeons once used to imprison queens, kings, princes, and the crown jewels elicits some extra-sensory experiences, conjuring voices in the walls as if shrieking from nights of torture. Yet, there is silent comfort from the stronghold abating the crusaders at our surreal precipice. The thoughts of the traitors gate nearby whispers like a voice from within the iron maiden, beckoning us to cross its threshold into hell. Scary yet beautiful place.
This picture sums up what I believe London does so effortlessly -- combining history and modernity within its culture. In the front, the Tower of London, which was built in the 1080s, frames the Gherkin building, a construction that was completed in 2003. Both speak to British culture and its evolution over the years, not to mention they are both wonderful sights to behold.
Gliding around the rink in the moat of the Tower, skating is one of London's favorite pastime during the winter months.
By AFAR Traveler
A Trip to the Tower
I almost didn't include the Tower of London in my list, because surely it goes without saying that this historical sight is a must-see. No visit to London is complete without visiting the iconic site that's served as castle, treasury, royal prison, and execution ground over the centuries. Buy advanced tickets online and avoid the huge lines; you can use your tickets within 7 days of the printed date, which is helpful in case travel plans go awry. Usually I'm not one for guided tours, but do take the hour-long tour narrated by a Beefeater — they're funny and informative. If it starts raining, duck inside to see the Crown Jewels until the skies clear. And if you're sending postcards back home, buy your stamps here: they'll be special Tower stamps showing scenic views, ravens, and royal crowns!
I ended up at the Tower of London by chance as I was walking along the River Thames in London. It is incredible to see this old castle in person that used to have a moat surrounding it back in the day.
As you stand in front of the castle you can imagine what it must have been like when it served as a royal palace. They even offer tours inside for an insider look.
We spent our second day in London touring the city on a double-decker bus. At the Tower of London, we took a few hours to have fish and chips and explore the tower. We saw exhibits about the famous prisoners of the tower, displays of the way the White Tower used to look, and examples of period battle armor and weapons. We also got to see the crown jewels!
Tower of London Remembers: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
To commemorate the centennial of the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the first World War the art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red has transformed the famous moat surrounding the Tower of London into a sea of bright red poppies, the flower that famously evokes the sacrifices made in war.
Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummings and set designer Tom Piper, this is an engaging and evolving art installation that is deeply significant. To date 888,246 poppies have been "planted."
The installation commences on Veterans Day, November 11th. If you do not have an opportunity to visit you can learn more at: http://poppies.hrp.org.uk.
The Tower of London is a history lover’s paradise. The premises are steeped in history and tell tales of strategic battles and brave conquerors. It is a distinctive historic landmark that enhances the beauty of central London manifold.