Many visitors to London made the mistake of forgoing Tower of London when they visit London. Most figured that at £16.50 per adult, it's too much to pay for 'just another castle'. That cannot be further from the truth.
Tower of London is not just any castle, its very foundation was laid by none other than William the Conqueror in 1078. After defeating the Anglo Saxon forces at Battle of Hastings in 1066, he built the Tower to be the bastion of his influence as the newly crowned English king. More importantly, the Tower dominated the entrance of River Thames and had served to intimidate approaching vessels.
Though the Tower of London was more famous for the its many political prisoners, few knew that there were only seven executions that took place within the Tower itself. In fact, it was considered a privilege for condemned prisoners to be executed within its walls and away from the booing and jeering of the maddening crowds. Out of the seven prisoners executed, two (Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard) were the wives of Henry VIII.
Of course, the Tower was not merely a prison; it was never meant to be anyway. Throughout it's history, it has serve as an armory, a zoo, a mint and a barrack. Currently, it's home to the Crown Jewels, which are on public display within the Tower itself. Among its permanent residents is a contingent of Yeomen Warders (also known as Beefeaters), who double up as tour guides as well as providing security. Every evening the Beefeaters will perform the Ceremony of Keys, a protocol to secure the Tower.
The entrance fee of £16.50 is well worth every penny. You can get a better deal by purchasing the London Pass, which will have other London sights thrown into the package as well. Not sure of where to stay during your visit? Head towards London Accommodation for some fantastic deals.
Tower of London, though isn't the grandest looking castle that you'll find, is soaked with history and visiting it is essential to understand the very foundation of the English Monarchy. Make sure you go for the free guided tour conducted by the Beefeaters and if possible, try visiting during noon time when the crowds break for lunch.
For more dark secrets of the Tower, read Tales from the Tower of London.
Trebuchet demonstration - Tower of London
Battle of Hastings - a re-enactment