The Tower of London was built towards the end of the 11th century as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire complex its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. The Tower quickly became a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The Tower served as a royal residence for many years as well as a prison from 1100 until 1952.
Today the Tower Of London remains largely intact. The Tower stands ready to tell its tales of a thousand years of history to the large crowds of visitors it receives each day. The Tower of London is a large complex surrounded by thick walls constituting the perimeter of the site. The White Tower stands in the middle surrounded by other various buildings (including a chapel housing the bodies of many of the executed who met their fate on the nearby hill). As with such an old site, there may be a chance of restoration work occurring closing off a section of the complex.
Entrance to the Tower of London is through the main gates by the ticket office. Here one is offered the opportunity to take a guided tour led by a member of the royal guard (one of the famous Beef Eaters in authentic 16th century attire). The tour takes one through the main entrance area past the infamous Traitors Gate where many an important prisoner said his or her last farewell to freedom. The tour covers the grounds of the Tower and several buildings and ends in the chapel. At a number of stops on the tour one is regaled with tales and anecdotes of the Tower’s storied history. From the chapel, one has a clear view of the White Tower..
The White Tower is the oldest part of the Tower complex. Its architecture dates from the Norman Conquest and retains the tell-tale arched walls. The White Tower acts as a museum of sorts housing various exhibits of arms and armor, the history of the Tower and a rotating exhibit on the top floor. All in all, the White Tower will be where one spends most of the visit as a typical walkthrough lasts about 1 to 2 hours.
The second main attraction is the Crown Jewels which are housed in one of the other towers in the complex. Due to its important status, the line to view the jewels can be quiet long and one is pressured to hurry through the exhibit to allow other visitors to take their turns. The exhibit takes up several rooms and displays centuries of jewels used by the royal family in their ceremonies and attire. The tour ends in a gallery holding the crown and jewels of the current reigning monarch along with other highly important regal symbols. A word of note as the items are considered on loan, some items may be missing as they may be in use by the royal family.
Other fascinating points of interest include the flock of ravens which live in the small park within the complex. The flock is intertwined with the history of the Tower as legend holds that the disappearance of the flock would mean the end of the monarchy. One can also view rooms where important prisoners were kept such as those of Lady Jane Grey, a would be queen who reigned for a very short period before Queen Mary, more infamously known as Bloody Mary.
The rest of the complex houses smaller exhibits on various topics like medieval torture, an exhibit on the royal menagerie or the history of the tower and can easily take up the rest of the day. As such, the Tower can be considered an all day visit so its best done on a dedicated day in order to truly experience the thousand years of history the Tower holds. Website: http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon