Tower of London
The Tower is tour de force - crown jewels, gory deaths, a tour by the Yeoman Warders. In English history, the Tower of London was "home away from home." But the Tower of London wasn't just a prison - it was also a medieval palace, fortress, royal mint, armor and weapons storehouse, treasury of the crown jewels. Tons for kids to see, be sure to allow plenty of time to explore this London landmark.
The Tower of London
At the Welcome Centre, pick up family trails, e.g. Medieval Palace. Family audio tours are also available.
White Tower - The White Tower, which dates back to the reign of William the Conquerer, was used to store armor and weapons. The Royal Armouries is floors full of classic armor
(including fancy armor of Henry VIII) and weaponry. In the hands-on exhibits on the upper floor, kids can draw a bow, look through slits in a knight's helmet, select your weapon in 1066, pick up a musket (feel how heavy it is).
- These are the real thing, crowns, orbs and scepters set with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and pearls, the Koh-i-Noor diamond, and are used for coronations of the British monarchy. St. Edward's crown is the oldest crown in the collection. Buy your own crown jewels (and key chains) at the Jewel House gift shop.
Medieval Palace and Wall Walk
- Medieval kings such as Henry III and Edward I lived at the palace (though not for very long periods of time). Edward I's bedchamber is accurately re-created, with lots of comforts such as a really large fireplace (also note the three golden lions, royal arms of England). In the next room is a replica of Henry III's throne (more lions).
Continue walking along the crenelated wall walk, decorated with sculptures of soldiers holding pikes and crossbows. Kids can imagine defending the castle against enemy attackers.
- Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth I, lost her head on the Tower Green, as well as other royal or noble prisoners. A sign marks where a special wooden scaffold was put up for the executions.
- Find out about the story of the two princes that checked into the Tower, but didn't check out. Were they done in by their uncle Richard III, or on the orders of Henry VII? The Bloody Tower was the comfy digs of Sir Walter Raleigh, who was detained for years in the Tower.
Torture at the Tower
- Prisoners were rarely tortured at the Tower of London, but older kids can see examples of "the rack," manacles, and "Scavenger's Daughter" (body crushed in a clamp) at the Lower Wakefield Tower.
Bird watchers, keep an eye out for the Tower Ravens
(next to the Wakefield Tower). The ravens, each tagged with a different colored leg band, guard the tower. For centuries, the ravens have inhabited the Tower, and according to legend, if the ravens depart, Britain will collapse. Please don't feed the birds.
- Check out the schedule of live events, daily and on weekends, such as siege engine demonstrations, artisans making medieval coins, historical re-enactments, changing of the ceremonial sentries.
Winter ice skating rink - November to January, go ice skating in the moat in front of the Tower of London! Warm up in the cafe with hot drinks and snacks.
London Wall - When you step out of the Tower Hill subway, the first thing kids will see is a section of wall, originally built by the Romans around 200 AD. The Roman wall would have been 35 ft high, then built up higher in the medieval period. The Roman wall is identifiable with the layers of red tilework.
In front of the wall is a bronze statue of the Emperor Trajan.
Tower Bridge - Close by to the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge, a distinctive London landmark. Climb up the North tower for a great view of the Thames and city. Then run along the glass walkways to the South tower and the Tower Bridge Museum which has original bridge machinery.