London’s great riverside fortress is usually remembered as a place of imprisonment, but it also has a more glorious past. Originally a moated fort, the White Tower was built for William I (the Conqueror) and begun around 1078. Enlarged by later monarchs – including Henry VIII, who famously sent two of his wives to their deaths on Tower Green – it became home to the city arsenal, the Crown Jewels, a menagerie and the Royal Mint.

  • Tower Hill EC3

  • 0844 482 7799

  • Open 9am–5pm Tue–Sat, 10am–5pm Sun & Mon

  • Admission: adults £16.50; children 5–15 £9.50 (under 5s free); family tickets (5 people) £46; concessions £13.50

Tower History

William I’s White Tower, built by Gundolph, Bishop of Rochester, was intended to defend London against attacks – and to be a visible sign to the native Anglo-Saxon population of the conquering Normans’ power. Henry III (r.1216–72) built the inner wall with its 13 towers and brought the Crown Jewels here. The city arsenal was kept here, and under Henry VIII (r.1509–47) the Royal Armouries were improved. James I (r.1603–25) was the last monarch to stay in residence. All coinage in Great Britain was minted in the Outer Ward of the Tower until 1810 when the Royal Mint was established nearby, on Tower Hill.

Plan of the Tower

Enjoy a meal at the Tower’s café or restaurant.

Allow at least two hours for your visit.

Top 10 Features
  1. The White Tower

    The heart of the fortress is a sturdy keep, 30 m (90 ft) tall with walls 5 m (15 ft) thick. It was constructed under William I, and completed in 1097. In 1240 it was whitewashed inside and out, hence its name.

  2. Imperial State Crown

    This is the most dazzling of a dozen crowns in the Jewel House. It has 2,800 diamonds, and the sapphire at its top is from the reign of Edward the Confessor (r.1042–66). The crown was made for the coronation of George VI in 1937.

  3. Yeoman Warders

    Some 35 Yeoman Warders now include a female Warder. Former non-commissioned military officers with Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, they wear uniforms dating from Tudor times.

  4. The Bloody Tower

    The displays here explore the dark history of the Bloody Tower where murderous deeds, including the killing of the Little Princes, took place.

  5. Chapel of St John the Evangelist

    The finest Norman place of worship in London, which remains much as it was when it was built, is on the upper floor of the White Tower. In 1399, in preparation for Henry IV’s coronation procession, 40 noble knights held vigil here. They then took a purifying bath in an adjoining room and Henry made them the first Knights of the Order of the Bath.

  6. Ravens

    When ravens leave the Tower, the saying goes, the building and the monarchy will fall. There are at least six ravens in residence, looked after by the Ravenmaster.

  7. The Royal Armouries

    This national collection of arms and armour, shared with the Royal Armouries’ other museums in Leeds and Portsmouth, was greatly expanded under Henry VIII.

  8. Tower Green

    The place of execution for nobility, including Lady Jane Grey (1554) and two of Henry VIII’s wives - Katherine Howard (1542) and Anne Boleyn (1536).

  9. Traitors’ Gate

    The oak and iron watergate in the outer wall was used to bring many prisoners to the Tower, and became known as Traitors’ Gate.

  10. Beauchamp Tower

    The new displays in this tower explore the different experiences of real prisoners of the Tower, including Lady Jane Grey and the Kray twins. The tower takes its name from Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who was imprisoned here between 1397–99 by Richard II.

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