One of my favourite London attractions for many years has been the Tower of London. My hubby and I visited many times before we had our son and we had visited the Tower of London with kids once before but when our son was quite young. When I knew we were going to be visiting the city I knew that we’d have to include the Tower on our London itinerary with kids again. We were kindly invited to visit the tower in exchange for this review by the Historic Royal Palaces. In this post you can read my review and find out why the Tower of London is one of the best things to do in London with kids.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Visiting the Tower of London with Kids
- 2 Our visit to the Tower of London with Kids – Review
- 3 Tips and Tricks for visiting the Tower of London with Kids
- 4 Facts about the Tower of London
- 5 FAQ’s about the Tower of London
- 6 In Summary
Visiting the Tower of London with Kids
When it comes to kids’ days out, London has a wealth of things to choose from. But as far as London attractions for kids go, for us, they must be educational and include a bit of learning in them. And we love nothing more than visiting a castle, as our long-time readers will know.
As mentioned, my husband and I have visited the Tower of London a few times before having our son, after we watched the drama series, The Tudors. The series really piqued our interest in the Tudors and also the history of the Tower of London, so we visited a few times, taking tours and enjoying the grounds. And as London museums for kids go, what better place to combine history and learning than with a day exploring the Tower of London.
What is the Tower of London?
If you are unfamiliar with it and are wondering what exactly is the Tower of London, let me explain. It is a historic castle located on the banks of the River Thames, beside Tower Bridge, in London.
The White Tower, one of the main buildings within the Tower of London complex, was built in 1078 after William the Conqueror was victorious at the Battle of Hastings decided he wanted to build a castle in London. Since then numerous buildings have been added to create the large castle grounds you see today.
What to see in the Tower of London?
The Tower of London has had numerous roles including an armoury, prison, treasury, menagerie and a public records office. It was also once home to the Royal Mint and has long been the home to the Crown Jewels.
Today, you can see evidence of its role as an armoury, hear about its role as a prison and see homages paid to its time as a menagerie.
There are many buildings to explore including the White Tower, the Queen’s House, St Thomas’ Tower, many of the other towers including the Well and Develin Towers, and more.
You can also visit the Crown Jewels in the Waterloo Block, see the Ravens around the White Tower and visit the Headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers with Regimental Museum. With so many nooks and crannies, it is one of the best things to do in London with children and is one of the places to visit in London with kids that can’t be missed.
Our visit to the Tower of London with Kids – Review
After we had collected our Tower of London tickets at the ticket office, we passed through security and the bag check and headed into the outer grounds of the complex. We had picked up a leaflet telling us about events at the Tower of London that day and some sounded quite fun.
As we were entering, I noticed that we were just 15 minutes away from the start of a Tower of London Beefeater tour, or Yeoman Warder tour, so I bribed the boy with a snack to wait for the start as I really wanted to catch one.
I had taken one of these tours before on previous visits, but we hadn’t done one with our son during our first visit to the Tower as he’d been too young at the time. However, I felt at 5 he could probably enjoy it, and if we got one out of the way early, it would leave us free to explore the Tower at our own pace afterwards.
We waited the few minutes before we were joined by Gary, a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London who was to be our tour guide that morning. The crowd that had gathered was quite large but manageable and Gary was engaging, hilarious and very quick-witted.
We started our Tower of London tour with him in the moat area where he explained what the Tower was, some of its initial history, before we moved into the Outer Ward where we heard of tales of imprisonment, treason and beheading.
Gary did give a warning at the start of his tour to parents with children about some of the tales he was going to share with us. Thankfully, for the most gruesome ones, we were standing in the crowd a bit further away from him for my son to notice or hear too much.
From the Outer Ward we moved to Traitor’s Gate where we heard about its role and some of the people who had passed through it. From there, Gary took us into the Inner Ward, in front of the memorial scaffold site to tell us about some of the Queens who had lost their lives at the Tower of London before sharing with us the requirements for becoming a Yeoman Warder.
The Yeoman Warder tour lasted about an hour, and while I thoroughly enjoyed Gary’s tales and humour, I must admit that the five-year-old was getting a tiny bit bored towards the end.
Once our tour was finished, I decided we should head into the Tower of London Crown Jewels building, the Waterloo Block. There was no queue outside as it was still early enough in the day and I thought the boy might enjoy seeing them. You cannot take any photographs or videos within this section of the Tower, for obvious reasons, so no pictures from me.
The Crown Jewels are a sight to see. Crowns, sceptres, chalices, bowls, and more are on display. Kids will enjoy marvelling at them, as will adults, and it’s one thing you mustn’t miss during your visit. During the Tower of London history talk we received from Gary, he urged us to make our way from his talk to the Crown Jewels and many of us heeded his advice. And I was glad we did as the queues were starting to get quite long after lunch time.
After visiting the Crown Jewels, we went into the workshop building where you’ll find the new Armouries Café. The boy had a cheese sandwich while I had a toasted ham and cheese, followed by a lemon muffin to share. The food was good, the boy ate well, and we were refuelled ready to catch one of the events taking place at the Tower of London that day.
As we came out of the café we caught the tail-end of one of the #TowerEscapes events. I really wanted to see it in full, so to while away some time before the next one, we visited the White Tower, the building we’d visited during our first time to the Tower as a family.
The White Tower is one of the original buildings from the 11th century and is one of the largest keeps in the Christian world, and also the most complete from 11th century Europe.
The White Tower is split across four floors and holds the tournament armour of King Henry VIII and the gilded armours of Charles I and James II. You can also view the Line of Kings from the times of Henry VIII, see armour from other regions of the world and also armoury such as swords and guns.
On the top floor is a magnificent dragon named Keeper who stands 15 feet tall. If you visit the Tower, look closely to see what he is made of. I won’t spoil it for you.
We had visited the White Tower during previous visits and it never fails to impress. There was a new addition though this time on the top floor. There was an interactive model of the castle which had buttons to press with lines leading to the area of the castle it related to. Guess how long it took to drag my son away from that. Then there was a cannon to shoot (virtually, of course) and other things to make the Tower of London for kids more interesting.
Once we’d finished there, we made our way back downstairs and to the grass of the innermost ward ready for the #TowerEscape event which was an event put on during the summer at the Tower of London for children, families and other visitors.
We were split into two groups of prisoners, religious prisoners (our group) and traitors. We followed our guide and met some other prisoners of the Tower before witnessing an escape of one prisoner which was brilliant. This event was only about 30 minutes long but moved quickly and was engaging enough for even my 5-year-old son.
After we had finished this, we explored some of the areas we’d raced through on our Yeoman Warder tour, like Traitor’s Gate and around the Bloody Tower. By this stage, we’d done most of what I had hoped we would, so we took some last pictures and then exited the Tower of London onto the quayside beside Tower Bridge. It had been one of the really fun things to do in London with kids and our son thoroughly enjoyed this visit.
Tips and Tricks for visiting the Tower of London with Kids
The Tower is one of the great kids’ activities London has to offer and should be on everyone’s London itinerary. To help you plan a great visit and enjoy your time there, here is some information and tips for visiting the Tower of London with kids.
Information for your visit to the Tower of London
The Tower of London opening times are as follows: on Sunday and Monday from 10am to 5.30pm. The Tower of London hours on Tuesday to Saturday are 9am to 5.30pm, with last admission at 5pm.
Tickets can be bought either online or on the day, and the Tower of London prices are as follows: £27.50 per adult, £13.10 per child (aged between 5 and 15 years of age) and £21.50 for concession (over 65’s, students or disabled visitors). Buying tickets online will save you 10%. Children under 5 enter free.
Buy Tower of London tickets HERE.
There is no parking directly at the Tower. There are some public car parks near the Tower of London, although they are limited as the Tower is within the congestion charge area of London.
The best way to reach the Tower is via the London Underground. The nearest tube station is Tower Hill itself. This is 5 minutes’ walk to the entrance and is served by both the District and Circle lines. Other nearby tubes stations serving the Tower of London include Tower Bridge, Monument, Bank, Aldgate and Aldgate East, Tower Gateway and Fenchurch Street. There are also bus services and the Thames Riverboat serving the Tower of London.
The Tower of London guided tour by the Yeoman Warders is included in your ticket. Beefeater Tower of London tour times are every 30 minutes from 10am (Tuesday to Saturday) and from 10.30 (Sunday and Monday). The final tours of the day start at 3.30pm in summer and 2.30 pm in winter.
Throughout the year various events take place at the Tower. For information about Tower of London events happening during your visit, please check the Tower of London website for details.
There are several toilets across the complex, some with baby changing facilities. These are marked on the Tower of London map, available at the ticket office or entrance to the Tower.
There is free WiFi access available at the Tower of London.
While every effort is made to accommodate those with disabilities, because of the nature of this historic site, only parts of the complex are wheelchair accessible and therefore also buggy/stroller accessible. There are dedicated facilities and tours available for visitor’s in wheelchairs. For more information about accessibility at the Tower of London, please check this part of the website.
There are two cafes on site, the Raven café in front of the White Tower and the new Armouries Café. There is also a Kiosk by the river (outside of the Tower) and the Sargeant’s Mess, also outside the Tower, which can be enjoyed either before or after your visit. For more information about food options at the Tower of London, check here.
Audio guided tours are also available, but come with an additional fee.
For full Tower of London information, please visit here.
Top tips for visiting the Tower of London with kids
Book your tickets online prior to your visit and print them out.
If you can, visit mid-week. Visitor numbers and queues are longer at weekends than during the week. We visited on a Thursday at the end of August and while it was busy by lunchtime, it wasn’t unbearably so.
Get there early in the day. We arrived just before 10am and caught the first Yeoman Warder tour which meant we had the rest of the day to explore at our own leisure.
The Yeoman Warder tours last approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, and involve some moving between locations, although none involve much climbing of stairs. My five-year-old was interested in most of the hour but did get a little bored if the talk in one area went on a bit long. I would say 5 years of age is the minimum age for joining a Beefeater tour unless you have snacks, drinks and entertainment for kids younger than this. Also, be advised that the Yeoman Warders are there to give you a guided tour while telling you about the history of the Tower of London, which can involve some gruesome tales. So, take this into account when joining one of these tours with younger children.
There are often family events taking place at the Tower throughout the year. Get details of them, and any relevant trails/maps from the Welcome Centre to keep your kids engaged and entertained. We caught a #TowerEscape event which was very enjoyable during our visit.
Before entering the White Tower, I would suggest visiting the toilets with little ones. There are no toilets in the White Tower, and it is a one-way system, meaning you need to go all the way to the top to get back down. Also be aware that there are over 200 steps involved in ascending your way to the top over four floors. So, bear this in mind with young kids and babies will need to be carried in arms or baby carriers.
While the grounds of the Tower of London are mainly on one level, the pathways and roads are cobbled, so are uneven in most parts for buggies/strollers and wheelchairs. My advice is to leave the stroller at home and bring a baby or toddler carrier.
If you plan to visit the Crown Jewels, my advice is do this straight after your Yeoman Warder tour. The queues get quite long later in the day. We visited at 11am and there was no queue but at 1pm after we exited the White Tower, the queue was snaking outside. Be aware also that there is no photography or filming allowed inside the building of the Crown Jewels.
You can take picnics into the Tower of London, but I did not see any dedicated picnic benches. There are some seating benches dotted around the Tower which you could use if they are free.
There is no Fast Track access to the Tower of London, and you will require a physical printout of your ticket to gain entry as there is no mobile device scanning option.
Facts about the Tower of London
In this section you’ll find some interesting Tower of London facts you should know before visiting this iconic landmark in London.
Fun facts about the Tower of London for kids
The Tower of London is a medieval castle in the city of London.
There are at least six ravens living in the Tower of London. If they leave, the Crown, and therefore Britain will fall, so don’t scare them away. More on them in the next section.
The coins of the English currency used to be made at the Tower of London and by hand. A worker would use a hammer to stamp the design onto a blank piece of metal before machines were invented.
Lions, bears, ostrich, kangaroos and even elephants were once kept at the Tower of London before they were moved to Regents Park in the 1830’s to what is now London Zoo.
Famous prisoners at the Tower of London included Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, Lady Jane Grey and the two princes, Edward and Richard.
The Crown Jewels include the Star of Africa, estimated to be worth £32m or $40m. The total estimated worth of the Crown Jewels is £25b or $32b.
The Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was added in 1988.
Every evening at approximately 9.53pm, the Ceremony of the Keys takes place with the Chief Yeoman Warder in which the Tower of London is locked. This has taken place every night, during peace and war times, for over 700 years.
FAQ’s about the Tower of London
The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Building of the Tower of London was started in 1078 and the White Tower was the first building to be built.
Yes, the Tower of London is a castle, with the White Tower, the Keep of the castle, being the first part of the castle built in the 11th century.
Queen Elizabeth II owns the Tower of London under the Crown. It is managed by the Historic Royal Palaces, who also look after Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, Hillsborough Castle and Banqueting House.
The Tower of London, first and foremost, was a castle, used by many monarchs including Henry III who often held court there. It has also served as a prison, the Royal Mint, a menagerie, armoury, the Royal Observatory and home to the Crown Jewels. Many prisoners were also held there prior to their executions on Tower Hill, although a few executions took place within the grounds of the Tower of London including most famously Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII.
The Beefeaters, or Yeoman Warders, are the keepers of the Tower of London. They are the ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London and are tasked with safeguarding the Crown Jewels and looking after any prisoners in the Tower, although this last duty is no longer in effect.
All Yeoman Warders are retired members of the Armed Forces including the Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Marines. They must have 22 years of service, have reached the rank of a Sergeant Major (or equivalent) and also have the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
The Yeoman Warders and their families can be found living in the Tower of London and they also take part in the Ceremony of the Keys every night, a ceremony which is popular and booked many months in advance. Their uniform is a traditional Tudor uniform and is not a costume as our tour guide Gary pointed out.
No-one knows exactly why they got their nickname of Beefeaters, but it is thought that in centuries past, the Yeoman Warders were paid in rations of beef, hence their nicknames.
Do not get the ravens mixed up with crows at the Tower of London. There are at least six ravens kept at the Tower of London under the belief that their presence protects the Crown and the Tower. Superstition says that if the Tower of London ravens are lost of fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it. The ravens are under the care of a special Yeoman Warder known as the Ravenmaster.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Tower of London. We caught a Yeoman warder guided tour with one who was very engaging and funny. We also caught one of the special events taking place and my son loved it. Although there were one or two areas we did not visit, we covered a lot of the site, including the Crown Jewels and didn’t feel like we’d missed out.
If you are wondering what to do in London with kids, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Tower. The Tower of London for kids, particularly those who love history, is a must-see place. Even if your kids aren’t history buffs, there are so many buildings, towers and nooks and crannies to explore, that the Tower of London is one of the best things to do in London with kids.
With Yeoman Warder tours to join, the Crown Jewels to marvel at, Towers to climb and even a dragon to meet at the top of one, a visit to London with kids would not be completed without visiting the Tower of London.
Have you been to the Tower of London yet?
*We were kindly gifted our entry to the Tower of London by the Historic Royal Palaces. However, all words and opinions are my own.
If you are visiting London with kids, why not check some other great London attractions such as Shrek’s Adventure (read my review here), the London Eye (read my post here) or HMS Belfast (read about our visit here). And if you are visiting London with a toddler, check out this awesome post to give you ideas on what you can do with younger kids in London.