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The last time I was in London I was 15 and the Tower of London was my favorite. This trip we only had 2 days of sightseeing, but I knew the tower of London needed to be at the top of my list.
So here is how we went about visiting the Tower of London with kids and what we found out about living at the Tower of London with kids! Be sure to check out my post on how to Teach Kids About London Before Visiting. Giving some context to young kids can really increase their enthusiasm for a visit!
I purchased tickets online less than a week in advance. When you go to purchase tickets you are required to select a date (but not a time) and the website says the tickets will be valid for 7 days past that date. When you receive the printable ticket it will only display the selected date and won’t say anything about a 7 day grace period. Don’t worry, that data is stored in the barcode.
Our plan was to be in line at 10 am Sunday right as the Tower was opening. The line already contained 100+ people and there were more people in line to purchase tickets. The entrance line went quickly, but I definitely recommend purchasing tickets in advance to avoid additional queues.
As you enter or stand in line, you’ll pass metal mesh statues of lions in a pit. These animal statues, part of the Royal Beasts exhibit, are scattered throughout the fortress and pay tribute to the many exotic animals held at the Tower for over 600 years.
Immediately inside the gate, there are opportunities to purchase adult or child guidebooks for £5 each. A short walk further there are opportunities to rent audioguides. When you book tickets online you have the option of including these, but if you choose not to at the time of booking, there are still opportunities to grab them at the last minute.
The Tower of London is not particularly tall, compared to the modern London skyline, but it is still a formidable fortress. We chose to go straight to the Crown Jewels before the crowds arrived. The children were excited to see the Beefeaters standing guard outside the Jewel House and K loved to watch them march back and forth.
The Jewel House included several rooms of history and background before the rooms of scepters, coronation spoons, and crowns. The crowns themselves are displayed next to a moving sidewalk, to ensure no one lingers too long and the line can keep moving. HJ loved the crowns and had a hard time picking a favorite, but purple crowns with multi-colored jewels seemed to be her favorite.
Although most of the jewels are on display at any given time, there were some signs indicating that certain objects were in-use. A reminder that the modern monarchy, while stripped of most power, still commands a lot of wealth in Britain.
Upon exiting the Jewel House, we found some more statues from the Royal Beasts collection: Monkeys! Of all the animal displays, I found these the creepiest and most “Wizard of Oz”.
Next up, we explored the White Tower. This is the actual “tower” in the “Tower of London” but it still looks more like a castle than a tower. The White Tower includes a life-sized collection of horses and armor of past English Kings, including a *ahem* rather endowed armor of King Henry VIII. I even found some armor for very small children. It appeared to have been made for appearances rather than actual battle because the smallest was only up to my knee.
There were even children born and raised here. High born prisoners like Sir Walter Raleigh were allowed to have family and servants with them!
St. John’s Chapel was a particularly beautiful room filled with arches. While we were there, certain areas were roped off to be used as part of a movie set!
Next, we headed to check out the torture chambers. I choose to walk through quickly with the kids and not offer any explanations. At their age (4 and 2) they didn’t notice or ask about anything so I was able to avoid those conversations.
Before we entered the torture chambers, we ran into one of the guided tour groups and stopped for a quick listen. The Beefeater guide was very animated and filled with interesting trivia about the Tower. He was talking about the Tower ravens and how the old legend insists that if they ever leave the Tower will fall. To bar against that possible calamity, Charles II decreed that 6 ravens should be kept at all times.
The last thing we did was climb the Tower Walls and walk along the perimeter. This involved a lot of stairs and families with strollers had to leave them outside. We alternated walking along the wall or walking through small tower rooms with lots of stairs. If it had been raining this could have been quite unpleasant and tricky with kids.
From the Tower Walls, we were able to watch one of the historical reenactments taking place in the yard. You could hear the actors from the Wall so it was an almost perfect place to watch the show. The only problem was one of the actors kept getting blocked by a tree which drove my daughter crazy.
The last thing I found particularly interesting along the wall was the apartments of the Yeoman Warders. Approximately 150 people still live in the Tower of London, including the Beefeater and their families. I imagine there are some drawbacks of living inside a guarded fortress, but it also has to be really cool!
Overall I’d call this a very successful visit. The weather was good and only a bit foggy, the crowds were manageable (Sunday at opening), and we kept a good pace to keep the kids engaged. I definitely recommend purchasing tickets in advance and bringing the baby carrier.
If you do happen to visit in the rain, I recommend bringing a poncho with front buttons that you can put around the baby carrier or separate ones for the kids. The Tower Walls have a lot of stairs to navigate and you’ll want to keep your hands free and visibility clear if you’re navigating with children.
Oh, and when you’re all done? There’s a small playground right across the street at the Tower Hill Garden. Give those kids a few minutes to play!