Things to do | Art, culture & heritage | Tower of London

Tower of London

London's formidable fortress

Spanning over 900 years of British history, the Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror to protect London and assert his power.

Fortress, palace, prison, arsenal and garrison, it is one of the most famous fortified buidings in the world. In houses the Crown Jewels, armouries, Yeoman Warders and ravens.

The Tower of London has a colourful history dating back to the 11th century. Romans once occupied it, it's the site of Europe's first fortress, it has been a royal palace, a prison, an execution site, an arsenal, a mint, a keep for wild animals and jewel house - and you can see artefacts from every part of this remarkable history.
During a visit to the Tower you can see Britain's most precious treasure - The Crown Jewels, stand on the execution site of 3 English queens and explore the legends of this world-famous landmark.
Look out for the famous black ravens in the grounds of the Tower. These magnificent birds have been kept here since the 1600s, and legend has it the Tower will fall, along with the Kingdom, if the ravens ever leave the site. You'll also see the Beefeaters (or Yeoman Warders) who have been guarding the tower for over 600 years.
A visit to the Tower of London offers a millennium of British history in one day. This exceptional heritage site is a great day out and holds daily exhibitions and events throughout the year.

The Ceremony of the Keys

The Ceremony of the Keys is the traditional locking-up of the Tower of London. It's happened every night without fail for at least 700 years. Don't miss your chance to watch this fascinating tradition on your trip to Britain.

Every night, at exactly 21:53, the Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower emerges from the Byward Tower wearing his long red coat and Tudor bonnet and carrying a candle lantern and the Queen's Keys.
The Chief Yeoman Warder then meets his military escort (members of the Tower of London Guard), and together they lock the main gates of the Tower. As they pass, all of the Tower's guards salute the Keys. The Chief Yeoman Warder and his escort then retrace their steps, and lock the great oak gates of the Middle and Byward Towers on the way.
The only time the ceremony has been interrupted in the last 700 years was during the Second World War. During an air raid, bombs fell onto the old Victorian guardroom as the Chief Yeoman Warder and his escort were coming through the Bloody Archway. The shock and the noise of the bombs sent the group flying to the floor, but they stood up, dusted themselves down, and carried on.
Tickets to the Ceremony of the Keys are free, but due the popularity of the ceremony, you must apply in writing at least 2 months in advance. For details on how to apply for tickets, visit the Tower of London - Ceremony of the Keys.