Without a doubt, the Tower of London is one of the most recognisable and iconic landmarks in London.
It’s also one of the most historic, with a long, bloody history that dates back almost a thousand years. Discover more about the history of this medieval fortress and an infamous former prison with the help of our handy FAQ guide.
If you’re visiting London, why not see it for yourself on one of our London tours? Travel around London with an expert guide, who will bring the history of the capital’s most famous sights and iconic landmarks to life.
The Tower of London is a historic, 900-year-old castle and UNESCO World Heritage site located in London, England.
Early foundations, believed to have been a wooden palisade made from timber, were laid in 1066. The White Tower, a keep located in the innermost ward, is the oldest part of the castle and dates back to the 1070s.
The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror to secure his position in London against the backdrop of fierce opposition from the conquered Saxons who inhabited the city. The keep acted as a powerful and intimidating projection of Norman military might, although to locals it was a resented symbol of oppression.
The first structures of what would later become The Tower of London were built by William the Conqueror following his conquest of England in 1066. Over the next 250 years, the fortress went through several phases of expansion under various English kings.
The Tower has been used and repurposed to fulfil many roles throughout its long history. A grand royal palace in its early history, it was later used as a fortress and prison, place of execution, an arsenal, royal mint, and menagerie (or zoo) and is currently home to the priceless Crown Jewels of England.
The Tower is home to 37 Yeoman Warders, a body of men and women drawn from the British military who each must have recorded at least 22 years of active service. Nicknamed ‘Beefeaters’, they have been guarding the Tower since Tudor times. It’s also home to the famous Tower Ravens, whose departure would, according to legend, herald the ‘fall of the kingdom’ if they ever flew away.
The Tower of London is owned by The Crown Estate, which belongs to Queen Elizabeth II in ‘the right of the Crown’ by virtue of being the reigning monarch. It is not the private property of the crown, and therefore cannot be sold.
Must-see highlights include the White Tower, the Jewel House – home of the priceless Crown Jewels – The Royal Mint, the ‘Bloody Tower’ and Tower Green; site of many of the executions that took place at the Tower. There’s also the chance to watch the ‘Ceremony of the Keys’ – the 700-year-old traditional ‘locking up’ of the Tower gates each evening.