The Tower of London has seen a lot over its one thousand year history. A Queen lost her head on its grounds, princes have been imprisoned in the infamous white tower and exotic animals have roamed its grounds. The fortress is also home to the priceless Crown Jewels. Positioned on the north bank of the River Thames, it’s one of London’s most majestic buildings and has fascinated me since my first visit as a child.
There’s no doubt the castle has huge appeal for children. This half-term there are special events and tours to discover more about the tales hidden within its walls. Here’s five reasons to visit the Tower of London this half term.
Did you know the Tower of London was once home to more than 60 species of animals? From lions and tigers to a polar bear who would fish in the Thames, the royals kept such ‘pets’ as a symbol of power and amusement. The Royal Menagerie was founded in 1200 by King John and closed in 1832 when the animals were moved to their new home in Regents Park (now London Zoo).
Take the children on a journey this half term with activities exploring the royal beasts that once roamed the grounds. Follow a trail and draw the animals you spot around the Tower. There’s even the opportunity to listen to ‘Animal Tales’ from the Menagerie and bring the animals back to life at its drop-in puppet making station.
Behind the Tower’s heavily defended walls you can marvel at the world-famous collection of 23,578 gems. Still used in royal ceremonies today, the Crown Jewels are the most powerful symbols of the British Monarchy. Inside the mighty White Tower, you’ll also discover displays of arms and armour, which were made and secured there for hundreds of years.
A Royal Palace
The Tower of London was home to Royals for hundreds of years. Today you can visit the Medieval Palace and see recreations of interiors used by medieval kings.
How about seeing history brought to life? The daily immersive performance, Conquest, does just that. Choose which side to join in the Norman Conquest. Follow the Tower’s costumed performers through the battles, treachery, rebellion and the founding of the Tower of London.
An Infamous Prison
The Tower of London was used as a prison from 1100 up until 1952. The Kray twins were the last prisoners to be held there – for failing to turn up for national service. Explore the spaces where famous prisoners were kept and discover the graffiti they left behind 500 years ago.
To immerse yourself further into the experience, download the free ‘Time Explorers’ app before your visit and go on a digital mission at the Tower. You’ll be able to join the Prisoner’s Perilous Plot and help Arbella Stuart to free her husband, William, from his prison in the Tower. Try to help him escape – without getting caught yourself!
Yeoman Warder guided tours
The ‘Beefeaters’, as the Yeoman Warders are nicknamed, are one of the most striking symbols of London and the Tower. It’s thought their nickname is derived from their position in the Royal Bodyguard, which permitted them to eat beef from the king’s table.
A Yeoman Warder tour is one of the most popular attractions for visitors to the Tower. Join the tour and be entertained with tales of intrigue, imprisonment and much more.
The Tower of London is understandably one of London’s most popular attractions. It is a fascinating place to visit and I can’t wait to take my daughter to discover more about the castle and its chequered history.
The nearest tube is Tower Hill
Book tickets online to get the best price. Daily family activities are included in a family Tower ticket.
Have you been to the Tower of London before? What would you most like to see there?
*Written in collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces
**Pictures courtesy of HRP and Pixabay
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