The Tower of London is one of the Historic Royal Palaces, they always fill me with wonders of the past. I love imagining the Kings and Queens that lived here. We used to visit Kensington Palace and Hampton Court for the toddler events so had to tick another one off the list.
Daughter: “Where are we going?”
Me: “We are going to that old building over there by the river.”
Daughter: “Mummy How old is the Tower of London?”
Me: “I don’t know, we will have to ask when we get there”
Daughter: “I think it was built when Great Grandad was a baby or eleventy million years ago”
Me: “Maybe somewhere in between…”
So we had some expiring airmiles, but not enough to actually get us anywhere, so I exchanged them for days out in London. First stop, Tower of London. It’s quite a pricey day out so a good swap. To get your money’s worth you could easily spend a whole day here though.
Get there early
The first part of the palace was built after the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the White Tower, the main section in the centre was built shortly afterwards. Many Kings expanded the complex and it has been used as a palace and a prison, right the way up until the Krays. There have been many famous inmates, held before their executions, including Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey. It is also famous for sightings of the ghosts of the princes in the tower, the two illegitimate nephews of Richard III. I went to the Key Ceremony here many years ago and that Yeoman warden had a tale of seeing them, very spooky while stood there in the dark, watching all of the windows.
The palace today is most famous for housing the crown jewels, I advise arriving early to see these. We were there about 9:30am on a Saturday and walked straight in, about an hour later there was a large queue forming, snaking inside and outside the building. They have many crowns of past Kings and Queens and most spectacularly the present Queen’s crown that she wears at parliament opening. They also have many sceptres and orbs used for specific ceremonies. A dazzling display. There is a small conveyor in front of the display to keep the people moving, probably invaluable in busy times.
Our next stop was the White Tower, the large central building. This has exhibitions on each floor describing different parts of history and royal life. An impressive display of armour for both men and horses fills one whole floor. The real fun is on the top floor where there have installed many interactive displays. You can use lights on a scale model to see where ancient artefacts have been uncovered, shoot virtual arrows with huge bows and dress Henry VIII, if you know which order to put his clothes on. The busiest section of the White Tower so be patient to get a turn at everything. There are lots of stairs in the White Tower so a baby carrier is preferred, there is a lift to the basement but not much to see there but a shop.
For a few good views and a nice walk, you can climb the ramparts and walk around the outside. There are a few queues at some towers depending on how interesting the contents are. We found that the tower with the ‘naked’ crowns exhibition was the longest. Crowns from past Kings and Queens where the majority of the jewels have been removed for other purposes. Interested but slightly sad seeing them like that, past their glory days.
The tower used to house many exotic animals, mainly gifts from other countries to the monarch. There is an exhibition about the animals and currently there are wire sculptures peeking out in different locations around the grounds. The baboons were amazing lifelike! The exhibition was also interactive and you can even take a photo of your child in a cage. We discovered that they really didn’t know how to look after the animals back then, there were a few incidents and strange feeding techniques in the interactive game. And what I thought was an innocent pile of boxes, gave me the fright of my life. Even though my daughter insisted there was something inside, I looked saw nothing, heard a growl and then suddenly red eyes were looking at me! Ahhhh!
We tried out the café which was pricey but had some great food. Lots of kid options, highchairs and ample seating. There were also half term activities on outside in the amazing sunshine. Knight training was followed by a siege of the castle with the kids trying to take it. Also down on the green you can visit the infamous ravens, they are now well protected to stop the foxes getting them and chancing the prophecy to come true and them leaving being the downfall of the country. We have Brexit for that 😉
Baby friendly info:
There are many areas with stairs within the tower buildings, there are buggy parking areas but baby carriers are preferable for the ramparts or White Tower.
The toilets have changing facilities
The café is well equipped for children, plenty of food choices and highchairs.
London Bridge is a short walk away and step free. Tower Bridge tube station has stairs and escalators.