London’s Biggest Tourist Destination
No, it’s not Big Ben. The Tower of London is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country, for several reasons. Built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, it was first a symbol of oppression and a new regime. But over the years, a number of additions, notable events, and special prisoners have made the Tower the interest it is today. For example, did you know the story behind why at least six ravens are kept as permanent residents in the tower? What about the ghost stories that arose after the murders of Queen Anne Boleyn and the Princes in the Tower?
I arrived at the Tower via the Traitor’s Gate, the entrance that faces London’s River Thames. This was one of several entrances to the compound, which was actually many towers and buildings put together. On the grassy area where the moat used to be, medieval actors practiced their fencing skills and showed off ancient catapults. Merchants hawked their wares and the Yeoman Warders (appointed Tower guards) led others on tours that included the Crown Jewels, the museum, royal menagerie, and the royal armor. Many wanted to see the dungeons and old torture chambers as well, but those areas of the compound were cleaned out many years ago. A replica of a torture rack is one of the only things available to the public. The last person executed at the Tower, Josef Jakobs, was sentenced to death in 1941, and the firing range was demolished in 1969. There were tons of other areas of the Tower up for exploration, however! The White Tower is the main structure, but the Tower Green (where most executions occurred) and West Wall Walk are also popular. Maybe next time I’m in London, I’ll have to make the time to check all these out, too!
If you were to take a tour of the Tower, what would you most want to see?