A few weeks ago we were invited to review a City Cruises trip along the Thames and we decided to make the most of the trip to London by visiting some of the tourist attractions.
Isaac has been asking to visit the Tower of London for ages and as the City Cruise stopped there I decided to surprise him with a visit. What I hadn’t realised is that Hubby had never been either and I am not sure who was more excited.
The boys were super excited to meet a Yeoman Warder (popularly known as ‘Beefeaters’) at the entrance and although they were offering tours where they entertain you with tales of intrigue, imprisonment, execution, torture and much more we decided to take it at our own pace and explore by ourselves.
Our first port of call was the Royal Mint at the Tower, an exhibition exploring the story of the Mint when it was based in the Tower c1279 and 1812. We got to see how coins were made and how each Monarch changed them to reflect the politics of their time. It was the tales of thievery that caught Isaac’s imagination and we learned about John Turnbull who stole four bags of guineas, containing 2,308 coins and weighing about 19 kilograms, into his coat pockets. Our attempts to lift even one bag had us in giggles as it was almost impossible.
We then spotted Traitors Gate, the infamous entrance to the Tower of London, which forms part of St. Thomas’ Tower, which was built to provide additional royal accommodation but most famously was used as the entrance to the Tower by Queen Anne Boleyn.
It has been a long time since I visited the Tower of London and I forgot just how big it is. We were lucky enough to spot a couple of the nine ravens who live at the Tower as legend says that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress (apparently they have been known to go awol though)
Probably the most interesting part of the Tower of London is the chance to see the Crown Jewels. The kids were fascinated by all the pieces and a video of the Coronation of the Queen, but it was the Imperial State Crown which drew the most “wow’s” with Eliza declaring she wanted to be a real princess.
We wandered around outside to get some fresh air for the next part of our visit. We got to see the Queen’s House, half-timbered house which faces Tower Green and was built-in around 1530, in the reign of King Henry VIII, in a very different style than the rest of the Tower of London.
There was also a memorial on the execution site with a glass pillow and a list of 10 names, each with the year of execution, in date sequence including Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey.
At the heart of the Tower of London is the White Tower, one of the most famous castle keeps in the world and a great example of Norman Architecture. Inside is a unique Romanesque Chapel, the beautiful 11th-century Chapel of St John the Evangelist and the Royal Armouries Collection.
The kids were most fascinated by the suits of armour worn by the Monarchs, with King Henry VIII’s drawing giggles thanks to a rather large cod piece.
Eliza rather fancied being in charge of the canons though.
When we emerged from the White Tower we spotted an actor dressed in traditional costume and wandered over to get a picture. What we were not expecting was to find more actors and a parade across the cobbles towards a grassy area at the back of the tower where we were treated to a historical re-enactment.
The surprises kept coming with an elephant sticking its head out of a wall – OK, it wasn’t a real one but it helped draw attention to the fact the Tower has had some unusual inhabitants over the past 800 years.
And it wasn’t just an elephant……..we found some Baboons too.
The Tower of London is a full day out and we made sure we explored every nook and cranny. I would recommend you walk the wall as the views from the wall are very impressive.
There is even the opportunity to pretend you are protecting the walls from enemies!
The Tower of London is an interesting day out for all the family but be prepared for a lot of walking, cobbled streets and stone stairways. Sebby did brilliantly but we did have to carry him up and down a couple of hair-raising spiral staircases.
There are baby changing facilities on site but I really would not recommend a visit with a pushchair. The Torture exhibition can seem frightening or scary to young children, although mine thought it was all fascinating, but I am guessing it was because it didn’t seem real.
A family ticket to the Tower of London costs £57.50 online in advance or £63 on the gate and includes an activity sheet for the kids to do on the way around. I did also purchase a Horrible Histories guide book for Isaac which he has read from cover to cover – the best £5 ever!