If you’re wondering what there is to do at the Tower of London for kids, we can give you a clear answer. There’s plenty!
We visited the Tower of London on a rainy day in February half term. Despite the wet weather, my nine- and six-year old, who were both tired after a morning of swimming lessons, ended the afternoon with big smiles on their faces, and full of ‘thank-yous’ to me for taking them. The Tower of London was a holiday winner.
Historic Royal Palaces invited us to the Tower of London for the purpose of this post, and I didn’t pay for our tickets.
The Tower of London history is a long, brutal and compelling tale. The castle sits on the north bank of the River Thames and over the course of almost 1,000 years, royals and noblemen have used it as a fortress, a palace and a prison. William the Conqueror built the Tower’s oldest building as a symbol of victory over the English, and it’s entertained such distinguished prisoners as Anne Boleyn and the Kray brothers. Like a lot of London attractions for kids, it’s easy to get to, being not far from London Bridge and just a stone’s throw from Tower Bridge.
Here are some of the things to see and do at the Tower of London with kids.
Take a Tower of London audio guide family tour
If you’re asking yourself “is the Tower of London audio guide worth it?”, then I’d say it most definitely is. Especially if you have children between the ages of around six to fifteen. There are signs around the castle that give information, but these are aimed at adults or older teenagers. We paid for audio guides with the family tour loaded onto them.
The audio guide screens were large and easy to swipe. Rocky the raven narrated the Tower’s history. My daughter laughed at the squabbles between Rocky and his raven friends. She went back to the Traitor’s Gate and the raven enclosure twice, because she enjoyed listening to Rocky talk about them. My son got stuck into the Crown Jewels quiz, where he had to answer questions about the jewels after we’d been through to see them. We’d still have enjoyed ourselves if we hadn’t paid for our audio guides, but they kept my two interested and engaged through all of our visit.
Tower of London audio guides are £14 for a family of up to five, or £5 per adult and £4 per child.
Look at the Crown Jewels
The Crown Jewels excited my son and daughter the most. To see them, we queued to enter a building with dimly lit rooms, and videos showing monarchs wearing the jewels as far back as the Seventeenth Century. At one point the queue for the Crown Jewels looked long, but it dwindled as the afternoon wore on. We only waited around eight minutes to get inside the building. By half an hour before closing time, there was no queue at all.
The jewels were a mind-blowing collection of crowns, orbs and sceptres, ceremonial swords, robes and dining vessels encrusted with 23,578 gemstones. In the dark rooms, these all twinkled with a lively lustre. Some gemstones were enormous – the Kohinoor diamond, which legend has it should only be worn by female monarchs, was as large as a small peach. The jewels were all behind glass, and a travelator whizzed us past a few of the jewels that are still in use today. But we were able to linger at the Imperial State Crown, worn today by Queen Elizabeth II, and we could give the crowns a close inspection, even the ones by the travelator.
Go on a Beefeater tour
The Tower of London Yeoman Warders, or Beefeaters, originally formed King Henry VIII’s personal bodyguard. These days, they roam around the Tower to protect the jewels, and to answer any questions from visitors. Yeoman Warders have all served in the British armed forces for at least 22 years, and they need to be between 40 and 55 years old when they apply for the job.
At regular intervals throughout the day, a Tower of London Beefeater tour begins near the entrance to the Tower. We knew when one was about to start, because the Yeoman tour guide would bellow out in a big booming voice, summoning visitors to his sides. Then he’d lead the procession along through the cobbled yards, pointing out the places where intrigue, murder and execution had taken place. A Beefeater tour would be a good option for people who didn’t want to pay for an audio guide, and we’d have joined one if we’d had the time. They looked like fun.
See the ravens
Legend has it that if the Tower of London’s six ravens leave, the kingdom will fall. So, as a safety measure, there are now seven ravens at the Tower. Their home is an enclosure with perches and a xylophone for them to play with. But the ravens were at large when we visited, hopping around and providing good photo opportunities. Visitors aren’t allowed to feed them as it could interfere with their diet of meat, and biscuits soaked in blood.
Go inside the White Tower to see ancient armour and handle medieval weaponry
At the centre of the Tower of London was the White Tower, a huge block of a building built almost 1,000 years ago to subdue conquered Londoners. Inside is a collection of armour worn by Henry VIII, Charles I, James II and other noblemen.
Also inside the White Tower was an original executioner’s block from the 18th century, with an axe possibly dating back to Tudor times. A section let children have a go at handling bows, ‘shooting’ muskets and firing cannons.
Take part in a seasonal family activity
This is only a small snapshot of what there is to do at the Tower of London. I’d suggest allowing a few hours to properly explore. We arrived just after 1pm, and didn’t manage to see everything before we had to leave when the Tower closed at 5.30pm. A mesh elephant and polar bear in the grounds piqued our interest in the Royal Beasts exhibition, which was closed by the time we got to it. And we missed out on Knight School, which was scheduled to happen on the Tower’s south lawn over half term, but which had to be cancelled because of the rain. Historic Royal Palaces run regular family activities during the school holidays, so it’s worth checking to see what’s on when you want to visit.
Food and drink at the Tower of London
Four restaurants and cafes sell food and drink at the Tower of London, ranging from coffee and snacks through to gourmet sausages and traditional British meals.
A large gift shop sits inside the grounds, and you don’t have to go inside unless you want to – there’s no ‘exit through the gift shop’. We didn’t go in, but it looked as though it had some great items inside, including replica crowns and suits of armour.
For entrance times, prices and informational on seasonal family activities, check out the Tower of London website.
Have you visited the Tower of London?
If you’re looking for other things to do in London with children, check out my guide to what’s on in London.
And if you’re interested in visiting London museums for kids, I’ve posted about the Science Museum and V&A here.
Another fab family London day out for history buffs is to Eltham Palace. I’ve posted about it here.
Pin for later: