I’m just going to say it – I was disappointed by the Tower of London. So much history! So many people who lived and died in its walls! So many amazing stories!
And yet the site was a bit too “Disney” for my taste. Don’t get me wrong – it was still very cool to visit the site of so many famous events, it just didn’t pay as much attention to history as I would have liked.
First of all, I was expecting an actual tower – it really is more of a fortress. Which makes sense; the Tower was at used as a residence, a prison, and an execution site. I was just a little sad that there wasn’t an actual tower, per say. That disappointment, I will admit, was all on me.
Secondly, it’s expensive. More than £20 to get in, which is about $30. For someone with a frugal budget, that can eat up almost an entire day’s allotment of sightseeing money.
Thirdly, the exhibits seem highly geared towards children – interactive, “fun”, but not particularly educational. I thought the whole maze of activities through the tower was disorienting and somewhat trite. The focus was far more on cheap entertainment (Torture devices! Interactive displays!) than on the deep cultural and historical significance of the tower. Call me a nerd, but that’s what I wanted to see.
I found the historical re-enactors a bit grating as well. Everything was just so staged and campy. The Yeoman Warder, or Beefeater, Tour actually seemed like it would be quite interesting. These fun, free tours are energetic and entertaining, but they are also very crowded – if you are like me (introverted and somewhat claustrophobic) this tour is probably not for you.
Then there is the Crown Jewels – I was excited to see these and they did not disappoint. Just be forewarned – there will be a line and you will only be able to view the jewels for a brief moment. There is actually a people mover that takes you past them at a slow but steady pace.
All in all, I’m glad I went to the Tower. I just wish it had fulfilled my expectations. Bring a good guidebook (I love Rick Steves) and you will get more out of it by reading about the historical significance of the different locations within the complex.
And one more thing – try to keep your head!