Tower Bridge and the Tower of London: An Exploration

JoAdventures, Days OutLeave a Comment

Tower Bridge and the Tower of London

London is a vibrant and fun, but overwhelmingly hectic, city. With so much to see and do as a family, I thought that I would break down our recent visits starting with: Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Combined they make for a long but fascinating day trip.

School holidays and long weekends can often invoke dreamy feelings of potential lie ins, playing in the park, wholesome walks and film nights. The reality is often a mix of all of that with a whole load of squabbles, spontaneous planning, over-extending of the calendar and metaphorical tearing of hair thrown in! Recently, in an attempt to give each of our boys a bit of space for their own interests, I took our youngest to London for a day out. In part this was to lean in to his enthusiasm for travel, and in part it was an attempt to re-enact a missed school trip.

London, but first: Warwickshire. Well connected to numerous locations, Warwickshire sits in the West Midlands area and has a number of travel options for heading elsewhere. Our chosen method of transport to London is always on the Chiltern Railway service. It seems reliable and relatively speedy (don’t talk to me about HS2!!). The boys love travelling to London or just about anywhere on the train. There’s an element of the unusual about it in that they get to sit and chat to us, read a book, have a drink, play a card game, all with relative ease.

Arriving into Marylebone it’s easy to hop on the underground and off we go on a one change journey to Tower Bridge station, which is a five minute walk from its namesake. Not only that, but travel on the tube is included in the price of our tickets – £30 at the time of writing – which makes it easier still.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge, one of London’s most iconic landmarks, is a fantastic family visitor attraction that offers a beautiful blend of historical intrigue and architectural marvel. Spanning the River Thames and completed in 1894, this bascule and suspension bridge stands as a testament to Victorian engineering. It is often mistaken for the nearby London Bridge due to its grandeur and distinctive twin towers.

For families, the Tower Bridge Exhibition is a must see. The Victorian engine rooms, which once powered the bridge’s raising mechanisms, are great for finding out more about the engineering behind the bridge. You can see the original steam engines up close too. The exhibition includes fascinating displays and videos detailing the bridge’s construction and the lives of the workers who built it and worked there.

Tower Bridge glass floor

Up above are the high-level walkways, 42 meters over the Thames, which offer stunning panoramic views of London. There are glass-floored paths which provide a fantastic experience as visitors can watch the bustling river and road traffic below. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would feel adventurous enough to step out onto the glass, but I’m so glad that I did! I’m not super keen on heights but it was wonderful and felt very safe. Information panels along the walkways tell the story of the bridge and the surrounding landmarks which is interesting too.

View from Tower Bridge

Children might enjoy some of the more interactive elements of the attraction. There is a family trail to complete and a talk from a member of staff about how the bridge has changed over time. If you’re lucky, you might have an opportunity to see the bridge being opened to let boats through as well.

Tower Bridge’s combination of historical exhibits, interactive technology and views, makes it a perfect destination for family outings. Overall we spent a good hour and a half here.

Tower of London

A very short wander from Tower Bridge stands the Tower of London. This iconic fortress, founded by William the Conqueror in 1066, has served variously as a royal palace, prison, armoury, and treasury. Almost whatever period of history is most familiar to you, you’re bound to find something relatable here.

On our way between the two we sat overlooking the Thames and enjoyed a picnic lunch. It was a lovely spot to have a short sit down before getting back onto our feet and continuing our day.

When we arrived at the Tower of London, we found that we were just minutes away from a guided tour. Yeoman Warder Scott Kelly, gave a thoroughly entertaining and informative talk to a mixed age audience. The Yeoman Warders, with their distinctive uniform, are more commonly known as Beefeaters. They are guardians of the Tower of London, formerly looking after the Crown Jewels and prisoners, and now offer these engaging tours. There is a rich history of the Tower, but highlights of our tour included understanding different entrance points over the years, famous prisoners, mention of the Princes in the Tower and customs of different ages of history including the use of corporal punishment and execution.

Yeoman Warder

After saying our goodbyes to Yeoman Warder #409, we went to explore the Tower’s most famous exhibit, the Crown Jewels. Housed in the Jewel House, this spectacular collection includes some of the world’s most extraordinary diamonds and precious stones. Seeing the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign’s Sceptre up close offers a glimpse into the grandeur and wealth of the British monarchy. There is also the famous Koh-i-Noor with its controversial history which is only very gently alluded to.

Afterwards we ventured to the White Tower, the oldest part of the complex, which now houses the Royal Armouries’ collection. Here, there are suits of armour worn by kings and knights, as well as weapons used in historical battles. Interactive displays and multimedia exhibits add depth to the experience, making it enjoyable for younger visitors. My nine year old particularly liked ‘Keeper’, an armour clad dragon which forms part of the exhibit.

Keeper at Tower of London

We finished our visit with a glimpse inside the walls of the famous prison and a wander to the former site of the Royal Mint.

Our trip to the Tower of London was interesting, thought-provoking and entertaining. We both learnt a great deal, enjoyed it thoroughly and found ourselves totally immersed in the almost 1,000 years of history that has passed through the site.

Mint Street Tower of London

In conclusion

The day was a long and tiring one – we were both ready to collapse into bed on our return home! That said, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London are so close together it was nice to join the two into a single trip. The mix of history, engineering, architecture and personal stories sparked our imaginations. Although we did manage to spend a good amount of time at both attractions and feel as though we got a lot from our experience, there was more to be seen and read. We are particularly keen to return and have our eye on booking into the Gunpowder Plot experience at the Tower Vaults next time, too.

I shall be sure to share our thoughts on that when we go!

Poppies in front of the Tower of London

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