Latest news from the scene: the entrance fee is now up to 12 pounds (Europeans who are shocked by prices in euros should go to London, where everything is expensive beyond imagination), there are building works on the outer walls and there are even queues at the entrance on a rainy day in March.
Paul Tanner (UK):
As is so often the case with WHS in one’s home country, we hadn’t visited the Tower of London as “tourists” for many years. And it isn’t situated in a location which we pass through when visiting London for non tourist purposes. This year however we called in to see the “Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red” WWI memorial “artwork”. Whilst I was there I was able to take note of the high rise developments which have taken place across the last 10 years or so around the site. I attach 2 photos of these taken specifically to highlight their “impact” in relation to the Tower. They were taken on a grey November day and I have declined to Photoshop in some South Pacific sunny skies! Photo 1 looks NW across the entire building from Tower Bridge showing the “Walkie-talkie”, the “Cheesegrater”, the “Gherkin” and several other buildings – as well as cranes building yet more!. Photo 2 looks SW over the White Tower to the new “Shard” at 87 stories
UNESCO has been concerned about the number of high rise buildings appearing around the Tower of London (and other London WHS) since at least 2003. The proposal which originally stimulated the concern (The 53 story “Minerva Building”) was cancelled, largely it seems, for financial reasons and replaced by a nondescript mid-rise development. But the issue has rumbled on with other proposals and completed structures. UNESCO has carried out several “Reactive Monitoring” missions (2006 and 2011) interspersed with “State of Conservation” reports (2006, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 14). All the Reports and discussion/conclusions are on the UNESCO Web site. UK seems determined not to put in place a formal buffer zone restricting such developments and wants to rely instead on “existing procedures and guidance” – which, whilst in theory giving UNESCO what they want, allow a degree of flexibility which they don’t! The latest (2014) WHC concluded inter alia that it
“• Takes note of the State Party’s efforts to strengthen the planning framework through guidance documents and enhanced coordination of the relevant planning authorities;
• Requests the State Party to ensure that, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, any planned larger-scale projects in the immediate and wider setting of the World Heritage property be submitted to the World Heritage Centre as soon as possible, and that adequate time be allowed for thorough review of each project by the Advisory Bodies before any decision is taken;”
In effect a “score draw” result with neither side really giving in!!
The reason for this review is not to describe a visit to the Tower – there is plenty of information on the Web about this and all you need to know is that it is expensive and crowded but nevertheless one of those “must do” things (at least once)! Rather it is to show to those who haven’t been to London either ever or for a while, what has happened regarding nearby construction and to raise the question as to whether UNESCO’s concern about high rise in the vicinity of WHS (and there are plenty of other sites where this issue has arisen) is reasonable as currently interpreted and implemented. Can a “living” major “World city” really be expected to curtail commercial developments on highly valuable land which just happen to lie on one of the “sight lines” to or from an inscribed area? Whilst control of construction “in the shadow” of an inscribed site might be reasonable is the “sight line” concept too restricting? Do developments of the type shown really detract significantly from the site’s OUV or could they even be construed as contributing “life” to a site rather than “freezing” it in time? In any case, how much, if any, of the Tower of London’s OUV relates to views of and from it compared with the essential “fabric” of the buildings?
Date posted: November 2014 Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
I did not pay the entrance fee to visit the interior of the Tower of London. I was very young (year 1972), penniless, and travelled to London for the adventure and to look for a job, and not to spend money like a tourist does, so for me it was enough to watch it, touch it and walking around it to consider it “visited”. Although it is my intention, now that I am much older and do not travel without money anymore, to visit the Tower of London inside, paying the entrance fee, in a future visit to England (at the end of the year 2014 I will start on foot the pilgrimage across the Via Francigena, from Canterbury to Rome, during three months, so that will be the opportunity to visit more properly the Tower of London).
Date posted: April 2014 Clyde (Malta):
I visited the Tower of London in June 2013. Contrary to all the other WHS in London during my visit, the Tower of London was packed with tourists and very long queues to enter (even on rainy days). I really liked the contrast of old and new (with the Gerkin behind and the Shard in front). The crown jewels were the main attraction on the inside but other than that I thought the hefty entrance fee could be avoided. I enjoyed spectacular panorama views of the White Tower and the Tower of London in general from The View on the Shard.
Date posted: July 2013 Hubert Scharnagl (Austria):
There is no doubt that the Tower is worthy to be on the WH list because of its historical significance. However, every time when I visited London, I've viewed the Tower from the outside only. The high entrance fee and the queues at the ticket office have deterred me. Moreover, I'm not very interested in the crown jewels and the collection of arms and armour. Anyway, in 2006 I visited the interior, simply because I thought that otherwise I could not tick off this WHS. It was very busy and the Beefeater tours were too crowded to really enjoy them. I visited the White Tower and had a nice walk around the walls, but I spent not too much time there. I would not say that I was disappointed because I did not expect too much.
But during my last visit in London in summer 2010, I've partially changed my opinion. I attended the Ceremony of the Keys, a ceremonial that takes place each night since the 14th Century. It begins exactly at 9:53 pm. The main gates of the Tower are locked up following a centuries-old ceremony. The Chief Warder and the guards speak always the same words. During the ceremony, it is not allowed to walk around, to talk, and to take pictures. Visitors can attend for free, but a ticket is required. This ticket must be ordered by regular mail several weeks before the requested date (Information on the website of the Tower: www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/WhatsOn/ceremonyofthekeys). The ceremony is one of these typical English traditions and it is much more worthwhile as for example the Changing of the Guard at the Buckingham Palace.
Date posted: March 2012 Andrew Bevan (Australia): Definately worth a visit if you're in London, such a grand site, full of history. Date posted: March 2011 Philipp Peterer (Switzerland):
Just visited the Tower for the second time since 2004. I suggest you to be there about 15 minutes before it opens. Like this, everything can be seen without crowds and thus without queuing. I bought a London Pass for one day which (properly used) cuts the effective costs of many attractions (including Kew Gardens)to 50%. Some kind of discount is really needed, as the price has now risen to 17! pounds. Even for a Swiss guy this is a shocking price.
Date posted: July 2010 Kevin (USA): I visited the Tower of London in January 2009 and was amazed by it. The tower, being close to 1000 years old is in much greater shape than the Angkorwatt temples that I had visited around the same age. The tower affords some wonderful views of the Thames River and also some skyscrapers in the surroundings. I got in for only 8 pounds because I have a coupon that gives 50% reduction in admission fees. Date posted: August 2009 I.Janssens (Belgium): Yes it is expensive, but at least you get the feeling you get something worth your money. We were 2 adults & 1 child and wanted also to see St. Pauls before the tower. Seeing the excredible entry fee for that we simply skipped St. Pauls. It's a church : even though it is impressive and I remember the whisper gallery from an earlier visit, it is really not worth the price. The tower is, you visit the most important historical buildings in the city with vastly recorded history. It's worth it.
Tip : close by the undergound exit there is a souvenir shop that also sells tickets, forget the official ticket booth with the long queues, this is faster with no extra charge.
Date posted: August 2009 Holly P (England (Great Britain)): I went to the Tower with my family in the holidays - and it was well worth the entrance fee! There's lots of things to do. My favourite bit was probably seeing the Crown Jewels and seeing the guards change over. It's very interesting, and I would reccomend it to anyone, especially English people, as it is interesting to know what went on in our past. Date posted: April 2009 Stephen Brooker (UK):
As far as I can remember this was the first WHS I ever visited when I was about five, so that would be four decades ago!
It impressed then and it still does. Although the presentation has improved dramtically over the years. On my first visit, I remember the Beefeaters were silent custodians, perhaps even a touch intimidating. Now they are the ultimate history teachers. Last year I stood on the green with my nephew listening to one colourfully telling the stories of various executions. My nephew was entranced.
Despite the steep entrance fee, it is still a great day out and you can easily make a full day of this WHS. It is also unlike some WHSs very child friendly.
Verdict expensive but worth the Money.
Date posted: April 2008 ():
I'm from the US. My visit to the Motherland was very special to me. To see my heritage before 1776 really opened my eyes. There is a very deep connection between the US and the UK that will NEVER be dissolved no matter how many declarations we write. So much of what we are comes from what we were. I'm extremely proud.
Emilia Bautista King (U.S.A.): I wish I could remember more about my visit but it was almost 20 years ago! I do remember being in awe over the jewels. Date posted: March 2006 Chika Sylva-Olejeme (Nigeria): it unbelivable how my experience here have changed the way see a whole nation of Great Britain it's worth the UNESCO World Heritage Site Date posted: October 2005 Ben Pastore (USA):
Hundreds of years of British history and intrigue wrapped up in a medley of ancient towers, forts and embattlements. Plus, the Queen had a pretty nice jewelery collection. For some fantastic insight on the Tower Complex, I recommend a computer game called Traitor's Gate, where as a secret agent you must infiltrate the tower's defenses by exploring its various compenents while piecing together several clues related to the tower's history. I don't recommend attempting this in real life, but the role-playing game does this WH List justice.
Date posted: June 2005 Klaus Freisinger (Austria):
It´s certainly true that the entrance fee for the Tower is out of this planet (same for other London attractions like Buckingham Palace) and the lines are about a kilometer long, but this is worth it. The Tower of London is one of Britain´s most interesting attractions, not the least because of its traditions - the ravens, the beefeaters, the stories about the executions. And then of course its highlight - the crown jewels. High security, and you wouldn´t want to get caught taking a picture - they will rip the film out of your camera. But still a very exciting visit, also in terms of historical aspects (William the Conqueror, the Normans) and architecture (the White Tower, also the nearby Tower Bridge).
Ian Cade (England):
The tower is one of the best-preserved medieval palaces/ fortifications in the world, and it is made even more incredible as it is in the centre of one of Europe’s largest cities. It has a wealth of history that puts it a central place in several centuries of one of the major European powers. And it has an incredible collection of jewels and armour, the equal of nearly anywhere else in the world.
This should all make for a rewarding visit, but for me it really does not. There are several issues, first there is the incredible entry fee £16.50 (€21/ $33 almost twice the controversial foreign visitors rate at the Taj Mahal) I am struggling to think of another cultural site on the World Heritage list that charges so much for entry. The tower can at times seem lost among the larger buildings that surround it, many of these buildings really add to the character of London, such as Tower Bridge or the modern City Hall, however the incredibly ugly concrete hotel at St Katherine’s dock really does detract from the site as a whole. This makes the Tower feel small and doesn’t really illustrate its significance.
The Tower is always busy; there are queues even on dull weekdays in winter, this is to be expected and I always give the benefit of the doubt to busy places as I, like everyone else, am a tourist as well. The tours offered by the Yeoman Warders/ Beefeaters can range from very informative to a cartoon style pastiche of the history that is on display. Also on a personal note I am not particularly interested in jewels and armour so being shuffled past on a conveyor belt is not something that greatly improves the experience for me, but everyone is different.
All in all I am always left feeling that my time and money could have been better spent elsewhere in London, especially in the wealth of free world class museums and galleries, which make this exceptionally expensive city a manageable experience. I would never tell anyone not to visit the Tower, because it is a very important place and worthy of its inscription on the world heritage list, but I just feel that it will only ever disappoint me.
C H Ho (Hong Kong, China): There are many ghost stories inside Tower of London, but you must forget all those stories after visiting the Jewel Tower! You just guess how much the value of those jewels when you leave Tower of London.   Rob Wilson (UK):
Despite the high cost of entry (London is the world's 2nd most expensive city), the Tower of London is an excellent experience. It will take you at least half a day to explore the whole site and the incredible history just grabs you from old sides.
I just wish it cost less!
Sri Ganesh (USA): I visited this site in mid October 2002 on a visit from the USA. Even though the 11.50 UK pounds seemed a little steep for entry into the tower, I decided to go in and explore the various towers. Very soon I realised that I have realised the value of my money. The British crown jewels display from centuries ago was very impressive! A chill went up my spine while standing at the scaffolding site where some royal families were 'put' to death!
I took a cruise on river Thames to get back to Westminster.
Have you been to Tower of London? Share your experiences!