Last updated on January 23rd, 2023
The Tower of London is dressed for Christmas this winter and has launched its annual magical festive experience for all the family. There are plenty of twinkling trees dotted around together with twelve festive installations reflecting the fortress’s 1000-year history. It’s easy to imagine the old walls whispering about the famous residents as you wander around the palace with its oftentimes bloody and chequered history. William the Conqueror, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Guy Fawkes and the Kray Brothers are just some of the ghosts that you might bump into on your tour of the Tower of London this Christmas.
Tower of London Christmas 2022
There are twelve displays dotted around the Tower of London grounds, all representing a different element of the palace’s history.
Henry VIII strikes an evil pose with his six queens at the Tower of London this Christmas. This is near the site of the now lost royal apartments of the Tower.
Did you know the Yeoman Warders play a game of wiffle ball against the US Embassy on Boxing Day? It’s one of the things you’ll learn on your tour of the Tower this Christmas. The Yeomans, of which there are 33, live within the walls of the palace with their families.
The Yeoman Warders even have their own pub called The Keys. It’s possibly the most exclusive pub in the world as it’s by invitation only – so you’ll have to just make do with a peek in the window. I will die a happy woman if I get an invite here one day!
Most people don’t realise that the first zoo in London was housed in the Tower of London. In 1235, the Plantagenet king Henry III was gifted three “leopards,” although these were most likely lions. The king went on to start collecting exotic animals, and his menagerie would include a polar bear, tigers and a famous elephant, gifted by the French King Louis IX on Michaelmas 1255. It entered the city by boat to great fanfare, but sadly, the elephant died two years later.
These beautiful beasts guarding the 14 foot Christmas tree next to the entrance of the Tower of London are a reference to Henry III’s original menagerie.
The main Tower café is serving up all sorts of Christmas treats including sweets and plenty of Christmas bakes. Gluten and dairy free are also catered for – the staff whipped out a gluten and dairy passion fruit pastry for me. I have it on authority from a certain Warder that the Raven café opposite serves up the best coffee.
Highlights of the Tower of London
Whilst you’re at the Tower for the Christmas installations, make sure you visit some of the other highlights of this 1000 year-old fortress, palace and prison. These include the jaw-dropping Crown Jewels (no photography allowed), a tour of the White Tower and armouries, a chat with the ravens (if they’ll let you), The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, Traitor’s Gate and the execution site of Anne Boleyn.
Only 10 people were actually executed at the Tower of London, and these include Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and the nine-day queen, Lady Jane Grey. On Tower Green, you can visit the exact spot thought to be where Anne was executed in 1536. In 1861 and following a visit to the Tower, a moved Queen Victoria ordered a plaque to be placed at the site of the execution.
The Chapel Royal of Saint Peter and Vincula is the final resting place for three of England’s queens, including Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey.
Some fun facts about the royals and Christmas
On Christmas Day 1286, Edward I’s household consumed thirteen tuns of wine, the equivalent of over 3000 gallons. There must have been one mother of a hangover.
The Tudors partied for a whole 12 weeks over the festive period. The celebrations kicked off on the 1 November and lasted until 2 February. In 1509, the eighteen-year-old Henry VIII dumped the equivalent of £13.5 million on Christmas. His Christmas dos included carol singing, dancing, feasts and a side of prayer.
Elizabeth I went even further and would make it known how much each of her courtiers were to spend on her every Christmas. She was the lucky recipient of thousands of presents each year, ranging from gold toothpicks to silk stockings.
Do you believe in ghosts? Legend has it that just before the death of one of the English monarchs, Mary Queen of Scots’s spirit makes its apparitional appearance in different sites across the country. A few weeks before Queen Victoria’s death, a series of wails followed by footsteps disturbed an officer who was on duty in the Tower of London – but on inspection, there was nothing there.
About the Tower of London Christmas
Allow approximately three hours to tour the Tower of London. Wrap up warm as the Christmas trail takes place outside. I suggest coming in for the first slot of the day (9am) if you want to get a good look at the Crown Jewels.
Make sure your grab the trail map on entry – it lists the twelve installations dotted around the grounds.
Want some insider information and a little royal gossip? Yeoman Warder tours take place every 30 minutes, starting from the West Gate entrance.
Tower of London Christmas 2022 is on until 3 January (closed 24, 25, 26 December and 01 January). Included in palace admission: Adults £29.90 / Children (aged 5-15) £14.90 / Concessions £24.00 / HRP Members go free Book your tickets here.
Sources: HRP: Tracy Borman / Charles Farris / Beatrice Meecham