In the Tower of London’s bloody history, it has been a palace, and observatory, an armory, a mint, and most notoriously, a prison and execution site for 22 people. It is actually a castle containing 22 towers. Those who have met their fate on the scaffold site include two of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Bolyn and Catherine Howard; 16-year old Lady Jane Grey, who ticked off Henry’s daughter in her family’s failed attempt to have her crowned queen; and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, a favorite of Elizabeth I. The Yeoman Warders have been guarding the fortress since the 15thcentury. (Tip: They hate to be called “Beefeaters.”)
Don’t miss the White Tower’s Royal Armories collection of canons, guns, and suits of mail. The Waterloo Barracks are the home of the Crown Jewels, featuring a dazzling display of orbs, scepters, crowns, and coronation regalia, including the platinum crown of the late Queen Mother, Elizabeth, featuring the famous 106 karat Koh-i-Nûr “Mountain of Light” diamond.
Visit: St Katharine’s & Wapping EC3N 4AB; 020-3166 6000; hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london