A Visit to the Tower of London, Done Differently

The Tower of London is one of the top Unesco World Heritage sites dotting the UK
The Tower of London is one of the top Unesco World Heritage sites dotting the UK | © Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo of Josephine Platt
Commissioning Editor13 December 2019

The Tower of London is a fascinating place to visit, with the castle at the centre of many of the capital’s most important historical moments. Make a day of it with Culture Trip’s guide on what to do, eat and drink around this London landmark.

Tower of London

Historical Landmark, Building, Memorial, Museum
Map View
The Tower of London has housed some of Britain’s most famous prisoners
© Then and Now Images / Heritage Images / Getty Images
A massive part of London’s identity that has served many purposes in its 900-plus years, the Tower of London has seen it all. This Medieval castle on the north bank of the River Thames has been a royal residency, military barracks and home to the Crown Jewels. It has also housed some of England’s most famous prisoners – from the princes in the tower to Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes. The tower well deserves its UNESCO World Heritage site status, and is a must-see when in Central London. To make a day of it, explore its historic surroundings. Here’s what to do and where to eat and stay.

Things to do near the Tower of London

Whitechapel Gallery

Art Gallery
Map View
Check out an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery
© Arcaid Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Though not quite 900 years old, the Whitechapel Gallery has a good 100 years behind it. Founded in 1901, this contemporary art gallery (about 20 minutes on foot from the Tower of London) has premiered artists such as Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Mark Rothko. At any given time there are numerous exhibitions running in tandem, so you can easily kill a couple of hours here, and its Refectory Café, which turns into a wine bar at night, is a charming space to relax in after the show.

Wilton’s Music Hall

Cinema, Concert Hall, Music Venue, Theater, Theatre
Map View
Built in the 1690s, Wilton’s is still in use as a theatre and music space
© Katharine Rose / Alamy Stock Photo

Wilton’s Music Hall is recognised as a Grade II* listed building and has been called “the most important surviving early music hall to be seen anywhere”. It still retains many original features (with peeling paint and exposed brickwork to boot). About a 20-minute walk from the Tower of London, head to this Shadwell institution to delve deeper into London’s heritage, admire the historical architecture and catch a theatre performance.

30 St Mary Axe

Building, Bridge, Stadium
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The Gherkin is one of London’s most distinctive skyscrapers
The Gherkin is one of London’s most distinctive skyscrapers | © Detail Heritage / Alamy Stock Photo
Dubbed ‘The Gherkin’ for obvious reasons, Norman Foster’s bullet-shaped skyscraper is actually called St Mary Axe, and its Neo-Futuristic design has made it one of the city’s most recognisable towers. Visiting this commercial skyscraper is a must-do to put its size into proportion – book a table at the Helix restaurant, which serves traditional British food in its dining room on the 39th floor, and enjoy seeing London from above.

Where to eat and drink by the Tower of London

The Culpeper

Pub, Restaurant with Rooms, Bar, Restaurant, Pub Grub, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
Map View

Home to over 3,500 drinking haunts, it’s safe to say that London is the pub capital of the world. Situated on Commercial Street in Spitalfields, The Culpeper epitomises all that the city’s pub culture is about, with great food and great booze. It’s located close to the Whitechapel Gallery and even has a roof terrace where you can enjoy al fresco drinking in the summer.

Cirilo Noodle Bar and Grill

Restaurant, Bar, Philippine, Chinese, $$$
Map View

If you don’t fancy heavy pub food, try Cirilo Noodle Bar and Grill, which serves up authentic Filipino and Chinese stir-fry dishes that make for a tasty light bite. London’s Filipino community are known to frequent the restaurant, which is always a good sign, and you can’t go wrong with one of its specials – try the tamarind-based stew sinigang with prawns.

Gaucho Tower Bridge

Restaurant, Argentina, $$$
Map View
Discover Argentinian cuisine at Gaucho
Discover Argentinian cuisine at Gaucho | © Jim O Donnell / Alamy Stock Photo
Just under 15 minutes by foot from the Tower of London, Gaucho Tower Bridge invites you to discover Argentinian cuisine. Hearty meals like steak and roast dinners are on the menu here, so come hungry, and sit back and enjoy the splendid view of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London itself. There are options for non-meat eaters, too, with the wild mushroom tagliatelle and the beetroot risotto particular highlights.

Places to stay near the Tower of London

Motel One Tower Hill

Budget Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Motel One Tower Hill / Expedia

London is notoriously expensive, but it can be done on a budget. As a cheap alternative to boutique hotels, you can’t go wrong with Motel One Tower Hill. It aims to offer fair prices whatever dates you book, so whether it’s the height of summer or the middle of October, the room rates remain the same. The bar, with its marble-topped tables, smart leather sofas and low-lit wood burners, is first class and wouldn’t look out of place in one of London’s more upmarket hotels.

The LaLIT London

Boutique Hotel
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The LaLIT London
Courtesy of The LaLiT London / Hotels.com

If visiting the tower and seeing the Crown Jewels has given you a hankering for luxury, book in at The LaLIT London. The five-star boutique hotel, housed in a striking 120-year-old Neo-Baroque building that used to be a Victorian boys’ grammar school, offers a calm respite from the hustle and bustle – and even has its own tower suite. With its great location, sumptuous interior and complimentary minibar, this discreet hotel ticks all the boxes.


Qbic Hotel London City

Budget Hotel
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Qbic Hotel London City
Courtesy of Qbic Hotel / Expedia

Priding itself on its decent price point, Qbic Hotel London City is a well-designed, contemporary hotel that’s also a great choice for eco-friendly travel (it claims to be the capital’s greenest hotel). This hotel is all about bright, bold design, with rooms that feature quirky artworks and fun graphics. Located in the heart of Aldgate, just five minutes from Aldgate East station, it’s also easy to get to Central London from here.

These recommendations were updated on December 13, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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