Some of the best things in life are free. Additionally (and somewhat surprisingly) some of the best (perma)tourist secrets are free. Take for example: climbing to see Big Ben, fantastic Museums such as the Tate Modern and the V&A, and getting to hold a gold bar at the Bank of England.
I’ve recently discovered another one – the 700 year old Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. You know I love the Tower because
a) I’m a London geek
b) it’s really old and very awesome
c) Priceless Diamonds & Sapphires, Murder, Kings, Queens, 1000 years of
history, Ravens, Torture & Beefeaters float my boat.
Well, how about taking a combination of the Changing of the Guards, the history of the Tower of London and that funny time in the evening where you have eaten but can’t think of anything fun to do?
The Ceremony of the Keys is the traditional locking up of the Tower of London and has taken place on each and every night, without fail, for at least 700 years. The importance of securing this fortress for the night is still very relevant because, although the Monarch no longer resides at this royal palace, the Crown Jewels and many other valuables still do.
It’s a serious tradition around twilight (we went during Summer) involving entering the grounds of the Tower of London, armed guards, snippets of history, beefeaters, standing in cobbled courtyards, an eery atmosphere and a giant cat-door. Don’t be cheeky though, they might lock you in the dungeons with the ghosts.
Tickets are issued free of charge but, due to the popularity of the ceremony, it is necessary to write to the guards with the dates you’d like to go (it needs to be booked fairly in advance), your contact details and a stamped self-addressed envelope. Further details can be found on the Ceremony of the Keys website.
You can’t take photos during the Ceremony, but you can take in the beautiful view of the Southbank reflecting in the Thames. If you’re really lucky like we were, you might even get to see the raised Tower Bridge which is breathtaking even after living here for so long.
What’s your favourite icon (London or internationally)?