The Tower of London is often the main feature of a trip to London, with its 1000 year history, its gruesome and bloody past, the Crown Jewels, the Ravens and the Yeomen Warders in their smart red uniforms - it is the most visited tourist attraction in the UK for a reason. There is so much to see here across 12 acres and 21 towers, more than many people can manage in a single visit, so here we highlight the best parts which you really should not miss.

The exterior of the Tower of London

The Tower of London is in central London right next to Tower Bridge on the River Thames, another one of the most iconic sights in the capital. Although called The Tower of London, it is actually 21 towers all around the keep, known as the White Tower, in the centre. Built by William the Conqueror, who wanted to show his strength and power to the newly conquered English, it was a fort intended to provide full defence against possible reprisals by the subjugated Anglo-Saxons. It served as a Royal residence for many centuries, as well as a prison, armoury, treasury and more besides.

With walls 6 foot deep and surrounded by two defensive walls and a moat, it has never been breached in its 1000 year history, although rioters were accidentally admitted in 1381, with tragic consequences. Although the Tower is renowned for its prisoners and executions, most of them were not executed within the Tower but on nearby Tower Hill instead. Traitor's Gate and imprisonment in the Tower live on in public memory however, and its gruesome past is part of its attraction.

A single ticket gives you entry to all of the towers and exhibitions, including the Crown Jewels. There are some areas which are off limits, mainly the private homes of the soldiers who guard the Tower and who live there with their families. Everywhere else is open to the public though and you can wander where you wish, spending as much time as you want at the parts that interest you the most.

Here we list some of the highlights of a visit to the Tower, but do your research before you go as there may be others that interest you more. Allow a good three hours to go round and bear in mind that your feet are likely to tire quickly, so prioritise what you want rather than trying to see everything.</