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Ceremony of the Keys, Tower of London

I'm trying to work my way round all the sorts of tourist and interesting things that tend to get taken for granted when you live so close to a place (I live in London). So, one Sunday night in February, I took my father to see the Ceremony of the Keys in the Tower of London. Here are some tips for those travellers thinking of booking up to attend, based on my experience:

  1. It's free (great!)....but you have to book online, several months in advance (boo), so this is an experience to plan well ahead for.
  2. The whole briefing then ceremony is short - enter the Tower about 9.30pm, and out finished by about 10.10pm.
  3. NO photography is allowed - the Yeoman Warder explains by stating that they want to keep the ceremony's mystique private to those who observe it!
  4. Perhaps paradoxically, I personally think that the ceremony is best observed in the Winter months - the darkness, damp/wet and wind adds to the occasion (but you do need to dress appropriately)
  5. People attending need to be able to walk quickly on cobblestones, in the dark - people with poor walking ability may not be best suited.
  6. If you want to get a glimpse of a traditional English military ceremony that goes back 700 years it's excellent. However if you think it is going to be a large-scale ceremony, think again. However its intimacy makes it more appealing I think.


Posted by
795 posts

Good advice! We have lived in London but didn't go see it the whole time. In fact, we have only seen it once in decades of travel to London only to have the kiddos complain that it was boring and couldn't we leave right now.

Posted by
70 posts

Excellent advice. We did this as well and after seeing it during the day crowded it was so nice to be there when it was empty. Well worth the work around (and basically free). We did it in summer and it was still cool!!

You do need to plan to do this in advance and write a very nice request letter ON PAPER.

Posted by
8243 posts

Yes, book in advance. Over the weekend I booked for our November visit and a number of November dates already taken. A short story regarding my first Ceremony of the Keys. Our yeoman was the spitting image of Jimmy Cagney in manner and form and wasn't thrilled with a 25 year old yank who kept chatting much to the embarrassment of his female companion. Took the yeoman 30 seconds to cull him from the crowd to polite applause from all of us. As we left the Tower the now angry young man ("I've been disrespected') was waiting for her. Expecting sympathy he was shocked to be dressed down by her for being rude and obnoxious. A thing of beauty, you go girl!

Posted by
137 posts

Mark is spot on! We did the Ceremony of the Keys on Dec. 18 or there-abouts 10 years ago and it was great to have the cold, damp, fog add to the atmosphere.

Posted by
216 posts

A great reminder of a no-cost "secret" event which few get to see.

There is no availability before November 2015. Booking opens 1 year in advance. Sadly my trips are planned with less lead time. : (