Ceremony of the Keys – Tower of London
Published 22 July 2009
Even after having lived in London for 5 years, there are events that I come across that are still new to me. One such event is the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London, one of the traditional rituals/ceremonies that has been performed by the British for the last 700 years. Like the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, this daily routine is free to attend and, apparently, very popular, with the limited free tickets issued booked a good one month ahead. It is these hidden, unpublicized secret free events like these that got me started with this website in the first place!
This ceremony was started when the royal family still lived in the royal palace adjacent to the Tower of London. However, although the royalty has departed for Buckingham Palace, many of the crown jewels and valuables are still stored or exhibited in the Tower of London! The ceremony takes place every day without fail between the hours of 9:30pm and 10:05pm.
I won’t give away the exact details of the ceremony as to not spoil the excitement for those who are going, but it does involve Beefeaters, traditional English guards dressed in uniform (see above picture), as well as getting to see features of the Tower of London such as the Bloody Tower Archway, Water Lane, and the main gates to the place. The whole event takes less than ten minutes, but its sometime unique and special to London (only small groups are allowed every day) that it easily overshadows many of the touristy things to do in London.
How to apply for the free tickets?
There is a procedure to apply for the tickets which seems rather archaic. No emails, fax, or calls to reserve will be entertained; in order to get tickets, you have to write in to an address (see below), include a self addressed envelope, and provide two dates within the next two months in which you will be able to attend. For residents in the UK, this is no problem as you just stick a first or second class stamp on the self-addressed envelope.
The address to post is:
Ceremony of the Keys Office
Tower of London
London EC3N 4AB
For the official information page about this event, click here.
However, for people overseas planning to include this as part of their tourist trip to London, you have to include two “coupon-response international”, whatever those are! I think they should have a system where overseas applicants can include credit card details to be charged the postage; but oh well, government departments are always working in bureaucratic mysterious ways!
As an avid traveller myself, I understand how frustrating these kind of policies must be, so I would like to offer my assistance to any tourists outside the UK who would like tickets; if you can reimburse me for the postage via Paypal, I will request tickets on your behalf and send them off to you when I receive them. You can find my contact details on the About Us page at the top left corner.