Tower of London
Only Britain’s most esteemed villains – among them, royals, high-society traitors, and those notorious cockney gangsters, the Kray Brothers – have been behind bars at the Tower of London, one of the cultural sights in London not to be missed. The Krays were among the few to leave alive – most (including two of Henry VIII’s wives) were subjected to gruesome torture and bloody execution. The last prisoner is long gone, leaving a well-preserved medieval fortress originally built over 900 years ago for William the Conqueror. Actually it’s an entire town of towers, with charming cobbled lanes, cottages and a chapel. Add to that the jolly Beefeaters carrying out arcane traditions, the royal ravens and the Crown Jewels (yes, they are the real deal, apparently), and the result is rather like a Disney film set. Except for the bloodstains. If stamina allows, visit Tower Bridge – that iconic landmark so often (and occasionally expensively) confused with London Bridge. Opened in 1894, the upper walkway (45m/148ft up; intended for crossing the bridge while its drawbridges were raised) is still accessible, as is the Engine Room’s original steam-powered machinery. Now, however, electric motors lift the two 1,200-ton arms in 90 seconds, and since it’s one of the Thames’ lowest crossings, do so over 500 times a year (020 7403 3761 www.towerbridge.org.uk).