The Tower of London is one of the most historic sites in all of England and still one of the most popular. All around is the modern city of London, one of the world's most prosperous and power financial districts, but the Tower is still a daunting structure that looms across the landscape. Not a single structure but a vast network of medieval and early modern fortifications, it anchors the southeastern end of the old city and controls access to the River Thames and, through it, London's connection to the sea. While the both the city and the Thames are often obscured by the walls once visitors are inside the Tower, they are inextricably tied to the building, giving the Tower its entire reason for existence.
Even today, taking a tour of the Tower can seemingly bring its history to life. Inside the visitor center are replicas of a crown, an executioner's ax, and similar artifacts, but for most visitors this is just the start. After they cross a small courtyard and approach the first gate, known as the Middle Tower, they come to a stone bridge over a now-dry moat and enter the castle itself through the Byward Tower. The Tower, like many fortresses of its day, was built in concentric rings, so inside the outer wall is a narrow strip of land before the inner walls. Long, narrow buildings line the inside of the outer wall, and to the left, along Mint Street, these structures once housed the operation of the Royal Mint, making all of the coins of the realm.
From there most visitors continue straight along, typically guided by one of the colorfully dressed Yeoman Guards (the famous Beefeaters).