Wining and dining in a frilly frock at the Tower of London


Never have I ever thought that I would be traipsing up and down rickety wooden stairs while dressed in a ball gown, trying my hardest to not slip and make a spectacle of myself at the Tower Of London in England, of all places.

Where was I headed on these stairs? It was up the White Tower, where I was to have aperitifs while admiring the British monarchs’ Royal Armouries display, before going back down those same steps to the New Armouries Banqueting Suite, where dinner was to be held.

This took place a few years back, and it being my first time dining at the Tower Of London – or rather my first time ever at the historic castle – I was inwardly giddy with excitement.

Even the slight drizzle of rain that greeted me and my fellow companions when we arrived earlier in the evening did not dampen my mood at the slightest. It did make manoeuvring the slippery stairs and cobblestone paths in my frilly getup slightly more difficult, but fortunately the sturdy heels hidden beneath the bloom of my skirt made the task somewhat manageable.

I trudged on, trying to keep up with the tour led by the Beefeaters. Also known as the Yeoman Warders, the Beefeaters’ role was originally to guard prisoners in the castle and protect the Crown Jewels. Now, they serve as ceremonial guards and tour guides, as presently illustrated by the man with a booming voice directing our attention to the Traitor’s Gate.

The Crown Jewels are housed inside the Waterloo Block, which is immediately recognisable by the large clock up front. — FLOREY D. MIKIL/The StarThe Crown Jewels are housed inside the Waterloo Block, which is immediately recognisable by the large clock up front. — FLOREY D. MIKIL/The Star

The tour concluded with a viewing of the Crown Jewels in the Waterloo Block, after which we were led to the aforementioned White Tower and later, the banquet hall.

The sit-down dinner was as extravagant as it could be, since it was in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. (May the late queen rest in peace.) Amid delicate bouquets, classical music and the clinking of glasses, I exchanged pleasantries with the other guests who came from all corners of the world.

As I was there for a private event, the experience was different from if I were to have visited on my own.

It is on my bucket list to return someday, but sans formal attire so I can worry less about the rain ruining my dress and focus more on the riveting facts shared by the Beefeaters.

If you plan to visit, make the best of your trip by exploring other places of interests nearby as well, such as The Shard. Hard to miss thanks to its distinctive jagged silhouette, this spire-like skyscraper stands 72-storey tall across the River Thames, roughly a 20-minute walk away from the Tower Of London.

Splurge on afternoon tea with a view, and savour a scone or two while admiring iconic landmarks like the Tower Bridge and Tower Of London itself from high above.

Speaking of the Tower Bridge, it’s a mere six-minute walk from the tower, so it’d be a shame to not add this famous bascule bridge to your itinerary while you’re in the area. If you can’t get as high as The Shard, the panoramic views from the bridge’s 11m-long glass walkway are more than enough.

Potterheads, meanwhile, will want to make the 13-minute walking journey to Leadenhall Market, the Victorian indoor marketplace where the first and fourth Harry Potter films were shot.

And if you’re visiting in December, the place also hosts a spectacular Christmas market throughout the month.

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