The River Thames divides London in two, north and south. There are more than 30 bridges spanning it within Greater London, with some of the most famous right in the heart of London.
Tower Bridge is surely the most iconic crossing, carrying the A100, linking Southwark to Tower Hamlets.
If you are lucky, you will see the bridge open up to allow large river vessels pass – this happens around two to three times per day and seeing the 1,000 ton bascules raise is a sure fire crowd pleaser. Lifting times are shown in advance on the bridge’s website, http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/lift-times.
The bridge’s present paint colour was added in 1977, although it was painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. During the London 2012 Games, a set of Olympic rings was suspended from the bridge to mark the arrival of the sporting event in the capital.
In addition, you can take a tour of the bridge’s engine rooms and then climb the towers to walk across the glass floor that links the two. Tickets for this popular attraction need to be booked at least 24 hours in advance.
If you are travelling to the attraction by the London Underground, then the closest stops are Tower Hill and London Bridge, which also offers mainline rail.
If you are familiar with the nursery rhyme, London Bridge Is Falling Down, then you need not worry, it remains structurally intact! The current bridge was opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II and was designed by architect Lord Holford and engineers Mott, Hay and Anderson.
The previous stone bridge was famously sold to an American businessman, Robert McCulloch, before being reconstructed in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
On the Southwark side of the bridge lies the London Bridge Experience & Tombs, which is only for the brave of heart. The attraction shows London’s 2,000 years of rich heritage and gives guests the opportunity to immerse themselves and revel in the history of this great city.
The Experience starts with a tour of the eras and events of London’s rich past – including tales of Jack the Ripper, first-hand experience of the Great Fire of London and a glimpse of medieval life in this historic city.
If you are brave enough to continue, you will be transported though the Vortex into the London Tombs. With evil clowns, giant spiders, a maniacal butcher and surprises around every corner, the tour is a scream-packed funfest that is sure to raise everyone’s blood pressure.
The London Bridge Experience has been voted the UK’s scariest attraction on numerous occasions over recent years. If it all gets a bit much, you can let your tour guide know and you’ll be whisked away from the action. Staff are on hand at all times and visitors should be assured they are always in safe hands. For visitors with children there is even the option of a Guardian Angels Tour, which misses out the scary parts – making it much more suitable for families.
Anyone hoping to reach the London Bridge Experience & Tombs with the minimum of hassle should consider planning their travel via the extensive London Underground network to London Bridge (on the Jubilee and Northern lines), Monument (in the Circle and District lines) or Borough (on the Northern line).
For those wanting to visit the Tate Modern, then the Millennium Bridge is a must see. Originally opened in 2000, this pedestrian-only bridge suffered some initial teething problems, causing it to be nick-named The Wobbly Bridge when it first opened as it swayed under people’s feet. The structure was modified and re-opened in 2002.
The structure’s initial design was designed by a competition organised by Southwark council and RIBA Competitions. The winning entry was a joint entry from Arup Group, Foster and Partners, and Sir Anthony Caro.
The bridge is made of three parts – measuring 81 metres, 144 metres and 108 metres, all held with eight suspension cables holding it in place. It is also capable of supporting more than 5,000 people on the bridge at the same time.
The walkway links St Paul’s Cathedral to the north of the river to some of London’s greatest cultural attractions in the southern side. Within a short walk of the southern end of the bridge lie the famous Tate Modern, which showcases some of the best in contemporary art from around the world, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, an historically realistic reconstruction of the 1599 original and the Bankside gallery, home to the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.
The Millennium Bridge can be found half way between Blackfriars and Mansion House, both on the Circle and District Lines of the London Underground.
Waterloo Bridge lies opposite the South Bank, which is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Waterloo Station, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Royal National Theatre, and also the National Film Theatre.
The centre of the bridge offers some of the best views available anywhere in London, immortalised by The ins’ song ‘Waterloo Sunset’. Waterloo Bridge has also recently featured in the popular BBC drama Sherlock staring Benedict Cumberbatch.
Looking east along the river, one can see St Paul’s Cathedral, the Gherkin, the Oxo Tower and the Shard. To the south can see the Millennium Eye, County Hall (home to the London Sea Life Aquarium and the London Dungeon), the Houses of Parliament and the Savoy hotel.
Access is from London Waterloo, offering rail and London Underground (Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern and Waterloo & City Lines) or Temple on the Circle and District Line.
Of course, there are plenty more bridges in the capital, including Lambeth Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Kew Bridge, Hammersmith Bridge and Cannon Street Railway Bridge…. the list is quite large!
However, if you do stay in a central London hotel it is likely at some point during your stay you will venture across at least one bridge as you explore the capital’s attractions.