Tower Bridge is without a doubt, one of the most famous London landmarks. Here are the 10 best things to do near Tower Bridge, perfect for first-time visitors to London. However, I’m sure also Londoners wouldn’t have done all of them yet!
Are Tower Bridge and London Bridge the same?
Before I share my top things to do near Tower Bridge, let me first clear up one big misunderstanding.
Tower Bridge and London Bridge are most definitely NOT the same.
While London Bridge has the honour of being the oldest bridge in London – originally built by the Romans in 55 BC – it unfortunately isn’t London’s most beautiful bridge. Instead, present-day London Bridge is a boring, inconspicuous concrete bridge.
Tower Bridge on the other hand is a real looker. Being the only bascule bridge in London today – on average, it opens three times a day – Tower Bridge with its two towers is a real London icon.
Located next to the Tower of London, it looks like both structures were built around the same time. But in reality, Tower Bridge was built over 800 years after the start of the Tower of London!
Truth is, the outside of Tower Bridge is a cover-up, quite literally.
Since it opened in 1894, during the prosperous Industrial Revolution, Tower Bridge is actually a modern steel framework at heart. Consisting of over 11,000 tons of steel, it was covered with Portland stone. This gives Tower Bridge its characteristic look.
10 Things to Do Near Tower Bridge
Now we know the difference between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, let me share my favourite things to do around Tower Bridge with you. The great thing about this list is that the majority of these London landmarks are free to visit.
1. Go inside Tower Bridge
Just by walking over Tower Bridge, you already get fantastic views of this stunning London landmark. However, for unique views, I recommend a visit inside Tower Bridge.
Yes, that’s right. You can actually go inside Tower Bridge!
In the Tower Bridge Exhibition you’ll learn all there is to know about the construction of this iconic London landmark. But also interesting trivia, such as: Why is Tower Bridge painted blue? (Answer: it was painted blue, white and red for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.)
The highlight of my Tower Bridge visit was to walk over the walkways that connect the two towers. Both of these walkways have a glass floor section, each measuring 11m x 1.8m. Situated at 42 metres above the river Thames, they offer dazzling views of the traffic underneath.
After you’ve been to the top of Tower Bridge, make sure to also visit the engine rooms at water level. Here you get a sense of the powerful engines that enable the bridge to open and close.
How to visit Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge opening times
Tower Bridge Exhibition is open daily from 9.30am till 6pm. Last admission is at 5pm. (Exceptions: Tower Bridge is closed from 24 till 26 December. On 1 January it doesn’t open till 10am.)
Do you need to book Tower Bridge tickets in advance?
My visit was rather spontaneous so I bought a ticket on the day. However, because it’s such a famous London landmark, it can get crowded. To avoid the crowds, you can buy an eTicket prior to your visit. Regular adult tickets cost £10.60 and eTickets cost £9.54 (as of April 2020).
Where is the entrance of Tower Bridge visitor centre?
The entrance of Tower Bridge is halfway the bridge on the side of Tower of London. The entrance to the engine rooms is at the southbank of the Thames. (So on the opposite side of the river as Tower of London.)
Website: Tower Bridge
2. Climb the Monument to the Great Fire of London
Want to see London’s skyline from a different perspective? Then I challenge you to climb the 311 steps of the spiralling staircase inside Monument. Do you see that small golden crown at the top? That’s the viewing platform from where you can enjoy panoramic views of London.
The Monument to the Great Fire of London, as it’s officially known, is basically a very tall column. A 62m-tall column to be exact. When it was completed in 1677, there weren’t any other tall structures around. Imagine what an impressive sight this must’ve been!
But why is Monument 62 metres tall? This is not a random height but actually has a historical reference. Because, if you’d put the column on its side, its top would meet the location where the notorious Great Fire of London started on 2 September 1666.
Starting from the oven of a City bakery, the fire lasted for four days and burnt down pretty much the whole of London at the time. Over 13,000 houses and 87 churches, including St Paul’s Cathedral, were destroyed in those fires.
And as the name suggests, this column was built in commemoration to this tragic event.
How to visit Monument to the Great Fire of London
How much does it cost to go up the Monument?
I bought a combi ticket for Tower Bridge and Monument which costs £12.80. A single adult ticket to Monument costs £5.40 and are only available on site on the day. (Prices as of April 2020.)
Where is the entrance of Monument?
The entrance of Monument is right opposite Monument Tube station. You really cannot miss it!
How long does it take to climb the monument London?
Depending on your fitness level, the climb takes 5 to 10 minutes. It was actually easier than expected, but the staircase is quite narrow. Be aware that it’s not accessible for wheelchairs.
Website: The Monument London
3. Visit the Tower of London
Tower of London is another historical site close to Tower Bridge, but thankfully one that is much easier on the calves.
Originally built as a fortress by William the Conquerer in 1078, the royal palace gets its name from its oldest building: the White Tower. That’s the square structure on the right in the photo below.
Over the centuries, monarchs succeeding William added extensions to the Tower. That explains all the different building styles and various layers as you can see in the photo below.
Throughout history, the Tower of London has had various functions. Most people immediately think of the Tower as the home of the Crown Jewels. Or as a notorious prison and place of execution of notables such as Anne Boleyn.
But what a lot of people don’t know is that the Tower of London was also home to an eclectic collection of exotic animals. Often gifted by foreign dignitaries and royals, the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London housed animals such as tigers, lions, baboons, a polar bear and even an African elephant.
When they finally dissolved the Royal Menagerie in the 19th century, some animals were shipped abroad. But a selection were moved to North London, which was the start of the London Zoo in Regents Park.
You can find animal sculptures in reference to these former royal ‘pets’ all around the grounds. And during your visit you can read the weird stories about these royal animals. Such as the one about the polar bear that used to fish in the Thames.
Is Tower of London worth visiting?
How much does it cost to visit the Tower of London?
Considering an adult ticket to the Tower of London costs nearly £30, it’s not a cheap London attraction. If it’s worth visiting is of course entirely up to you and your personal interests. If you’re interested in history, then it’s a great thing to do. But be aware that it’s a major tourist attraction that can get very crowded.
What is there to see in Tower of London?
Many visitors come here just to see the Crown Jewels. But I found it more interesting to learn about all the different functions of the Tower during its history. In the past it’s been used as an armory, barracks and royal mint, amongst others. You get to explore this all in the individual exhibitions.
How long does it take to visit the Tower of London?
Allow yourself at least two hours to visit the Tower of London.
Website: Tower of London
4. Find the St Dunstan in the East London church ruins
Rather want to visit a less famous tourist attraction in London? Then head down to the nearby church ruins St Dunstan in the East. Originally built as a Saxon church, the remains of St Dunstan in the East are now a public garden.
Compared to when I first came here, it has become more popular in recent years, especially amongst photographers. But if you come here early, chances are you can still enjoy the park in peace and quiet.
A few months ago, a Dutch couple booked a private tour along hidden London landmarks with me. Little did the girl know though, that her boyfriend was going to propose to her during their romantic London city break. Together we hatched a master plan leading to the perfect wedding proposal at these church ruins. Obviously she said yes!
5. Enjoy FREE panoramic views from London Sky Garden
This is actually one of my favourite things to do in London and an activity I recommend to most visitors. Located at the 35th floor of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ skyscraper, Sky Garden offers spectacular views of London. And the best thing is that it’s completely free to visit!
Read more about this attraction near Tower Bridge in my article: Visit Sky Garden London, a Spectacular Free Viewing Point. It gives you all the information you need to plan your visit.
6. Visit the charming Leadenhall Market
Despite having been featured in the first Harry Potter film, the Victorian Leadenhall Market is still pretty much a hidden gem in London.
Leadenhall Market dates back to the 13th century already. Originally a meat market, it later expanded to sell cheese and eggs. Today you can still find a dedicated cheese and also wine shop here, but the majority of shops are non-food related. But besides shops, you’ll also find a few restaurants and pubs here.
Especially these latter attract greater crowds here during the week. Come here after the nearby offices have closed, and you’ll find droves of City workers enjoying their pints in Leadenhall Market. At the weekend on the other hand, it’s completely deserted. Well, with the exception of the occasional London tour guide like myself.
7. Find historical Roman London sites
I referred to London’s Roman past at the very beginning of this post when I mentioned that London Bridge was built by the Romans. The Romans did far more than that actually. They actually founded London, calling it Londinium.
Considering the Romans were in London from 43 AD till the 5th century, you can still find a significant number of Roman sites in London. For example the large surviving piece of the Roman Wall next to the Tower of London.
Find more Roman sites in my article: Where to Find Historical Roman London Sites. Lots of them are near Tower Bridge, so I recommend exploring them using my guide mentioned above.
8. Wander through Butler’s Wharf
When you cross Tower Bridge coming from Tower of London, you’ll have the impressive Butler’s Wharf on your left. Completed in the 1870s, this was London’s largest warehouse complex.
Imported tea, coffee, spices and dried fruit would be shipped out here from Asia and stored in what was called the ‘larder of London’. The goods would be distributed from the front warehouse further down the complex using wheelbarrows over the bridges you see in the photo below.
As the industrial hub moved further east, Butler’s Wharf fell in disuse. Since it was a cheap area to live, it became particularly popular amongst artists in the 1970s. It even featured in the early Doctor Who series! But soon after, the buildings were redeveloped in expensive flats, offices and restaurants.
Although there’s not much to do in the wharf anymore, I highly recommend exploring the area as it’s such a unique sight. If you’re interested in London history and old warehouse buildings like me, then this is a real must-see!
9. Go on a self-guided walk along secret London landmarks
I already alluded to it at in the previous sentence, but the main thing I love about London is its long and fascinating history. So many important events have taken place here and numerous famous people have once called the city their home.
Take Charles Dickens for example. You might know his book Christmas Carol. But in The Uncommercial Traveller he refers to a number of obscure London sights, such as the three skulls above the gate of St Olave’s Church. Or the Aldgate Water Pump that you see in the second photo below. Initially lauded for its nutritious fresh water, it soon led to a deadly pandemic.
Being the history nerd I am, I put together a special route for our wedding anniversary a few years ago. Besides the two sites in the photos, it also included the oldest surviving church in the City of London and a few other locations mentioned in this article. It was a very romantic day out indeed, ha ha!
Want to explore some lesser-known London sights?
Then follow my self-guided walk along secret London landmarks. If you’re starting from Tower Bridge, then first go to All Hallows by the Tower. From there, go to St Olave’s Church, followed by St Dunstan in the East. Make your way to the Lower Thames to pass Old Billingsgate Market and then make your way up again to Monument. Finally, go to Leadenhall Market and follow Leadenhall Street to end at the Aldgate Water Pump.
10. Go for a stroll along the river Thames
If you follow the river Thames from Tower Bridge to the west, you’ll see lots of the most popular London attractions. (Just make sure you’re on the south bank of the river.)
This is actually one of my favourite London city walks, and also one of my regular Dutch-language tours in London. Starting at Tower Bridge, you’ll pass famous London landmarks such as City Hall, HMS Belfast, The Shard, London Bridge, Borough Market, Tate Modern, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye and Palace of Westminster.
From there you could even wander down Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and Soho if you want. Since I’ve been doing these guided tours, I realise it’s so easy to see the centre of London on foot! (Yes, I do go through several pairs of shoes a year ha ha!)
How to get to Tower Bridge
The easiest way to get to Tower Bridge is by Tube. Take the Circle of District Line to Tower Hill Tube station. Or take the DLR to Tower Hill DLR station. From both stations it’s a 10-minute walk to Tower Bridge and less than 5 minutes to Tower of London.
Alternatively, you could take the riverboat to St Katherine Pier. From there it’s a 5-minute walk to Tower Bridge. This is actually a fun combination of travelling and some London sightseeing. There’s a circular cruise line from Westminster to St. Katherine. In addition, there’s also one that starts in Greenwich and goes to Westminster via St. Katherine.
Use the Transport for London website to plan your journey, either by Tube, DLR or boat.
Restaurants near Tower of London / Tower Bridge
You’ll find plenty of places to eat near Tower Bridge. Most of them are located between Tower of London and Tower Hill Tube station. You’ll find the majority are sandwich shops or fast food restaurants.
If you’re after freshly prepared food, then I recommend going to Coppa Club Tower Bridge. The food is good, prices are surprisingly low and the views of the Tower of London are just stunning! I’d definitely recommend booking online beforehand. And if you book early enough, you might be lucky to reserve one of their igloos.
Nearby St Katherine’s Docks also offer a number of good restaurants in walking distance from Tower Bridge and Tower of London.
Hotels near Tower of London / Tower Bridge
My top recommendation for a hotel near Tower Bridge is citizenM Tower of London. This funky hotel offers modern rooms (which do feel a bit overdesigned at times) for great prices. From their rooftop bar you have stunning views of the London skyline including Tower of London.
Tell me, which of the attractions near Tower Bridge would you like to visit? Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xx
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