What to see at Tower Bridge?

What to see at Tower Bridge?

Located in central London, the Tower Bridge is a bascule bridge which brings every day thousands of pedestrians and motorists to the opposite bank of the Thames.

It is one of the most famous monuments in London - like the Palace of Westminster (with Big Ben) or the Tower of London - and one of the most famous bridges in the world.

It can be seen from the banks of the Thames, but it is also possible to visit it!

The Tower Bridge is among the best tourist attractions in London.

The Tower Bridge is one of 4 bridges managed by the services of the Lord Mayor.

History of Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge is a bascule bridge in Victorian Gothic style - built in 1894, with the aim of relieving traffic from the neighboring bridge, the London Bridge, and to promote the development of the capital towards the east.

Its 2 main objectives were to:

  • allow pedestrians and cars to cross the river
  • give large ships the possibility of accessing the docks

In 1876, a study committee was created to work on the design of the bridge. Over 50 proposals were considered - but it was not until October 1884 that architect Horace Jones, in collaboration with engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry, presented the chosen design.

The Tower Bridge belongs to the class of suspension bridges and is made of granite for its facade, steel for its structure and concrete for its foundations. It is 240 meters long, 15 meters wide and 65 meters high. It took 8 years and 432 workers to complete its construction.

The Tower Bridge was officially opened on June 30, 1894 by the Prince of Wales (now King Edward VII).

The Tower Bridge was originally brown in color. It was repainted in blue, white and red in 1977 - to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Queen Elizabeth II.

Glass floor of one of the gateways of Tower Bridge in London

Visit Tower Bridge

The main entrance to Tower Bridge and its ticket office is located northwest of the bridge. The engine room is located in the southern part of the bridge, at river level, on Shad Thames.

East of Tower Bridge you can admire the docks, towers of Canary Wharf and Greenwich - while to the west you will see the silhouette of City Hall, The Shard, the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London and the towers of The City: The Gherkin, the Fenchurch Building, the Sky Garden, etc.

Blue lines painted on the ground show you the way to go.

The Gateways of Tower Bridge

The 2 gateways of Tower Bridge are 11 meters long and 1.8 meters wide and are located at a height of 96 meters.

In 2014, the installation of a glass floor (The Tower Bridge Glass Floor) in each of the bridge's walkways allows visitors to have an unusual view from the bridge and to observe the road and river traffic under their feet.

Each walkway has 6 tempered glass panels 68 mm thick for a weight of about 530 kg.

If you feel dizzy, be aware that the glass floor only covers part of the walkways, it is quite possible to walk alongside.

The gateways were closed to the public in 1910 - then reopened in 1982, as part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition.

Tower Bridge Exhibition

In 1982, Tower Bridge first opened its doors to the public with an exhibition devoted to the history of its construction.

The exhibition is still present today, you will discover a photo exhibition of the most beautiful bridges in the world, film screenings on its construction, etc.

As the monument is not air conditioned, you are strongly advised to avoid very hot days for your visit.

Allow around 1h visit.

The Tower Bridge bascule bridge

Under a law dating back to 1885, the Tower bridge was designed so that it could pass large ships - and this for free, 365 days a year, day and night. Boats are just required to warn of their passage at least 24 hours in advance.

Each scale on the bridge weighs approximately 1,200 tonnes (including a counterweight of 410 tonnes) - 2 huge motors with water tanks, hidden in the towers, were used to power this tilting system.

The seesaws are lifted about 1000 times a year - check them out days and times of lifting on the official Tower Bridge website.

The glass floor does not run the entire length of the monument, it is advisable to admire the opening of the bridge from the edge of the Thames and not inside the bridge, where visibility is reduced.

In 1952, the scales of the bridge began to rise as a bus from line 78 - driven by Albert Gunter - was crossing it! The bus managed to "jump" from one seesaw to another, avoiding a fall several meters high into the Thames.

Victorian Engine Rooms: the Tower Bridge engine room

In 1894, with its hydraulic tipping mechanism that used steam to power its engines, the Tower Bridge was the most sophisticated bascule bridge in the world.

At the time, the bascule bridge technicians stayed in the engine rooms (Victorian Engine Rooms).

Today the scales are still operated by hydraulic power, but the mechanism was automated (in 1976) and now operates on electricity.

The original motors, accumulators and pumping boilers are on display in the engine room - located below deck.

Tower Bridge prices

The ticket price for the Tower Bridge includes access to the walkway and the engine room:

  • Adult: £12.50
  • Child (under 17): £3.50
  • Child (under 5): free

On site, the line at the ticket office can be very long - it is therefore advisable to book your tickets in advance, on the internet.

Entry is free with the London Pass, the London Explorer Pass and the I 'iVenture London Attractions Pass.

Tower Bridge timetable

The Tower Bridge is open all year round:

  • Autumn / Winter (October to March): every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Spring / Summer (March to September): every day from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Like many monuments, museums and attractions, Tower Bridge is closed from December 24 to 26. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on January 1.

Getting to Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge is located at the intersection of the Southwark and Tower Hamlets neighborhoods, near the Tower of London - from which it takes its name.

It is located in the Pool of London - which marks the boundary between the Upper Pool upstream and the Lower Pool downstream.

To get there, 6 options:

  • Metro:
    • Circle line and District line - stop Tower Hill.
    • Northern line and Jubilee line - stop London Bridge.
  • Bus: lines 15, 42, 78, 100 and RV1.
  • Train: London Bridge, Fenchurch Street and Tower Gateway DLR stations.
  • Car: Tower Hill Coach Car Park parking lot - located at 50 Lower Thames Street.
  • Boat:
    • North Shore: St Katherine Pier and Tower Pier.
    • South shore: London Bridge City Pier.
  • Bicycle:
    • North shore: St Katherine Way
    • South shore: Tolley Street and One Tower Bridge

Near the Tower Bridge

Take advantage of your visit to the Tower Bridge to visit:

  • Borough Market
  • City Hall
  • HMS Belfast
  • London Bridge
  • Monument to the Great Fire of London
  • Shakespeare's Globe
  • Sky Garden
  • The Shard
  • Tower of London