Tower Bridge, The Most Famous Bridge in London
Along with Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge is one of the landmarks of the British capital and of the most beautiful and famous bridges in London, UK and even in the world. The 244 meter long suspension and bascule bridge over the Thames was built at the end of the 19th century and connects the districts of Tower Hamlets and Southwark. Here you can find out everything you need to know about Tower Bridge — from its history to interesting sightseeing tips.
The reason why Tower Bridge is famous is because of its neo-Gothic architectural style and the height of the central part. Tower Bridge is considered to be the most interesting and scenic bridge in London. It was the most sophisticated bascule bridge in the world at the time of its inauguration.
Tower Bridge is a hotspots for tourists. A walk on almost 50 meter long pedestrian path opens up a unique view of London. But the bridge not only offers a beautiful view, it is also a museum. In the Tower Bridge Exhibition you can find out everything about the history of the bridge!
The pedestrian bridge received an update in 2014. The new, modern look now includes a walkable 11-meter-long and 1.8-meter-wide glass floor, from which you can see about 40 meters below moving cars, bicycles and boats.
Unfortunately, this is not necessarily recommended for people with a fear of heights, but for everyone else the glass floor is one of the highlights in the city. The only real highlight is and remains of course the folding mechanism of the bridge.
Tower Bridge used to open about 6,000 times a year. Today only around 850 times, as excursion boats almost exclusively operate on this part of the Thames. But it is still an interesting spectacle when the imposing bridge rises to let ships through — it is definitely worth seeing. But be sure to check the opening times on Tower Bridge’s official website beforehand.
The view becomes even more exclusive when you come during the sunset. Then the bridge is bathed in a golden light and gets an even more majestic look.
Tower Bridge Exhibition: Tickets & Tours
The famous Tower Bridge exhibition is one of the top attractions for London travelers, which is why you shouldn’t miss a visit to the Tower Bridge exhibition. The exhibition grants exclusive access to the two main towers of the bridge and from the footpaths you have an incredibly beautiful view of the city.
The main entrance and the ticket office to the Tower Bridge Exhibition are in the north-west tower of the bridge. The entrance to the engine rooms is on the south side of the bridge, on Shad Thames Street. It’s best to look at the ground, blue lines show you the way. They connect the two parts of the exhibition.
The History of Tower Bridge
London: danger of a traffic gridlock
During the 19th century, London’s population grew enormously and the capital even developed into the largest city in the world. Over six million people lived in London at the time. With the population growth, however, chaos broke out on the streets of London — endless traffic jams with long waiting times became the norm.
In order to prevent an absolute standstill of traffic and to allow ships to access the port facilities, a committee was founded in 1876 to look for a solution. Over 50 submitted projects wanted to be carefully examined. The decision for a solution dragged on for years and the traffic got worse and worse.
The long-awaited solution: construction of the Tower Bridge
In 1884 the decision was finally made for one of the 50 projects submitted. The idea for the construction of the Tower Bridge came from the civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette. Two years later, five construction companies and 432 workers were busy building the stunning bridge. An incredible 11,000 tons of steel were used for the towers and the pedestrian bridge.
To give the bridge an imposing appearance, the towers were clad with limestone. Years later, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee, the metal parts of Tower Bridge were painted in the British national colors of red, white and blue.
On June 30, 1894, the grand opening of the bridge took place by the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, and his wife Alexandra of Denmark.
Closed due to prostitution and pickpockets
Unfortunately, the pedestrian paths on the bridge quickly gained a bad reputation. Prostitutes and pickpockets hung around on the bridge — crime increased. In 1910, the bridge was therefore closed to pedestrians. In any case, pedestrians preferred to wait on the bank and watch the bascule bridges being pulled up and the ships passing by.
In 1982 the city gave it another try and the footbridge was reopened to the public.
What to see near Tower Bridge
There are two other landmarks of the city in the immediate vicinity of Tower Bridge. Why not stop by there when you’re already in the corner?
The Tower of London
The Tower of London is a historic fortress on the banks of the Thames in the center of the city, a few meters from Tower Bridge. The Tower of London is one of the most famous fortresses in the world and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988.
This building, which is more than 1000 years old, offers visitors a unique journey through the history of London’s beginnings.
A breathtaking view from Shard
Since 2013, London has offered the opportunity to get to know the city from a completely different perspective: from a height of 306 meters! Several restaurants are located in this building, which got its name The Shard (“Splitter”) due to its unusual shape.
Tower Bridge vs. London Bridge
Attention! Tower Bridge is often confused with London Bridge. This is a road bridge that also crosses the Thames. It connects the City of London on the north side with the borough of Southwark on the south side. The London Bridge can also be visited: the London Bridge Experience is the name of the exhibition on this bridge. Under the arches of London Bridge you can learn exciting things about its history in the famous horror cabinet.
The London Pass also gives you free entry to the London Bridge Experience.
What is the difference between London Bridge and Tower Bridge?
Tower Bridge is the most famous bridge in London, an architectural masterpiece. It is a combined bascule and suspension bridge. The Tower Bridge uses a technology that divides the deck into two parts in the middle and rises up, widening the navigation path below. It is a steel structure, designed to match the adjoining Tower of London in such a way that it looks like a medieval bridge. Though it was opened in 1894.
The London Bridge is a pre-stressed concrete box girder bridge that has no special architectural value, but it is highly functional. It was opened in 1973, after a reconstruction as third time.
The first London Bridge was built in 1209, which lasted until 1832. The Second London Bridge lasted only 150 years, then it gradually began to sink to the ground. So, removing that, this last and current London Bridge was built.
This is how you get to Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is just a few minutes’ walk from Tower Hill Underground Station. This station is served by the Circle Line and the District Line. Alternatively, you can also reach Tower Bridge from the south bank of the Thames via London Bridge Underground Station. London Bridge tube station crosses the Northern and Jubilee lines.
Frequently asked questions about Tower Bridge in London
When does the Tower Bridge Exhibition open?
Tower Bridge is open from 09:30 AM to 05:00 PM all year round.
What is included in the Tower Bridge Exhibition ticket?
The ticket gives you access to the two towers of Tower Bridge, to the area of the glass floor and to the engine rooms.
Can I buy tickets for the Tower Bridge Exhibition in advance?
Tickets can be bought online or directly at the ticket counter. We recommend buying the London Pass, which also gives you free entry to other attractions in London.
How does the mechanics of the Tower Bridge work?
The Tower Bridge can be opened using water-based hydraulics. In the past, water was pumped under pressure into large pressure accumulators by two steam engines. This water operated the pistons and the bridge opened in just two minutes. Later the hydraulic system was converted to oil hydraulics, which works with electrically driven pumps.
What else can I see around Tower Bridge?
There is really a lot of interesting things you can see in the area. For example the Tower of London, The Shard or the HMS Belfast, a British warship.
When was Tower Bridge built?
How long did it take to build the bridge?
It took 8 years to build.
What was the purpose of the Tower Bridge?
The Tower Bridge was built to make it easier for cars and pedestrians to cross the river, leaving the waterways of the Thames normal for boats and ships. Building a traditional fixed bridge instead would have blocked access to many high-altitude vessels.
Can you walk across Tower Bridge for free?
Pedestrians can walk freely on the Tower Bridge when it is not lifted. But if you want to access the glass walkway or steam engine room, you will need to buy a ticket for the Tower Bridge exhibition in advance.
How often do they raise Tower Bridge?
The Tower Bridge is lifted about 800 times a year to widen the lower waterways.