Spanning the Thames near the Tower of London (from which it gets its name), the Tower Bridge has become a true symbol of the English capital! Follow the guide!
💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
Want to know more about the history of London? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the capital. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
Looking for a hotel in London? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in London? Advice & recommendations
Brief history of Tower Bridge
The origins of the Tower Bridge
In the 2nd half of the 19th century, the need to build a bridge to connect the two banks of the Thames downstream from London Bridge was becoming increasingly pressing.
To oversee the project, a special committee was created in 1877: The Special Bridge or Subway Committee. A total of over 50 architectural projects were submitted to the committee.
But the final project wasn’t approved until 1884: civil engineer John Wolfe-Barry’s proposal won the tender.
The construction of the Tower Bridge
The construction of the Tower Bridge began 2 years later, in 1886. 1886. A total of 432 workers were mobilized; construction works lasted 8 years
or an overall budget of £1.6 million (equalling to some 200 million pounds today).
Tower Bridge was inaugurated on June 30, 1894 by the Prince of Wales, who was later to become Edward VII. While its neo-gothic architectural style was really far rom unanimous at the beginning, the bridge quickly became a symbol of the British capital!
Modernization & renovations
In 1974, the hydraulic lifting mechanism was replaced by a much more modern electrohydraulic system.
. Tower Bridge Exhibition, a museum dedicating to Tower Bridge’s history and daily operations, opened its doors 8 years later.
In 2008, the bridge was completely renovated for 4 million pounds!
Tower Bridge in a few words
The Tower Bridge is undoubtedly one of a kind: at the time of its construction, the bridge was at the forefront of innovation. Its complex structure featured the characteristics of 3 different types of bridges: bascule bridges, suspension bridges and girder bridges. A formidable technical feat!
Its deck – the lower central part on which the cars are circulating – can open to let the boats through. Captain opening mechanism is concealed in the neo-gothic towers which are covered with Cornish granite. Pedestrians can cross the bridge on two walkways even when the deck is raised to let boats through.
Visiting Tower Bridge
Crossing Tower Bridge
If don’t want to visit the exhibition, you can simply walk across Tower Bridge to admire the bridge’s stunning architecture from up close.
From the bridge, you’ll have a beautiful view on the Thames, the Tower of London and the City.
During the summer months, food trucks and other street food stalls often take up residence on the banks of the Thames just a stone’s throw from the bridge. Why not have lunch by the water, while admiring the view on Tower Bridge?
Visiting the Tower Bridge Exhibition
Opened in 1982, the Tower Bridge Exhibition invites visitors to discover the history and the mechanism of the bridge through interactive exhibits. Visitors can also venture out on Tower Bridge’s pedestrian walkways to admire the view over London from the top!
The Tower Bridge Glass Floor
Perched 42 meters above the Thames, the glass floor offers a spectacular view of the lower level of the bridge, down below!
Made of a set of tempered glass panels, the glass walkways are 11 meters long and 1.80 meters wide. Don’t panic, there’s no risk of falling!
That said, if you are afraid of heights, you may want to abstain: the view is really quite vertiginous! (some parts of the walkways are not made of glass if you’d rather enjoy the views while staying good old-fashioned solid floor)
The engine rooms
At the time of construction, the opening mechanism of the bridge was at the cutting edge of technology. Tower Bridge was the the largest and most sophisticated weighbridge in the world.
Today, the old engine rooms – the Victorian engine rooms – are no longer in operation and have opened their doors to visitors so they can discover the incredible machinery that used to operate the bridge.
The bridge lift
More than 125 years after its inauguration, Tower Bridge continues to lift to allow the passage of large ships sailing on the Thames. The bridge lifts approximately 850 times per year, or one to four times per day on average.
If you have the opportunity, don’t hesitate to plan your visit of Tower Bridge around the lifting of the bridge: it’s a sight worth seeing! The bridge lift times vary: find out more here.
Admiring Tower Bridge from the Thames
Captain Ulysses highly recommends embarking on a Thames river cruise. The the river, the view of Tower Bridge is particularly magical.
You can chose between a number of different cruises according to your budget and your preferences. Captain Ulysses recommends in particular (in order of ascending price):
- Cruise on the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich (perfect if your buget is limited)
- Evening cruise on the Thames
- Jet boat on the Thames
- Lunch cruise on the Thames
- Dinner cruise on the Thames
Getting to Tower Bridge
he Tower Bridge is easily accessible by public transport:
- Subway: Tower Hill (District and Circle lines) and London Bridge (Northern and Jubilee lines)
- Bus lines 15, 42, 78, 100 and 343
Hop-on hop-off bus tours also stop at Tower Bridge.
👉 More info: hop-on hop-off bus tour + cruise on the River Thames
You can walk across the bridge 24/7. The Tower Bridge Exhibition is open:
- from 10 am to 6 pm from April to September
- from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from October to March.
It is closed on December 24, 25 and 26 and exceptionnally only opens at 10 a.m. on January 1st.
|Reduced rates Students & visitors over 60 years old||6,80 £|
|Children From 5 to 15 years old||3,90 £|
|Family pass Up to 2 adults and 4 children||Between £15.30 and £27|
In 2018, Tower Bridge welcomed a total of 900,000 visitors… the queues to the entrance of the monument can be desperately long, especially during school holidays!
👉 That’s why Captain Ulysses strongly encourages you to opt for a skip-the-line ticket.
👍 London Pass & London Explorer Pass 👍
You can also access the Tower Bridge Exhibition with the London Pass and London Explorer Pass.
Captain Ulysses has a soft spot for the former, which gives access to 80 attractions, including many of London’s most iconic museums and monuments (the Tower of London, the Shard, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Churchill War Rooms…): an investment that will quickly pay off if you spend a few days in the English capital!
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in London!
👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions in London!
🛏️ Accommodation: If you haven’t booked your accommodation in London yet, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Expedia. And for more tips and recommendations, check out the Captain’s detailed article: Where to stay in London?
🎟️ Activities: For your visits and activities in London, the Captain recomends checking out GetYourGuide, Civitatis and Tiqets. Skip-the-line tickets, cruises, guided tours, activities off the beaten tracks… You will undoubtedly find what everything you need… and more! Keep in mind that London is a very touristy city: if you want to avoid queuing for hours, skip-the-line tickets are great time savers!
🎫 Citypass : If you’re spending a few days in the capital, Captain Ulysse recommends investing in a city pass which will give you access to the most iconic monuments and attractions in London. There are 2 options: the London Explorer Pass and the London Pass (which also includes a 1-day hop-on-hop-off bus tour.). These passes have 2 major advantages: the discounts and the skip-the-line accesses.
🚐 Transfers: London is a huge city and the airports are quite distant from the city centre. If you want to avoid spending hours in public transports to get to your hotel, you can book a transfer from the airport. A car will be waiting for you at the airport and will take you wherever you want in the city centre. Find out more here.
🚌 Transports: The capital being quite spread out, there’s no avoiding taking public transports. The good news is that they are quite easy to navigate! You can also opt for a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tour, which includes an audioguide and stops at the main attractions and monuments in the city.
✈️ Flights: To get to London, there are plenty of options: planes, buses, trains and even ferries. For your flights, the Captain highly recommends that checking out Skyscanner: you’ll be able to find the best deal for the dates on which you plan on traveling to London. If your dates are flexible, you will even be able to compare prices over several weeks in order to find THE best deal. London is also easily accessible by bus and train. To book your trips, the Captain warmly recommends Omio, which allows you to travel through 44 countries with 207 train and bus companies, including Eurostar.