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View of Tower Bridge - London

Tower Bridge in London

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Spanning the Thames just a stone’s throw from the Tower of London (after which it is named), Tower Bridge has become an emblem of the English capital! Follow the guide!

👉 Want to know more about London’s history? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free tour of the city.
You’re free to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide at the end of the tour!

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!

Side of Tower Bridge - London

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. The 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.

blueprint-Tower-Bridge-©-Wikipedia
Wikipedia

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)

Tower Bridge Glass Floor © diamond geezer
diamond geezer

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.

Engine rooms - Tower Bridge © James Petts
James Petts

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. From 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):

Tower Bridge by night

💵 🤩 👍 London Pass & London Explorer Pass 👍 🤩 💵
Access to the Tower Bridge Exhibition is also included in 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 PalaceWindsor Castle, St. Paul’s Cathedrals, the Churchill War Roomsa cruise on the Thames, a hop-on hop-off bus tour…): an investment that will quickly pay off if you spend a few days in the English capital!

Access

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.

Opening hours

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.

Admission

Adults 9,80 £
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.

👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in advance!


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 checking out Booking.com. From youth hostels to luxury boutique hotels: you will find exactly what you need!
If your budget is limited, the Captain recommends looking for an accommodation in Paddington or Kensington: the options are generally more affordable than in the centre and the location is quite convenient.
If you’re budget isn’t too tight, the Park Plaza London Riverbank is a nice option.
And if you’re looking for a very nice hotel, the Captain most definitely recommends the Goring: it is an iconic property right in the centre of 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.


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