A visit to London and the United Kingdom for many is a vacation of a lifetime. England has numerous London attractions to see, like the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, and the impressive Tower of London.
While 33 bridges cross the River Thames, London’s Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic attractions with its twin towers and picture-postcard exterior. The iconic Tower Bridge is renowned for being London’s oldest river crossing and one of London’s most famous bridges.
It’s also one of the most recognizable landmarks in London, England. London’s Tower Bridge tour is a treasure to experience if you’re looking for things to do in England’s capital.
Many confuse Tower Bridge with London Bridge. While the London Bridge has the prestigious honor of bearing the city’s name, the London Bridge is located further down the Thames. However, the original London Bridge is no longer in London.
It was dismantled and relocated to Lake Havasu, Arizona, in 1967. When comparing the London Bridge Vs. Tower Bridge, there is no comparison. This Thames Bridge crossing is a must-visit.
Tower Bridge is an extraordinary bridge because it still exists. In a world where we tend to remove the outdated and replace them with modern versions, the Tower Bridge is a historical structure of an opening bridge.
Today, we no longer build bridges that lift up in favor of higher bridges that allow ships to pass underneath without the disruption of stopping vehicle traffic. While there is no London Tower Bridge museum, it still holds a unique history.
Where Is Tower Bridge?
Tower Bridge’s location is easy to find on Tower Bridge Road, crossing the River Thames. It’s close to the Tower of London and considered one of Britain’s best castles. Its exact address is Tower Bridge Rd, London SE1 2UP, UK.
Tower Bridge parking is available for those traveling by vehicle. It’s close to Tower Bridge, and visitors can reserve spots via the JustPark website.
It’s best to travel using London’s underground with Tower Hill being the closest station. Tower Hill is also the closest tube station to the Tower of London. From the underground station, the directions to Tower Bridge consist of an eight-minute walk south.
During my last trip to England, I spent a weekend in London and made some day trips to the city by British Rail. We stayed at a Premier Inn near the Tower Bridge exhibition, which was newly renovated and conveniently located.
It was a great location around the corner from St Dunstan’s in the East, a hidden gem of London’s busy city.
There are many places to stay in London. But shop around because prices vary a considerable amount depending on the day of the week and location.
How Long Does Tower Bridge Exhibition Take?
This famous London tower river crossing is a 5-minute walk from the Tower of London. This allowed me to visit the Tower of London and Tower Bridge on the same day, given their proximity to each other.
While a visit to the Tower of London took me 5 hours, the Tower Bridge tour took approximately 2 hours. However, the Tower Bridge tour varies greatly, depending on the number of visitors.
Do note; it is free to walk across the bridge. A fee is only required to tour the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Most visitors to London don’t realize they can go inside Tower Bridge.
The Tower Bridge exhibition tour consists of the bridge tower, the two high-level walkways, and the engine room. At the end of the Tower Bridge tour, you’ll pass through the Tower Bridge gift shop for an opportunity to purchase some London souvenirs.
Tower Bridge Tickets
As with some famous landmarks, tickets for Tower Bridge can be purchased at the venue or online. At the venue, Tower Bridge tickets for adults are GBP 12.30, seniors GBP 9.20, children (aged 5-15) GBP 6.20, and under 5 are free.
Time slot tickets are available online. Access to the Tower Bridge exhibition is also included in the London Pass.
London’s Tower Bridge opening hours are 9:30 am to 5 pm year-round except December 24 to 26 when they are closed. The last admission to the Tower Bridge exhibition is at 5 pm.
It can get quite busy at Tower Bridge, so be prepared to queue and go through a security check before entering the Victorian structure.
After a quick elevator ride to the top, immerse yourself in the marvel of engineering of this fantastic bridge. Watch a short video and learn about the Tower Bridge’s history, the men who built this incredible structure, and the grueling eight years to complete the task.
Tower Bridge History
It was interesting to learn that the bridge employed five major contractors to complete its construction. Also, the contractor submitted over 50 designs before the city chose the final bridge.
The last contractor changed the design a little to reflect a gothic style. Amazingly, it took 70,000 tons of concrete to support the piers and 11,000 tons of steel to complete the framework and level walkways.
During your visit, you can follow one of the tours or do a self-tour. Brian and I did a self-tour of Tower Bridge.
Walking around the inside of this Victorian bridge gave me an appreciation for the time it took to build it. I learned about its construction from videos, photographs, and drawings.
Throughout the eight years, the bridge had six contractors, and it’s interesting to see the changes in the aesthetics of the bridge from its original plan.
The Tower Bridge Walk
The appeal of the Tower Bridge is being able to walk the platforms that bridge the two towers. Growing up, I visited London many times on the weekends and was excited when they decided to open the bridge up to the public in 1982.
In 1985, I jumped at the opportunity to tour this magnificent bridge for the first time. Over the years, I have toured this bridge numerous times but couldn’t wait to visit again after installing glass floors in 2014.
Let me tell you, the Tower Bridge experience is a must for all London visitors! During my last visit in June 2018, I experienced walking and lying on the glass floors.
For many, this is a scary experience, but for me, it was just another adventure. My husband and I lay on the glass floor and took selfie shots of us using the mirror hung on the ceiling.
The glass floor is a series of six glass panels measuring 11 meters long. Each panel weighs an impressive 530 kilograms each, and I couldn’t imagine the job of having to embed them into the floor while being 42 meters above the River Thames.
While there are two walkways between the towers, only the west walkway contains the glass floors.
Further along the walkway, there is a reasonably new exhibit called ‘Great Bridges of the World.’ It highlights forty other magnificent bridges around the world.
The Panorama Views
One of the best reasons to do a Tower Bridge tour is the 360-degree panoramas of Greater London from the overhead walkways. Metropolitan London has one of the most diverse mixes of Victorian architecture combined with modern-day wonders.
Buildings like The Gherkin, The Shard, and The Walkie Talkie are great examples of contemporary modern architecture.
I was able to capture some amazing shots through the small sliding windows all along the walkways. Yay, for not having to take pictures through dirty windows with a menacing glare.
To the east, I could see St. Katherine Docks leading to Canary Wharf. However, the west offers more impressive vistas of The Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral, HMS Belfast, and the Tower of London.
Raise The Bridge App
With the installation of the glass floors also came the state-of-the-art reality app that visitors can download to their smartphones. The app allows you to view a 360-degree panoramic video of the Bridge deck working from inside the Exhibition!
Of course, nothing beats seeing London’s Tower Bridge in action. Although I have visited London many times, I saw the first viewing of the Tower Bridge lifting during my last trip in June 2018. That one day in London, I saw two bridge lifts.
I was walking across the bridge when the barriers came down, the bridge went up, and a boat passed beneath. It was a special treat I will soon not forget. If you’d like to see a bridge lift, check out the bridge lift times here.
The Engine Rooms
Once I had finished at the overhead walkways, I could either take the lift down or walk the stairs. Since there was a wait for the lift, we chose to walk the stairs.
I was happy we chose the stairs because it added to the overall experience of seeing the inside of this fantastic bridge structure.
The last part of the Tower Bridge tour took us to London’s Tower Bridge engine rooms. Here, I could imagine the bridge lifting by way of steam during Victorian times.
The history of steam power hydraulics is documented for visitors to read. I also saw how a Tower Bridge steam engine raised the bridge.
In 1974 and with the introduction of modern technology, the bridge replaced the steam engines with an electro-hydraulic system. However, some of the original steam engines remain purely for tourists to see.
In the engine room, I watched a simulation of how the engines created steam to raise the Tower Bridge. I was amazed to see how clean the machines are, especially since they are from the Victorian era. It was as though they were built yesterday.
Tower Bridge Facts
Throughout the years, London’s Tower Bridge has changed its exterior colors. Originally a chocolate brown color, it was painted red, white, and blue for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. When I visited in 2018, it was still vibrant white and blue.
During the 2012 Summer Olympics, the bridge became a focal point when the Olympic rings were suspended from the walkways.
On any given day, 40,000 people cross Tower Bridge using the road and on foot. While the bridge opens approximately 20 times a week, river traffic takes precedence over vehicle traffic.
While most tourists visit Tower Bridge during the day, consider seeing Tower Bridge at night too. The lights on the bridge make it extra special and well worth the extra visit.
Happy travels ~ Karen