Tower Bridge is one of London’s most recognizable landmarks. Visiting Tower Bridge should be in your top 5 things to do in London if it’s your first visit, and this ultimate guide to Tower Bridge will ensure you don’t miss a thing! It’s up there with seeing Big Ben and the giant furry hats the royal guards wear. (Big Ben is actually the bell, not the tower you think of when you say Big Ben, but that’s a story for another time.)
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It’s just a bridge. What’s the big deal?
I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t have written this guide if it was a boring bridge. This isn’t just some hunk of metal or concrete (although it has plenty of both); this bridge:
- Raises its deck to let boats pass through on the River Thames below
- Has a glass floor sky walk, for fantastic views of both the city and the river beneath your feet!
- Still uses its original 1800’s technology to raise and lower the bridge safely multiple times per day
- Has behind-the-scenes tours for a glimpse of how the bridge works
- Hosts special events, such as musical concerts in the bascule chambers or sunrise yoga on the glass sky walk
Tower Bridge is actually one of my top 10 favorite bridges in the world! Why yes, thank you for asking, I do have a top 10 favorite bridges in the world list. You may not know me very well yet, so here’s your first tidbit: I love bridges and lists.
One of my social accounts was kind enough to remind me that it was 3 YEARS AGO this week that I last stepped foot on Tower Bridge in London. It made me nostalgic, and want to plan my next trip to London. There’s a whole lot of world out there to see, but I keep coming back to London. Can’t help it! The amount of history (and bridges!) in this amazing city are worth it!
To help you decide if this particular sight is a must-see for you, I’ve put together this guide to Tower Bridge so you don’t miss anything! There is more to this bridge than just carrying traffic over the Thames.
Top 5 Know Before you Go Tips for Tower Bridge
- Is London Bridge the same thing as Tower Bridge? No, and this is important to get right. The London Bridge Experience is a graphic horror/ghost tour. The Tower Bridge Exhibition is the iconic lift bridge with the two towers and aerial walkways.
- Walking across the bridge at street level is free. Using the skywalk requires a paid ticket: the Tower Bridge Exhibition.
- Hint: if using a London Pass, this is included in your pass! No need to purchase separately.
- The glass floor walkway is not the only way across the sky walk. If you don’t do heights, or maybe just not glass floors, there’s a regular non-see-through floor walkway as well.
- Check the bridge lift schedule online the day before and plan your visit to coincide with a bridge raise.
- Schedule your behind the scenes tour well ahead of your trip. These tours have limited availability and sell out fast (and are not included in the London Pass).
How to get to Tower Bridge
The quickest and easiest way to get around London in general is the Tube (underground train/subway).
Take the Tube’s yellow Circle line or green District line to Tower Hill station. The exit from the train station will guide you under the roadway, and you’ll pop out right next to the Tower of London, the fortress building surrounded by an empty moat. Tower Bridge and the Thames River are on the other side of the Tower of London.
Pro tip: I highly recommend visiting the Tower of London while you’re in the area. Here are 8 reasons why you should visit the Tower of London.
Even if you’re making a bee line for Tower Bridge, I recommend turning right after you come out from under the roadway and head towards the Tower of London’s entrance and the riverfront.
From the riverfront, you can get awesome photos of the bridge. Once you’ve got your selfie with the bridge, continue along the river towards the bridge. There are stairs to get up to bridge level, and the ticket office and entrance for the skywalk is at the closest tower to you (northwest corner).
Alternatively if you’re already on the south side of the river, hop on the Tube’s gray Jubilee line or black Northern line and exit at London Bridge station. Note that this is a bit of walk to Tower Bridge from this station, and you’ll have to cross the bridge to get to the northwest tower entrance for the skywalk.
Is Tower Bridge Worth it?
It’s an inexpensive tour for some cool views and experiences and doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day. Obviously I’m writing this guide to Tower Bridge because I think it is 100% worth it.
If you are using the London Pass, which you should be to maximize your sightseeing potential and dollars, the Tower Bridge Exhibition ticket is included in your pass.
Elevators are available to take you up and down from the skywalk if you can’t manage the stairs. The glass floor may not be your cup of tea if you don’t like heights, but the regularly opaque floor in the other walkway is fine. You get the same amazing views of the surrounding City.
The only reason I would consider nixing Tower Bridge Exhibition from your list is if you are on a super-strict budget and in London for the freebies. There are other observation decks (higher up in skyscrapers) you can visit for free. You can still get the photos of Tower Bridge from the riverfront, but you will miss the picture of your feet over the river during a bridge raise. Next time though!
Brief History of Tower Bridge
Commissioned and built in the late 1800’s, Tower Bridge opened to traffic in 1894. The bustling city needed another bridge to connect the north and south banks of the river, but river traffic was still an important part of the City’s economy. The new bridge had to have a way to let ships pass, too.
The bascule design was chosen and has worked seamlessly since to accommodate both roadway traffic and river traffic for the past 126 years. ‘Bascule’ is French for seesaw, and simply means the bridge is raised and lowered with weights that see-saw back and forth to raise and lower each half of the bridge deck as needed. Pretty cool!
An icon of London, Tower Bridge has seen stuntmen fly through it, Olympic rings hung from it, and once in 1952, a bus vaulted from one deck to the other when the bridge started to rise unexpectedly. Originally painted brown, the bridge was repainted its now typical red, white, and blue in 1977 in honor of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
Check out the exhibits, displays, and Engine Room museum of the Tower Bridge Exhibition for more fascinating facts and an up-close view of the bridge and how it works!
What to do at Tower Bridge
The Tower Bridge Exhibition ticket gives you access to both the skywalk above the bridge and the Engine Room museum on the south bank. This guide to Tower Bridge covers how to best utilize your ticket and see it all.
Learn a little history and take LOTS of photos! Add a sunrise yoga session or a behind-the-scenes tour, and you’ve got the full package for an epic Tower Bridge visit.
Be brave and venture out onto the glass floor sky walk.
By far the biggest draw for most is the glass floor sky walk above the bridge. It is completely safe! The glass can hold two taxis and an elephant without breaking. And it’s pretty wild to see cars and double-decker buses zooming by below your feet.
Experience a bridge lift.
Ideally, experience this while you are on the glass floor of the skywalk. Traffic below you is one thing. Watching the bridge deck part and raise to expose the river and passing ship below is something else!
Check the Tower Bridge website the day before your visit for bridge lift times, so you can time your visit to coincide with a bridge raise. Recommend arriving 20 minutes early or so. You need time to take your turn on the elevator up and there’s a short film when you first arrive at the top.
If you’re visiting during peak tourist season or on a weekend or holiday, you may have to wait in line outside before being allowed up to the skywalk.
Get exclusive access to rarely seen spaces.
Add a Behind-the-Scenes tour and gain access to exclusive spaces like the Control Room and the Bascule Chambers. The Bascule Chambers also periodically host musical concerts for a unique acoustic experience inside the giant brick vaults.
Yogis are in luck. Special events are always changing but a recurring event at the time of this writing is a 50 minute session of sunrise yoga in the skywalk above the bridge! For a one of a kind experience, purchase a ticket and grab your mat and sticky socks. Arrive early if you want a spot on the glass floor; it’s first come, first served for spots. Check here for availability and current pricing.
Capture the moment and take all the pictures! Surrounded by the City of London, you can see St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, the Shard, the HMS Belfast, and many other landmarks from the west walkway.
I hope this guide to Tower Bridge has inspired you to include this iconic landmark on your must-see list! If you don’t care about the history, do yourself a favor and go anyway for the photos! Your Insta followers will thank you.