Tower bridge is one of London’s most famous bridges and a must-see landmark while you’re in the capital city.
The tower bridge was built between 1886–1894 to relieve pressure on London Bridge due to increased industrial development in the East End. However, a fixed bridge was not possible as it would prevent ships with high mast from accessing the port inside the city. A public competition was held in which 50 designs were submitted for the bridge. The winning design being a combined suspension and bascule design. it took eight years to build with the aid of five major contractors and 432 construction workers.
How to Get to London Tower Bridge
The Tower Bridge is located on the Thames River next to the Tower of London and the city Hall. You could reach Tower Bridge via the London underground stations of Tower Hill and London Bridge. The nearest Tube station is Tower Hill, which is serviced by both the circle and District lines and just a few hundred meters away. London Bridge Tube station, which is serviced by both the Jubilee and Northern lines is also few hundred meters away and you can walk to the bridge in less than 15 minutes. Nearest National Rail station is London Bridge which is served by Southern, Southeastern and Thameslink lines.
Tickets and timing
You can purchase the tickets at the ticket office. There are not long queues and you can get tickets in 10 minutes. You can also buy your tickets online, which will save your time. Tickets can be purchased from official website.
Tickets must be booked at least one day before and are valid for one year from the date of purchase. The Tower Bridge exhibition ticket include entrance to the bridge tower, the two high-level walkways, and the engine room. An adult ticket cost £9.80 and Child (5-15 Years) cost £4.20. The tower bridge exhibition is open all year (Except few holidays) from 09:30 Hrs. to 17:00 Hrs. (last admission).
The Tower Bridge tour
Upon entering the North Tower, you can either walk up 206 steps or take a lift to reach the top. From here, there are two walkways along Tower Bridge. You can walk the East walkway and view the Canary Wharf or walk the West walkway and admire the view towards London Bridge. From this walkway you will get a spectacular and panoramic view and you can see most of the iconic buildings and landmarks of London.
The tour starts with a video about how the Tower Bridge was made and how it operates, which was interesting. Move forward to the East and West walkways where you will experience the famous Glass Floor. The glass floor is a series of six glass panels measuring 11 meters long and 1.8-meter-wide and they are embedded into the floor 42 meters above the River Thames.
Once you have finished the overhead walkway, you can either take the lift down or walk the stairs from opposite tower. We chose to walk down the stairs to see the inside of the bridge tower structure. Walking the stairs will definitely enhance your overall viewing experience. If you wish to use the wash rooms, it’s between the floors not accessible by lift. No idea why it’s designed like this but you have to use the stairs if you wish to use washroom.
From here, take the staircase down to the ground level, go through the ‘Walk of Fame”. Located on the south side of the bridge, this walkway features bronze plaques with names of those who helped build, maintain and operate the Bridge.
The Engine Room
At the end of the walk of fame, you will find the Engine Rooms. This was once the heart of the bridge operation system where Victorian-era steam engines were used to raise the bridge for high mast ships whenever they are coming/going from London city.
The history of the coal powered steam engine and its hydraulics system is documented and with every machinery there is information kiosk for visitors to read. ln the engine room, there is also a mimic panel showing with glowing lights the whole system flow, how steam was created and how steam engine was used to raise the bridge.
In 1974, the old coal powered steam engines were replaced with an electro-hydraulic drive system. Since then, this has become a permanent exhibit at the Tower Bridge. However, some of the original steam engines and their accessories are kept in a very clean condition for the tourists to see.
At the end of the Tower Bridge tour, you’ll pass through the Tower Bridge gift shop where you can purchase some London souvenirs.
Best time to visit Tower Bridge
If you want to enhance your visit to the Tower Bridge, schedule your visit around the time when the bridge opens to let boat pass by. Actually, nothing beats seeing Tower Bridge in action. It takes approximately 1 minute to open and 1 minute to close plus the time it takes a boat to pass through. The bridge opens few times in a day to once in a few days. So, choose the time which is convenient to you. Bridge lift times is available at the official website.
The whole tour is self-guided and takes less than 2 hours.
If you have kids, they will definitely love the tower bridge glass walkway and engine room. There are many things for them to learn, specially the engine room. Overall, Tower Bridge is definitely worth a visit.