There is no doubt that Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic sights in not only London but the whole UK. Setting your eyes on it, you cannot help but be overwhelmed by its sheer magnificence, spanning the River Thames in true majestic fashion. Here is a quick guide to everything you need to know about this world-famous bridge.
A brief history
In the late 19th century, the east end of London had become a major commercial hotspot, and as more goods were being transported downstream of London Bridge, it was obvious that a new bridge was needed. However, because of the tall-masted ships that often made an appearance here, a traditional fixed model could not be constructed. A public competition was launched and it was out of 50 submissions that Sir Horace Jones’s design was finally approved in 1884.
Work began in 1887 and it took 430 works and eight years to finally complete. In total, 70,000 tons of concrete had to be sunk into the riverbed and 11,000 tons of steel was used for the framework. Clad in Portland stone and Cornish granite, the brick facade was then replaced with a Victorian Gothic design in order to harmonise the bridge with the nearby Tower of London – it also stole its name!
Tower Bridge was officially opened on June 30th 1894 by the future King Edward VII, and six years later, Tower Subway was constructed near it, one of the earliest tube railway stations in the world. However, it was soon shut down.
Style and Design
This combined bascule and suspension bridge is centred on two bridge towers that are built on piers. The central span is split into two leaves so that it can be raised for river traffic, while the two side-spans are suspension sections. The two towers are then tied together by two horizontal walkways at the upper level so that the whole structure can withstand the forces by the suspended areas. The machinery that pivots the bascules are located in the base of each tower.
Interestingly, the bridge was originally a green-blue colour, but was then re-painted in 1977 for Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee – it has since retained its red, white and blue colours.
What to do there
Naturally, the sight is a major stop-off point for taking photos. Everyone wants to take that selfie of them with this major landmark, especially at night, when the bridge is lit up like a Christmas tree. Trust us when we say that, when combined with the city landscape, it really is a magical moment.
For those curious enough, you can even head inside the bridge, where there is a fascinating exhibition all about how the site works and all the history behind how it was created. When you are up there, also be sure to enjoy the stunning views of London, as you stand 45 metres above the Thames. Recent additions include glass floor panels where you can actually see the city right below your feet!
The towers also host seasonal exhibitions that change regularly. It could be about the Thames. It could be about a period in the city’s history. Either way, be sure to check out the official website to see what may be on during your visit. The tower is open from 10am to 6pm during the summer, and 9.30am to 5.30pm in the winter.
The great thing about Tower Bridge is that there is a wealth of other fantastic attractions within walking distance. The obvious choice would be to go to the mighty Tower of London, where you can walk around it’s fortresses and walls, learning about all the gruesome legends that apparently took place here. It is also here where the Crown Jewels are held, and they may just be the most beautiful gems you ever see.
On this side of the river, you will also get great views of The Shard, the tallest building in Europe. Cross the bridge by foot and then walk along the river towards London Bridge. Along your way, you will see the Tate Modern, which is home to a wealth of contemporary pieces and always-fascinating exhibitions, and Shakespeare’s Globe. The latter has a great programme of shows and productions all year round so why not break up your day with some Macbeth or The Tempest? You are in the Bard’s city at the end of the day!
As the sun sets, there are also some great bars and restaurants in the area, where you can enjoy a lavish meal for two or merely dance the night away until the wee hours of the morning. Highlights to look out for include The Anchor Tap on the south side and Hide Bar on Bermondsey Street, or head to the Shard, where Gong Bar is always the life of the party.
How to get there
If you are staying at the Montcalm, walk to Marble Arch station and hop onto the Central line. At Bond Street, change to the Jubilee line and get off at London Bridge. From here, you will need to then walk along the riverbank to Tower Bridge the entire journey should take around 30 minutes.