Bridges of London, London (Self Guided)

Thirty-three bridges span the Thames river in London. Each one has its own history and is worth seeing. This self-guided walk takes you to see ten historical bridges in central London.
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Bridges of London Map

Guide Name: Bridges of London
Guide Location: England » London (See other walking tours in London)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.2 km
Author: clare
1
Lambeth Bridge

1) Lambeth Bridge

Lambeth Bridge spans the River Thames between Lambeth Palace on the East side of the river and Thames House (headquarters of MI5), Millbank Tower and Tate Britain on the West side.

This fine foot and road bridge was designed by Sir George Humphries, Sir Reginald Blomfield and G. Topham Forrest and built by Dorman Long. It was inaugurated by King George V in 1932.

The bridge is 776 ft long and 60 ft wide; its steel latticework is painted red – the same colour of the benches in the nearby House of Lords at the South end of the Palace of Westminster. At each end of the bridge you will find a pair of obelisks, topped by what might either be pineapples or pinecones - no-one ever agrees about them. From the middle of the bridge, you have a good view of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye.

The bridge was used in the third Harry Potter film, where the Knight Bus squeezes between two red double-decker London buses. It has also been used in the BBC drama “Waking the Dead” and in the film “Blood Diamond” with Leonardo Di Caprio.

Every year, on 28th August you will find a crowd of ghost hunters on the bridge with recording equipment in hands to capture an image of the ghost of the Duke of Buckingham who was murdered nearby in 1628.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Westminster Bridge

2) Westminster Bridge (must see)

Westminster Bridge is one of the many bridges spanning the river Thames in Central London. The current structure, created by Thomas Page, dates back to 1862 and replaces the original one built in 1750 by Swiss architect Charles Labelye. Because of its proximity to Houses of Parliament, and particularly the House of Commons, the bridge is painted the same green color as the benches inside the Commons. Oftentimes, because of this proximity to the seat of power, people mistake it for London Bridge, which is further downstream.

A popular legend has it that the infamous Jack the Ripper threw himself off Westminster Bridge on the last stroke of midnight on 31st December 1891 to escape captivity and disclosure of his identity. Something we'll never know for sure...

What does make this bridge special though is the views. The Palace of Westminster, the London Eye, County Hall, and the Thames itself make for a fabulous backdrop. The views north, east, and south are all superb.

Why You Should Visit:
An iconic bridge with great views to London Eye, Westminister, Big Ben, and the Thames river.
3
Hungerford Bridge

3) Hungerford Bridge

In 1845 the Hungerford Bridge was a suspension bridge that farmers from the south of England used for crossing the River Thames when they freighted their produce to the Hungerford Market, which was the most important market in the south of the capital at that time.

In 1859 the bridge was bought by the South Eastern Railway Company, who wanted to build a railway bridge from the south of England to the capital. Businessmen working in London were leaving their city houses to live in the country suburbs and they wanted to travel to the capital in comfort.

The old suspension bridge was replaced by a railway bridge with nine arches of wrought iron lattice girders, designed by Sir John Hankshaw. The Hungerford Market was replaced by Charing Cross Station, which was named after the Cross of Eleanor, the wife of Edward 1st. When Eleanor died, King Edward 1st commissioned a cross to be erected wherever his wife’s body rested during the 12 day journey from Lincoln before being buried in Westminster Abbey. One of the crosses was erected in the hamlet of Charing on the outskirts of the ancient City of London.

In 2002 two cable-stayed foot bridges were added on each side of the railway bridge because the Council of London wanted to encourage pedestrian tourists. These foot bridges share the same pier foundations as the railway bridge and are accessible either by steps or by lift for the disabled.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Waterloo Bridge

4) Waterloo Bridge

Waterloo Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge crossing the River Thames in London. The name of the bridge is in memory of the British victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Thanks to its location at a strategic bend in the river, the views of London from the bridge are widely held to be the finest from any spot at ground level.

The first bridge on the site was opened in 1817 as a toll bridge. From 1884 serious problems were found in the bridge piers. London County Council decided to demolish the bridge and replace it with a new structure. The new crossing was partially opened in 1942 and completed in 1945. The south end of the bridge is the area known as The South Bank.

It is quite usual to see a whole row of professional and amateur photographers lined up on the bridge in the evening when it is clear sky. This bridge offers a 360 degree view of the London skyline and some incredible picture shots both in daylight and night time. If you are lucky enough to be in London on a full moon night, treat yourself an hour on this bridge after sunset to enjoy the spectacular views!
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Blackfriars Bridge

5) Blackfriars Bridge

To get to the Tate Modern from the Inns of Court, you will, of course, cross the Blackfriars Bridge, which received Grade II Listed status in 1972. The Bridge House Estates own the bridge and are responsible for its upkeep.

This foot and road bridge is 923 ft long with five wrought iron arches to match its sister railway bridge, now demolished. It was built by the P.A. Thom & Company firm to designs by Thomas Cubitt and was opened by Queen Victoria in 1869.

As you cross, you will notice stone carvings by John Birnie Philip on the piers of the bridge: on the East side the carvings represent marine life, with a variety of seabirds; on the West side you can see carvings of freshwater birds. These birds are there to remind us that the Thames is both a sea and fresh water river.

The bridge takes its name from an earlier bridge that was used by the Blackfriars, a Dominican Order of friars who wore black habits, rather than the more usual brown ones. They had a priory near the site of Blackfriars Station from 1275 until 1538, when it was closed by King Henry VIII during his Dissolution of Monasteries campaign.

*** Harry Potter Movie ***
The Blacksfriars Bridge made appearance in the 2007 film “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” featured in the scene where the Order of the Phoenix members pass underneath it on their flight from number 4, Privet Drive to Grimmauld Place.Place.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Millennium Bridge

6) Millennium Bridge (must see)

The Millennium Bridge has three claims to fame: it is the newest bridge to span the Thames; it is the only pedestrian-only bridge in London and it holds the record for being the bridge with the shortest opening-closing time in history, as it was closed only two days after being inaugurated.

The bridge was designed, as its name suggests, to be opened in 2000, the start of the 21st century. In 1996 Southwark Council held a competition and invited architects from all over the world to design a new bridge that would reflect the new century and the future. The designs proposed by Foster & Partners and Ove Arup & Partners won the competition and work on the new bridge began in 1998.

The startlingly modern suspension bridge is 325 metres long with 8 suspension cables, built deliberately low to avoid spoiling the view of St Paul’s Cathedral on the North bank of the river. These cables are tensioned to pull with a force of 2000 tons against the piers set into each bank.

The bridge was opened on 10th June 2000 with an organised walk for the Save the Children Fund. The walkers noticed that the bridge had a strange swaying motion – they said that the bridge “wobbled”. The bridge was closed two days later and didn’t reopen until 2002 when the problem, called Synchronous Lateral Excitation, was solved by the introduction of 32 fluid-viscous dumpers to control the horizontal movement and 52 tuned mass dumpers to control the vertical movement of the bridge.

*** Harry Potter Movie ***
Known colloquially as the “wobbly bridge,” the Millennium Bridge had to undergo further modifications to mend the structural faults discovered during its initial use, seeing the pedestrians fall over as they tried to cross it! Perhaps it was due to that association that the filmmakers decided to show it as targeted by death eaters in the screen adaptation of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” instead of the Brockdale Bridge whose collapse occurs in the book.

Fortunately, dramatically destroyed in the horrific opening scene, where it snaps and breaks after the death eaters rip through London leaving behind a path of destruction, the now iconic Millennium Bridge was not harmed during filming and you can have fun safely walking on it today

Why You Should Visit:
Ideal link from Tate Modern and Globe Theatre on one side to the St Paul’s Cathedral, conveniently placed if you have a walk between the banks.
A great pedestrian-only bridge to walk on and very picturesque with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background.

Tip:
Wear comfortable shoes. Take an umbrella or a rain-proof jacket, just in case.
Also, note the paintings or stickers that are on the floor of the bridge.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am-6pm; Sat-Sun: 11am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Southwark Bridge

7) Southwark Bridge

Southwark Bridge is an arch bridge for traffic linking Southwark and the City across the River Thames. It was opened in 1921. There was an earlier bridge on the same site opened in 1819, and it was originally known as Queen Street Bridge, as shown on the 1818 John Snow Map of London. The bridge was notable for having the longest cast iron span, 73 m, ever made.

The bridge provides access to Upper Thames Street on the north bank and, due to the Ring of steel, there is no further access to the City and the north. This has led to a reputation of it being the least used bridge in central London and it is sometimes known as the "car park bridge" as coach drivers use it to park their vehicles.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Cannon Street Railway Bridge

8) Cannon Street Railway Bridge

Cannon Street Railway Bridge spans the River Thames between Southwark Bridge upstream and London Bridge downstream.

The bridge isn’t very attractive – it has a rather utilitarian look about it with its steel girders and cast-iron Dorric pillars. When it was designed in 1863 by John Hankshaw and John Wolfe-Barry for South Eastern Railway, it had decorations and ornaments, but these were removed during the bridge’s complete renovation in 1979.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
London Bridge

9) London Bridge

We all know the children’s nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down”. Today’s London Bridge is not falling down, but its predecessors were all destroyed during wars or by fires.

The first bridge to span the Thames at this spot was a Roman pontoon bridge built in 50 AD, replaced in 55 AD by a piled bridge, which was destroyed in 60 AD by Queen Boudicca. The bridge was rebuilt but fell into disrepair when the Romans left. It was rebuilt in 990 and again destroyed – this time by Prince Olaf in 1014.

The Norman Bridge built in 1067 was destroyed in the London Tornado of 1091. King William II had it rebuilt but this time it was ravaged by fire in 1136. The stone bridge built in 1173 had a chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket in the centre and houses and shops were built along the bridge, making the passage for carts and wagons very narrow. Fire destroyed the North end in 1212 and the South end in 1633. The South gateway was used for over 300 years as a place where traitor’s heads were put up on pikes for the edification of the general public.

In 1756 the houses were removed from the bridge and a new bridge was built in 1831. This bridge was sold in 1968 to an American millionaire and transported piece by piece to be reassembled at Lake Havasu in Arizona. The current bridge was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.

Don’t miss the London Bridge Experience and London Tombs – the scariest attractions in the capital. You will find them in the Gothic vaults under the bridge. In the London Bridge Experience you will be led by actors through the history of the bridge. London Tombs takes place in an ancient plague pit and is very frightening. Children of under 11 aren’t allowed in.
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Tower Bridge

10) Tower Bridge (must see)

Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge over the River Thames. It is close to the Tower of London, which gives it its name. It has become an iconic symbol of London. The bridge consists of two towers which are tied together at the upper level by means of two horizontal walkways which are designed to withstand the horizontal forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical component of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower.

Its present colour dates from 1977 when it was painted red, white and blue for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Originally it was painted a chocolate brown colour. Tower Bridge is sometimes mistakenly referred to as London Bridge, which is actually the next bridge upstream.

Why You Should Visit:
Unique and majestic structure; amazing to see especially at night!
Great view and a glass floor on the high-level walkways that is really quite cool.

Tip:
If you're lucky enough, you could see the bridge open up to let the barges/ships pass by.
Don't skip the engine room, which is very educational as to how the bridge operates.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in London, England

Create Your Own Walk in London

Create Your Own Walk in London

Creating your own self-guided walk in London is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Bloomsbury Museums, Part 2

Bloomsbury Museums, Part 2

There are over 240 museums in London and they welcome about 42 million annual visitors nationwide. This wonderful tour will lead you to the most famous and significant museums of London Bloomsbury area, such as Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, Wellcome Collection, The Crypt Gallery and others.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 km
Walk around Buckingham Palace

Walk around Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace, the British monarch's official residence, is a must-see for anyone visiting London, but so are the adjacent royal establishments that give a unique window into the royal way of life. On this self-guided walk, along with Buckingham Palace, you will visit the St. James's private royal residence, the wonderful Queen's Gallery, and drop by the official Buckingham gift...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
Harry Potter Walk in London

Harry Potter Walk in London

The arrival of Harry Potter books, followed by tremendously successful Hollywood adaptation, has made London even more popular now with the Harry Potter fans all over the world. The list of attractions in the city associated with Potter’s journeys includes both, newly-invented as well as some long-standing locations. To follow in the footsteps of the young wizard and his friends in the British...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.8 km
Kensington/Knightsbridge Walk

Kensington/Knightsbridge Walk

Situated just below Hyde Park, Knightsbridge and South Kensington are two adjacent neighborhoods with grand Victorian homes and leafy garden squares. The area is also a shopper's paradise featuring grand luxury stores, whereas museumgoers will find a number of excellent museums on history, science and arts. On this self guided walk, you will visit former Princess Diana's residence,...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 km
London's Historic Pubs Walk

London's Historic Pubs Walk

If there’s anything more an iconic symbol for London than Big Ben or the London Eye, then it must be the traditional English pub and London is full of them, dating from pre-Victorian times to just about five minutes ago. With so much history surrounding London there is no shortage of historic pubs to choose from. Whether you fancy half timbered, rambling watering holes or small but perfectly...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 km
South Bank Walk

South Bank Walk

Situated south of The Thames river, the South Bank is an ever-changing and always lively area at the heart of London’s cultural scene, and home to world-class arts venues like Shakespeare Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern, and the Southbank Centre. Dotting along the tree-lined riverside walkway are also food markets, restaurants, and historic pubs and cafes.

Take this self-guided walk to...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


London Souvenirs: 20 Distinctively British Products for Travelers

London Souvenirs: 20 Distinctively British Products for Travelers

Most visitors to London consider shopping as part of their must-do London experience. From street markets to Victorian arcades to snobbish Sloane Square to busy Oxford Street, there are a host of shops selling items which typically represent this vibrant city. Whether you are shopping for souvenirs...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in London for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best London has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes


To save yourself time and money visiting London's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the London Pass, London Explorer Pass, or iVenture Card.

A city pass combines all or multiple London's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels


Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of London hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: The Trafalgar St. James London Curio collection by Hilton, Corinthia Hotel London, The Grand at Trafalgar Square.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as London, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours


We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of London typically costs somewhere between US$30 and US$130 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of London from the open top of the bus listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get on and off at any of the stops along the six interconnecting routes, plus get on board the Thames River Sightseeing Cruise. The tickets are valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours.

- Spend half a day pedaling your way around London Royal Parks on a guided bike tour to see the city's most spectacular highlights stopping at some for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning interesting facts about the attractions from a knowledgeable group leader.

- Commit yourself to a full-day of sightseeing to appreciate the English capital in its full splendor complete with its top (UNESCO-listed and other) attractions, plus to enjoy a sightseeing cruise down the River Thames, and more.

- Dive into Britain’s royal and political history on the Westminster Abbey & Houses of Parliament tour for an up-close view of the country's two most prominent landmarks that have been in place and duly served their purpose for almost a millennium.

- Explore the WWII chapter of the British history on a guided 2-hour walking tour of Churchill War Rooms & Westminster to see how they operated back in those days. Hear some little-known war tales and tidbits about London and the country's most celebrated leader, Winston Churchill.

- Satisfy your penchant for English tradition, glamour and food culture in style with an afternoon tea experience at the 5-star Grosvenor House Hotel in London complete with a full set of lovely cakes, sandwiches and tea!

- If you're into music, give yourself a treat, whilst in London, to the Musical Theater Show at Apollo Victoria Theatre presenting the alternate side of the famous Wizard of Oz story previously untold.

Day Trips


If you have a day to spare whilst in London, why not use it to explore some out-of-town destinations like the Warner Bros. Studio London, Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Bath, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick Castle, Cotswolds, or Leeds Castle, Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury. For as little as circa US$100+ to US$120+ per person you will get a chance to explore the postcard-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage sights, get behind-the-scenes of the mystical world of Harry Potter, see what has been the home of the British Royals for the past 900 years, explore the ancient rock formations, Roman Baths and medieval castles, walk the streets of the charming hometown of William Shakespeare, check out one of the world’s most prestigious universities, get to see the picture-perfect region officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, otherwise known as “forever England,” renowned for its quaint villages and rolling hills, admire the symbolic White Cliffs of Dover, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up straight from your hotel in London and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach or train (whichever is applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.