Bridges of London, London

Bridges of London (Self Guided), London

Around thirty bridges span the Thames river in London, each with its own story. Our self-guided walk takes you to see nine such historical structures located in the heart of the city, starting from the storied Westminster Bridge and ending at the iconic Tower Bridge.

The latter has stood over the River Thames in London since 1894 and is one of the finest, most recognizable bridges in the world. It is the London bridge you tend to see in movies (e.g. "Mission: Impossible", "Trainspotting", "The Elephant Man", "Killing Eve") and on advertising literature for London.

Meanwhile, Millennium Bridge has been quite popular with Harry Potter fans since being featured in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince".

Earlier on, in the 1930s, Robert E Sherwood's play ‘Waterloo Bridge’ was such a popular story, it was made into three separate films, released in 1931, 1940 and 1956; the second of these film versions starred Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor, and was Oscar-nominated. The film tells the story of a soldier who falls in love and marries a woman he meets on Waterloo Bridge during a First World War air raid.

On this leisurely stroll along the north bank of the Thames, you will find many other historical landmarks of the British capital whilst taking in excellent views of Westminster Parliament, the London Eye Wheel, the South Bank and more.

Before setting out, just make sure to have your camera ready because the views will be incredible!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

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: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.2 Km or 3.2 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Westminster Bridge
  • Hungerford Bridge
  • Waterloo Bridge
  • Blackfriars Bridge
  • Millennium Bridge
  • Southwark Bridge
  • Cannon Street Railway Bridge
  • London Bridge
  • Tower Bridge
Westminster Bridge

1) Westminster Bridge

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.
Hungerford Bridge

2) 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.
Waterloo Bridge

3) 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.
Blackfriars Bridge

4) 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.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Millennium Bridge

5) Millennium Bridge

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.

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.
Southwark Bridge

6) 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.
Cannon Street Railway Bridge

7) 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.
London Bridge

8) 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.
Tower Bridge

9) Tower Bridge (must see)

To begin with, Tower Bridge is not London Bridge. There has always been a London Bridge since 60 AD. Tower Bridge is downstream of London Bridge. The center part of Tower Bridge may be raised to accommodate river traffic. London bridge does not move.

The Tower Bridge is a combined suspension and bascule bridge. It was finished in 1894. It was designed by architect Horace Jones. Engineering was by John Wolfe Barry. The bridge is managed by Bridge House Estates, a non-profit founded in 1282. The bridge was opened in 1894 by Edward, Prince of Wales and Alexandra, Princess of Wales.

The bridge is 800 feet long. It has two 213 foot high bridge towers. The towers are joined on the upper level by two walkways. On the lower level is the roadway; two bascule leaves that can be raised. The twin towers, upper level walkways and the engine rooms form the Tower Bridge Exhibition. The exhibition is open to public tours.

The Tower Bridge Exhibition uses films, photographs and interactive means to show how the Tower Bridge was built. Visitors can access the original steam engines once used to raise and lower the two bascules. There is an admission fee. Entrance is in the northern tower. A lift or elevator ascends to the upper level walkways.

Parts of the walkways have been fitted with glass floors. Look down at the river, a giddy 143 feet below one's feet. Or not.

There is an urban legend that an American, Robert P. McCulloch, bought the old London Bridge and installed it in Lake Havasu City in Arizona, believing he had bought the Tower Bridge. McCulloch denies everything. He knew all along what he had. The Tower Bridge would have looked much more impressive in Lake Havasu City. That cannot be denied.

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.

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

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.
Shakespeare's London Walking Tour

Shakespeare's London Walking Tour

Often called England's national poet or simply "the Bard", William Shakespeare is revered as one of, if not the greatest playwright this world has ever seen. The dramas, such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth are among the finest creations in the English language, translated into every major language and performed more often than those of any other author....  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
City of London Walking Tour

City of London Walking Tour

The City of London, widely referred to simply as the City (with the capital C), is also colloquially known as the Square Mile, for being just 1.12 sq mi in area. Situated on top of the original Roman center of commerce, called Londinium, established in 43 AD, this neighborhood is the historic and financial heart of the British capital. It has been a major meeting point for international business...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles
Harry Potter Walking Tour I

Harry Potter Walking Tour I

The arrival of Harry Potter books, followed by tremendously successful Hollywood adaptation, has made London an even more popular destination 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.

On Part I of the self-guided Happy Potter Walking Tour, you...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Covent Garden Walking Tour

Covent Garden Walking Tour

A shopping and entertainment hub on the eastern fringes of London's West End, Covent Garden is a district historically associated with the former fruit-and-vegetable market – currently a shopping spot popular with locals and tourists alike.

Once a slum area, today the north of the district is given over to independent shops centered on Neal's Yard and Seven Dials. Both places offer...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Charles Dickens Tour

Charles Dickens Tour

Today's world's literature and mass culture are hardly imaginable without the works of Charles Dickens, recognized as the greatest British novelist of the Victorian era. A pioneer of “cliffhanger” endings, Dickens remains one of the most-read English authors whose writings never go out of print and have been repeatedly adapted to stage, screen and TV.

Dickens was born in...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.5 Km or 2.8 Miles
Beatles London Walking Tour

Beatles London Walking Tour

Perhaps one of the most famed and influential bands of all time, whose music has transcended generations, The Beatles continues to be a source of entertainment many decades after the group was formed (1960) and split up (1970).

"The Fab Four" – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – all came from Liverpool, but London was indeed their home-base. As the...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 Km or 3 Miles

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...