Visiting London Tower Bridge
This post is about planning a visit to London’s Tower Bridge, including tips on opening and closing times, on the Tower Bridge Experience, and on other things to do in the area.
- Plan Your Visit
- The Tower Experience
- When Does the Bridge Open?
- Other Things to Do Nearby
- Things to Do in London
- Free Tours by Foot
PLAN YOUR VISIT
There are several things to do when visiting Tower Bridge. First and foremost, it’s a beautiful bridge that is just begging for your camera to capture it day and night. It’s instantly obvious why it’s a great seller for postcards.
TIP: We have a great view of the Bridge in our City of London Tour.
Second, it is a bridge and you can use it to get across the Thames. It is totally free to walk across the bridge. You can also time your walk to coincide with the lifting of the drawbridge. Both are top free things to do in London.
Lastly, it’s a destination itself. The Tower Bridge Experience (which has a cost) offers the visitor wonderful views of London 42m (130 feet) above the river as well as the opportunity to learn all about the bridge itself and how it works.
How to Get to London Tower Bridge
The Tower Bridge is located on the Thames River between the City of London and Southwark nearby the Tower of London, London Bridge, Monument and City Hall. You could reach Tower Bridge via the London Underground stations of Tower Hill, Monument and London Bridge. We recommend using this Google map for directions to Tower Bridge.
The closest Tube station is Tower Hill, which is serviced by both the Circle and District lines and just a few minutes walk around the Tower of London to Tower Bridge. London Bridge Tube station, which is serviced by both the Jubilee and Northern lines and is approximately a 12-minute walk to the foot of the bridge.
If you mistake it for London Bridge, don’t beat yourself up, because you are not alone. London Bridge is actually a comparatively underwhelming structure slightly up the River Thames.
Constructed in 1894, Tower Bridge is a suspension bridge and a world heritage site measuring 244m (801 feet) long and 65m (264 feet) high and provides a roadway across the Thames for over 40,000 people both on foot and wheels.
It’s free to walk across the bridge and to witness its opening and closing, but you will need to buy a ticket for the Tower Bridge Exhibition.
THE TOWER BRIDGE EXPERIENCE
Pedestrian access to the Tower Bridge is available just about anytime, but the Tower Bridge Experience is a different story. Access to the sky bridge and exhibitions is limited to those who pay for admission, and there are very specific hours for this service. Below, we explain hours, tickets, best time to visit and the highlights of what you will see.
Summer Opening Hours
- 10 am – 5:30 pm
- Hours valid from April – September
Winter Opening Hours
- 9:30 am – 5 pm
- Hours valid from October – March
- Normal Price: £9.80/Adults | £4.20/Children (5-15)
- Concession Price: £6.80/Adults | £3.00/Children
- Free for children under 5
- There are family and combo tickets available
- More information or to purchase tickets.
National Express coach service, National Rail, and the London travel cards all offer 2 for 1 entry when you purchase certain bus or rail passes. Read our blog post on the 2 for 1 offers for more information.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
Although you can visit this popular landmark year round, it can get pretty crowded during popular seasons. In particular, several travelers report that the Tower Bridge is especially popular during warm summer days. In order to avoid long waits and lines, you might want to consider a trip during far less popular times.
Crowds also get pretty large during the middle of the day and during weekends, so either an early morning outing on a weekend or a weekday visit might be your best bet.
Several tourists try their best to visit Tower Bridge when the bridge is lifted for a boat to pass. As a result, it can get pretty crowded while visiting during this event.
Thankfully, the Tower Bridge Experience has provided an app which will allow you to see what this event looks like even if you visit at the wrong time. With their Raise Tower Bridge app, you can point your phone at the glass floor and simulate the experience of seeing the bridge lift up underneath.
What to Expect
Visitors indicate that you can expect to spend anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes looking around and seeing everything that you can see on your own at the Tower Bridge Experience.
The Tower Bridge does not restrict visitors from bringing most personal belongings with them into the exhibit areas.
Some guests find that they are a little too frightened of looking down while on the glass walkway. Visitors who get vertigo easily may want to be very cautious while passing the bridge. This walkway is perfectly safe, but that won’t really matter if you have a fear of heights or a medical condition which might make it difficult to cross the bridge.
The Tower Bridge Experience is fully accessible for all visitors. Guests in wheelchairs can use the lift to easily reach the top of each tower. If you need to use the restroom, you’ll find handicap accessible bathrooms in both towers and the engine room.
Upon entering the North Tower, you can either walk up 206 steps or take a lift to reach the top. From here, you can walk across the bridge using the east and west walkways. Walking up these stairs might be difficult for some visitors, and they can take the lift instead.
Once at the top, you’ll have the opportunity to see the bridge from above by crossing the glass walkway. Watch the people below and see the bridge open to allow boats to pass through.
In addition to watching travelers and getting excellent views, you can also enjoy a wonderful exhibition featuring information about the bridge and its construction.
Despite the fact that both walkways offer incredible views, it is highly recommended to visit the east walkway to get a wonderful look at the city of London. You can also access the Great Bridges of the World exhibit from the east walkway.
Once you’ve reached the South Tower, you’ll have the option to either walk down another 206 steps or take a lift. If you need to use the restroom, you’ll find bathrooms on the lower level of the South Tower. This level is approximately 129 steps from the top and 77 steps from the bottom.
After you’re done with the walkways and both towers of this famous bridge, you can take a stroll along the walk of fame. Located on the south side of the bridge, this walkway features plaques in honor of several people who were instrumental in either building, maintaining or operating the Tower Bridge. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the people who made this landmark one of the most notable sites in London.
At the end of the walk of fame, you will find the Engine Rooms. This was once the location where Victorian-era machinery would be used to lift the bridge for boats whenever necessary. It wasn’t until 1976 that they would switch from coal power to electricity in order to operate the bridge. Since then, this has become a permanent exhibit at the Tower Bridge.
TOURS OF TOWER BRIDGE
If you want to learn as much as possible while visiting this historic site, you might want to consider taking one of their tours. The Tower Bridge offers a total of 5 different tours: a personal guided tour, family tour, behind-the-scenes tour, private evening tour and a sign language tour. Although the night tour is available just about every day, some of the other options are only available either to groups or during specific times of the year. All tours must be pre-booked before arrival.
HOW OFTEN DOES THE BRIDGE OPEN
A good way to enhance your visit to the Tower Bridge is to schedule a visit when the bridge opens to allow a vessel to pass by. The bridge opens and closes approximately 1000 times per year or 3 times per day.
It takes approximately 1 min to open and 1 min to close plus the time it takes a vessel to pass through. They say it is good luck to see the bridge open because it’s not a regular occurrence.
The scheduled lift times are posted on the Tower Bridge website. Ships have up to 24 hours before passing to notify bridge authorities that they will be passing through, so the schedule can change often.
The best place to view the lifting of the bridge is from the riverbanks, but it’s also possible to view it up close on the bridge itself or inside of the Tower Bridge Experience.
Tip 1: If you plan to take photos, consider the time of day that the bridge opens and closes so that you can be sure to be on the best side for light.
Tip 2: The bridge doesn’t always open at the posted time, as the vessel passing through may be early. Be sure to arrive 10-15 minutes before the scheduled raising.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE OR AFTER YOUR VISIT
The most obvious things to do before or after are to visit the Tower of London, the HMS Belfast or to head to the top of the Shard. However, there are some other options. Of course, do check out our post on top things to do in London.
The Tower Bridge is also a great place to start a free self-guided bus tour of London. The route from the Tower Bridge will take you through Southwark to Covent Garden, where you could transfer and continue your voyage into Westminster.
Why not stop at the Mayflower Pub, especially interesting for Americans, as it stands near the landing point where the Pilgrims embarked for the New World. If you are visiting during a weekday, you could also stop in and visit City Hall.