Updated on July 21st, 2021
For me, London is the best city in the world & I am lucky to have it on my doorstep. Here, I concentrate on things to do at London Bridge. The area offers a mix of fascinating history, awe inspiring architecture, world beating food & some of the best views in London. The perfect way to see the city is always on foot & in this post I give you a route to allow you to see 21 fantastic London sights in one easy walk.”
Southwark & Bankside, London, UK – a stroll along the River Thames from St Paul’s Cathedral to the Tower of London & beyond.
I have always lived close to London & with my wings clipped for eighteen months, getting into the city has been a real treat. For me, London is the best city in the world & the best way to see it is on foot. With the efficient Tube network, it’s sometimes hard to imagine how close everything is above ground.
One of my most popular posts is my One Day London Itinerary, where, in one walk you can see 22 of London’s top attractions. This is the next in the series which takes you around St Paul’s Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge, the Globe Theatre, Borough Market, the Shard, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London & much more besides! The best thing is that all these sites are within 1 mile of London Bridge!
Fantastic Things to do at London Bridge – See Them All in One Walk
Here are my top things to do at London Bridge. I have put them in order for a reason. You could actually see all these sights within one walk, in one day. See the “One Walk To See Them All!” section at the end, for my suggestion as to how.
1. St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s world-famous dome marks the highest point in the city & the Cathedral has occupied this spot for 1400 years. However, this is the 5th building that has stood on the site. The present Cathedral is an icon & the masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren. If you are able to go inside, it is best to buy tickets online. If you can, climb the 259 steps up to the Whispering Gallery. Once at the top, face the wall & whisper, it can be heard on the opposite side of the dome.
The locals affectionately refer to this as the “Wobbly Bridge”. The government commissioned it to commemorate the turn of the century. However, when it first opened, the structure moved when people walked across, so it had to be closed & reinforced! The bridge is for pedestrians only & takes you across the Thames from St Paul’s to the Tate Modern. To your left, you will see the Shard (the tallest building in London) & beautiful Tower Bridge, more on both later.
To your right keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the London Eye & Big Ben. In addition, don’t forget to look behind you as this is also the best view of St Paul’s.”
3. Tate Modern
If you are a fan of modern art, then you’re in for a treat! Even if you’re not, it’s well worth heading inside to see the installation on offer in the massive Turbine Hall. As with most of London’s Museums, Tate Modern is free. Donations are encouraged & they need our support now more than ever. If you are keen to view a specific event, then you will need to book your place (& pay) ahead of time. Check the link here to plan your visit.
4. Shakespeare’s Globe
This is a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre which the famous playwright originally helped to build & perform his plays. They rebuilt the current theatre close to the original site using construction methods from the time (1599). It was opened as a theatre in 1997. If you would like to visit for a tour or a performance, then you can book tickets here.
5. Winchester Palace
Winchester Palace was one of the largest & most important buildings in medieval London. The Bishop of Winchester owned the palace who was second in power only to the King. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1814. All that remains today are the walls of the Great Hall, overseen by an impressive rose window. In its prime, the hall would have been lavishly decorated & was where James I of Scotland held his wedding feast back in 1424. The palace was huge & also included a tennis court, bowling alley & extensive gardens.
6. The Clink Prison Museum
The Clink Prison was one of England’s oldest & most notorious prisons, dating back to 1144. The museum is built on the original site & gives you the chance to learn all about its history & notorious inmates. The Bishop of Winchester governed the prison from his palace.
This is the place which has given its name to all other prisons in the country & coined the term “being thrown in the Clink”.”
This is a full-size replica of the first English ship to circumnavigate the globe. In 1577 Frances Drake boarded the vessel in Plymouth to explore the Pacific & discover new territories. He returned after 3 years loaded with valuable cargo & was given a knighthood for his efforts. Unfortunately, there is nothing left of the original ship but this Golden Hinde was painfully reconstructed using traditional methods & set sail in 1974 for its own circumnavigation. It has since sailed over 100,000 miles but has rested here since 1996. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to sail the world in a 16th-century galleon then now’s your chance!
Borough Market is one of the best things to do near London Bridge as it combines 2 of my key drivers for loving this city, beautiful iconic landmarks & food! It is London’s oldest food market, operating for 1000 years. It is a mix of food from around the world & the best of British. A visit here will allow you to buy excellent products directly from those who produced them: “the farmer who reared the animal, the fisherman who caught the fish, the baker who baked the bread”.
Borough Market is a feast for the eyes, nose & above all, the taste buds. Whether you are hungry or not…you soon will be! Saturdays can get incredibly busy so I recommend a visit on Thursday or Friday if you can. There are also plenty of fantastic restaurants in the area to choose from.
Southwark Cathedral is the oldest gothic church in London & has been a place of worship for Christians for over 1000 years. It is believed that Chaucer, Shakespeare & Dickens were associated with the church along with many other famous historical names. It is an active place of worship so please respect the rules if you would like to explore inside. All the details for your visit can be found on the website.
10. Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
Ever wanted to visit the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe? Now you can as it is housed in the attic of a 320-year-old church! If you suffer from claustrophobia, you may want to avoid it as the only way to access the museum is via a 52-step spiral staircase. It offers a great insight into the history of medicine & how the surgery was done pre anaesthetics & antiseptics.
11. London Bridge
Finally, we get to London Bridge itself! Originally, the Romans built the bridge in 43AD but since then there have been many bridges on this site. Old London Bridge was the first Thames crossing made of stone which took 33 years to complete in the 13th century. Then it was the only crossing until Westminster Bridge was constructed in 1750. Back then, the bridge was home to numerous houses along its length.
At one time, London Bridge was on the verge of collapsing, hence the song “London Bridge is Falling Down”. The authorities finally destroyed it themselves in 1831.
The next bridge lasted until the 1960s & an American famously bought by the bridge for $2.5 million (rumour has it he thought he was purchasing Tower Bridge!). It was painstakingly dismantled & rebuilt in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.”
The current structure is far less impressive than its forefathers, but the history at least remains interesting!
12. London Bridge Experience
For those who like an all-singing, all-dancing attraction & have a penchant for the macabre then a visit to the London Bridge Experience is a must. It is located in the original vaults of London Bridge & has been voted the scariest attraction in the UK. A visit here takes you on an immersive experience across 2000 years of London’s most gruesome history.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of HMS Belfast’s home on the River Thames as a museum. It is the most significant surviving WWII Royal Navy ship, having fired some of the first shots in the D Day landings. She has a history spanning 82 years which also saw her serve in the Korean War & the Arctic Convoys. HMS Belfast is part of the Imperial War Museum & once it reopens (8th July) you can plan your visit HERE.
14. City Hall
Another distinctive building is the home of London’s government. It leans away from the river so as not to cast a shadow over people walking along the path beneath it. Lord Norman Foster designed the hall. Next door is an open-air amphitheatre that often hosts outdoor events during the summer months.
15. Fashion & Textile Museum
If you have a keen love of fashion, then this will be one of your favourite things to do near London Bridge. Set in a distinct orange & pink building on Bermondsey Street, the Fashion & Textile Museum is the only museum in the UK dedicated to celebrating fashion & textile design. Alongside exhibitions, they also put on talks, courses, events & workshops throughout the year.
Throughout any exploration of things to do at London Bridge, you cannot miss the impressive structure overlooking it all, The Shard. At 310m high, it is one of the tallest buildings in Western Europe. A ticket for the viewing platforms is not cheap (over £25) so my advice is to head to one of the bars for a drink instead, at least then you get something else for your money! If you feel like treating yourself, then why eat at one of the many restaurants or stay overnight?
17. Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is the most iconic bridge over the River Thames. Walking across the bridge is free but if you choose to, you can access the walkways at the top. These have glass floors giving a unique outlook from 42 metres above the Thames.
If you’re lucky, you may even time your visit to watch the bridge lift, it does so 900 times a year!”
You can also explore the exhibitions taking place in the Engine Rooms & get access to the towers.
18. Tower of London
The Tower of London is undoubtedly one of the top attractions to visit in the United Kingdom & therefore potentially THE best thing to do near London Bridge. It is the home to the British crown jewels, a palace, a fortress & a prison all rolled into one. It is also instrumental in some of the UK’s grandest, most notorious & unbelievable history. For everything, you need to plan your perfect visit, check out my top tips for the Tower of London.
19. St Dunstan in the East
The Church of St Dunstan was originally built around 1100. The Great Fire of London severely damaged it in 1666, before suffering again at the hands of the Blitz in WWII. The tower & steeple survived & the decision was taken not to rebuild the church but instead to turn the ruins into a public garden. It is now a picturesque oasis of green in the city & a truly unique space.
The Monument was constructed to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666. The great fire started nearby in a baker’s house in Pudding Lane before razing the city to the ground over 3 days. The only building still standing were those made of stone, notably St Paul’s Cathedral & the Guildhall in Moorgate.
The fire started 202ft away from the site & the Monument stands at that exact height. You can climb the 311 steps inside the column which lead to a viewing platform (once it reopens).”
21. Sky Garden
My final addition to the list of things to do near London Bridge is Sky Garden, London’s highest public garden. If the views from The Shard weren’t enough for you, you can sip cocktails & dine while enjoying panoramic views of the city amongst beautifully manicured gardens. If you would like to just come for the view, then the entry is free, but you will need to book your space in advance (maybe up to 3 weeks before you plan to visit).
If you would like to spend more time exploring the area, then there are loads of hotel options to choose from. I like the look of Ibis Styles, Hilton London Tower Bridge, & the London Bridge Hotel. If you want to stay somewhere very fancy with a high view & a price tag to match then how about a room at Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard? Alternatively, check out your options using the search box below:
London Bridge is London’s 4th busiest station; therefore, it is easy to access via mainline rail services from both Gatwick & Luton airports and London St Pancras on the Eurostar. If you are taking the Tube, then it sits on both the Northern & Jubilee lines. Or you can get numerous buses & even the Thames Clipper for a river bus. Check Transport for London for all your options.
However, I promised you a walk…
One Walk to See Them All!
From there, you can head past Southwark Cathedral back to the Thames Path for a view of London Bridge itself & continue in order. I would probably leave The Shard for later & either finish for a drink with a view at Sky Garden or back over either bridge to enjoy The Shard. That’s a pretty good day just there. Without stops at all (unlikely) from St Paul’s, on this route to the Tower of London, it’s only a 30 minute, 1.6-mile walk!
I hope you have enjoyed my one-day walking tour of the area around London Bridge. It offers a mix of fascinating history, awe-inspiring architecture, world-beating food & some of the best views in London. If you liked it then don’t forget to check out my One Day London Itinerary & post on Best Palaces in the city. Additionally, I have many more walks around London still to share, watch this space!
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