If someone mentions “London Bridge,” an image of Tower Bridge probably comes to mind. Tower Bridge is the late 19th century masterpiece, standing tall on the River Thames with its two ornate towers and often photographed by tourists and admirers of architecture. London Bridge, on the other hand, is a flat, concrete bridge that, aesthetically speaking, hasn’t got much to offer. What these two bridges have in common, however, is that they both offer spectacular views of the city.
London boasts a number of bridges straddling the Thames, so if you’re visiting the iconic city, be sure to check out some of these stunning bridges.
Perhaps London’s most famous bridge (and for good reason), Tower Bridge has been helping people cross the Thames since 1894. Tower Bridge is as much a symbol for London as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. In fact, it is so famous that visitors can ascend its towers, where there are exhibitions and a glass floor viewing deck.
But its most alluring factor is no doubt its view of the city, which give unparalleled panoramas around the Tower of London. Then again, Tower Bridge itself is a sight that should not be missed.
About half a mile upstream from Tower Bridge sits the most recent Thames crossing to use the moniker “London Bridge.” Throughout the centuries, there have been many bridges dubbed “London Bridge,” at various locations in the city and made of anything from wood to stone. The last London Bridge was dismantled and rebuilt in Lake Havasu, Arizona.
London Bridge is shrouded in myth and history, immortalized in the nursery rhyme, “London Bridge is Falling Down,” but the modern bridge is a bit lackluster in comparison to its reputation. Still, it’s worth a visit to this legendary bridge for its views alone (you’ll definitely get that Instagram-worthy photo of the Shard).
Chances are, most of the photos you’ve seen of Big Ben and Westminster Palace were taken from Westminster Bridge. The bridge, connecting Westminster to Lambeth, has been in operation since the 18th century, when it was built to alleviate congestion on London’s only two bridges—London Bridge and Kingston.
The bridge itself is painted green to match the House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster, taking a backseat role in promoting politics for almost 300 years. It currently hosts foot and road traffic, so tourists can enjoy a stroll in front of a famous London building.
Southwark is primarily a road traffic bridge, so although your walk may not be the most pleasant, you’ll still have a beautiful view of the city on your commute. It links Southwark to the City of London, though for many years during and after the Roman occupation of Britain, the Thames bridge was the only bridge in the area.
From the modern bridge, you can see Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tate Modern and Globe Theatre aren’t far. If you take Southwark over one of its more popular neighbours, you’ll definitely beat the crowds.
Like Southwark Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge doesn’t get a lot of attention in tourist guides, but perhaps it should. It’s flanked by the Temple Church, a construction courtesy of the Knights Templar, and the Tate Modern art gallery.
You might recognize it from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in the scene where the Order flies to Grimmauld Place after retrieving Harry. You won’t need a broom to enjoy the view, though, just stand on the bridge and you might just have London’s best view of the Oxo Tower.
If you’ll be travelling by foot in London, you must cross the Millennium Bridge. London’s premier foot traffic bridge, it sits between the Southwark and Blackfriars Bridges, offering similar views of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London down the Thames. Many tourists cross the bridge on their walks to and from the Tate Modern.
Like the Blackfriars Bridge, the Millennium Bridge features in the Harry Potter movie franchise, this time in The Half-Blood Prince, when Death Eaters attack the bridge and it dramatically collapses into the river.
Albert Bridge is one of London’s prettiest bridges, even more so at night when it is illuminated. Its original foundations were unstable, so it has been modified and now bears three different styles of bridging. The bridge has a tendency to sway under heavy traffic, earning it the nickname, “The Trembling Lady.”
Aside from its own pleasing aesthetic, you’ll see Chelsea in the north and Battersea in the south, and no shortage of green scenery. Cross Albert Bridge and you’ll avoid some of the busy traffic of other centrally located bridges.
Lambeth Bridge is another of London’s bridges to make an appearance in Harry Potter, and die-hard fans will notice it is where the Knight Bus crosses in The Prisoner of Azkaban. But Lambeth is equally as magical in our world as it is in Harry’s.
Lambeth Bridge sits upstream from Westminster Bridge, on the opposite side of Westminster Palace. Like its green sister bridge, Lambeth is painted red to match the House of Lords, which is closest to it in Westminster Palace. You can see a similar view of the Palace here, but it’s just a bit more unique than the view of Westminster we usually see from its namesake bridge.
Hammersmith Bridge was opened to the public around the same time as Tower Bridge, but it hasn’t gained the same iconic status over the years. Perhaps because it lacks the imposing towers or that it is located outside the official City of London, instead quite a way upstream at Hammersmith and Fulham.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay a visit to this 19th century monument. It offers more serene views of the Thames than other bridges downstream, but they’re no less beautiful. The bridge was closed to road traffic this year, so it’s significantly quieter than it previously was.
Fans of black-and-white film might recognize Waterloo Bridge from the 1940 film of the same name, when Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh are shown meeting on the bridge. These days, you probably won’t meet the love of your life at Waterloo Bridge, but you might fall in love with the view of London.
Named for the Battle of Waterloo, the bridge is well known for having some of the best views in the city. Standing on it, you’ll see Westminster, the London Eye and the South Bank in the west, and the City of London and Canary Wharf in the east.