Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in London, its Gothic Victorian design admired around the world. Still a working bridge, visitors can go inside for a unique view of this famous attraction.
- Watch in awe as the bridge lifts, allowing the larger boats to continue their journey on the river.
- View bridge life below from the vantage point of the Tower Bridge glass floor walkways.
- Learn how the bridge was built and discover the people who kept it operational.
What to See and Do
The Glass Floor
Tower Bridge has two walkways, each with a glass floor section providing spectacular views down on to the bridge. Here you can watch London life as it crosses this famous bridge and if you time your visit right you could even have the best viewpoint in the capital when the bridge is raised. Each section of glass floor is 11 meters long allowing visitors these unique views down on to the bridge from a height of 42 meters.
Not only are the views down from the walkways great, but the ones out across London are also spectacular. From the East walkway you can look out across Canary Wharf, the Docklands and Greenwich, while the West walkway provides a stunning vantage point to look out over the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and The Shard. The walkways also contain an exhibition of large-scale photographs entitled ‘Great Bridges of the World’.
The Engine Rooms
The Engine Rooms once employed 80 people to help operate and maintain Tower Bridge. The original steam engines have been restored and can now be explored by visitors. Using interactive displays, films and photographs the Engine Rooms provides a fascinating look at how the bridge functioned when steam operated and at the lives of the people who kept it running.
The North Tower is the beginning point of your visit to the bridge. The exhibition on display in this tower tells you how this famous bridge was designed and built. It also tells you about the people involved, from the architects and the technicians through to the construction workers. You can take a step back in time by watching the films of Victorian London at the time the bridge was built.
Take a Tour
Take a guided tour and learn in more depth the history of the bridge and hear the stories of the people involved in its construction and maintenance. The knowledgeable guides will bring the bridge and its history to life. By opting for a behind the scenes tour you have the opportunity of an extended tour, including areas usually off-limits to the public. This includes operational areas like the control cabin and machinery room where you will be joined by one of the Senior Technical team members.
Did You Know: (5 interesting facts!)
- River traffic has the right of way with a condition of the original design being the bridge did not cause an obstruction. Therefore, so long as 24-hour notice has been given to the authorities the bridge will be raised regardless.
- The walkways were built to allow pedestrians to cross when the bridge was raised but was closed in 1910 due to lack of use. They reopened in 1982 as part of the Tower Bridge exhibition.
- In 1952 Albert Gunter was driving his bus on the bridge when he realised it was beginning to open. Gunter stepped hard on the accelerator and jumped across to the other side with his 20 passengers unharmed.
- The bridge sections which raise are called bascules and beneath the bridge are the bascule chambers, housing the massive counterweights needed to allow the bridge to lift.
- In 1912 aviator Frank McClean flew his biplane between the bascules and the walkways of Tower Bridge, an incident captured in a famous image from the day.
- 1876 Special Bridge or Subway Committee set up to find solution for another river crossing.
- 1884 The design by architect Horace Jones in collaboration with engineer John Wolfe Barry approved.
- 1886 Construction on the bridge begins, taking 8 years to complete.
- June 1894 Tower Bridge opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales.
- 1910 Walkways allowing pedestrians to cross when the bridge is raised are closed through lack of use.
- 1952 Albert Gunter’s bus jumps between the two bascules as the bridge begins to rise.
- 1976 The steam-driven operating system is replaced by an electro-hydraulic drive system.
- 1977 The bridge is painted red, white and blue to commemorate the Queen’s silver jubilee.
- 1982 The bridge is reopened to the public for the first time since 1910.
- 2012 Tower Bridge features prominently in the opening ceremony for the London Olympics.
Facilities and Accessibility
Tower Bridge is fully accessible with a lift to the walkways located in both the South and North towers. For those who may be wary of crossing the glass floor walkways there is solid wooden flooring you can use instead on either side of the glass. An external lift also provides access to the Engine rooms and gift shop. For security reasons, all bags are searched on entry to the bridge.
There are accessible toilets and baby changing facilities in the South tower and the Engine rooms. A guided tour with British Sign Language interpretation is available, as are induction loops in certain areas of the bridge. Braille booklets can be downloaded in advance of a visit or borrowed when at the bridge. For anyone requiring a rest during their visit benches are located around the site.
The Tower Bridge shop has a range of commemorative gifts and souvenirs, with every purchase helping support the running of the bridge. As well as books, mugs, homeware, clothing and bags, you can purchase models of the bridge itself. Although Tower Bridge does not have its own food and drink facility you are allowed to eat and drink inside the bridge, although you are asked not to bring nuts and alcohol.