With 35 bridges crossing over the Thames River, you are bound to walk, pedal, or drive over at least a handful when you visit the glittering city of London. With an incredible diversity in styles and the stories associated with them, there is much to learn and marvel at as you take in some of the city’s most iconic sights from these bridges. So, what better way to admire them than to count them down, in this guide to the best bridges in London!
We’ve tried to select bridges all quite accessible within the London underground system, with the exception really of Richmond; an area worth visiting anyway just for the leafy park, the world-leading Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew or, if you’re a rugby fan, watching a game at Twickenham stadium.
From historic marvels to more modern feats of engineering, let’s start counting down the top 12 bridges in London…!
Opened in 1894 and measuring 240 m long, the Tower Bridge is, arguably, one of London’s most iconic and impressive bridges and definitely one of the most famous landmarks in England. The famous architect, Horace Jones, designed the bridge in classic Victorian Gothic style, beating over 50 other submitted designs. The drawbridge is lifted about three times a day, and if you are keen on watching this (a fun experience for young and old alike!), you can check out the timings here.
A glass walkway connects the two towers and affords beautiful views of the river, the Tower of London, the Shard, Wembley, and the city. And if you visit during bridge lifting hours, you will see all of it unfold right under you!
If you are interested in learning more about the bridge, you can go for the Tower Bridge Experience, a paid tour that takes you through the North Tower, South Tower, Engine Room, and more.
Nearest station – London Bridge Station and Tower Hill Station
The brainchild of Prince Albert, the bridge was built in 1873 in between the Victoria and Battersea Bridge (incidentally, the narrowest road bridge over the Thames). Lit up with 4000 halogen bulbs, the Albert Bridge makes for quite a pretty sight after the sun goes down. But it is the bridge’s reputation as ‘the trembling lady’ that makes it one of the most interesting ones to visit. Unfortunately, the Albert Bridge proved to be structurally unsound and has been reinforced with additional support many times over the years. The nickname comes from the fact that the bridge vibrates when large numbers of people cross over it. Due to this, signs warning troops to break step while marching over the bridge are posted at either end.
Nearest station – Sloane Square and South Kensington
“London Bridge is falling down” If you’re exploring the bridges of London, but need a compelling quote or Instagram caption to chronicle your bridge-hopping exploits, then look no further than our Best Quotes about London article.
Painted green to match the leather seats in the House of Commons, the Westminster Bridge connects Lambeth in South London to Westminster, the bustling government center and measures 252 m long. Constructed in 1862, the bridge has some beautiful and interesting elements – Gothic design details, seven elegantly carved arches, the Coat of Arms of Queen Victoria and Albert and Henry John Temple, the ornate lamps, and trefoil cut-outs, amongst others. A walk across the bridge allows you views of some of the city’s most well-known attractions and London landmarks – the Parliament Building, the South Bank Lion, the Lambeth and Hungerford Bridges, the London Eye, and sweeping panoramas of the city.
Nearest station – St James’s Park Tube Station, Embankment Underground Station, Charing Cross Railway Station
Opened to the public in 2000, the Millennium Bridge is the newest bridge built across the Thames River. But its claim to fame is the somewhat (in)famous opening day incident. The inauguration of the bridge saw 80,000 people visit the bridge! At some point during the day, visitors started feeling swaying movements. Authorities shut down the bridge for two years, during which engineers worked to minimize this lateral movement. And thus the nickname – The Wobbly Bridge.
This aside, this pedestrian-only bridge is visually stunning and modeled after a ‘blade of light.’ Photographers will love how the bridge is aligned to St Paul’s Cathedral – it makes for fabulous pictures. Apart from that, the bridge contains the artwork of artist Ben Wilson, 400 colorful blobs of chewing gum stuck all over the structure! You can read more about these as part of our guide to the best non-touristy things to do in London here.
Nearest stations – Blackfriars, Southwark, Cannon Street or St. Paul’s
The London Bridge has existed, in some form or the other, for the last 600 or so years, and records can be traced all the way back to Roman times. The Old London Bridge that was operational from the 13th to mid-19th century even had homes built on it. Multiple fires over a period of time destroyed parts of the structure.
The New London Bridge opened to vehicular traffic and pedestrians in 1831 and was functional until 1967, when it was sold and moved block by block to Lake Havasu City in Arizona.
The Modern London Bridge that you see now was opened to the public in 1973. While the structure is no looker, the views from it are pretty fabulous, maybe the best of all the bridges. Spot the St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, the buildings of the Canary Wharf, and so much more!
Nearest stations – London Bridge and Monument Tube Station
What you see today is the second version of the Waterloo Bridge. Originally named the Strand Bridge, it was rechristened the Waterloo Bridge after the British won the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The bridge was opened to the public in 1817 but by the 1920s, the bridge had started showing signs of decay, and by the 1930s, the London County Council decided to break down the existing structure and build a completely new one.
The new bridge was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and was opened to the public in 1945. Also known as ‘The Ladies Bridge,’ it finds a special place in our hearts. Constructed during World War II, when many young men were enlisted for war duty, the bridge was built using a significant women’s labor force.
Plenty of photo opportunities here! The bridge affords gorgeous views of the London Eye, Westminster, the City of London, Canary Wharf, and South Bank.
Nearest stations – Temple Station, Embankment Underground Station, Charing Cross
Built in 1827, the Hammersmith Bridge is the first and oldest suspension bridge over the Thames River, connecting Hammersmith (on the north bank of the Thames) and Barnes on the south bank. The bridge was rebuilt in the 1880s due to structural issues and has continued to be plagued by safety concerns. The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 2019 and is open only to cyclists and pedestrians.
The bridge has been the target for the IRA protests and has suffered damage due to 3 separate bombing incidents.
Nearest station – Hammersmith Tube Station, Ravenscourt Park Tube Station
Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridge
Named after the market located close by, the first Hungerford Bridge was built in 1845 to connect Charing Cross and the Southbank. A new structure was built in 1864, and walkways on either side were added over the next few decades.
One of the unique features of the Hungerford Bridge is that it is one of only three bridges that is a railway bridge and also allows for pedestrian traffic.
The pedestrian walkways that you see today were opened to the public in 2002. They were named the Golden Jubilee Bridges to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth IIs accession. Don’t be surprised, though, if locals seem a little lost when you mention them. The bridges are still popularly referred to as the Hungerford Footbridges.
Nearest station – Embankment Underground Station, Charing Cross Tube Station, Charing Cross Railway Station
A popular movie location, the Southwark Bridge has ‘starred’ in many popular films, including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Mary Poppins. It is a beautiful arch bridge that connects Southwark and the city. It also has the least traffic of all the Thames River bridges.
The first version of the bridge was built in 1819, with the current design constructed in 1921. The bridge looks beautiful at night after the lights are turned on and is the perfect spot to admire the city’s sights.
Nearest station – Cannon Street Station
Just as the Westminster Bridge draws its inspiration from the green leather seats in the House of Commons, the arches of Lambeth Bridge are painted red to mimic the red seats found in the House of Lords. The bridge connects the center of political power, Westminster, to the head of the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
When it was first built in the 1860s, its steep approach rendered the bridge a mostly pedestrian structure. The current bridge was opened to traffic in 1932.
It’s a fabulous spot for photography enthusiasts and allows you stunning views of Big Ben, the Parliament building, and the London Eye.
Nearest station – Lambeth North
The oldest functional bridge over the Thames River, the arched Richmond Bridge was built way back in the 1770s! The bridge is 300 feet (91 m) in length and is designed such that the central arch is taller than the four arches on the side. This is to allow for boats to pass through.
The bridge still has artistically designed Victorian gas lamp posts though these are now powered by electricity. As elegant and beautiful as the bridge is, the views of the lively pubs, parks, and restaurants that line both sides are even prettier.
Nearest station – Richmond station
Connecting Chelsea on the North to Battersea on the South, the Chelsea Bridge is one of the best-looking bridges built over the River Thames. Previously named Victoria Bridge, the first structure was opened in 1858, before being replaced by the current one in 1937.
The bridge is lit at night and makes for a gorgeous sight when seen from Battersea Park.
Nearest station – Sloane Square Tube Station, Victoria Railway Station
More bridges in London to visit
Of course those 12 are just a drop in the architectural ocean when it comes to London bridges, and we couldn’t include them all. Other notable bridges you might add to your bridge-hopping list include:
Putney Bridge: First built in 1729 out of wood, this bridge connected the area of Putney with Fulham and was essentially a toll bridge; and a lucrative one at that! What makes Putney Bridge relatively famous nowadays is that it’s the starting point for the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, one of the most renowned rowing events in the world.
Hampton Court Bridge: This one is a little special to us, since it’s a stone’s throw from where James grew up! The bridge was first built in 1752, constructed in the Chinoiserie style with seven wooden arches. It’s been rebuilt four times, the modern version of which was completed in 1933. The bridge is a great thoroughfare in the area, and also boasts the imposing Hampton Court Palace and Bushy Park (Henry VIII’s hunting grounds) on it’s northern bank.
Blackfriars Railway Bridge: This bridge is a bit of a novelty – there are essentially two bridges with the same name, and the old one is one of those interesting landmarks in the city. The old railway bridge first opened in 1864 but fell into disuse when Waterloo station became more popular. However, while it was removed, the large red supporting columns still remain, and they make for quite the sight when you’re walking on the Thames footpath. Of course a second railway bridge is still there – built in 1886 it still stands today.
Cannon Street Railway Bridge: Designed by Sir John Hawkshaw and first opened in 1866, this bridge (actually officially called the Alexandria Bridge in honour of Denmark’s Princess Alexandra), has been rebuilt twice; including after the second World War.
How to get around the London bridges
Now the obvious thing to do when visiting all these London bridges is to use the London underground! That’s why we’ve included all the so-called ‘Tube’ stops and you could plan out your visit accordingly. Like most world-class cities, you can easily navigate the Tube with contactless payment – credit card, debit card or Apple or Google Pay – although you could also purchase a one day travelcard to get around.
Use the TFL journey planner on your mobile, use one of the handy maps in all the stations or ask a friendly guard if you are a bit lost!
In case you need a point to point transfer, there is always the luxury of a London black cab; even if it’s just to say you were ferried around in one! Keep in mind that London black cabs are more expensive than, say, an Uber but usually they are quite easy to spot and will get you to your destination in record time.
In terms of maps, your trusty Google or Apple Maps would suffice but, in the event you’re without data or wifi, you could also download an app like Citymapper or Maps.me.
Other things to do in London
Honestly, London isn’t a city that can be condensed into a few paragraphs – you could spend weeks taking in the sights! That’s why we’ve got that full 4 day London itinerary with more information of course.
That said, in case you just want the highlights? Stick to the city centre by visiting some of the sights along the Thames river. You could start with one of the bridges – London Bridge or Tower Bridge would be our suggestion – and then visit the Borough Market, Bankside and the Golden Hinde, take a turn at Shakespeare’s Globe, and see the art at the Tate Modern.
From there, you’d hit another bridge – Millennium Bridge – after which you could see St Paul’s Cathedral, the breathtaking Sky Gardens, meander around the Tower of London and head to Tower Bridge. Of course, with all that done, you’ve still missed a whole heap of key sights: Buckingham Palace, St James’ Park, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and our favourite museum in London, the National Portrait Gallery, hence why you need at least four days to see the main attractions.
Where to stay in London
Now of course London, like the globe’s most glittering cities, is pretty gigantic. So finding a place to call home can be tricky… and expensive. If your budget extends to it, try to stay near Central London so it’s easy to get around; don’t be tempted to stay far out in the suburbs, since you’ll find yourself commuting quite far just to see those bridges!
Budget: You can find some great hostel deals if you really do try, and Wombat’s City Hostel is definitely one of them. This lovely hostel often walks away with accolades for it’s top-notch service and wonderful facilities.
Mid-range: Of course you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to mid-range hotels in London but our top pick is probably the Doubletree by Hilton. It’s in easy reach of the Tower of London, London Bridge and Tower Bridge, it has good-sized rooms to stay and, of course, you get that deliciously gooey choc-chip cookie on arrival that is a Doubletree signature!
Luxury: If your budget allows, then you really could take your pick from gorgeous hotels in London. But our top of the pops? Probably the historic Savoy Hotel. World-famous for it’s amazing suites, it’s impeccable service and known for hosting icons like Frank Sinatra, Claude Monet and Winston Churchill, you can’t get better.
Want to save this for later? Why not pin it…