Tower Bridge London is a historical and fascinating English icon and is one of the most famous bridges in the world. It has proudly stood over the River Thames since 1894, connecting the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark together. Meaning that there is no surprise that there would be so many cool facts about Tower Bridge, London.
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Facts about Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is one of the prettiest bridges that I have seen in my travels and one of my favourite places to visit in London, especially when I go to the Tower of London England. It still amazes me to this day, how many people mistake Tower Bridge for London Bridge, which is further up the Thames connecting Southwark to the City of London.
⇒ Thinking of visiting the Tower of London or wanting to know more? – What to do at the Tower of London
To help get you started on your journey over Tower Bridge, London. Here are some cool facts I have put together:
Tunnel under the Thames
Before Tower Bridge London was opened to the public, the only way to cross the Thames was through a tunnel underneath the Thames. This was called the Tower Subway and I believe it was 1 penny to cross through the tunnel to each side. This was also a way to monitor the traffic between the two boroughs.
Unfortunately, this tunnel and others were closed down and bridges replaced them. However, there are still two left in London that can be used by the public.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
If you ever want to experience walking under the Thames then visit the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Which goes from Isle of Dogs to Greenwich deep underneath the Thames. I recommend it as something different to do while in London and it is free to use. Check out the Royal Observatory Greenwich, another top London historic attraction while in the area.
Named after Tower of London
Tower Bridge is not named after the two towers on the bridge itself but after the medieval palace White Tower that is located inside the walls of the Tower of London. The final design of the bridge was also heavily influenced by the architecture of the Tower.
Tower of London is another popular landmark in London and the bridge crosses the Thames close to it. If you are thinking about visiting the White Tower, seeing the crown jewels and learning 1000 yrs of history, then you can purchase your ticket in advance and skip the line.
Tower Bridge is mistaken for London Bridge
One of my favourite facts about the Tower Bridge is that it’s often mistaken for London Bridge. It’s a common misconception, one that I have seen and heard a few times, even on movies. London Bridge is actually located upstream from Tower Bridge and is about 100 meters from the Shard.
What is even more interesting is that the original London Bridge was dismantled in 1967 and relocated to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. There have since been several bridges built over the River Thames in the same position and named London Bridge.
⇒ The Westminster to Greenwich River Thames Cruise goes under both London Bridge and Tower Bridge.
Double-decker bus jumping
One of the more interest facts about Tower Bridge London is an incident that happened in 1952. A number 78 double-decker bus was crossing Tower Bridge when the bascules began to rise. Instead of slowing down and stopping, Albert Gunton accelerated and jumped over from the south bascule to the north bascule which had not started to rise yet.
Fortunately, the driver and passengers on board the double decker bus came away with only a few injuries.
I can not promise any bridge jumping but if you want to experience travelling across Tower Bridge on a double decker. Then you can either catch the 78 or RV1 that still go over Tower Bridge, as it is part of the public transport route. Or take The Original London Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour.
⇒ How about reading more on another Royal Residences? A Palace fit for a King, Hampton Court Palace, England
Glass floor in the walkway
The walkways were originally designed to allow pedestrians to cross even while the bridge was raised, but they became hangouts for prostitutes and crime so were closed for a period of time.
These days a glass floor has been installed in the Walkway of the Tower Bridge, which you can walk out on and stand 42 metres above the River Thames. If you are anything like me, l cannot stand on glass and look down as it scares me senseless! It looks really cool though to look up at and see the people.
If you have the courage to cross over the glass floor in the walkway and don’t want to miss out when in London. Then I suggest purchasing a ticket in advance to avoid disappointment for both the walkway and exhibition.
The 2012 Olympic rings on Tower Bridge
To celebrate the 2012 Olympics being held in London, the Olympic rings were suspended from the Walkway on Tower Bridge. To achieve this, the bascules needed to be fully opened and the bridge was closed both under and over for 12 hours while the 12-tonne rings were put in place.
They did look pretty amazing when they were lit up at night and a sight that might not be seen again. Especially as they were 82 by 38 feet in height with an estimated cost £259,817.
While the 2012 Olympics are well and truly over, you can still visit Olympic Park, which has now been redeveloped. Where you can ride the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide ArcelorMittal Orbit.
⇒ Looking for a medieval castle to visit just outside of London? Bodiam Castle – England
River traffic on the Thames takes priority over people or vehicles crossing over Tower Bridge London. However, if you want to go under the bridge with your tall boat and need the bascules to be raised you have to give 24 hours’ notice. You have to check of course the height restrictions to determine if you need to notify the bridge.
⇒ Pass under Tower Bridge, when taking a Westminster to Greenwich River Thames Cruise.
- You can see some great views of the bascules being raised at the top of The Shard, where you can even enjoy a drink.
Watch Tower Bridge live
A new addition to facts about Tower Bridge is that you can now watch the Bridge live 24 hours a day. Modern technology has come a long way and a HD Webcam has been set up at the Bridge and other famous London landmarks. This gives users all around the world a live view of Tower Bridge and the city.
You can watch here live and maybe even see the bascules being raised.
How about some of these activities around Tower Bridge London
Good Luck to see bascules being raised
To see the Tower Bridge bascules being raised is considered to be good luck. Ok, this is more of a myth than a fact about Tower Bridge London. However, I thought it was a good one to know. Apparently, it is a rare occurrence to see the bascules being raised and lowered for ships.
The twin towers rise 200 feet (61 metres) above the Thames and provide an opening 250 feet (76 metres) wide. The Tower Bridge bascules were originally operated by hydraulic pumps before moving to electric motors.
If you witness this happen, you are supposed to receive good luck but I have seen it twice now and I am still waiting for my luck!
One of the best spots to see if the bascules will raise on Tower Bridge is as at the top of the Shard. You can purchase a ticket in advance for the 72nd floor of The Shard. Where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city, with the option of having champagne.
- Another great spot to watch the bascules rise is at Coppa Club, which is along the Thames with views of the Bridge.
Pubs and Restaurants near Tower Bridge
There are lots of restaurants and pubs around Tower Bridge London that are a good spot for a drink or a bit to eat before or after you have visited the bridge. Here are a few recommendations for both pubs and Restaurants:
- The Dickens Inn (Historical Pub) is in St Katharine Dock and one of my favourites to visit
- The Horniman at Hay’s situation on the Thames with an outdoor seating area
- The Anchor Tap a typical old English pub in Bermondsey
Discover more of England
Want to discover more of England and other fun facts? Feel free to read my following articles. All are great options for groups of friends or family, especially who love the outdoors.
- London: Historic Pub, Food & Beer Tour – Old Docks
- Nottingham: A Perfect Weekend Away
- London: A Palace Fit for a King Hampton Court Palace
- Lakes District: The Trout Hotel the perfect English weekend break
⇒ Travelling by train to other parts of England, Wales or Scotland? How about the Interrail Great Britain Pass, a convenient way of taking a train journey? Book your tickets at the same time)
Thank you for reading this article, I hope you learnt something fun facts about Tower Bridge, London. It is definitely one of the prettiest bridges that I have seen.
Do you know any other facts about Tower Bridge London, England that I could add to the list? I would love to hear your comments below.
Disclaimer: All views are my own based on my own experience and research.