What’s so special about Tower Bridge?Tower Bridge is one of the icons of the London skyline, with its familiar towers, walkways, and blue and white suspension rods. It was built between 1886 and 1894 in order to provide a new way to cross the river in the East End of London. The challenge was to build a means of crossing which wouldn’t stop ships having access to the busy Port of London, so it was decided to build a bascule bridge or a movable bridge which opens to let vessels pass underneath. The government at the time insisted that it needed to be designed in the Gothic style, which meant it complemented the Palace of Westminster, just a short distance upriver. Today the bridge is still used daily by motorists and pedestrians, plus tourists can visit the Tower Bridge exhibition, which takes you up onto the walkway between the towers as well as into the Engine Rooms. It’s also been the centerpiece of several of London’s celebrations, from the 2012 Olympics to the sweeping shots of the city during the New Year’s Eve fireworks, and in 2019 it’s celebrating 125 years of keeping London moving.
When does the bridge open?Tower Bridge opens approximately 850 times a year, so you have a good chance of catching it if you plan your trip well! The timetable for bridge lifts is published online so you can see what time you should be there to watch and whether it’s possible to watch from the glass walkway above. If the glass walkway is full of other visitors then ask a member of staff and they’ll show you other great spots where you can see the action. Alternatively, you’ll get a great view from either bank of the Thames.
What’s in the Tower Bridge exhibition?The Tower Bridge exhibition is an exciting look inside the workings of a movable bridge! Exhibits will teach visitors about the building and maintenance of the bridge, while the walkway offers a 36 foot (11m) long glass floor which lets visitors peer down the 137 foot (42m) down to the river from above. You’ll also get to see the Engine Rooms, which were switched from steam power to electricity in 1976, and discover more about the different people it takes to keep the bridge working. There’s also an exhibit depicting great bridges of the world so that visitors can see how the iconic Tower Bridge fits in with bridges from other cities.
Are guided tours available?Some guided tours are available, but the self-guided tour is also great. Exclusive 2 hours behind the scenes tours are available on weekends in November, December, January, and February. Limited to 12 places, cost £50 per person, only those aged 14 and over can attend. Tour of the control cabin, machinery room, and bascule chambers with a Senior Technical Officer. Personal guided tours are available for £66 per person (plus a standard entry ticket) and must be booked in advance. Family tours run throughout the school holidays, take 90 minutes and cost £4 per person, plus a standard entry ticket.
Is Tower Bridge accessible?Tower Bridge is fully accessible, with lifts to all the levels in the towers and to the Engine Rooms. Accessible toilets are also located in both the South Tower and the Engine Rooms. Wheelchairs are available to borrow from both the ticket office and the entrance to the Engine Rooms, as are stools for those who may need to take more breaks during their visit. Braille and high contrast booklets with information about the exhibits can be borrowed from the Ticket Office. Autism Friendly Early Opening events and guided tours with a British Sign Language guide are also available on certain days throughout the year, please check the Tower Bridge official website for more details.