Ah, Tower Bridge! Not just London’s iconic drawbridge over the Thames, but a bustling locale brimming with hidden gems and charming nooks that invite exploration. While many come to marvel at the engineering prowess of the bridge itself, the surrounding area offers a tapestry of experiences waiting to unfold.
When living in London a few years ago, my flat was about a 10-minute walk from Tower Bridge, and it always used to leave me in awe when I would walk past sites dating back hundreds – if not thousands – of years. Tower Bridge is a truly special area of London because of how much history is layered in such a small space – and how much you can still experience today.
From history-soaked cobbled streets to trendy eateries that’ll tickle your taste buds, there’s a plethora of things to do near Tower Bridge that are as diverse as they are delightful. So, pop on your best walking shoes, tip your hat to London’s heritage, and let’s embark on a jolly good adventure around one of the capital’s most treasured districts.
Whether you’re staying in the Tower Bridge area or just want to spend dedicated time here as part of your London itinerary, let this list inspire you.
1. Climb and Cross Tower Bridge
If you’re looking for things to do near Tower Bridge, climbing and crossing this iconic London landmark should be at the top of your list!
Tower Bridge offers breathtaking views of London’s cityscape, including the famous St Pauls, The Shard, and Canary Wharf. The brave can walk across glass floors and look down almost 138 feet to the River Thames. If you’re lucky, you’ll even see the bascule below open to allow a ship through! (The vessel has to be over 30 feet tall to request a bridge lift.)
Although the bridge opens between 9:30 to 18:00, the last entry is actually at 17:00. The opening hours also vary depending on the day, so do check before you visit. As one of the most popular attractions in London, Tower Bridge can get very busy. If you prefer to see it under more peaceful circumstances, visit during th eRelaxed Opening, held on the third Saturday of every month.
Essential info: Tickets start from £12.30 for adults and £6.20 for children; Tower Bridge is included in the London Pass if you want to visit for free!
2. Visit the Tower of London
The Tower of London is a World Heritage Site and a must-visit for history lovers. The ticket isn’t cheap, but there’s so much to see and do, it’s well worth the price. (You’ll need anything from two to six hours for the Tower.)
Pro Tip: The Tower of London is one of the most popular things to do near Tower Bridge, so the ticket queues can get quite long. I recommend pre-booking online before you go!
Your ticket includes a guided tour by a Yeoman Warder (also called Beefeaters). The tours run every half-hour, with the last one held at 15:30, so don’t visit too late!
Essential info: Tickets start from £33.60 for adults and £16.80 for children; the Tower of London is included in the London Pass if you want to visit for free!
3. Explore St. Katharine Docks
This former dock, which dates back to the 12th century, has been revitalized and now houses offices, apartments, and restaurants. (Nonetheless, you’ll still see many yachts moored in the marina today.)
Despite being very close to the Tower of London, St. Katharine Docks is a little hidden away so it’s relatively tranquil (compared to the hustle and bustle over at Tower Bridge.) It’s a little oasis that is the perfect place to grab a drink or bite after fighting the crowds. (If you like Spanish food, try Bravas Tapas!) If you’re looking for accommodation around the Tower Bridge area, there are even hotels in St. Katharine Dock.
4. Board a Thames Cruise
Cruising the River Thames is one of the best things to do near Tower Bridge and there are many ways you can do it; Tower Pier is a great spot to board a variety of Thames river cruises. From taking a speedboat, a historic wheeler, a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing cruise, or a lunch and dinner boat ride, there’s something for everyone.
To find the best Thames cruise for you, make sure you know what you want from the river ride. For example, if you want to learn more about London, choose a cruise with a commentary. (Tate to Tate by Thames Clippers, for instance, doesn’t have live commentary despite running between two of London’s most famous museums.) If you’re looking for a special experience, consider a Murder Mystery Cruise or a Jazz Cruise.
Pro Tips: To experience London life like a local, skip the tourist boat and take the commuter river bus. It’ll only cost £8.30 for a boat ride from London Bridge City to Westminster. You can even use your Oyster card! There’s also an unlimited River Roamer option which allows for unlimited travel in all zones. You’ll get a 10% discount if you buy your Adult River Roamer ticket online (for £21.20.) Lastly, UberBoat by Thames Clipper is included in the London Pass, too, for another budget-friendly option.
5. Learn about the Gunpowder Plot
The Gunpowder Plot is by far one of the best things to do near Tower Hill Station for history aficionados and theater buffs – it’s also one of the newest experiences, and you’ll probably recognize British actor Tom Felton in his role as Guy Fawkes. (Hint: he was in the Harry Potter films!)
It’s an immersive Virtual Reality meets theater experience that takes you back to the smells, sights, and sounds of London in 1605. Even if you have never heard of the Gunpowder plot, history will come to life in front of you and you’ll learn a lot whilst having tons of fun. (At the end, there’s even an explanation about which parts of the show actually occurred and which were scripted for dramatic purposes!)
As the experience will take place across three floors, wearing comfortable footwear is recommended. (This is just good advice for London sightseeing in general, of course!)
6. Visit All Hallows by the Tower
Founded in 675AD, All Hallows by The Tower is the “oldest church in the City of London.” As part of its rich heritage, it contains a crypt in which you can see a large, intact portion of a Roman floor that dates back almost 2000 years.
The site has played an important role in the various eras of English history: for example, it’s where a Saxon church was built on the site of an earlier Roman domestic house. This is showcased in the crypt where you can see a Saxon building foundation and elements of a Medieval church next to the Roman floor. There is also a good collection of historical artifacts in the crypt museum.
Essential info: London can be an expensive city, but entering All Hallows by the Tower is free!
7. See a Ghost Tube Station
If the name creeps you out, don’t worry! A ghost tube station is actually just an abandoned underground train station.
Two ghost stations to visit in the Tower Hill neighborhood are the Tower of London station, which was closed in 1884, as well as its replacement, Mark Lane Station. You can find the original Mark Lane station building hiding in plain sight on Seething Lane. Parts of the station can also be seen when traveling underground, eastwards from Monument to Tower Hill.
8. Do the London Wall Walk
If you’re looking for free things to do near Tower Hill, why not walk the London Wall?
The original two-and-a-half-mile-long Roman wall was built around 200AD to defend the citizens of London. Parts have been destroyed and the best surviving section is located north of the Tower of London. This is also where the first plaque, put up by the Museum of London, can be found.
Of the original 21 plaques erected by the Museum, only 11 remain. You can find the write-ups of all 21 plaques in this self-guided London Wall Walk.
9. Take a Jack the Ripper Tour
Jack the Ripper is London’s most notorious serial killer. He is well-known for savagely murdering five women in Victorian London. Till today, his identity remains a mystery.
As an unsolved crime, there’s a lot of interest in this dark chapter of London’s past. As such, there are many Jack the Ripper tours out there which, unfortunately, focus on sensationalization at the cost of historical accuracy. To learn the truth about Jack’s victims, check out this list of the best Jack the Ripper tours.
10. Board the HMS Belfast
The HMS Belfast is a well-preserved, historic warship from World War Two that has since been converted into a museum.
Permanently moored on the River Thames, it has many interactive activities, such as climbing up and down some pretty steep ladders (optional), making it one of the best things to do near Tower Bridge with kids.
Pro Tip: You get some of the best views of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London from the ship.
11. Picnic in Potters Field Park
Potters Field Park is a tiny open space next to the River Thames and Tower Bridge that dates back to the 17th century.
With over 50 plant species and sweeping views of the Bridge, it’s a popular place to picnic when the weather is good. You can bring your own picnic basket or buy food from the popular cafes and restaurants nearby; there are no public toilets at Potters Field Park, so you might want to pop into one of those too before arriving.
Bonus: Go Mudlarking at Low Tide
If you’ve never heard the term, “mudlarking” means you go scavenge in river mud, looking for valuable items.
Victorian mudlarks did so to earn a living. Today, most mudlarks scavenge as a hobby, to feed their interest in London’s history. Items found range from buttons and gemstones to 18th-century Chinese porcelain. (Anything over three hundred years of age must be reported to the Museum of London, so mudlarks help to flesh out the story of London in the process.)
Remember to stay safe as the river tide can rise very rapidly! You might want to invest in shoes with a good grip and rubber gloves as the ladders and stones can be slippery. To learn more about mudlarking, consider joining this Facebook group.
Essential info: You can only access the River Thames for a few hours every day, at low tide. Access is via Alderman Stairs beyond St. Katharine Docks. In addition, you will need a Thames Foreshore Permit from the Port of London Authority.
Have any remaining questions about this list of the best things to do near Tower Bridge? Let me know in the comments!