London Drum

Tower Bridge Exhibition & Glass Floor

Where? Tower Bridge, Tower Bridge Road · Web: towerbridge.org Opening times? 9.30 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 1 hour before closing Visiting hours may change Price? Adults £11.40; Children £5.70 (5-15); Infants free entry (under-5); Family ticket £19.38 Entry charges may change Time required? A typical visit is 45-60 mins Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: 15, 42, 78, 100, RV1 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Tower Hill Circle District Other nearby stations: Tower Gateway Train fares

Craig’s review… Imagine flying all the way home after a week in London, dumping your bags by the door and slumping down on your couch… and then realising that you forgot to take a photograph of Tower Bridge. You’d have to put your shoes back on, drive back to the airport, get on the plane, fly back to London, get the tube into town, the bus back to the bridge, and then take your photo because you can’t go into work on Monday morning without one. You’d be showing off all your London photos and they’d be going, Where’s Tower Bridge? What have you been doing all week?

You can get a good photo from either side of the river. Most people will plump for the pavement outside the Tower of London which is perfectly okay, and across the river outside City Hall is just as good, but if you really want to impress your friends then walk over to Butler’s Wharf and take it from there. Walk down Shad Thames and head under those black bridges in the sky (you’ll know what I mean when you see them) and don’t turn left until you reach that big white building at the end. When you come out onto the river you’ll have a great view of the bridge with the City skyscrapers rising up behind.

The Tower Bridge Exhibition

If you take my advice then you’ll just take the photo and forget about visiting the exhibition inside because it’s pretty bland. First of all you have to sit through a looping movie about Victorian London – one of those old sepia-tinged movies with white lines crackling all over it. They sit you down in a little movie room decorated with rusty buckets and barrels and show you clips of the steamships passing underneath. It’s not the worst programme in the world, but it’s still five minutes sitting in front of a TV – everybody is itching to see the views from the top so you’re basically just sitting there waiting for it to end so you can move on to the next section.

View of London’s skyline from the top walkway

Once you’ve had your fill of that you can make your way onto the top walkway. 125 years ago this walkway acted as a pedestrian bridge across to the other side, but because the coppers soon grew tired of climbing the stairs it quickly became a hangout for prostitutes and pickpockets and all sorts of undesirables. Suicides would come up here for one last look over London before jumping off the top. Eventually the authorities decided they’d had enough and shut it up for seventy years until somebody had the bright idea of letting in the tourists.

Now they’ve nailed up some information boards with an historical timeline and pictures and paintings of the bridge, together with some unnecessary bits and pieces about the Brooklyn Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge and Sydney Harbour Bridge, but you’ll spend most of your time staring out of the window. From one side you’ll get a distant view of Canary Wharf whilst the other one takes in St. Paul’s, HMS Belfast, City Hall and the Shard. See if you can spot The Monument and the top of Tate Modern. My favourite bit was looking down into the grounds of the Tower of London. If you know the layout then you can pick out the raven cages and execution site on Tower Green.

Walking across the glass floor

They’ve tried to make the whole thing a bit more exciting by installing some glass floors halfway along the length. (Who’s stupid idea was that?) I’m usually too chicken to walk across it but I’m watching everyone strolling across with big smiles on their faces today so I’ve decided to finally give it a go.

But I want to know how safe it is first so I’m reading all the gumph on their poster and it’s supposed to be capable of withstanding the weight of an African elephant and two London taxicabs… although how they actually managed to get an elephant and two taxis up there to test it out, I do not know (it’s a very small lift). Excuse me sir, I’m about to ask the staff, but are you sure this glass is 100% safe? I’m hoping he’ll jump up and down on it a few times to demonstrate its strength.

What they should do is erect a booth to the side so you can write your will beforehand… or maybe have a little table with a payphone so you can at least say goodbye to your loved ones. At the very least they should set up a trampoline on the street in case it shatters and cracks and sends you plummeting into the path of a thundering bus below.

Here I go

I lasted for about two-seconds. As soon as I put my first foot down a wave of wobbles passed up my body forcing me to step back again. I tried repeatedly to force myself to walk across the middle to test my manliness but I failed miserably – I don’t care. I don’t need to pass a dumb test just to prove to myself that I’m a man. Real men don’t need to walk across a glass floor just to impress the ladies. I can even see a few dopey students lying down on it and doing press-ups. Why? Why on earth would you do that? Why would you risk it? These are probably the same kind of people who climbed up tree trunks when they were kids, leapfrogged over letterboxes, and slid down bannisters with a concrete bobble at the bottom.

The original Victorian engines

The final part of the exhibition takes you into the old engine rooms where you can stand next to the original boilers, pistons and pumps that once powered the bascules.

It would be a lot more interesting if they were actually feeding coal into the ovens to make the machines splutter up some smoke and flames and fumes, but of course it’s all very safe and stale these days.

Metallic clanks and steam wheezes are playing out of the speakers and with a vivid imagination you can picture them powering the planet’s earthquakes and volcanos, but you never really get the feeling of what the engine rooms must have been like in their hey-day.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try St. Katharine Docks (you can walk it in 4 mins) and Tower of London (you can walk it in 6 mins)

London Squire bookThe owns londondrum.com and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

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Your comments and questions

santos Where is the best place to take a photo of the bridge

Craig Hi Santos. Most people take a photo from the river in front of the Tower of London, but you get the leafy trees in the way there. I thin you get a better photo from over the other side of the river by Butler's Wharf. If you walk along the river there you can see the bridge with the city skyscrapers behind it

babs Do you have to pay to walk over Tower Bridge?

Craig Hi Babs. Not along the roadway on the bottom, no. It's just a normal road. But you have to pay to get in the walkway across the top

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