The River Thames bridges are among the most loved and recognised London landmarks of all. Some other London bridges might not be quite as beautiful, but they’re usually the vantage point for some of the best views of London.
One of the most famous bridges of London, Tower Bridge, is among the best bridges in the world. It’s one of the great icons of London, spanning the river next to another of the great London sights, the Tower of London. Other bridges on the Thames in London have been immortalised in song, from the ‘London Bridge is falling down’ nursery rhyme to the Kinks’ wistful ‘Waterloo Sunset’.
Our guide to the best bridges in London includes the most popular section of the river, from Westminster and London Eye to Tower Bridge. These can easily be visited in a few hours on the Bridges of London Walk, but there are also some outstanding bridges London has hidden away in the suburbs to the west. We’ve also included another bridge in north London, far from the Thames, which has one of the best panoramas of London you could hope to find.
So settle back and enjoy our guide to the best of the bridges of London.
We start in the east with the Tower Bridge, one of the most iconic sights of London. It’s an incredibly grand bascule and suspension bridge, flanked by towers either side. Uniquely for bridges in London, its middle section can be raised to allow tall-masted vessels to pass through.
The walk over Tower Bridge is magical, and you can make a fascinating diversion by visiting the Tower Bridge Experience. This Tower Bridge tour allows you to climb one of the towers and learn more Tower Bridge history along the way. It was built in the late 19th century and quickly became one of the main symbols of London, and indeed Great Britain.
How to get there: Tower Hill is the nearest Tube station, adjacent to the Tower of London on the north side of the river. It’s a few minutes’ walk from there. Otherwise, bus RV1 crosses near the end (or beginning) of its route from Covent Garden to Tower Gateway.
What you see from there: the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf financial district to the east, and the Tower of London and the City of London to the north-west. The Shard skyscraper then dominates the view on the south side of the river.
The original London Bridge has long since left town, having been transported brick-by-brick to Lake Havasu, Arizona, USA. The London Bridge you see now is its not especially dissimilar stone-arched replacement.
There’s only one winner in the looks department in a London Bridge vs Tower Bridge match-up. However, the host of London Bridge pubs and bars make it a more attractive area for eating out in London. The views from London Bridge are pretty special too.
Just down from the Bridge, you’ll find a huge range of London Bridge restaurants, and Borough Market, for long one of the best markets in London but where tourists now outnumber the locals. One of the loveliest churches in London, Southwark Cathedral, is tucked discreetly away behind the Market.
Getting there: London Bridge station is just to the south, while Monument Tube station is just to the north. Otherwise, many red London buses ply the route across London Bridge.
What you see from there: The London Bridge walk is not to be missed, with one of the best 360° views in London. You see the distinctive skyline of the City, with its Gherkin, Walkie-Talkie and Cheese Grater dominating. Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast and the towers of Canary Wharf dominate the view to the east, while the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral stands grandly above its surroundings to the west. The Shard looms a thousand feet above all of this.
The next road bridge to the west is Southwark Bridge. It’s one of the hidden gems of London, albeit hidden in very plain sight. This graceful arched wrought-iron bridge is one of the best vantage points of the City of London, and is also close to some of the best things to see on the South Bank.
It’s about to have new lights fitted for a co-ordinated lightshow (along with its aforementioned neighbours), so this will hopefully gain it more of the attention it deserves.
Getting there: Cannon Street Station is a few minutes’ walk away, on the north side of the river. Alternatively, bus 344 crosses the river, and routes 381 and RV1 run close by.
What you see from there: Outstanding views of the City of London skyline, Tower Bridge and the river.
The famous Lord Foster-designed footbridge infamously had to close to some early wobbles a few days after opening back in 2000, but it has gone on the become one of the most popular vantage points on the river. It’s the best-known pedestrian bridge in London, linking St Paul’s and the city to the north with the magnificent Tate Modern Art Gallery over on Bankside, and gives tremendous views of both sights, especially early and late in the day.
How to get there: On foot from either St Paul’s or Tate Modern. Buses 4, 15, 17, 26 and 76 pass by St Paul’s, from where it’s a three or four-minute walk to the Bridge.
What you see from there: St Paul’s and the City are to the north, while Tate Modern is to the south. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a two-minute walk to the east of the Tate Modern.
As you look east, you also get great views to the Shard, the City and Tower Bridge.
Blackfriars is a busy railway junction close to the western end of the City of London. The railway means that views from there are rather limited, but the views of it from some nearby locations are breathtaking. Try to grab an outdoor table at the OXO Tower Bar & Grill, on the south side of the river. This, and the nearby rooftop vantage point xxxxx, look out over St Paul’s, contrasting with the contemporary skyline of the City beyond.
Getting there: Blackfriars railway station is the place to go.
Waterloo Bridge links the vast station of the same name, and the South Bank arts complex, with The Strand, the thoroughfare leading from the heart of Royal London to the City. It affords one of the best views of the Houses of Parliament, up the ‘dirty old river’ of the Kinks song beyond neighbouring Hungerford Bridge.
Getting there: Waterloo Station, and a multitude of buses crossing it.
What you see from there: A glorious view upstream to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben clock tower, with the London Eye to the right. It’s also a good vantage point for parts of the South Bank, Somerset House and, surprisingly, the distant towers of Canary Wharf.
HUNGERFORD AND GOLDEN JUBILEE BRIDGES
The Hungerford railway bridge runs out of mainline Charing Cross station, passing the South Bank arts centre on the other side. It replaced an earlier bridge by the master engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel: indeed, his original stone buttresses remain. The old Charing Cross bridge was painted by Claude Monet during one of his visits to the city.
The Hungerford Bridge is flanked by the two white Golden Jubilee (2002) footbridges, which provide access across the river to the South Bank. The southern side provides one of the best unfettered views of the river and Houses of Parliament.
Getting there: Embankment Station (Circle and District lines) is right next to the bridges.
Westminster Bridge is the oldest extant road bridge in London. The present version dates from 1862, replacing the 1750 original.
It’s one of the most photographed bridges in London because of its proximity to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The views it affords are stunning, especially at night when the Palace of Westminster is beautifully illuminated.
Getting there: Westminster Tube (Circle, District and Jubilee lines) is a few metres across the street from it, otherwise several buses cross it.
What you see from there: You also get great views of the London Eye ferris wheel across the river, and south towards Millbank and, beyond, one of the most rapidly changing parts of London.
Chelsea Bridge London is one of the capital’s prettiest bridges. It’s a lovely suspension bridge at the east end of Battersea Park. The present bridge dates from the 1930s, and replaced one built almost a century earlier. Dusk is the best time to see it, and the riverside path in Battersea Park is the best place from which you can view it.
Getting there: Buses 44, 137 and 452 cross the bridge.
What you see from there: Battersea Power Station, surrounded by a forest of construction cranes at the time of writing, is just to the east, beyond the adjacent railway bridge. The view up the river to the Albert Bridge is well worth the journey.
Albert Bridge, which is considerably closer to the heart of Chelsea than Chelsea Bridge, is a strong contender for the most beautiful bridge in London accolade. This graceful 19th century masterpiece, across the street from historic Cheyne Walk, is named after Queen Victoria’s Consort, Prince Albert.
It’s a suspension bridge surrounded by houseboats moored either side, which is fresh from a recent restoration. The Albert Bridge is especially beautiful at twilight, when its hundreds of lights twinkle and reflect in the river.
Getting there: The 170 bus from Victoria station stops next to the bridge. It continues to Battersea, Clapham Junction, terminating at Roehampton.
What you see from there: the bridge is the star of the show here, but there are also views across to Chelsea.
Hammersmith Bridge is off the beaten path London, close to the busy, traffic-clogged suburb of the same name but very different in feel. It’s the oldest suspension bridge in London, dating back to 1887. This stately suspension bridge is a wonderful discovery, and has recently been closed to traffic. A full restoration project is likely to take until 2022.
A visit there is one of our favourite things to do in West London, very much worth it if you have the time or are staying nearby. One of the real hidden gems of London.
Getting there: Tube to Hammersmith, then walk.
This is the one entry in our list of bridges in London that doesn’t span the Thames. This Victorian construction just below Highgate Hill gave the new surrounding suburb of Archway its name. The Hornsey Lane Bridge spans a section of the Great North Road below, and sadly has been the site of many a suicide.
We recommend a visit for the view of London, which is stupendous. From here, you get to see the skyline of the City of London, Gherkin, Cheese Grater et al, plus the Shard towering hundreds of feet above them all.
Getting there: A ten-minute walk up Highgate Hill from Archway Tube (Northern Line, High Barnet branch), then a few minutes along Hornsey Lane on the right.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.