London Town. The first City to steal my heart. The City that has a skyline so familiar to me, it always feels like home. Nik and I love to hop on the train and take the 20 minute journey “into town” and explore. Lately, we have been picking an area of London to go into and uncover what it has to offer. Recently we did a walking tour of Kensington, and that revealed hidden treasures, despite us thinking we knew the area well! This time, we decided to head into Central London and see if we can get the London bridge area uncovered.
London Bridge is one of those areas that most of us just pass through. We may stop for a drink there, (I am, lets say, familiar with many of the cocktails London Bridge has to offer…..ahem….), but thats about it. So, when we decided to explore the London Bridge area, we were a little unsure what we’d find. I of course, totally get that many of you may not live near London, so I have also found some London Bridge Hotels for you should you fancy a little staycation! You know how much I am a fan of a London staycation!
As the weather gods were kind to us the day we visited, we decided to get off at Tower Hill station (where we come into) and walk. London Bridge station is on both the Northern and Jubilee underground lines though, so very easily accessible from most areas of London if you prefer transport.
London Bridge History
Ohhh there is so much history surrounding this bridge. Often over-shadowed by its prettier neighbour, Tower Bridge, London Bridge has a much longer history. It is the grande dame of the bridge word. It was the only bridge that crossed the Thames until the mid 18th century, so you can imagine it has seen a lot of London life! I could not possibly go into the full history of the bridge in this post, (but you can read much more here). However, I did want to tell you one part of London Bridge early history that I thought was interesting!
Many of us will be familiar with the nursery rhyme, “London Bridge is falling down” from our childhoods. Well, the origins of that rhyme actually go back to Viking time! History shows that London was attacked by a Norsemen raid, led by King Olaf of Norway in 1009. The raid caused massive destruction to the bridge, with the Vikings even managing to pull parts down. As was typical of the times, the Viking poets would regale the local villages with rhymes about the sagas, which were carried through generations. A version of the nursery rhyme, believed to have inspired the rhyme we know now, has been found in history. How cool is that! A bit of Viking poetry.
London Bridge Area
So, where exactly is London Bridge? The easiest way to picture it, is by using the Thames as your guide. Coming up the river from the East, the first bridge you hit when in London is Tower Bridge. Then, moving along the river you meet London Bridge, then onto Southwark and Blackfriars bridges. The famous landmark of HMS Belfast sits between Tower and London bridges, so hopefully that pinpoints this area we are in for you.
London Bridge obviously stretches across and over the river. The London Bridge underground station is on the South Side of the river. Borough Market, Londons most renowned food and drink market is also set that side, so that is where we will start our tour…..coz…you know….its morning and…..coffee…!
Things to do near London Bridge
Your morning Itinerary
A vibrant, bustling place, Borough Market is London’s oldest food and drink market. There is in fact, records of a market being held here since the 11th century. Your senses will be delighted by the rich mix of British and international produce as you weave amongst the stalls. Aromas from the food the traders are preparing compete with each other to tempt you to try. Vibrant fresh fruit and vegetables, home made olive oils and breads to die for are all calling your name. Its a foodies dream!
We grabbed a coffee from Change Please, a fabulous social enterprise. Backed by The Big Issue, it provides homeless people with the skills and support to become fully fledged, professional baristas. It also gets its coffee from suppliers that support their local communities and at-risk young people. Your cup of coffee from Change Please lifts so much more than your energy!
Little tip for my fellow vegans – The plant based Thai food from Greedy Khao is a must try, and the tahini salted caramel brownies from Cinnamon Tree should be taken home to have with a cuppa!
Now suitably fed and watered, a little calm from the bustle of the market may be just the tonic. Beautiful Southwark cathedral can provide you with a little oasis.
Set literally next to the market, you cannot help but be blown away by the detail and architecture of the cathedral. As soon as you walk through the doors, it has the wow factor. Spend a little time here learning about the important part the cathedral has had in the history of the area.
Clink Prison Museum
Dating back to the 1100’s, the Clink Prison has an extensive and notorious history! The small museum that now stands on the original site of the prison, is worth a look. Designed with a hands on approach, visitors to the Clink Prison Museum get to experience the sounds, sights, even smells of what life was like in the Clink prison. You can get up close and personal with some torture devises too! What a treat! Prices start at just £6 to go into the museum, and you would need around an hour. For my fellow ghost lovers, (you know I love my haunted hotels) its my duty to tell you they do a ghost hunt there…….
Drinks in London Bridge Area
By now, you may be ready for refreshments. Why not head along to George Inn. Thought to have been built around the 1500’s, it is the oldest, and only surviving galleried London coaching inn. Charles Dickens himself was a regular patron of the inn, and refers to it in his book, Little Dorrit. We have had drinks in The George many times, and I love that it has a serving window for your beers! A historical pub, serving both traditional dinks like cask ales, as well as bespoke cocktails. The building is now owned by the National Trust to protect it, and its courtyard in the summer is thriving! Nik and I have spent many a Saturday there with friends….
If you prefer your cocktails with a playful, cheeky slant, then Call Me Mr Lucky is for you. Hidden underneath lively The Breakfast Club cafe in Southwark Street, it has that popular speakeasy, basement type feel about it, and the cocktails are amazing! Cocktails have fun, tongue-in-cheek names and start at around £8 each. In the name of research, I tried a few for you and I can fully recommend the Pink Panties!
Now for the Afternoon Itinerary
Thames Boat Trips from London Bridge
Depending on how you sea legs are after your drinks, you could hop on one of the many river trips that you can do on the Thames.
The ticket office for the trips is located right at the foot of London Bridge, and the boat trips provide a nice way to see the City from another perspective. You have so many options with the river cruises, from lunch and dinner trips, to fast and furious rib tours. Take your pick!
London Bridge Experience
I have a story about this experience. Nik and I took the boys when they were younger. It is brilliant, but there is a reason why it has been voted the top all year round scare fest in London for the last 11 years! Our eldest son was so scared that we had to be let out early! (We have gone back since and he was fine that time. Nik however……)
This immersive show takes you through over 2000 years of gruesome history, and is set deep down in the vaults of the historical bridge. You may find such characters strolling around such as Jack the Ripper, not the friendliest fellow! Prices start at £17, (see them all here) so I totally get it can be a little expensive for a family, but it really is fantastic!
The Old Operating Theatre Museum
This lesser known experience is housed in the attic of the early 18th century church of the old St Thomas’s hospital. The old operating theatre, along with the original timber herb garret, is the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe. Accessed via a steep 52 step staircase, the Old Operating Theatre museum gives you a great insight to how surgery was performed in the 1800’s. Lets just say I am glad I was not a patient of the theatre in the 1800’s. Prices start at £3.50.
Onto the Evening in London Bridge
Drinks in The Shard
I had to include this one as my evening recommendation. I love it up there, and the views are amongst the best in the City. There are several choices of bars and restaurants available up The Shard, depending on your requirements. (Please note, it is best to book for any of The Shard restaurants, but bars you can often walk in).
Aqua Shard, on level 31, is my personal favourite. You could finish your afternoon here with their amazing afternoon tea if your feeling fancy! I experienced their Mary Poppins Afternoon tea last year and it still remains one of my favourite themed afternoon teas ever! I promise it is one of the best.
You can of course just enjoy the view with a chilled glass of something wonderful if you have no room for food. My Mum and I often do this if we are in London, and it is truly special. It think it would be a wonderful way to round off a day exploring London Bridge. Cheers!
I hope you have enjoyed me showing you around the area, and suggesting some things you can do around London Bridge. It is a wonderful part of London, that has so much to offer. A fellow blogger friend of mine, Steve from Biggsy Travels also has some great suggestions for the area too. Pop on over and read his ideas just here. These are just some suggestions, but of course there are so many more. We did not even cross the bridge to the other side. I urge you to not overlook it when you next venture into London. It is great area for both families, and those going it alone. Being quite a compact area of the City too, you really can explore a lot of London Bridge in a day!
***Please note, this post is in collaboration with Hotels.Com. Although my spending money was gifted by them, all views and opinions are my own.
Let me if you have explored this area of London. I would also love to know if you have a favourite area in London to explore. help me pick our next area to uncover…