Call me a nerd, but when I was a young child I used to love making model bridges out of old bottles and string. They always seemed so huge and beautiful in real life, and I used to wonder how on earth anyone could create such a thing. Today, I still think about those little models every time I walk over Westminster Bridge in the mornings and wonder at the level of human ingenuity required to design and build these architectural giants.
The Thames plays a pivotal role in the layout of London and its bridges bind the city together. They dominate its skyline and tell the city’s story, faithfully serving the people of London for centuries. When you cross them, you’re walking in the footsteps of some of history’s most important characters, from Sir Winston Churchill to Ada Lovelace and Charles Dickens.
A day exploring the Bridges of the Thames is a day well spent. Let’s take a look at the city’s finest examples.
National Heritage, Richmond Bridge
This 18th-century stone arch bridge is a Grade 1 listed building and the Thames’ oldest surviving bridge. Its beauty is in the simplicity of its Portland Stone aesthetic, Victorian-era lamp posts and rustic, hump-back charm.
The Green Giant, Hammersmith bridge
One of my favourite spots in London is sitting on the balcony in The Dove overlooking Hammersmith Bridge. At night, the bridge lights switch and create a luminous show that rivals even Blackpool’s famous lights. It’s a benevolent green giant that watches over the busy people of Hammersmith.
Technicolour wonder, Lambeth Bridge
Fans of Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter will recognize this striking bridge as the one crossed by the Knight Bus in the Prisoner of Azkaban. Its red colouration was picked to match the colour of the seats in the Houses of Lords. Look out for the pinecones set on top of its high obelisks – symbols of hospitality and enlightenment.
The ‘Bridge of Fools’, Westminster
Westminster Bridge is, without a doubt, one of the city’s most important crossings. As a counterpart to Lambeth Bridge, it’s painted green to match the seats in the House of Commons. And, like Lambeth, it’s been featured in several movies and TV shows such as James Bond and Doctor Who. The bridge is nicknamed the ‘Bridge of Fools’ because of its odd method of funding by lottery. Walking down Westminster Bridge with the London Eye and Houses of Parliament just a stone’s throw away is an experience every visitor to the capital should have.
The Wobbly, Millenium bridge
We spoke about the fascinating (and hilarious) story of the wobbly bridge in last week’s post. Despite its flaws, it’s still one of the most recognizable bridges in the city and brings bridge design into the 21st century. This bridge has also starred in a Harry Potter movie; can you guess which one?
The Lookout, Blackfriar’s Railway Bridge
This bridge is unusual because Blackfriar’s station is actually situated on the bridge itself. It’s also one of my favourite spots in London because of the fantastic view it gives straight down the Thames towards Tower Bridge and the City.
The Great London Bridge
Though the modern design of London Bridge is relatively unremarkable, its history is fairly bizarre. The bridge you see today is only the latest of many that have stood at the crossing since 1209. The last bridge to be replaced there – originally built in 1799 – was taken down, numbered and sold to a buyer from the U.S.A. This original London Bridge can still be crossed today in Lake Havasu City, California.
The World-famous Tower bridge
Finally, we come to the most stunning bridge in the city, if not the world. Tower Bridge is an icon of British heritage and an architectural landmark. Over 40,000 people cross the bridge in cars and on foot every day. Although today the design is widely appreciated, it was heavily criticised when it was first built, derided as ‘tawdry’ and ‘pretentious’. You can climb the magnificent towers for one of the best views in London at the Tower Bridge Museum Exhibition Tour.
If you’d like to explore some of London’s Bridges, the best way to do so is on foot. Take a look at our walking tours for some spectacular views of these civil works of art.