London Bridge – exploring the neighbourhood
The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.
London Bridge is an area adjacent to The Thames, encompassing London Bridge, Tower Bridge … and The Shard. You can’t really mention the neighbourhood without pointing out Europe’s tallest skyscraper, topping out at 310m high. It’s from here that you can make a great start to your London Bridge adventure by scouting out the known and not so well-known sights that this part of town has to offer. If you want to be right in the mix then check out these London Bridge Hotels as a great place to stay.
Seven places to explore in London Bridge
My mini adventure, just east of the centre of London was supposed to be a planned affair but I find the best trips and the best experiences are generally spontaneous. So making sure I ticked off the places I’d wanted to go for a while I made sure I stumbled across some new gems too. Invariably these were the most memorable of my entire day.
1. So first up, up The Shard!
Ascending The Shard is a great way to get your bearings, and let’s face it, you’ll probably go up it at some point so you might as well start off with it. You can queue up on the day, or if slightly more organised, book in advance saving £5. The lifts take you up to the 68th floor in two stages. The highest viewing platform is on level 72 and is decked with pleasing fake grass.
Once there head straight for the northern windows to feast your eyes on the City Of London and the River Thames down in front of you. London bridge lies to the left and Tower Bridge to the right. Sandwiched in-between them is the mighty light cruiser HMS Belfast, one of only three surviving bombardment vessels from D-Day.
In the ‘featured’ image at the top of this post you can make out the word ‘PADELLA’ of the Padella pasta bar awning along Southwark Street (well with the naked eye you can). An eatery very much in demand right now. Positioned either side of the railway track curve you can see the expansive roof of the famous Borough Market.
Through the eastern window I wondered what the roof adorned with yellow umbrellas belonged to. A Google Maps search confirmed it was Village Yard, another place to add to my ever growing short list, and something I’d never have known about if it wasn’t for this unique bird’s eye view of the city!
2. So time for that lunch … but at Spier’s instead
An hour is plenty of time to lap up the view from high above, but as it was now noon, the Padella shop’s pasta bowls far below were calling me. However just outside in St Thomas Street I found THIS. Spier’s. Healthy, tasty food served out of an actual phonebox! Plans changed and instead of some pasta I tried a hearty filling salad from this guy instead.
3. But I made sure I had a Monmouth coffee
Still head to Borough Market though, just because, and potter around the assortment of buildings dating back from the 1850s. A market on the site dates back to at least the 12th century. On the far side treat yourself to a coffee from Monmouth Coffee Company. They’ve resided here since 2007. No back story to this one – it’s simply some great tasting coffee recommended to me by a friend. The queue outside confirms this.
4. London’s last galleried coaching inn
The second lucky stumble was the George inn along Borough High Street. Records of this coaching inn date back to 1542 with the current building dating back to 1676 when it was rebuilt after a fire. Take a stroll here to experience London’s last galleried coaching inn. Enjoy a pint knowing that you “might” be sat in the same seat as William Shakespeare or Charles Dickens who both visited here.
Interestingly the building is owned by the National Trust. A hustly and bustly location you wouldn’t normally associate with this organisation. Inside the Parliament Bar make sure to check out the ‘Act or Parliament clock’. This is an extremely rare example hung there in 1797, and now one of the only surviving clocks still in its original place.
5. London Bridge – do you remember the nursery rhyme?
Time for you to now to check out ‘London Bridge’ itself – what the area is named after, after all. Today’s bridge is nothing spectacular but it does give you a good view of the HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge beyond it. The history of the bridge is somewhat more exciting with seven phases taking us to the current incarnation.
A Roman bridge was followed by early medieval bridges before “Old” London Bridge appeared between 1209 and 1831, with its 19 irregularly spaced arches. “New” London Bridge lasted from 1831 – 1967 and now resides at Lake Havasu City in Arizona!
The current concrete bridge built in 1973 is therefore nowhere near as exciting as its history. However seek out this little wooded area along Montague Close and the ‘Southwark View Point’ to see a stone laid in the floor from the 1831 bridge, along with an information board detailing the bridges’ history.
This stone is a remnant of the London Bridge designed by Sir John Rennie.Engraved stone at the Southwark View Point
The bridge spanned the river from 1831 to 1967.
It was then sold to Robert P McCulloch, an American entrepreneur and today can be found in Arizona, USA
Remember the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down – my fair lady”. This was probably due to expanding ice in 1281 crushing five of the bridge’s arches. Queen Eleanor had misappropriated bridge revenues and failed to use them for repairs.
6. The Golden Hinde reconstruction
The London Bridge area is on the river with the HMS Belfast has a noticeable naval presence on the shoreline. But have you heard of the Golden Hinde? Me neither! This is a full sized reconstruction of the 16th century warship in which Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the world between 1577 and 1580?
A reconstruction you say? Yes, but this ship, launched in Devon in 1973, has circumnavigated the world too. It has actually sailed many more miles than the original. The original ‘Golden Hinde’ rotted away downstream over 300 years ago.
Just 50 yards further upstream from the ‘Southwark View Point’ you can pay £7 to board the ship. Time it right to take part in one of the 15 minute guided tours of the ship + a further 15 minute talk on Sir Francis Drake’s exploits aboard it.
Learn lots of interesting facts about the “poop deck” (not what you might be thinking), why we now say “touch wood” and where the phrase “toe rag” comes from. Also the original ship wouldn’t have had a “steering wheel” but a “whip-staff” instead.
7. Time to chill out with a scoop in The Scoop!
After all this swashbuckling wiggle downstream along the shoreline to ‘The Scoop’ next to City Hall. Here you can pick up a G&T … or on a hot day a Good Times Roll ‘Wonderberry Medley’ like I did. The Scoop is a spectacular amphitheatre ‘scooped out’ of the pavement and shows many free events shows and films throughout the year.
On this occasion a group of fellow passers-by gathered to watch the last 10 miles of the Tour de France. It was the perfect way to enjoy the end of my loosely planned London Bridge experience. Hopefully I’ll be back soon to stumble across even more wonderful locations!