London Bridge

One of the most important and historic landmarks in London, with a surprising history.

TravelCurious Tip

If you happen to stop by Victoria Park, keep an eye out for the pedestrian alcoves made from the old medieval London Bridge that was demolished in 1831.

Bridging the gap

London Bridge – not to be confused with the more extravagant Tower Bridge – has perhaps the richest history of any bridge in London.

Nearly 2000 years ago, the Romans constructed a succession of wooden crossings over the river and established the settlement called Londinium which became the Roman-British capital. With the end of Roman rule in the early 5th century, this early incarnation of our bridge fell into disrepair; it was rebuilt some time during the 9th or 10th centuries, possibly by Alfred the Great or Ethelred the Unready, and played an important role in conflicts with the Danish invaders.

Throughout the early years following the Norman conquest of England the bridge was destroyed - by a tornado in 1091, and a fire in 1136 - and was rebuilt and strengthened with timber a number of times. Eventually, Henry II had it rebuilt in stone and created a special guild known as the Brethren of the Bridge to be responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. This arched structure had a drawbridge to allow large vessels to pass through, defensive gates at each end, and a chapel in the centre dedicated to the martyr Thomas Becket. Within a few years many shops and houses took up residence there and flourished. By the year 1500 there were about 200 buildings on the Bridge, making it look more like a floating town between London and Southwark.

Murders and martyrs

From the reign of Edward I until the reinstatement of King Charles in 1660, the south gate of the Bridge gruesomely displayed the spiked heads of executed criminals. The Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace was the first head to be placed there.

This medieval bridge remained in use for an impressive 622 years until it was deemed necessary to rebuild in the 19th century. The resulting ‘New Bridge’ was then packed up and sold in sections to an American oil and motor tycoon in 1968, after it was decided that the location needed to change when the bridge started sinking. It remains in use in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, to this day. The London Bridge we see now, a concrete and steel box girder construction, was opened in 1973 and is about 30 meters upstream from the original location.

Tombs and restaurants

One of the best features the Bridge has to offer is ‘The London Bridge Experience’. This celebrated attraction gives tourists the history of the Bridge and takes you through the eerie hidden tunnels where actors will impersonate historical figures like the Keeper of Heads, who was responsible for displaying traitors’ heads on spikes during medieval times. This unique tour also takes you through the tombs underneath London. Terrifying ghouls and creeps of all kinds will jump out at you as you make your way through the underground labyrinth. The 19th century Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret is also located just by the bridge and is an interesting attraction for anyone keen on the history of modern surgery.

Borough Market on Bankside is open Wednesday to Sunday and is always buzzing with people. It is the oldest food market in this ancient city, where you can find the best fresh produce from around the country, including cakes, cheeses, ciders, vegetables, meat and fish. There are also fantastic English restaurants close by such as Londinium, Roast, and Blueprint Café, which boasts excellent views.

Many of the most famous buildings on the London skyline are accessible from London Bridge, including the Shard, a pyramidal glass structure which is the tallest building in Western Europe. Visitors to the Shard can climb to the top floors for exceptional views over London in all directions. Close by you can also find Southwark Cathedral, the oldest Gothic church in London, and celebrated wine-tasting centre Vinopolis.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in London
The Shard
The tallest building in the European Union, slicing 310 metres into the sky.
Borough Market
A beautiful wholesale fruit and vegetable market, one of the oldest in London.
The George Inn
Dating back to 1676 this is the only original galleried coaching inn left in London.
Southwark Cathedral
With over a thousand years of history, Southwark Cathedral first shows up in history in the Domesday Book of 1086.
Take Courage Ghost Sign
This ghost sign was painted some time after 1955 when Courage Brewery merged with Barclay Perkins & Co. The popular slogan on the building is one of London’s most instagrammed sights.
Southwark Bridge
The Southwark Bridge connects The City of London with Southwark. At the time it was built, it further integrated the warehouses and industry south of the river with The City's financial district.

Related Tours

Power and Scandals in the City of London - Private Walking Tour
Sturdy guildhalls, ancient pubs, and elegant exchanges bear testament to London’s long wealth, while all around invisible trillions of pounds are traded between the gleaming towers of modern finance. 
For generations, millions have come to this great city of opportunity, awaiting their place upon the wheel of fortune. But for every honest trader, there have been those determined to make their success by fair means or foul - those who seek to push the line of legality, and perhaps drift over it. This tour is their story; the story of London’s most notorious and extraordinary financial frauds, a tale of wealth, avarice, and ruin.

  • Hear the obscure tale of how Lloyd’s of London began as Lloyd’s Coffeehouse 
  • See Leadenhall market – the renowned haven for lunchtime drinking among insurance workers
  • Immerse yourself in the scandals of fraudulent offshore banks, hoodwinking, and shady syndicates
Discover the origins of the East India Trading Company and London’s port history– where once forests of ship masts stretched across the river. As you walk Leadenhall Street, hear the tale of the Lloyd’s Names scandal of the 1990’s and allegations – left unproven—of ‘recruit to dilute’ syndicate liability. Then learn about the South Sea Bubble, the collapse of which shook Britain to its core. 
Entering Change Alley, your guide will paint for you the portrait of the street as it stood 300 years ago - a crowded alley, filled with traders, rumour, and wild financial speculation as the South Sea frenzy reached its height. Walking the short distance to Cheapside and the former site of the Mercer’s Hall, your guide will describe the frantic meeting of South Sea company creditors that took place here in 1720, before exploring the Bubble’s bitter denouement. 


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