Walking Tour 2: Tower Hill to London Bridge
Distance: including detours, 6.5 km
Starting Point: Tower Hill Tube Station (which is on the Circle and District lines). Easily accessible from Westminster, for example, by travelling east along the Circle or District lines. Exit main entrance opposite the Tower of London.
Tower of London: this castle/ fortress is over 900 years old and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Building commenced in the 1080s following the Norman conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror and several monarchs have added to the site throughout history. The site holds the Crown Jewels behind half-a-metre thick shatterproof glass and includes the Sovereign’s Orb and The Crown of Queen Elizabeth. The Tower of London comes with its own Yeoman Guards (popularly known as Beefeaters) and ravens (wings are clipped) and has interesting artefacts like King Henry VIII’s well-endowed knight armour. The attraction gets busy so it’s best to go early. Tickets at the gate cost £28.00 but are cheaper online: £24.00. More information regarding ticketing can be found online: http://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/visit-us/tickets-and-prices/.
Is it time for a drink? If so seek out the Sky Lounge at the Double Tree by Hilton at 7 Pepys Street, London, EC3N 4AF, next to Fenchurch Station, and under a 10 minute walk from the Tower of London: http://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/doubletree-by-hilton-hotel-london-tower-of-london-LONTLDI/dining/skylounge.html. This Sky Lounge is an open-air deck with views of Tower of London, Tower Bridge and nearby buildings like the Gherkin.
If you want to go a little further afield for a drink, around a 5-minute brisk walk, head to the skyscraper aptly named the ‘Walkie Talkie’ at 20 Fenchurch Street. On the 36th floor is the Sky Garden and Sky Pod Bar complete with viewing platform. The visit is free however needs to be planned and with only an 18 day lookahead the 15 minute slots book out quickly especially over the weekend. Note you are not restricted on how long you spend here. To plan your free visit use Sky Garden’s webpage: https://skygarden.london/booking.
Heading back towards the River Thames make your way to one of London’s iconic landmarks and my favourite bridge across the Thames: Tower Bridge. It is a bascule bridge, that is, the bridge deck rises to allow tall boats and ships to pass a necessity being London’s most eastern bridge. There is a tour of Tower Bridge, ‘The Tower Bridge Exhibition’, where you can experience the glass floor walkway 42 metres above the River Thames. An adult ticket is £9.80. More information regarding ticket prices and opening times can be found here: http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/opening-hours/. If you time it right you can see the bridge decks of Tower Bridge raise as lift times need to be scheduled and information can be found here: http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/lift-times/.
Want a detour from sightseeing? You can walk to Maltby Street Market a busy, compact market for gourmet food and one of London’s best. It’s only a 10 minute walk from Tower Bridge. As you cross Tower Bridge keep walking straight until you reach Druid Street and turn left. You need to cross under the railway to find Ropewalk where Maltby Street Market is located. On my last few visits I’ve indulged at Bagley’s Seafood and Champagne Bar ordering a glass of prosecco and an oyster flight (oyster flight = one of each available oyster being sold that day and are usually from Cornwall and Essex). The flight typically consists of four oysters with each oyster individually selling for £2.50 but the cost reduces when purchased as a flight or in threes. Seating is provided under the railway arches. If you are not an oyster lover there are other great traders that reside here selling anything from waffles, to cheese, to gin. More information can be found here: http://www.maltby.st/traders/.
With the detour complete return back to Tower Bridge the way you came. As you approach the southern end, before you cross the bridge, take the left hand side stairway down to the Thames Path and walk along the River Thames in a westerly direction (with the river to your right). You will come across the unique shape of City Hall, opened in July 2002. This is the home of the Mayor of London. Public visitors are allowed in during the week and it is worth a visit inside if only to see the spiral staircase. More information regarding opening times and what you can visit can be found here: https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/our-building-and-squares/what-can-you-visit-city-hall.
As you set off westward along the Thames Path look back towards City Hall and capture the classic photograph of City Hall with Tower Bridge in the background. On your way towards London Bridge you’ll notice a WWII warship on the Thames, the HMS Belfast, which is now a museum ship and part of the Imperial War Museums. You can board if interested for £14.50. More information at: http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/hms-belfast/tickets-for-hms-belfast.
As you continue to London Bridge you’ll wander by Hay’s Galleria a covered shopping arcade which may remind you of Milan’s famous galleria.
At London Bridge take a turn left (away from the river) onto Borough High Street and make your way up to the famous Borough Market, one of the oldest (a market has been here since 1014) and largest food markets in London and renowned worldwide. Best time to visit is in the early mornings or alternatively around 4pm when the crowds have thinned and the food is heavily discounted. Otherwise you can book a guided tour or sign up to a special event. Open Mondays to Saturdays with more information regarding visiting on the web: http://boroughmarket.org.uk/visiting-borough-market.
Is it time for another drink? Why not have a cocktail with a view. Why not drink at a bar in the tallest building in the UK? Aqua Shard is a dining room and bar within the 95-storey skyscraper, The Shard. Entry into Aqua Shard, which is located on the 31st floor, is free and only on a walk in basis. It provides a place to enjoy the London skyline and cocktails range from £12 to £16. If you want to skip the cocktail you can buy an adult ticket for the ‘View from The Shard’. At the door the price is £20.95 but £15.95 if booked online in advance. This view takes you close to the top: the 68th, 69th and 72nd floors. To book tickets online visit: http://www.the-shard.com/viewing-gallery/.
If you are looking for a peaceful sanctuary to wind down and reflect before facing the crowds on your onwards journey seek out the lesser known, off the beaten track, Southwark Cathedral. The courtyard provides a welcome green space in the built up environs of London Bridge. More information can be found on their web site: http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/.
Walk back towards London Bridge to take the tube from London Bridge (which is on the Northern and Jubilee lines).