Oh em gee, guys – there is a metric ton of really awesome things to do near London Bridge! It’s a really underrated part of the city, but one that I love, full of nifty sights, sensations, and (most importantly) street food. The good people at Hotels.com think so too, and that’s why I collaborated with them for this post – they sent me out, armed with spending money and a mission to find all that’s worth seeing. The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own, as always!
With some fantastic hotels near the Shard, the London Bridge area is fast becoming a hotspot for people who want to stay in the heart of it all. You’re near to great restaurants and bars, authentic markets, some of London’s best sights, and excellent transport links. It’s a vibrant, modern neighbourhood which stays in touch with its history. It’s just all-round fabulous, basically.
Let’s take a look at the very best London Bridge attractions, and see why you need to give it a visit!
What are the best things to do near London Bridge?
I admit: I’m a frequent visitor to this part of London. I love to visit here with my boyfriend, taking a walk down the bank of the River Thames from Tower Bridge, and we find different and new things to love every time. There’s honestly just so many things to do near London Bridge that it’s hard to narrow it down.
But I’ve managed it for you! Get ready to add these to your bucket list, because this is the cream of the crop – and you’re going to love every single one.
1. Getting some awesome views at The Shard
If you’ve been anywhere near London Bridge station, you won’t have failed to notice The Shard. Partly because it’s by far the tallest building in the area – and the tallest building in the whole of the UK, fact fans! – and partly because it’s made of awesome.
You know how sometimes a new building goes up, and everyone takes a while to warm to it, or just downright hates it at first? The Shard wasn’t one of those: completed in 2012, everyone pretty much loved The Shard straight away. With a design that’s impressive and modern, without being controversial or an eyesore, it’s definitely become the symbol of the London Bridge area.
There’s also another advantage to its height (309.6 metres, to be precise) – you can go up to the top, and take in the views!
Yup, it’s almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in London, and it has completely uninterrupted views. You can buy tickets for The Shard for as little as £25, but I personally think that the all inclusive ticket for £39 is better value. You get a weather guarantee – very useful in London – and a glass of bubbly!
2. Eating awesome street food at Borough Market
As a confirmed gannet, Borough Market is one of my favourite spots in the whole of London. If not the whole of the UK; it’s that flippin’ good. It’s a must-do on your list of things to do near London Bridge!
This natty little market, located underneath the train lines which go from London Bridge to Blackfriars station, is a must-do if you love street food. As soon as you enter the market, you’ll be assaulted by scents of cooking that’ll have your stomach rumbling in seconds (enter via the staircase at the side of the Cathedral for the full nasal assault).
Love fresh-cooked, inventive hot dogs and burgers? Check. How about stalls selling everything from paella to Indian street food, Bavarian meats to Italian hog roasts, fish and chips to locally-sourced honey and jams? If you love food, you’ll actually become mildly distressed by having to decide between them, but it’s the best kind of a quandary!
Once you’re completely full, have a look at the other items you can take away and cook later – my particular favourites are the buffalo burgers, fresh pasta, and insane amount of flavourings at Spice Mountain!
Still in the mood for street food? Check out the smaller market at Maltby Street, just a little further east. It’s less crowded, but only open on weekends.
3. Seeing some spooky shizz at the Herb Garret & Old Operating Theatre
If you’re in the mood for the dark, grisly side of London, but you can’t quite bring yourself to visit the touristy London Bridge Experience, check out the Herb Garret & Old Operating Theatre Museum!
Although it might not be the most obvious option when planning to visit a London Bridge theatre, there’s no doubt that this is just as fun as watching some thespians tread the boards. Although it’s in a slightly grim way, because this indeed used to be an operating theatre! The building was intended to be a storehouse for medicinal herbs, part of St. Thomas’ Hospital, with a fully functional operating theatre down on the lowest floor.
These days, the building displays of horrors of medicine in ye olde days before anaesthesia. There’s a whole raft of herbs, which would’ve had fairly limited effect on any maladies, and a fair amount of specimens in jars. Most fascinating is the display of medical implements, most of which will make your eyes water at the thought of them. Ladies, if you can look at the childbirth instruments and not feel your insides shrivelling in horror, then you’re doing better than me.
Oh, and did I mention that the operating theatre is exactly as it was when it was rediscovered back in the 1950s? There’s rows of seats for watching students of the time, and you can even see where the saw bit into the operating table during amputations. Eek.
The museum runs tours at the weekends (check the site for details). Also be aware that the museum is reached by climbing up a rather narrow spiral staircase – all part of the fun! It’s definitely one of the best things to do near London Bridge!
4. Getting in touch with your inner Sir Francis Drake at the Golden Hinde
As any British schoolchild will tell you, Sir Francis Drake has long been considered a hero of English history – despite being a pirate, a slave trader, and other deeply undesirable qualities. But he had a blingy ship, and you can see a replica of it!
Born in Devon in the 16th Century, Drake was a talented ship’s captain and explorer – he carried out only the second circumnavigation of the globe in 1580. He was also pretty talented at attacking Spanish ships and taking the booty they’d looted from central America, a brand of second-hand thievery which made Elizabeth I incredibly rich.
This meant that he was eternally in her good books, and so she awarded Drake a knighthood on the deck of the Golden Hinde, the ship on which he’d made his name. The version now moored on the southern bank of the Thames is a replica (if a fully functional one), but it’s totally worth seeing just to marvel at how a ship this size managed to survive some of the world’s roughest oceans and enemy ships!
The ship is open to the public, and a small fee will give you entry to scamper about on it as you please. It’s also an incredibly popular venue for parties – you can hire it out for a truly memorable experience! Otherwise, just hop on board, and ask a member of staff to give you a bit of the history; they’ll be more than happy to oblige!
5. Taking in the history at Southwark Cathedral
Fancy a stroll back through time, whilst being surrounded by images of an adorable kitty? If so, Southwark Cathedral is just the spot for you!
Located right next to Borough Market, Southwark Cathedral has only been a cathedral in name since 1905. However, it was previously known as Southwark Priory, and has a history which stretches back for over 1000 years. It’s seriously one of London’s most underrated gems!
Firstly, there’s some serious history going down. Being in Southwark, an area of London long associated with “common entertainments” (such as bear baiting, drinking to excess, and enjoying the company of, ahem, ladies of the night), it became a favourite of the local playwrights. William Shakespeare has a rather impressive window devoted to him, and his brother Edmund is actually buried here.
Secondly, it’s a hella beautiful building. The ceiling is a gorgeous patchwork of pale brick, and light streams uninterrupted through the stained glass windows. There’s plenty of reliefs and tombs to examine, and if the choir happens to be practising when you visit, it’s just heart-rendingly beautiful.
Thirdly, the Cathedral is home to its own resident superstar, Doorkins Magnificat, a rescue kitty who prowled the cathedral and graciously accepted scritches from visitors. She’s now retired due to poor eyesight, but there’s plenty of souvenirs bearing her image. Buy the calendar, or her book!
6. Have some hearty German food at Katzenjammers
Food and travel are inexorably linked together, if you ask me. Some of my favourite travel memories involve food, especially in Germany, where dinner becomes a challenge to fit as much delicious stuff into your belly as possible. But what’s that got to do with things to do near London Bridge, which is very much in England?
Katzenjammers bierkeller, that’s what! This place is one of the best places to get German food in London, in my humble opinion – and as a fan of German cooking, I’ve tried quite a few places. Trust me on that one. My waistline bears the evidence.
Billing itself as “the coolest bierkeller in London”, you’ll trot down a brief flight of stairs to find yourself in an authentic London cellar, which has been transformed into a delightfully Germanic beerhall. I personally like to sit in the Bierkeller section (there’s a bigger hall through the doors, thanks to an expansion), though if you’re visiting after dark, you’ll probably just want to head to wherever the party’s at.
As tempting as it may be, don’t get too full of the authentic German beers – you’ll need to save space for the food! I’m particularly fond of the cheese and bacon pretzel as a starter (omnom), followed by either a Viennese-style or Jager schnitzel. The latter is covered in a mushroom sauce, and will ensure that you too get hooked on German food forever.
7. See a museum on the River Thames at HMS Belfast
If you’re looking for things to do near London Bridge, and you happen to wander down by the river, you’ll see a Royal Navy battleship moored up on the southern bank. What’s all that about? Is the UK worrying about getting invaded by Martians?
Nope! That there ship is HMS Belfast, a war cruiser which is now a museum. Retired after a distinguished career, including spells at Normandy in the Second World War, and in Asia during the Korean war, it was due to be scrapped. But thanks to the efforts of the gloriously-named Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles, it was saved from a sad fate, and preserved as a museum ship. Hurrah!
Now run by the Imperial War Museum, you’ll buy a ticket on the dockside office, then scamper over bridges erected above the Thames until you’re on the ship. Even if you’re not up on your naval history, it’s well worth a visit – and I guarantee you’ll have good fun!
Wander through all the decks of the ship (nothing is off limits, seemingly), and see how those serving in the Navy lived their lives back in the day. You’ll clamber up and down some very steep ladders, find yourself next to some very large guns, and stumble upon a battery full of missiles. If you’re more interested in the human stories, you can see where the sailors bought their supplies, recovered from wounds, and ate in the mess.
My favourite part is the bunks, strewn with hammocks – including a tiny one for Frankenstein, the ship’s rather adorable cat!
8. Visit some trendy cafes on Bermondsey Street
Don’t miss Bermondsey Street when you’re looking for things to do near London Bridge – it’s a lesser-known gem, which gets you off the tourist trail and into authentic London!
Let’s face it: as much as we all love being total tourists and gawping at the big sights (whilst simultaneously being jostled by tour groups), it’s soooo good to get away from your fellow visitors sometimes. They’re so annoying, aren’t they? Good news for you: seemingly no-one has yet cottoned on to just how awesome Bermondsey Street is.
Located right in the London Bridge area (in fact, if you walk due south from HMS Belfast, you’ll eventually end up here), this redeveloped street has something of a Bohemian air. It heavily reminds me of some of the streets in the UK’s trendy seaside resort of Brighton, with bars and cafes aplenty, as well as tiny boutique shops selling gifts and homewares. You can get super-hipster in tapas bars, relax with the best coffee of your life in the brilliantly-named F*ckoffee, or buy fresh flowers from a street stall.
It’s a great place to enjoy good food and drink, and see London’s more creative side. Visit Bermondsey Street, and totally be that person who says “oh yeah, I’ve been going there for ages” when it becomes mega-popular!
9. View one of London’s top sights at Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is forever linked with London Bridge in the hearts of most Brits. Why, you may ask? After all, London Bridge looks very different to its neighbour, with Tower Bridge’s eponymous edifices dominating the local landscape.
It all comes down to a misunderstanding, and an entrepreneurial American. The story goes that although there have been many different bridges named London Bridge on this site, it’s undoubtedly the most famous name of any of London’s bridges – it has its own nursery rhyme, for a start. But the most famous bridge to look at is Tower Bridge, a little further downstream.
In 1968, the then-London Bridge needed replacing, and so the city council decided to sell it to anyone who was interested. It was eventually bought by Robert P. McCulloch of Missouri, and shipped piece by piece to Lake Havasu Falls. But the theory is that McCulloch thought he was buying the more visually-impressive Tower Bridge. He denied it – but you would, wouldn’t you?
So you’ll be pleased to hear that Tower Bridge is still exactly where it’s supposed to be – and taking a walk down to see it is definitely a highlight. Stroll down the south bank of the Thames, and you’ll see the bridge in all its glory, with the Tower of London hovering just to its left.
If you’re lucky, you might see the bridge raise to allow a tall ship to pass underneath, but it’s not a common occurrence. Check out the video below if you want to see the bridge in action!
10. Drink at Charles Dickens’ favourite watering hole at The George Inn
Really, if you visit London and don’t stop in a pub, have a you really visited London at all?
The British obsession with a cosy pub is well-known (hey, don’t judge us; it’s our version of Hygge, but with added gin), and the London Bridge area has some little gems. Although you can barely walk down a single street without finding a snug watering hole, my personal favourite is one which was frequented by Charles Dickens himself – the George Inn.
Located a stone’s throw away from Borough Market, in a little courtyard which gets it away from the traffic of the main road, the George Inn has been here since medieval times, and is now owned by the National Trust – yup, it’s that historic. It’s a galleried inn, meaning that if you look at the outside, you can see balconies where patrons would’ve stood to watch performances in the courtyard below. Presumably, these were much enlivened by the possibility of flying alcoholic missiles from the top tiers.
Dickens liked this place so much that he actually referred to it in Little Dorrit, putting it on the map for any lover of literature, or just a lover of a good pint. Luckily, it’s still living up to his standard: you can get a variety of brews in the bar, or the kitchens do a good line in pub meals. The pies are particularly good, and the staff will quite happily bring them upstairs to you should you decide to take a seat on one of the higher floors.
There we have it! You are now a pro, an honorary Londoner. You know where to go, what to see, and can totally brag about knowing all the trendy bars on Bermondsey Street. You’re all set to show off to your friends! I won’t even tell them that I told you all this stuff; it’s our secret. Pinky promise.
Thanks again to Hotels.com for collaborating with me on this; it’s an area I always thoroughly enjoy exploring! If you’ve enjoyed reading this, feel free to click those cute little buttons on the side, and share it to social media.
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