London Bridge is undoubtedly one of the best areas to explore in London. Within a short walking distance you can see some of London’s most iconic landmarks (think the Shard, Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast) and sample some of the best food the city has to offer (Borough Market!). But what’s here beyond these big tourist attractions? And what if you’re there on one of the days when Borough Market is closed (boo!)? In this collaboration with Hotels.com I’ve been challenged to spend the day uncovering the area’s many hidden gems.
And if you’re looking for places to stay, find hotels in London Bridge here.
Where to start
The best way to get a feel for London Bridge is to take a nice long walk by the riverside. The skyline here is amazing with such an interesting mixture of old and new – from the Tower of London to the Gherkin. And, of course, Tower Bridge, which dominates the area. Potters Fields Park is a lovely little area to chill out and take it all in. On warmer days there’s a Mr Whippy van where you can grab an ice cream, which is probably the most English thing you could do ever. Seriously, there’s nothing more summery for us Brits than having an ice cream in a park.
There’s also a little public exhibition space here, which when I went had the Travel Photographer of the Year photos on display. Browsing the photos in such an iconic setting was a real highlight for me.
London Bridge riverside
From here it’s only natural to take a walk down the stunning Tower Bridge. But what a lot of people overlook is the riverside just beyond Tower Bridge. Walk underneath it and you’ll find rows on rows of bakeries, cafes and restaurants set in historic harbourside buildings. It’s a great place for a photo or two.
Some of the restaurants are just your typical chains, but there are some hidden gems in there too. I had lunch at the Blueprint Café, a quiet café/restaurant right at the end of this main row. It’s got some awesome views and because it’s glassed in you can admire the view no matter what the weather. Plus the food is delicious.
Langoustine scampi with a view! Yum. For dessert I couldn’t help but grab a muffin from one of the bakeries in the area.
History and street art
The London Bridge area is very picturesque and steeped in history. You can spend a good amount of time wandering through the cobbled roads and finding little hidden gems such as the remnants of 12th-century Winchester Palace. Oh, and did I mention there’s loads of street art to discover? You’re guaranteed to stumble upon some around the Borough Market area.
HMS Victory is one of London Bridge’s main attractions – and for good reason. But if you’re looking for something a bit different, or just to escape the crowds, there’s a lesser known but equally interesting boat to explore – the Golden Hinde, just a short walk away from the Southwark Cathedral. This is an exact replica of a 16th-century boat that Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the world and you can explore all its nooks and crannies for a modest £5.
At this point I should mention that London Bridge is also a great spot to hop on a working boat for a tour of the Thames, and there are plenty to choose from. Most of them are modern commercial boats but you can go one better than that; forget going on a normal boat, how about going on a 100-year old wooden sailing boat? Lady Daphne will take you down the Thames in style.
Sadly she wasn’t running on the day I was there and she doesn’t run all that regularly for the public, so it’s best to check on their website in advance and time your trip accordingly. It sets off from St Katherine Docks, on the north side of the river, just a short walk from Tower Bridge. This is another quiet little area perfect to relax in with a glass of wine.
When you’ve had your fill of wandering the old streets and exploring the historical sites, it’s definitely time to grab some more food, and London Bridge is all about the food.
As mentioned, though, the famous Borough Market is only open from Thursday-Sunday, so there are a number of days you’ll be forced to find alternatives. But don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed! The area immediately around Borough Market is filled with quirky restaurants and cafes in some beautiful and unique surroundings all with that cool London vibe.
Southwark Cathedral is surrounded by such places, and it’s a really atmospheric spot to grab a drink or a bite to eat. Sipping on a Pimms to the sound of the church bells it was hard to believe I was in the heart of Central London.
You could spend weeks on end discovering all the unique places on offer, but I was drawn to this one in particular:
Set on a beautiful little corner next to Winchester Palace and with décor like that I just couldn’t say no to Bill’s Restaurant. It was perhaps style over substance to an extent as their menu was fairly normal (from standard burgers to the more unusual mushroom and cashew nut wellington), but the chilled out vibe and great service made it a winner for me.
And to finish it off, just down the road The Market Porter pub is an incredibly popular place for locals to get a drink, especially on a sunny day, though as you can see it is very busy!
There is so much to do around London Bridge, whether you’re looking to tick off those iconic London attractions or uncover the secret little gems street after street. And that’s not to mention all the museums in the area – the Fashion and Textile Museum, the Old Operating Theatre (one of the oldest operating theatres in Europe – think Medieval torture!), and more.
The thing I love most about London is that you’ll always find something new and interesting no matter how many times you go, and London Bridge is a perfect example of this.
Disclaimer: The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.