London Insights

Five things to do around London Bridge - Part One

1 NOVEMBER 2016,
London by night
London by night

Visitors may not think of London Bridge as being a tourist hot spot in the same way they think of the West End but recent developments have resulted in a variety of restaurants, bars, cafes and open spaces which have created a fantastic atmosphere. The area is all the more special because it successfully balances the modern and the historic; you can walk along cobbled streets while gazing up at the Shard.

London Bridge and Tower Bridge at night

Standing on London Bridge will give you a fantastic view of Tower Bridge lit up at night; the combination of the colours and architecture of the bridge creates the effect of a Disney fairy-tale castle. The view from Tower Bridge is similarly incredible; bright city lights and lit up landmarks such as the Gherkin, Cheese Grater and Shard pierce the night sky.

Sit on the terrace steps on the south bank of Tower Bridge

Sitting on these steps is a great way to spend time and experience London as you can take in the view and enjoy the river-breeze and atmosphere of the London Riviera. The Tower of London, boats and barges, as well as the occasional raising of the bridge can be seen. During the summer, the experience is even more pleasurable as you can sit on the steps with an ice cream cone. There is an ice cream van at the foot of Tower Bridge but cheaper (and equally delicious) alternative ice creams and ice lollies are available from Sainsbury’s Local which is a minute’s walk away. During the summer months there is often music and dancing and many also spend time reading, napping or picnicking on the green.

Walk around Shad Thames

This area is a marriage of history and modern life. Shad Thames is a corruption of St John at Thames which refers to the Knights Templar who used to oversee this area. During the Victorian era, this was the largest complex of warehouses in London. The warehouses are striking in appearance with brickwork and overhead gantries that were used to transport goods between them. These gantries can still be seen although they are now used as balconies or for ornamental effect. Names such as Vanilla and Sesame Court and Cardamom Wharf are evocative reminders of the roaring trade in spices and commodities that took place. Although the facades of the warehouses are largely unchanged they have now been converted into apartments, restaurants and shops. Despite this shift in lifestyle the cobbled streets and overhead gantries have the effect of transporting you to an earlier time, very different to modern London.

Next to Shad Thames is an area formerly known as Jacob’s Island. Fans of Dicken’s novels will be interested to know that the villain Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist met his death at a warehouse at this location. The damp, disease stricken and impoverished Jacob’s Island is now a thing of the past and it is difficult to imagine that one of London’s largest slums used to exist here before redevelopment of the area occurred. It is also possible to catch a glimpse of one of London’s ‘lost rivers’, the river Neckinger, of which a brief glimpse can be seen at St Saviour’s docks before the river then makes its way underground towards Elephant and Castle.

Explore Butler’s Wharf

This is a historic building between Shad Thames and the Thames Path. The name also refers to an area and this area has been featured in several film and television productions including an episode of Dr Who. This location remains a popular location for film crews. The popular boyband One Direction filmed part of a music video at Tower Bridge. The Design Museum is now at the site of the main building of what was formerly the Butler’s Wharf complex.

Eat, drink (and make merry) at Borough Market

One of London’s oldest and largest markets, the wide range of stalls and traders means there is something to suit everyone. Succulent ostrich burgers, decadent triple chocolate brownies, pulled pork baps and even drinks such as fresh thambili (king coconut) sourced from Sri Lanka are all available. The market is a cacophony of sounds, sights and smells and walking around is an experience in itself, even without taking the food into account. Most stalls are happy to give you samples and this is a great way to try out different foods. The type of food on offer ranges from delicacies to British favourites such as pies and mash. There is also a wholesale market early morning although some stalls continue to sell fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fish throughout the duration of the market.

Continues on the 1st of December.