What?: We’ve all crossed Tower Bridge, but how many of us can say we’ve actually been up it? Pre-lockdown it was just another tourist trap, guaranteed to be heaving at any given hour, any day of the week. Now, I’m not saying Covid is a good thing – in fact I’m kind of anti-anyone who tries to find any kind of silver lining to anything so inarguably horrific – but I will quietly admit that it is quite nice being able to look round a museum without every other bastard in London being there at the same time.
The first thing I want to say about this place is that their staff are amazing. Even before we’d gone inside we were really warmly welcomed by the front of house guy, who then passed us to a chatty bag inspector, followed by an friendly ticket checker and then a really helpful lady who put us in the lift (yes, there’s a lift thank God) and told us where to go. Once we’d got upstairs we were given a brilliant run-through of the bridge’s history by another very knowledgable member of staff while we watched silent footage from 1903, and from there we went through to the high-level walkway where another guy gave the man behind us a polite but very assertive bollocking for taking his face mask off, which was brilliant.
Actually, I was so impressed by the Covid measures that were in place here, given how worryingly complacent the rest of the world seems to have got about it already. Everyone has to wear a mask, there’s hand sanitiser everywhere, there’s a strict one-way system, only people with wheelchairs and buggies can use the lift, and there are attendants poised to make sure there’s only one household group using it at any time. Basically they’re doing exactly what everywhere else should be doing, but aren’t.
Content-wise, you’ve got the silent film, the glass floor, a room with a tiny exhibition of historical artefacts, another room with sculptures of engineers working in the eaves, and then the engine rooms at the end. Actually I thought the glass floor was going to be the big hit with the kids, but while Babu enjoyed staring down at people on the ground, Roma – who can barely walk across cracks in the pavement for fear of falling in – was TERRIFIED and flatly refused to go anywhere near what she seemed to assume was a gaping, rectangular hole in the sky that the rest of us were trying to convince her to plummet through to her certain death.
The engine rooms are in a different part of the bridge on the south bank, and would have been quite easy to miss had we not been tipped off by yet another very friendly member of staff on the way down (there’s also a blue line to follow). Babu loved looking at the shiny Victorian steam engines, and at the end there’s a viewing space where you can watch an animated film based around the life of a woman who used to work at the bridge. Obviously anything remotely interactive is closed at the moment, but you can pick up a children’s activity book that’s packed with games and things they can look out for as you work your way around the bridge, which was pretty handy.
Where and When?: Entry to Tower Bridge is on the west side of the North Tower, which is a five-minute walk from Tower Hill tube station. London Bridge, Bermondsey and Tower Gateway stations at also close by. We drove there and parked in the Minories Car park. Tower Bridge is open every day from 10.30am-6pm.
Best Bits: Look out for the amazing photos of 1950s children playing on the now non-existent Tower Beach (they’re in the accessible toilet).
Worst Bits: There’s not absolutely loads to see but we had a great time regardless.
Facilities: Step-free access, baby changing.
Cost: £10.60 for over-16s, £5.30 for 5-15s and free for 0-5s.
Would We Come Back?: If they ever start up their family days again, I’m there.
Babu gives Mummy horrendous vertigo on the high-level walkway, Tower Bridge.