Where to eat, drink and wander in London Bridge
Being from Brighton, London Bridge is often the easiest place for a meeting or a simple train change point – if sporadic train times allow.
One thing that I certainly haven’t done enough of, if at all, has been looking up from my phone or whatever conversation I’m having and properly taken in the scenery. Whenever I’m asked “where’s a good place for a pint on the river?”, I’ve struggled to get any further with my recommendation than “I quite like that bar next to the boat that’s just off the Thames”.
But my shocking knowledge of London Bridge took a rather interesting turn recently when I had the time and the opportunity to explore this popular part of the city.
Traveling to and around London Bridge
My adventure to London Bridge started as all journeys there do – coming down the gigantic escalator from the national rail platform to an enormous space that’s occupied by food vendors, suitcases and hurried people.
After pushing my ticket through the barrier, I turned down the prestigious bricked corridor with my favourite station toilets on the left and various shops on the right. My initial instinct was to take a left and head towards Borough Market, but a large sign for ‘Hay’s Galleria’ on the right took my eye and before another thought, my feet were on the way there.
Taking that different turn is where my exploration of London Bridge really started to get interesting.
Despite all those years of getting to the river by going down the steps past the News UK tower and following the road round, I learnt that day that there’s a faster and more scenic route that I could have taken. As it turns out, Hays Galleria is in fact a shortcut to the river – unless you stop and look through all the little jewellery stools along the concourse, or pop into bars like Balls Brothers for a pint.
For this particular adventure, I explored London Bridge on foot. However, you could get around a little quicker with a number of rental bike schemes.
I thought it would be helpful at this point to share the pricing information for the bike rental schemes that I walked past – just in case you’re a budding cyclist, like I’m trying to become.
Santander Bikes: Also referred to as ‘Boris Bikes’, these must-be-locked-to-a-dock bikes cost £2 to unlock for 24 hours, you can ride for free if the journey is just 30 minutes, but longer rides are £2 per 30 minutes.
Lime Bikes: These dockless electric bikes costs £1 to unlock, and 15p per minute to ride.
Mobikes: Another dockless bike with gears, rather than electric power, costing £1 per 20 minutes to ride.
I haven’t personally tried the Santander or Lime Bikes, but I can certainly say that Mobikes are easier to use than most, following a recent trip to Berlin when I had quite a few rides through the various Kiez on them.
Sadly, you’re not allowed to cycle along the river path in front of City Hall and The Scoop but you can find bike stands at the end of Weavers Lane on the north side of City Hall or on the North West corner of Potters Field Park. There are some cycle lanes along Borough High Street and Tooley Street, if you’re nervous about the busy roads.
Free sights to see in London Bridge
8 Southwark St, London, SE1 1TL
Open 10am-5pm Monday to Thursday, 10am-6pm on Fridays and 8am-5pm on Saturdays.
Whilst the brief for this post was to discover new places, I simply couldn’t go to London Bridge without exploring Borough Market. It’s been around for over 1,000 years – with the earliest date it tracks back to being 1014. I won’t delve into the history of Borough Market here but you can read all about it over on their website.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of going to Borough Market before, it’s essentially a large market full of fresh veg, more types of fish than I knew existed, sausages galore and enough food vendors for you to spend your entire lunch break struggling to decide what to try. I went for the Paella, which has been a solid member of my top 5 favourite foods in the whole wide world for way over a decade. It was utterly divine – better than any Paella I have ever had in the UK.
I also bought some cured pork and duck meat from Sussex, following a difficult tester session to decide between the best one. Shortly after that purchase, I realised that the French deli opposite offered better cured meat – but I’m happy to have supported local.
London Bridge, London SE1 9DA
Open 9am-5pm Monday-Friday, 9.30am-3.45pm and 5pm-6pm on Saturday,12.30pm-3pm and 4pm-6pm on Sundays
Despite being on the tip of Borough Market and moments away from London Bridge station, I had never noticed Southwark Cathedral before. But I’m so grateful to my exploration blog mission that I found this little slice of tranquility and calm amongst the city buzz.
I would urge everyone to take a little bit of time to venture around this masterpiece of a building, with its intricate detail and stunning acoustics. You should also pop a few pounds in their donations pot – it costs £4,500 a day to run!
Potters Field Park
165 Tower Bridge Rd, London SE1 3LW
Potters Field Park was another find that had gone completely unnoticed in all of my trips previously – which I do feel a bit silly to admit because I must have walked past it nearly every time I’m in the area. But, still, it’s a much-needed green space in a field of mirror-like offices, apartments that look like they fell out of an IKEA catalogue and grand buildings that we all wish people were still building today.
On this particular day, there was the tent for the London Relay which began on Saturday 29th June and ends on Sunday 28th July. On further investigation, I found that the London Relay is trying to break the Guinness World Record of the longest relay race by collaboratively running 4,000 miles across 30 days. They’re raising money for The Running Charity, which uses running to improve the lives of 16-25 year olds who are homeless or facing homelessness across the UK.
With the exception of this relatively small tent, people were generally just lazing on the grass and enjoying the breeze.
If lazing around in the park isn’t quite for you, the Comida Fest will be taking over Potters Field on the weekend of 10th-11th August. Over the weekend, you can eat food from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela and Peru, enjoy Latin American music and even dance along with Zumba and salsa dance classes. That’s my kind of festival.
There’s a Chinese Food Festival happening in the park on August 30th - September 1st, too.
The Ruins of Winchester Palace
Winchester Palace, Pickfords Wharf, London SE1 9DN
This isn’t a particularly spectacular site, but it is certainly worth wandering past slowly when you go down the narrow paths of Clink Street. Winchester Palace, a 12th century townhouse run by the Bishops of Winchester, was at the heart of the famous ‘Liberty of the Clink’, when Clink Street was an area that allowed all activities being suppressed by the City of London to run free – you would have found many a brothel and game houses around there back in the day.
If that story sounds intriguing and you’re curious by gory prisons and sordid societal secrets, I’d urge you to look it up.
A very hard-to-miss large bridge on the Thames that everyone is taking photos of.
Built between 1886 and 1894, Tower Bridge – not to be confused with London Bridge, which is quite frankly a rather dull bridge in comparison – literally towers over the Thames with all its glory. Shining triumphantly in its 125th year, Tower Bridge is rightly hailed as an ‘iconic landmark of London’ by marketers, and a ‘bucket list selfie landmark’ by millennials.
eating and drinking in London Bridge
It was inevitable that my trip to London Bridge would revolve around food and drink. Whenever I take a trip to Berlin, my pre-trip excitement is always around the incredible Vietnamese food that I’m about to consume, and all Brighton recommendations for visitors always revolve around food.
Obviously this section wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how outstanding the food in Borough Market is – but that’s already been mentioned in my previous section, so I’ll spare you the time of having to re-read it. Just eat the Paella, that’s all.
Tacos El Pastor
7A Stoney St, London SE1 9AA
To big up some more food-glorious-food, my eyes were immediately drawn to Tacos El Pastor. Fish tacos are also a very solid contender in my top 5 favourite foods of all time and I am an absolute sucker for any restaurant that advertises them. This particular taco restaurant is tucked under a railway line in the heart of Borough Market with outstanding customer service. The prawn tacos will blow your mind.
34 Park St, London SE1 9EF
Labelled on Google Maps as a ‘Shakespearean-era pub with river views’, this 1615 tavern is a legacy to be enjoyed by all, from tourists to local office after-work drinks. They’ve got a particularly nice terrace area right next to the river, with friendly bar staff and trendy recycling areas.
The George Inn
The George Inn Yard, 77 Borough High St, London SE1 1NH
Ah, The George, I am over the moon to have found you! Hiding in a little alleyway off an unassuming road, this glorious medieval pub is owned and leased by the National Trust, hailed as the last remaining galleried inn in London. Charles Dickens used to drink his coffee there and referred to it in the Little Dorrit – a nice little fact that I look forward to repeating to all the people I start bringing here.
On that night, they played the England v US women’s world cup across 4 big screens to a bustling courtyard of punters and picnic benches. The atmosphere was electric, everyone was making friends and emotions were running high across the whole cohort when “that penalty” was being decided upon, then subsequently lost.
Oak beams roam across the inside of the pub, just as you like to see from any traditional English tavern. The beer selection is great, the service is quick and it’s easy to feel like you’re out of the rat race in the city – until you look up and see the shard towering over you.
I know that there are more that I could talk about with London Bridge: HMS Belfast, the view from the Shard, the Old Operating Theatre Museum (which I’m definitely going to go to on my next trip) and the Fashion and Textile Museum are all staple attractions for that area. But I’m hoping that this blog post can give you an idea of where to wander when you have to organise walking meetings or just have a little time to kill, and where to eat and drink when there’s so much choice.
Disclaimer: The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own. I’d like to thank hotels.com for the opportunity to do this, it was a blast.