A visit to Tower Bridge makes a perfect day out for a preschooler who is interested in machines. The south bank between London Bridge and Tower Bridge is great for exploring too, with big open traffic-free spaces for running around or scooting. The Hayes Galleria and the fountains, sculptures and mini stream near the City Hall building are great places to stop and play.
The paid visit to Tower Bridge includes the raised walkways and the Victorian engine rooms on the south bank of the river. The engine rooms still house the beautifully presented Victorian machinery that used to raise the bridge using coal-generated steam power, which was fascinating for a three-year-old who has recently discovered steam trains. There is even a section of mini railway inside and one of the carts that used to deliver the coal. The furnaces, pipes, huge spinning wheels, giant tools, taps, nuts and bolts are very impressive to little ones, and the engineering genius behind it all is equally impressive to geeky adults!
If you don’t want to pay to go inside, it’s still fun to just go see the bridge itself. And if you stand on the middle of the bridge with one foot on each side you can feel the two halves wobble when buses and trucks go over.
Best bits: using the power of hydraulics to lift a parent up – one person sits in a chair while someone else turns a handle which raises it up – a three year old can lift a grown-up. And the giant spanners as big as a small child. Which are fixed to the wall, sadly. Children also get given a lovely set of stickers to collect as you go around the exhibition that end up making a passport to Tower Bridge.
Cost: £8.00 for adults, children under 5 free.
Travel: Tower Hill & Tower Gateway tubes are very close, London Bridge station is a nice 15 minute walk along the river.
Where to eat: there is a Strada next to the County Hall Building and lots more options along Shad Thames.
If you get organised you can check when the bridge is due to open and plan your visit around that: it happens a few times a week during summer and less often in the winter.
Bridge lift times:
During the summer there are often free events going on in the Scoop, a sunken amphiteatre outside City Hall.