London Eye Alternatives: Tower Bridge and ‘The Monument’

If you have ever visited (or have considered visiting) London, you have likely heard of the London Eye. If you haven’t heard of it, imagine a well-funded science project including a 27-story bicycle wheel with a line longer and more aggravating than LA freeway traffic. Or just look at the picture below.

London Eye

London Eye on a cloudy day 

It is beautiful to see the view of London from the top but the cost of £19.20 (about $30 US dollars – or a dollar a minute) may be too much for some.  Thankfully there are a number of alternatives that give you a similar experience with fewer tour groups.

Enter: The Monument to the Great Fire of London

The Monument to the Great Fire of London 1666

The Monument to the Great Fire of London 1666

“The Monument” is the tallest free-standing column in the world.  This was enough of a draw for me and the gorgeous 360° view of the city was simply a bonus.

Buyer beware: there is no elevator. You will need to walk up the series of 311 stairs pictured below. It’s not so bad.  There are periodic windows along the way which make the trip slightly more interesting than the stairwell experience of your friends’ Manhattan walk-up apartment.

The Monument, Stairs

Molly climbing ‘The Monument’ stairs

When you do make it you should expect to see views similar to those pictures below.

** London skyline spoiler alert**

View from The Monument, "Walkie Talkie Building" under construction

View from The Monument, “Walkie Talkie Building” under construction

The Shard, third tallest building in Europe

The Shard, third tallest building in Europe

Monument view of Tower Bridge

Monument view of Tower Bridge

Overall, The Monument is a unique experience which many tourists seem to be blissfully unaware of.  It only costs a few dollars (Adults £3; Student £2) and you can take your time and quietly enjoy the view.  We went early in the morning and there were only between 2 and 6 other patrons at the top while we were there.  Upon our exit there was a small line beginning to form.

Our next stop was the iconic and much-ballyhooed Tower Bridge Exhibition.

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge, London

The Tower Bridge Exhibition includes a couple of interesting videos on its construction.  The exhibit also highlights the evolution of bridge construction techniques over time and has information on famous bridges from around the globe.  If structural engineering and bridge history don’t interest you, perhaps the scenery will.

** Another London skyline spoiler alert**

Western view from Tower Bridge, London

Western view from Tower Bridge, London

Another view up the river, Tower of London in foreground

Another view up the river, Tower of London in foreground

While notably more crowded than The Monument, the Tower Bridge was a lovely stop for beautiful views directly over the River Thames. At only £8.00 for regular admission it is a real bargain, since you can stay for as long as you like. As an added bonus, your admission grants you access to the engine rooms to the draw bridge.

Tower Bridge engine room

Tower Bridge engine room

Is the view of the city from either The Monument or the Tower Bridge better than the London Eye? You aren’t as high up and you are substantially farther East, but you still have an excellent vantage point.  Are the lines and price much better? Absolutely.  At either location you can ask about getting a ‘joint ticket’ which will allow you to visit both sights for a discount. It is well worth it to package both sites together.  They are within a short walk of one another and will take you directly past The Tower of London as you go from one to another.  Make sure you check out All Hallows by the Tower on your way. This is the oldest church in the City of London and has a a historic crypt and a number of historical artifacts. Admission is free and you might even get to hear the organ being played.

2013 Pricing Information for Tower Bridge and The Monument

The Monument and Tower Bridge joint tickets: Adults £9; Students £6.20

Monument Only: Adults £3; Student £2

Tower Bridge Only: Adults £8.00, Students £5.60  

Picture of the Day: Stairs from within the Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge stairs remind me of an MC Escher painting

The Tower Bridge stairs remind me of an MC Escher painting

The Big London Vegan Food Post, #2

When we last left you all we had just experienced the wonder that is Westminster Abbey for free (by accident!). But food consumption continued to happen all around the date of our breaking and entering. We have pretty much limited ourselves to one meal out a day in order to protect the budget. Somehow this still means that we have a trillion places to post about from our time in London so this is part 2 of 3 of the London food posts.

Diwana Bhel Poori House - Thali

Diwana Bhel Poori House – Thali

Diwana Bhel Poori House - Dosa

Diwana Bhel Poori House – Dosa

The day after Amico Bio we had lunch at one of London’s many vegetarian Indian restaurants, Diwana Bhel Poori House. Unfortunately because of our super-busy day we missed the window for the lunch buffet so we had to order off of the menu. The prices were still good. The two meals above cost us a grand total of $23.15. The only problem with this meal was that a few hours later Dan’s stomach started to hurt. I felt fine. I fixed the problem by feeding him pepto-bismol (brought from NYC in pill form) and waiting a few hours. All better.

From lunch (but before Dan’s stomach started hurting) we hopped on the tube and headed down to Brixton where Ms. Cupcake lives.

Ms. Cupcake

Ms. Cupcake

Ms. Cupcake store interior

Ms. Cupcake store interior

What an adorable storefront. We chose 4 cupcakes to take home (we were still full from lunch). I think somehow the picture of the 4 cupcakes we took home got lost, but use your imagination. We took home a banoffee (banana toffee), a chocolate split (chocolate cake with vanilla frosting), a Ferrero Rocher (exactly what its name is in cupcake form), and a strawberry-coconut. I was partial to the banoffee and strawberry-coconut, Dan loved the chocolate split, and (don’t hate us!) neither of us was very interested in the famous Ferrero Rocher cupcake. I’m not a huge chocolate person, and Dan just didn’t really like it. But Ms. Cupcake has a mouthwatering array of cupcake flavors on her website, so maybe we are just bad at choosing flavors? It is possible.

The day of the Westminster Abbey adventure we went to lunch at Tibits. Tibits is delicious. A full buffet of vegetarian goodness with everything clearly labeled.

Tibits food boat!

Tibits food boat!

Tibits - buffet including dessert

Tibits – buffet including dessert. Molly’s plate

Tibits - buffet deliciousness

Tibits – buffet deliciousness. Dan’s plate

Tibits was one of our favorite meals in London. It is in an exceptionally fancy and touristy neighborhood and the price of the meal reflected that. I think this may have been our most expensive meal in London! But it was really good. And it was the only time I got to eat sticky toffee pudding while we were in London. I’d say that it was worth it, but if you are on a tight budget definitely go at lunch (cheaper per kg) and be careful with how much you pile on that plate.

The last place I will talk about in this post is the only place we went to more than once while we were in London. And it isn’t even a vegetarian restaurant. And we happened upon it entirely accidentally. It is Scoop.

Scoop

Scoop

Scoop is a gelato store. But Scoop is special. They label all of their gelatos and sorbets with the possible allergens that they contain. So dairy and eggs are marked on all of the items that they are in. And the dairy and egg-free sorbets are vegan! There are a bunch of vegan options and they were pretty much universally delicious.

Scoop - chocolate, melon, and strawberry

Scoop – chocolate, melon, and strawberry

Scoop - chocolate, passionfruit, and melon

Scoop – chocolate, passionfruit, and melon

We also asked if their cones were vegan and we got the okay on the cones, so we indulged. Those two giant cones didn’t come cheap – 4 gbp for 3 flavors (about $6) – but they were delicious. The first time we went to Scoop it was a freak 94 degree day in London. There is probably nothing better than ice cream on a hot day and this fit the bill perfectly. And Dan gets to keep a little bit of Scoop with him throughout the rest of the journey as he dripped a bit of the chocolate flavor on his sneaker and the stain won’t come out! I guess this is one food memory that we will have with us for a while.

Come back soon for the final London food installment!