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.
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.
“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.
When you do make it you should expect to see views similar to those pictures below.
** London skyline spoiler alert**
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.
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**
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.
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