Things You Might Not Have Done In London Bridge

By Daan Deol Last edited 71 months ago
Things You Might Not Have Done In London Bridge

The London Bridge area is best known for the London Tombs, Borough Market and of course, that bridge. Here are a few other things worth seeking out.

Read poetry to Keats

Have a sit down with John Keats outside Guy's Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown

Head to Guy's Hospital — not right inside (unless you're ill), but the lawns that lie just beyond the gates on St Thomas Street. Here, seek out John Keats, poet, lover of Fanny Brawne, and trained surgeon-apothecary. Keats trained at Guy's Hospital from 1815-16, but instead pursued a career in poetry. You'll find him perched in an alcove that was part of the old London Bridge. Recite him some of your own poetry if you like — he won't judge you.

Witness a Victorian surgical demonstration

Let's keep it medical for a second. The Old Operating Theatre is hardly a London Bridge secret anymore, but did you know that every Saturday afternoon it does Victorian surgical demonstrations? See what it was like for those poor souls who had to undergo operations without the luxury of anaesthesia (although we don't think anyone actually loses a limb in these demonstrations). If that's too gory for you, go to a drop-in art session — they're every Tuesday and Thursday evening.

Pretend to be an explorer

A reconstruction of the Golden Hinde. Photo: Tere Sue Gidlof

A hero of Elizabethan Sir Francis Drake was sent on a secret mission by Elizabeth I. Five ships went with him, but only one survived, the Pelican, renamed the Golden Hinde. See a full-sized reconstruction of the ship located on Bankside. There are various tours and fun days (some especially for kids) where you can witness cutlass fights, the raising of the anchor, and hear salty stories of the sea.

Meat feast

For all the carnivores, cured meat specialists Cannon & Cannon hold classes, where you can make your own bacon, pig head ham and other such delights. There are also tasting evenings, where you pair their meaty delights with locally-brewed beers and (slightly less local) wines.

Chocolate and theatre

Menier Chocolate Factory London. Photo: Past London

The Menier Chocolate Factory may no longer make confectionary, but it's a pretty sweet place to see shows. This is where many that go on to be West End hits cut their teeth. Funny Girl, Travesties and David Baddiel's My Family: Not the Sitcom all started out here. The restaurant has some deliciously posh dishes, like salmon gravlax with citrus & caper cream. Oh, and the dessert menu features plenty of chocolate.

Handling sharp objects

There is a mysterious, tilted spike at the end of London Bridge. There has been much speculation, much morbid, as to what it's there for. It's called the Southwark Gateway Needle, and is a marker for where the medieval London Bridge crossed the river. But go and make up your own mind.

You can also check out Nancy's Steps, which aren't actually Nancy's steps. In the movie Oliver!, Nancy is shown to die on the steps leading to London Bridge. A plaque was placed at the real-life steps, at the southern end of the bridge, stating that in the novel, this was where Nancy was murdered. In fact she was killed in her bed. The incorrect plaque has been missing for a while.

Hop on over

The Hop Exchange. Photo: Matt Brown

Trading in hops, a plant mainly used in beer as a flavouring, is said to have begun in East Cheap, in the 17 century. Over time, however, Borough became the centre for the hops trade. It was for this reason that the Hops Exchange — now a grade II listed building used as office space as well as for exhibitions — was opened in 1868. Pop inside and admire those beautiful hoppy balustrades. Then go to the George Inn for a beer.


Explore the Cross Bones Cemetery. Photo: Matt Brown

Give the London Tombs a miss and visit Crossbones, a mysterious burial ground that closed in 1853. It is rumoured that this was the final resting place of medieval prostitutes licensed by the Bishop of Winchester. Certainly, many of London's poor were buried here. You can attend candlelit vigils and other events throughout the year.

Last Updated 14 May 2018