As a city with thousands of years of history, it’s understandable that certain London areas can give you the unnerving feeling of being in a time-warp. Strolling through the Victorian streets of Shad Thames next to the river, for example, and you’d be forgiven for expecting to find the likes of Sherlock Holmes or David Copperfield to suddenly leap out from behind a building.
These narrow routes between former warehouses are frequently used as film sets due to their historic features, which provides plenty of amusement for the locals who often see actors in costume strolling along the unique iron walkways once used to transport barrels. But this riverside area doesn’t just offer the chance to glimpse an A-lister in a wig – with beautifully renovated warehouse apartments, high-end restaurants and unbeatable transport connections, it’s no surprise that London Bridge and Shad Thames have become one of the most coveted areas in the capital for suited and booted workers with cash to spare.
Dominated by the sleek triangular point of the Shard, this area was once a thriving docklands similar to Bermondsey, before going through the cycle of decline, regeneration and gentrification frequently seen in central London’s riverside areas. The influence of designer Terence Conran, who led the transformation of Shad Thames and Butlers Wharf in the 1980s, can be seen throughout the district due to his premium restaurants, refurbished buildings and the iconic Design Museum.
As well as the Design Museum, the Tate Modern can be found just at the other side of London Bridge, so you’re never far from an afternoon of culture. Meanwhile if you can drag yourself away from the area, London Bridge Station means that the rest of London is easily accessible via trains, tubes and buses, while direct trains to Gatwick Airport make foreign travel speedy and straightforward.
On a map
London Bridge is located in the borough of Southwark in South East London. It sits to the west of Bermondsey and north of Borough, and covers the postcode SE1.
History of London Bridge
The first bridge on this site dates back to the Roman period, when it would have been made of timber, before being replaced by a various stone bridges during the Medieval period, as if was routinely destroyed by fire or poor weather. From the 1200s until the 1600s there were actually buildings on the bridge, some up to seven stories high, as well as roads for traffic and pikes on either end for the heads of traitors such as William Wallace and Thomas Cromwell. The buildings were demolished in the 1700s due to congestion, and the current modern bridge was built in 1831.
Meanwhile, during the Victorian period Shad Thames was home to the largest warehouse complex in London, where huge commodities of products such as tea and spices were held before being transported on riverboats. The area began to fall into decline in the 1900s when the loading and unloading of goods was moved further up the river, and by the 1970s the last warehouses had closed and the area was almost derelict. In the 1980s and 1990s much of this land was then bought up by developers, who transformed it into the busy commercial and residential riverside we see today.
Transport from London Bridge
London Bridge and Shad Thames are particularly popular with City workers due to the easy commute – the underground station connects with the Jubilee and Northern Lines, with a journey of just 1 minute to Bank and 6 minutes to Canary Wharf.
The station is also served by trains on the Southern, Southeastern and Thameslink lines, meaning fast, direct routes to places such as Cannon Street and Croydon within London, and Brighton and Horsham further afield. There are also direct trains to London Gatwick Airport, as well as plenty of buses passing through the area both day and night.
Cost of living in London Bridge
The housing in the London Bridge and Shad Thames area is predominantly made up of renovated warehouses along cobbled streets, complete with exposed brick walls and romantic names such as Vanilla & Sesame Court and Tea Trade Whard according to their former commodities.
In addition, since the 1980s the area has seen the establishment of a number of chic modern developments overlooking the river, while houseboats, apartments in former local authority buildings and a few Victorian terraced houses are also occasionally available.
Unfortunately, as a result of it’s riverside location and excellent transport links from London Bridge, you’re unlikely to find a bargain here – rents are on average are more expensive in this area than in neighbouring Borough, Southwark and Bermondsey. As of April 2016, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in London Bridge is around £2850 per month, although similar properties can be found starting at £1650 per month.
Restaurants in London Bridge
One of Terence Conran’s many ventures in the area, Butler’s Wharf Chophouse has been a local favourite for years due to their impeccable steaks and rustic British menu. Meat eaters will love their grass-fed Angus beef steaks which come in a range of cuts from basic rump to high-end filet, while for a real feast give the three course Sunday Lunch a try.
Address: 36e Shad Thames, London SE1 2YE
Phone:020 7403 3403
Forget your usual Starbucks latte and take that morning coffee up a notch at London Grind, a renowned coffee shop-bar-and-restaurant combo and sibling to the popular Shoreditch Grind in East London. Come in the morning for a freshly-brewed cup of joe, late at night for an excellent espresso martini, or combine it all for a boozy, coffee-fuelled brunch on the weekends.
Address: 2 London Bridge, London SE1 9RA
Phone:020 7378 1928
Why bother paying to go up the Shard when you can book into the chic Aqua Shard restaurant and dine with a view instead? This sky-high restaurant on the 31st floor offers a contemporary British menu featuring the likes of roasted monkfish, slow-cooked pork belly and Wagyu beef, as well as an incredible panorama over London.
Address: 31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY
Phone:020 3011 1256
Shops in London Bridge
Take the English tea tradition to new heights at Teapod, a cosy, contemporary teahouse and shop on Shad Thames. Selling a wide range of loose-leaf teas and tea accessories, it’s also the best place to come for a budget afternoon tea in the area – a selection of scones, jams and your choice of tea starts at just £6 per person.
Address: Cardamom Bldg, 31 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YR
Phone:020 7407 0000
Need a boost after a long day at the office? Stock the fridge with some deli treats from the flagship branch of this popular fine foods shop. Specialising in Italian dishes, the counters and shelves are packed with cured meats, antipasti, artisan pastas and a wide range of Italian wines. If you’ve got time to spare, you can also eat in their restaurant space where the menu expands into hot mains, sharing plates and desserts.
Address: 31, Shad Thames, London SE1 2YR
Phone:020 7036 6028
Situated inside the brilliant London Design Museum, this modern shop has a wide range of books, gifts, accessories and homewares perfect for the design-conscious customer. Pick up a graphic print for your apartment, a contemporary lampshade or even a pair of USB-rechargable bike lights here – you’d be surprised how diverse the selection is.
Address: 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD
Phone: 020 7403 6933
Things to do in London Bridge
Support local businesses while also watching an interesting arthouse flick at the cool Shortwave Cinema on Bermondsey Square. Seating just 52 people per viewing, this independent movie venue shows a mix of good popular releases and indie films, as well as having a cafe and bar so you can pick up the perfect pre-film snack too.
Address: 10 Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN
Phone:020 7357 6845
Owned and run by renowned art dealer Jay Jopling, the White Cube gallery has a reputation for curating the works of some of the UK’s best-known contemporary artists including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. With a staggering 58,000 square foot of space it’s also the biggest commercial gallery in Europe, so you’re bound to find an artist you like in here.
Address: 144-152 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3TQ
Phone: 020 7930 5373
Take a trip through the Shad Thames time-warp again, except this time with a rather gruesome twist at the Old Operating Theatre Museum. Housed in a former surgical theatre, the museum is dedicated to the history of surgery and filled with terrifying tools, artefacts and fascinating displays on how surgery was performed through the ages.
Address: 9a St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY
Phone: 020 7188 2679
Main image credit: CGP Grey