"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Westminster Bridge, London.

Beautiful Westminster Bridge in London

Westminster Bridge, London.

May 2019.

Cover photo courtesy of Martin Dunst. 

It had been a long time since I last felt the fresh air of the Thames on my face from Westminster Bridge. In fact, I believe the last time I’d been here was around fourteen years ago. That had been a hectic afternoon guiding Belgian English language students around Central London. Thus I hadn’t had much of an opportunity to stop, take stock and fully appreciate the old structure.

Westminster Underground Station London

Inspired by my recent afternoon diving into the history of Tower Bridge, I resolved to do the same with this iconic handsome green arch bridge. Unfortunately, I hadn’t picked a great day for it. Indeed by the time I emerged from Westminster Tube Station and strode towards the bridge, I found myself at the mercy of some truly evil dark clouds.

Grey clouds over Westminster Bridge London

Westminster Bridge, London.

The Westminster Bridge we see today dates back to 1862. It replaced a 15-arch structure built in 1750 that historians consider a masterpiece of its time. In 1802 William Wordsmith wrote a sonnet on the bridge in which he declared his love for London and The River Thames. He called it Composed upon Westminster Bridge. Sadly that original bridge began to dramatically subside and became too expensive to maintain.

“The river glideth at his own sweet will:

Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;

And all that mighty heart is lying still!”

Westminster Bridge by Canaletto.

The original Westminster Bridge in London. Painted by the Italian artist Canaletto.

Today’s Westminster Bridge is a seven-arch cast-iron creation designed by the engineer Thomas Page with gothic wrought-iron detailing by Charles Barry. You may remember Barry from my article on Parliament Square.

After a twelve year construction project the new bridge opened on the 24th of May 1862. This happened to be Queen Victoria’s 45th birthday! However, the Queen didn’t actually attend the event because she was still in mourning over the death of Prince Albert three years earlier.

Visit Westminster Bridge in London.

Westminster Bridge, London.

The bridge takes its name from the borough of Westminster in which it sits. And of course after the Palace of Westminster which it overlooks. Even on such a gloomy day it was impossible to deny the building’s majesty and the scope of its history.

The Palace of Westminster on a grey day

The Palace of Westminster.

Interestingly, the bridge’s distinctive green colour is a nod to Westminster Palace, namely the leather seats in The House of Commons.

Victoria and Albert coat of arms Westminster Bridge

Westminster Bridge, London.

Elsewhere, the bridge features Victoria and Albert’s coats of arms. Moreover, there is a further coat of arms belonging to  Henry John Temple, the 3rd Viscount Palmerston, who was Prime Minister at the time of the bridge’s completion.

Westminster Bridge, London.

Bridge Street sign Westminster London

Westminster Bridge, London.

Keen to give my readers an altogether brighter look at Westminster Bridge and its fine views, I returned a few days later to complete my explorations. This was certainly much better, with a blueish sky, fluffy clouds and even brief, sporadic appearances from none other than the sun!

The London Eye from Westminster Bridge

Westminster Bridge, London.

Predictably, the good weather resulted in increased foot traffic on that second visit. But boy did everything look enriched, particularly the palace which seemed transformed.

The history of Westminster Bridge.

Westminster Bridge, London.

Believe it or not that featureless column in the background (below) is Elizabeth Tower, home to the world famous clock and bell, Big Ben.

A sunny afternoon on Westminster Bridge

Westminster Bridge, London.

Back then the tower was two years into an ambitious five year, £80 million refurbishment project. Of course I had to go for a look. Almost entirely covered in a protective scaffolding and netting, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Though you could at least see the clock face. The huge project, which has involved repairs, cleaning, repainting and the addition of an elevator, is due for completion in 2022. 

Big Ben 5 year refurbishment 2017-2022

Big Ben, April 2019.

Back on the bridge and I made it all the way down the western side for a fuller view of the sprawling palace and the steady flow of the Thames.

Adventures in London.

Sunny afternoon Westminster Bridge London

Westminster Bridge, London.

This is also the spot for your kitschy London souvenir needs. Indeed there are a handful of large stalls seemingly bursting at the seams with Union Jack bags, postcards, fridge magnets, football scarves, t-shirts, Paddington Bear toys and miniature red telephone boxes. Whenever I see this stuff I’m always amazed by how pricy it is. But do keep in mind that this particular stall owner throws in his charmlessness for free.

Large souvenir stall Westminster Bridge London

Westminster Bridge, London.

Making my way across the road to the other side of the bridge and there were fine views across London’s Southbank. The massive London Eye dominates what is generally considered to be London’s cultural centre. A walk down here leads visitors to The Royal Festival Hall, The Royal National Theatre, Gabriel Wharf, The London Studios and the IMAX Super Cinema.

Street lamps Westminster Bridge London

Westminster Bridge, London.

The atmosphere that afternoon was positively carefree. Couples stopped to take photographs. Children waved down to the passengers of a city cruise. A couple of red double decker buses rumbled by, while a pair of jolly looking cyclists wobbled past. Power to them, not sure you’d catch me biking on Westminster Bridge.

Cycling over Westminster Bridge in London

Westminster Bridge, London.

It was hard to imagine the scenes of horror that unfolded here just a few years earlier on the 22nd of March 2017. This was when a 52 year old man, Khalid Masood, drove his car onto the pavement killing 4 people and injuring 50. 

Westminster Bridge, London.

Waterloo Bus 211

Westminster Bridge, London.

He subsequently crashed the car into the perimeter fence of the palace grounds and proceeded on foot into the New Palace Yard where he stabbed and killed a police officer. Soon after a policeman shot and killed Masood.

Later, investigators discovered a text message in which Masood said the killing spree would be revenge for The UK’s role in military campaigns across The Middle East According to various news reports online, a memorial plaque to the victims should be unveiled in the middle of the bridge by early 2022.

Religious preacher Westminster Bridge London

Westminster Bridge, London.

Finally, as with so many spots around Westminster, the bridge is a popular hang out for protestors and preachers. That day, as I set off on the long walk to Abbey Road, I passed a man warning me that Jesus was coming. That I needed to repent and so forth. He was perfectly calm and smiley about it, with not a trace of fire and brimstone to his words.

The placard he was holding is a near permanent fixture on Westminster Bridge. Search for it on Google and you’ll see dozens of images where the sign is manned by different preachers. Good luck to them.

Leighton Travels travel reports short stories.

For more on my home city, why not delve through my many reports from across London.

Or maybe search further afield with my articles from all around England.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.


  • Little Miss Traveller

    A great read about Westminster Bridge Leighton and I never knew that the attractive pale green paint was a nod to the leather seats inside the Palace of Westminster! Hope your weekend is going well. Marion

    November 28, 2021 - 11:57 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion, it certainly has some great history to it, both glorious and tragic. Hope all is going well with you despite the unsavory recent developments with this stubborn virus.

      November 28, 2021 - 2:04 pm Reply
  • travelling_han

    Lovely – I hope Big Ben comes out of the scaffolding soon, feels like it’s been on forever.

    November 28, 2021 - 1:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It really has taken an exceptionally long time. We hope to see it in all its refurbished glory next year. Assuming we actually get to visit with everything that’s going on.

      November 28, 2021 - 2:05 pm Reply
      • travelling_han

        I’ve really had enough of it all now, just so rubbish isn’t it.

        November 28, 2021 - 5:59 pm
  • kagould17

    Since I first visit to London in 1977, we have walked across this bridge. As you say, it is a microcosm of London life. Our last visit in 2017 was just after the terrorist driver attack and it was quite changed with massive crash barriers in place. It will be good when the tower and Big Ben can be seen without all the scaffolding works. Thanks for sharing the scenes Leighton. Have a great day. Allan

    November 28, 2021 - 3:01 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your thoughts Allan. Seeing the bridge forty years after that first visit must have been fascinating. Yeah, Big Ben all covered up like that for so long is a real pity. I wonder how on earth the improvements have taken so long. I’m sure, somehow, COVID has played its part.

      November 28, 2021 - 3:05 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Arch bridges are so graceful but always strike me as Italian. The painting of the original even more so. Enjoyed so much how you capture the bustle of life and people around the bridge. Interesting how the end-of-worlders are friendlier than those hawking souvenirs.

    November 28, 2021 - 4:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha right? Somewhere along the way the souvenir vendors and the preachers got things mixed up. I agree about the Italian look.

      November 28, 2021 - 5:29 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    I’ve got to get to London! Amazes me how they can build bridges like that

    November 28, 2021 - 5:29 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You should come one day Lyssy! Bring warm clothes, an umbrella and buckets of money!

      November 28, 2021 - 5:31 pm Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    Great information on such an iconic bridge. I’ve walked across it a few times but didn’t notice many of the features like the green colour. I actually really like your first picture with the looming grey clouds behind the bridge. Maggie

    November 28, 2021 - 5:56 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Maggie, although I can’t take credit for the cover photo I’m afraid. Had to borrow that one, partly because I don’t have an angle that covers the entire structure. And partly because, as you say, it’s an awesome shot. Thanks for adding to the thread!

      November 28, 2021 - 6:00 pm Reply
      • Monkey's Tale

        No I meant your picture looking back towards the clouds.

        November 28, 2021 - 6:31 pm
  • Leighton

    Aaaaah I see, thanks, I read that wrong. My photos from that first trip were so dark I had to do a fair bit of editing just to make them visible.

    November 28, 2021 - 8:18 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    Ah, I recall crossing Westminster Bridge and getting the iconic shot of Elizabeth Tower when I was in London in 2015. Such an atmospheric place, and I happened to be there when Big Ben hadn’t gone under construction yet; it’d be covered up just a few months afterwards!

    November 28, 2021 - 9:54 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Oooh, just in the nick of time by the sounds of it. Looking forward to seeing it next year and boy am I expecting it to be resplendent.

      November 28, 2021 - 10:57 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    In my mind the evil dark clouds seem a permanent feature of London. I was interested to learn the origin of the colour of the bridge; it fits. I am sometimes surprised by the bright colours of some monuments, as a lack of taste, but maybe there is also an explanation.

    November 28, 2021 - 11:35 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I like the look of Westminster Bridge, but perhaps more as a curiosity rather than something genuinely beautiful. Not a patch on Tower Bridge, but the history and views certainly make up for it.

      November 29, 2021 - 10:03 pm Reply

    I must have walked these parts of London, and the West End, amongst London’s great sights, literally hundreds of times either working or for pleasure. Yet it still gives me a buzz of excitement, every single time. Still absolutely love that city. Even in the rain.

    November 29, 2021 - 9:28 am Reply
    • Leighton

      I’m the same. Though it really helps, I concede, that I don’t live there or have to commute through the city to work every day. Whenever I return it’s always in the role of visitor. Seeing the sights and catching up with family and friends. It’s a privilege. Take care guys in these freshly troubled times of international travel.

      November 29, 2021 - 10:04 am Reply
  • ourcrossings

    Westminster Bridge is such a beautiful bridge especially in the nighttime when it’s beautifully illuminated and I am glad they actually decided to build it despite the fierce opposition from the Church and the watermen who were understandably worried about the decline of ferry traffic when it was first proposed. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

    November 29, 2021 - 10:57 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Aiva and for your contribution. I very much hope to take Sladja across the bridge should we succeed in getting to London next year.

      November 29, 2021 - 12:38 pm Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    There were so many arches in the Italian painting of the original bridge (15?). Was that accurate? I liked your first photo of the bridge and Ben in the background, despite the ominous skies.

    November 29, 2021 - 4:26 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think I remember reading somewhere that the 15 arches in the painting wasn’t accurate. But I’d have to check on that. Yeah I was pleasantly surprised by how well the photos came out on the dark skies day. But only after a bit of editing 😉

      November 29, 2021 - 4:28 pm Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    Hey Leighton! Your posts on London are amazing. How amazing are they? (the straight man says) They are so amazing they make me long to visit London again, which is a major accomplishment after unpleasant experiences at LHR T3 and T5. Oh well, that can happen anywhere, and I shouldn’t let that stop me from enjoying the sights London offers. Thanks!

    November 29, 2021 - 5:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Appreciate the kind words there John, and indeed the straight man’s contribution. For the most part I hate Heathrow too, so you’re not alone there. Hope you get to make fresher, better London memories someday.

      November 29, 2021 - 5:50 pm Reply
      • salsaworldtraveler

        I’ll definitely give it another go when and if this Covid situations settles down.

        November 30, 2021 - 5:30 am
  • grandmisadventures

    I have really enjoyed these in depths posts on these famous bridges! I love that it had Victoria and Albert’s coat of arms on it. How sad though for any first time visitors to London whose only view of the tower and Big Ben was covered in scaffolding.

    November 29, 2021 - 11:13 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s been a long old road with Big Ben but it seems the end is nigh, just a few more months. Hope you had a good weekend Meg.

      November 29, 2021 - 11:20 pm Reply
      • grandmisadventures

        Thanks Leighton, I hope you had a great weekend too 🙂

        November 29, 2021 - 11:25 pm
  • wetanddustyroads

    This is a really beautiful spot in London Leighton! That photo of you on the bridge and the palace in the background almost looks like a postcard 😉. Back in 2015 when my mom visited my brother and his family in the UK, she had one request … she wanted to see Big Ben and Westminster Bridge … and she came back to SA very proudly with those pictures!

    November 30, 2021 - 3:00 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah that’s great to hear. And back then I’m guessing the old clock wasn’t covered up in iron bars. Thanks for catching up Corna!

      November 30, 2021 - 3:06 pm Reply
  • Chalk and Cheese Travels

    Great part of London! It has been many years since I was there, was good to see and read about.

    December 3, 2021 - 11:06 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey, thanks for checking in! Ive been getting a bit nostalgic about London recently, as it’s been just over two years since I was last there. Hope you guys are doing well!

      December 3, 2021 - 11:34 am Reply
  • rosashistoryblog

    How interesting! Who would have known that it was so old! Those pictures are amazing.

    December 5, 2021 - 10:42 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey, I’m glad you liked the article! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. If you’re into history (and it looks like you are) I’ve written dozens of articles from across London. Have a great Sunday.

      December 5, 2021 - 10:48 am Reply
      • rosashistoryblog

        Thanks so much – I’ll make sure to have a look

        December 5, 2021 - 10:56 am
  • Travel Report: Westminster Bridge, London. — Leighton Travels! – The Bridgehunter's Chronicles

    […] Travel Report: Westminster Bridge, London. — Leighton Travels! […]

    December 12, 2021 - 6:00 am Reply
  • Toonsarah

    I was hoping when I saw your title that you would quote Wordsworth 🙂 The views here are great but my favourite is the Hungerford footbridge further east, with the views towards St Paul’s and the City!

    December 22, 2021 - 6:25 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It must be nearly 20 years since I crossed that bridge (or maybe it was one of the jubilee bridges). One for next time. Would like to add a few more bridge posts to my London vaults. Thanks for visiting!

      December 22, 2021 - 6:33 pm Reply
      • Toonsarah

        The Hungerford footbridges ARE the Jubilee bridges these days, but I always forget to call them that!

        December 22, 2021 - 7:31 pm

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: