London in a wheelchair: South Bank, Borough Market and the Tower Bridge
Every once in a while, a bad news can turn into a great one. You see, Franck and I were planning to go skiing last January in the Pyrenees, preparing to go down the “Pic du Midi” as we did this summer on a bike. I was eager to go, remembering that feeling I had that first time doing adaptive skiing in New Zealand. However, we had to face the truth, there was not an inch of snow. So we cancelled all our trip and I was ready to go back to my daily routine. But Franck surprised me with a last-minute 3 days trip to London to make up for it. So we packed again, ready to discover our neighbour’s capital, their historic landmarks and their almighty full English breakfast! Plus, at the end you will see that London is a great place regarding accessibility for wheelchair users.
Visiting South Bank, Borough Market and the Tower Bridge in a wheelchair
After dropping our bags at the hotel, located in South Bank, we decided to go on a stroll along the Thames going East. I have never been to London before, so I was excited to finally lay my eyes upon many places I’ve seen or heard through movies or books. Using this wheelchair friendly path, we came across the old Shakespeare globe theatre, the impressive Tate museum and we had a glimpse to the St Paul’s Cathedral on the other side of the bank.
So this path was a nice introduction to London, but we had a specific place in mind to go to. It was way past lunch time, and our starving stomachs led us to the amazing Borough Market. You know me, I am always looking out for tasteful places, and this market is bursting with delicious foods. Street foods, bakeries, fine meat stalls, colourful fresh vegetables and many other world dishes… I wanted to taste everything that was displayed.
Partially located under the railway lines, with its old green glass roof and brown brick arches, it has this out of time feeling. It is a vibrant and colourful place. You’ll find free tasting at almost every stand, and you could probably eat your whole lunch without paying for anything, as long as you are willing to try everything. As for us, we choose the “best in the world” fish’n’chips, with their oversized portion, and a cookie as large as my head for dessert! My only regret here is that we didn’t come back a second time during our trip! This is definitely a wheelchair accessible must do in London if you are keen on food.
It can be quite busy, but it is very easy to go around in a wheelchair. Most stalls are wide open, and if something is out of reach, someone will always be here to help.
Let’s roll a bit further east along the Thames and we reach the famous Tower Bridge. As the rain started pouring down on us, it was a relief to find some shelter. Indeed, Once you’re up the top level, you are actually in a glass and steel corridor and not outside. In this gallery was an exposition about different bridges around the world. I did learn one or two things, and I was quite surprised to discover that the Tower Bridge is actually made of steel and covered by bricks! Apparently it was a requirement to blend in the London scenery.
Up there, the view is nice, but you have to look through the steel structure openings. There are small windows that you can open to get a better view, but there are not at wheelchair height. The most exciting thing for me was the wide see-through glass floor! I am not very comfortable with heights, so rolling 65 meters above ground was a bit scary! But once I was on the glass floor, I enjoyed it. After the main towers, we’ve been invited to visit the engine room on the south bank, but we had an elevator problem so we ended our tour here.
The bridge is fully accessible with lifts.
When we reached the south entrance of the bridge by the river walkway, the elevator was close, so we had to go further south to get back on the road that lead up to the bridge. We ended up of the East side of the bridge while the main entrance is on the West side so we had to go north, passed the bridge, cross the road and head back. So if possible, you might as well arrive directly from the north. Fortunately, we have been told that the south elevator was going to be repaired soon.
Disabled people are eligible to a concession entrance fee, and it’s free for your companion. You can find further very detailed information directly on their website: https://www.towerbridge.org.uk/accessibility/.
I still have a lot to tell you about our travel in London. No worries! I wrote 2 more articles about this city trip in London. You will find all the information about wheelchair accessible transports, restaurants and accommodations in London in the last one about Westminster. See you soon!