Illuminated River

South view of the Thames from the Golden Jubilee footbridge, with the London Eye lit up in pink on the left as it towers high over the buildings behind it.

Illuminated River is a project by artist Leo Villareal, involving a variety of permanent and colourful lighting installations on bridges across the River Thames in London.

9 bridges are currently involved in the project, from Lambeth Bridge to London Bridge. Each has its own unique architecture and history, and so the lighting is tailored to suit and complement them. The lights are positioned beneath the arches and/or along the sides of the bridge in some way, and they don’t intrude into the surrounding environment.

In most cases it involves constant, but slow and subtle, changes in colour, often moving from one side of the bridge to the other. But in a couple of cases it involves white strips of light moving in patterned waves along the side of the structure. And they all look beautiful. London is always stunning when lit up at night anyway, and I think this project is a lovely enhancement to the cityscape without being overwhelming.

I previously went to see the first 4 bridges that had their lighting unveiled back in 2019. But now that 5 more bridges have been added and there’s more freedom to travel around again, plus I have a new iPhone 13 that records in 4K and is so much better at nighttime captures than my old iPhone 6, the time was right to go and take a fresh look. And I was able to explore all of the bridges over a couple of evenings.

I also listened to the audio descriptions of all the bridges by VocalEyes, which are very useful and really interesting, because they tell you about the history and construction of the bridges, as well as describing their appearance and lighting. There are some quite surprising facts throughout, along some nice extracts from music that was specially composed for the project by students at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

So I really enjoyed seeing all of the bridges coming to life during my nice walks. As a result of which I’ve put together over an hour of footage on my Youtube channel, featuring all 9 bridges plus some other sights that caught my eye along the way, and there are chapter markers for you to jump to specific parts. I’ve also added some photos below as well. So I hope you enjoy taking a night walk along the Thames with me!

The first bridge is Lambeth Bridge, from which you can see the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye not far away.

Then there’s Westminster Bridge, right by the Houses of Parliament, with poor Big Ben still covered in scaffolding, although its restoration work is nearly complete.

Next are the Golden Jubilee Footbridges, either side of the railway on the Hungerford Bridge. I walked across both of the footbridges to appreciate the views up and down the river.

Then there’s Waterloo Bridge.

That’s followed by Blackfriars Bridge, with the railway bridge neighbouring it.

Then there’s the Millennium Bridge that provides a connection between St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern, and was famously nicknamed the Wobbly Bridge after the issues it had when it opened (which were later fixed).

Next we come to Southwark Bridge.

And that’s followed by the Cannon Street Railway Bridge.

And finally we come to London Bridge.

Of course, immediately after London Bridge is Tower Bridge, which isn’t an active part of the Illuminated River project yet, but it is planned to be part of a future expansion, which will result in a complete set of 15 artistically lit bridges from Albert Bridge in the west to Tower Bridge in the east. In the meantime however, Tower Bridge is always lit up anyway, just not in an animated fashion, and it always looks amazing. So of course I had to take a look at that too.

And apart from all the bridges there were other sights to enjoy along the way, including the South Bank Winter Festival, which included an art installation of brightly lit trees called Loomin by David Ogle (one of several artworks in the area), and lots of festive decorations and stalls. And of course there were traditional sights like The London Eye and HMS Belfast that were lit up to admire as well.

And on my way to Tower Hill station to finish my final walk, I came across a light sculpture of what I assume is a tiger by the Cento Alla Torre restaurant. I’ve no idea who it’s by or whether it has a name, but it looks pretty cool.

So that’s it, I hope you enjoyed taking that evening walk along the Thames with me! And if you want to find out more about the bridges, check out the Illuminated River website, along with the VocalEyes audio descriptions and Google’s online exhibition.

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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