The south end of the bridge is near Waterloo station, County Hall, Royal Festival Hall, and the London Eye. The north end is near Embankment tube station, Charing Cross station and the Victoria Embankment.
It was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1845 as a suspension footbridge. In 1859 it was bought to extend the railway into the newly opened Charing Cross station. The railway company replaced the suspension bridge with a construction made of iron girders. The suspension elements were re-used in Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Two walkways were added either side, one was later removed when the railway was widened. In 1951 another walkway was temporarily added when an Army Bailey Bridge was added for the Festival of Britain. It is the only bridge in London to combine pedestrian and rail use.
In 1996 there was a competition to redesign the unpopular footbridge which was won by architects Lifschutz Davidson. Two new footbridges were designed and opened in 2002. Each footbridge is a 300m concrete deck attached to suspension masts with steel cables.