Cruising down the Thames river, watching the world go about its business and the sights passing you by, there’s St Paul’s and Tower Bridge. Oh, and the Shard over there pointing towards a cloudless sky. Taking a boat tour is one of travel’s great delights and a wonderful way to see what a city offers.
London is without doubt, one of the great capitals of the world, and fortunately, its river, The River Thames runs right through the middle with many of its major attractions dotted along the shoreline.
There are many wonderful ways to explore London; by bus, taking a walking tour, riding the tube, or jumping on a bike. Take a Thames river cruise, however, and you are capturing the very best this city can offer while sitting back and relaxing. Not convinced, then let us take you on a cruise down the Thames to Greenwich. Hurry! The boat leaves soon and we don’t want to be late.
Starting Point: Westminster Pier
We start our journey at Westminster pier. It’s where you’ll find many London river cruises begin (or end). The pier is easily reachable from Westminster underground station. It’s j also just down from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. So, wander around the seat of Government, Big Ben and visit Westminster Abbey first, then hop aboard your cruise.
As you leave the pier take a look at the opposite riverbank, you’ll see the London Eye and the old London Assembly building. See, already you have ticked off two or three of the great London landmarks. Right, grab your seat as we’re about to start heading down the river.
Top tip: If you can, and the weather is playing ball, try to sit outside. You’ll get the true London atmosphere as you cruise along the river.
Towards Tower Bridge
As you meander your way downstream, you’ll most likely get a commentary onboard that will reveal many of London’s secrets. Listen in and then scan the shoreline for the attractions discussed. Not long after Westminster, you’ll pass by the iconic and very 60s-looking South Bank Centre and its neighbour, the National Theatre. Cleopatra’s needle is near here on the opposite side, but it’s small, so you may miss it if you’re not looking. The OXO tower is also close by, as what remains of the old London bridge. One of many bridges you’ll pass under on your journey today.
Now look to your right and there’s the Tate Modern art gallery, and quick turn to the left for a view of St Paul’s Cathedral as you head under the Millennium bridge (thankfully not wobbling now!) Then you need to turn right again as you see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. A Thames River Cruise means having to look left and right all the time!
Top tip: Head to The Globe Theatre as you can get cheap standing tickets for performances like they did when it was originally constructed. Well worth an afternoon or evening out.
Looking left and right
You’ll notice as we continue down the river, the unique architecture and modern skyscrapers that continue to go up in the city of London. The Gherkin and Cheese grater (nicknames by the way) are worth looking out for. The Shard is the dominant building, its point piercing the London sky!
Not long until we pass under Tower Bridge, but before then you have the HMS Belfast moored on the right side and The Tower of London on the other. Give the watching crowd a wave as you head under the stunning, and much-photographed Tower Bridge. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most iconic London landmarks.
Towards the Finish point: Greenwich is near
The next segment takes us through some of the residential areas along the river. The Wharves you pass make for fascinating viewing, but with many of them closed off you’ll need to visit them by foot.
Top tip: If after your Thames river cruise, you want to check out the wharves, then the Thames path heads through many of them. It’s a well-signposted path and also takes in the south bank of London.
As we turn the corner, you’ll see the docklands redevelopment area, Canary Wharf. Our final destination isn’t far off, and you’ll see the Greenwich observatory over on the distant hill. Once docked at Greenwich pier, you have the Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark ship to see along with the observatory and park. Visiting the observatory is a must-do, so climb the hill and imagine when you are there, that you are at the very point where time begins! On one side you can be standing in the +GMT and then on the other, -GMT!
Before Heading Back
Greenwich town has quirky stalls in the market, selling antiques, and art and crafts, and there are some great street food eateries to test your palate. Make sure to spend a few hours exploring the area, otherwise, you’ll miss out. Some other quirky things to do include, a walk under the Thames river in the Greenwich tunnel, and some boat tours will continue down to the Thames Barrier, a marvel of engineering.
Then it’s back onboard the boat for the trip back up to Westminster pier. Or you have to cross the river to get to the tube station. You’ll see the O2 arena in the distance, now a venue for popular concerts, that also has restaurants and a cinema. It’s a little walk but will make for a good alternative to heading straight back on the boat.
If you are taking a cruise back upstream, keep your eyes peeled for all those places you missed on the way up. Or is it back down?
There’s no denying that a Thames river cruise is a great way to capture the best of London. And with a range of options and alternatives available to you, such as dinner cruises, and power boat trips for the adrenaline junkies, well, it’s a London tour you really can’t miss out on.