Boat trips in London
See the city from the Thames or one of London's canals
Bored by dry land? We've picked London's best boat tours along the river Thames and the city's picturesque canalways. From serene canalboat trips to high-speed thrill rides, and craft ranging from hybrid land-and-water vessels to Damien Hirst-designed catamarans, London's waterways have something for everyone.
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City cruises operate on a hop-on, hop-off basis and run from Westminster, Waterloo, Tower and Greenwich Piers with commentary along the way. The River Red Rover ticket allows unlimited one-day cruising, there's also the Rail and River Rover ticket allowing unlimited one-day travel by river and on the DLR and single or return tickets are available for shorter journeys. The London Showboat is an evening dinner and dance cruise running from Westminster Pier.
- Westminster Millennium Pier, Victoria Embankment, WC2N 6NU
The slick RIB (ridged inflatable boat) operation offers a thrilling, high-speed ride on the Thames. You can book by phone or online or turn up at London Eye Millennium Pier on spec. Arrive 20 minutes before the off to be kitted out with a waterproof jacket, a life jacket and goggle-style visors (fun in itself). The trip starts calmly enough and the guide tends to keep kids and adults entertained with fun facts and celebrity stories. Once the boat gets past Tower Bridge, it really speeds up. The cry goes out: 'Put your hand up if you want us to slow down.' If a small hand shoots up, they steady the boat. The next – 'Hold up a £20 note if you want to go faster' – has imploring young eyes answered with a collective parental 'No'. The boat zigzags excitingly, then turns around by Canary Wharf and speeds back to base. A great way to discover how exhilarating it can be to swoop along the Thames at almost 30 knots, leaving the lumbering traditional river cruisers far behind.
- Boarding Gate One, London Eye Millennium Pier, SE1 7PB
Running every 40 minutes, the boat service connecting London’s two Tate galleries, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, takes you through the heart of London, with plenty to see on both banks (head to the outdoor deck at the back of the boat for the best views). The catamaran service boasts specially commissioned exterior and interior designs by artist Damien Hirst, but there’s no commentary, so take a map. As well as offering tired artgazers a sit-down, the boat is the quickest way to flit from Tate to Tate – a painful journey any other way. Pick your favourite gallery first, as masterpiece-fatigue kicks in much faster second time around. Both galleries have lawns outside for a little fresh air before more artistic scrutiny.
- Bankside, SE1 9TG
River Bus services operating daily between Royal Arsenal Woolwich in the East and St George Wharf Vauxhall in the West. A daily commuter service operates every 20 minutes calling at all major central London piers. On event nights at The O2, the River Bus Express operates a fast direct shuttle service from London Eye (Waterloo), London Bridge and Canary Wharf with optional champagne upgrades. The Tate service runs every 40 minutes during gallery hours between Millbank Pier (Tate Britain) and Bankside Pier (Tate Modern and the Globe) via Waterloo Pier (for the London Eye). Tate members get 25% off travel on the Tate Service. River Roamer tickets are also available offering hop-on, hop-off unlimited travel between major attractions including London Eye, Aquarium, Globe, HMS Belfast and the Tower of London.
- Unit 12, The Riverside Building, Trinity Buoy Wharf, 64 Orchard Place, Docklands, E14 0JY
This sightseeing tour by land and water in a 1944 DUKW-style landing vehicle departs from outside Cutty Sark DLR on the corner of Greenwich High Street, and features two 'splashdowns' as it travels around Docklands, Canary Wharf and Greenwich. Tickets can be bought from the O2 Arena booking office as well as online.
- Cutty Sark DLR Station, Greenwich Church St, SE10 9BL
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Speedy boats, trundling double deckers, tandem bicycles or good old walking... Time Out's guide to great London sightseeing tours. View sightseeing tours