Best Thames river cruises in London
Bring your waterproofs, because the slick RIB (rigid inflatable boat) operation offers a high-speed ride on the Thames. It's a great way to discover how exhilarating it can be to swoop along the Thames at almost 30 knots – that’s nearly 35 mph, nautical novices! We're not sure how much you'll actually be able to see, but there are plenty more leisurely-paced tours for that sorta thing.
A good river cruise for those who want a spot of grub while taking in the sights along the Thames – Bateaux offer a full range of different dining cruises. There’s the lunch, afternoon tea and dinner cruise – or you could really pull the stops out and enjoy their three-course lunch with a live jazz band playing assorted swingin’ classics. All river cruises depart from Victoria Embankment.
Want to see the city in style? City cruises operate on a hop-on, hop-off basis and run from Westminster, Waterloo, Tower and Greenwich Piers with commentary along the way. All the departure points are convenient for the city’s various sights, with Greenwich Pier ideal for the Cutty Sark, the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory.
Praise whichever brilliant mind decided to paint the scant remaining WW2 landing vehicles in bright, rubber-duck yellow! These duck city tours take in all the typical land-based sights – then has two ‘splashdowns’ into the Thames as it goes into nautical mode and takes passengers around Docklands, Canary Wharf and Greenwich.
Imagine a rollercoaster on the river and you'll have a good idea of the Thames RIB Experience. Fly across the water in these speed boats, which speed along at an impressive 40-45mph. You can choose between 75, 50 and 20-minute journeys along various stretches of the river. In case you were wondering, lifejackets and waterproofs are provided. Before you know it, you’ll be whizzing around in figure-eights in the open water between Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf. Without a doubt, the most thrilling journey you’ll do on the Thames.
Thames River Boats take you all the way from the Palace of Westminster upriver to Hampton Court Palace. It’s a pretty leisurely 22-mile journey: in 90 minutes you’ll be at Kew; in another 90, you’ll be at Hampton Court. But this westward route is a lovely way to appreciate the Thames, as the banks get greener, less cluttered with high-rise buildings and the river buses are replaced by rowers.
Given their leisurely 30mph pace, you're unlikely to find a Thames Clipper crammed with commuters, but that means loads of seats are freed up for those enjoying a fun day out. You can hop on at any of the 22 piers along the river, from Battersea to Greenwich, with your Oyster card (£4.10-£7.50) and enjoy a pleasant ride past landmarks like the London Eye, Tower Bridge and The O2.
Two tours rolled into one: on the road, and on the river. The first takes you from Victoria Coach Station on a restored double-decker bus, and puts you aboard a Thames cruise. Sights you’ll cruise by include Shakespeare’s Globe, Cleopatra’s Needle and London Bridge – then, when you arriving at Embankment pier, where you hop back on the bus and head straight to Buckingham Palace. (Tea with the Queen isn’t included, sadly.)
A connecting service between either art institution, the Tate to Tate Boat runs every 40 minutes. Aside from getting you from one gallery to another, it’s also great for taking in lots of central London scenery. As you might expect, the boat itself is an arty affair: YBA Damien Hirst covered both the exterior and interior with his trademark spots. It’s also genuinely the quickest way to travel from Tate to Tate – this way, you avoid an irritatingly convoluted tube or bus journey.