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Thames River Cruises in London

Cruising the waters of the Thames and enjoying the views of the city while taking a relaxing boat ride will be the highlight of your trip.

Vicky Del Moral

Vicky Del Moral

7 min read

Thames River Cruises in London

Thames River Cruise | ©Jose Carlos Bartolome

From the water you will see a different side of London while learning about its history. Thames cruises can be closed tours or operate as a sightseeing "bus" on the most important river in England.

There are many tours organized on the waters of the Thames River, from the most economical to the most exclusive, with on-board services such as dinners and live shows. These are the most popular ones:

The most economical

Thames River Cruise

The essential tour of London from the Thames

Perfect if you want to rest and relax for a while from long walks around the city while enjoying the most popular skyline of London seen from the Thames at the best price.

Duration: 1 hour

With departures every 30 to 40 minutes, the one-hour cruise on the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich is a one-hour closed boat tour, with a very economical price (it is the cheapest of the three that I recommend here) and very practical to know the skyline of London and up to 13 of its major attractions located on the banks of the river.

Boat on the Thames| ©Scott Anderson
Boat on the Thames| ©Scott Anderson

Departing from Westminster Pier you can relax on the deck or inside the boat to admire and photograph points of interest of the city such as the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, among others, while a guide (audio is also available in Spanish), will be explaining facts of everything you see.

Once you arrive at Greenwich, the end point of the cruise, you can disembark and visit, on your own, several of the attractions in the area, such as the Cutty Sark exhibition ship, Greenwich Park, the National Maritime Museum or the Royal Observatory of Greenwich. In addition, if you wish, you can return to the starting point, Westminster, on board the same cruise ship.

Why I like this option: this is a great way to enjoy the experience at a reduced price and without having to invest too much time either. You will be able to see London's main attractions from the river while you rest.

Recommended if... you don't have much time or don't want to invest a lot of money in this experience but want to enjoy the highlights of the city as seen from the river.

The most flexible

Hop on Hop Off Thames River Cruise

Hop on and off this boat tour on the Thames at your leisure.

Perfect if you are looking for more flexibility and want the opportunity to hop on and off whenever you want to explore each area. In this case, the cruise will also serve as a means of transportation around the city.

Duration: 1 hour

Another way, the most flexible, to take advantage of a cruise on the River Thames, is to use it as if it were a tourist bus. Just as the previous cruise was a closed tour, in this one-day cruise on the River Thames with free stops you buy your ticket to be able to use it flexibly for a full day.

That is, you can board at the various docks available in central London and go up and down as many times as you want in any of its 12 stops around points of interest such as the 'Tower of London', the 'Greenwich' district, the 'Old Royal Naval College' or the large business complex 'Canary Wharf'.

City Cruises' pier| ©Sajeel Munir
City Cruises' pier| ©Sajeel Munir

Likewise, you can also choose to stay aboard its deck or its interior glassed-in lounge during the hour-long crossing and quietly enjoy the city's skyline while a guide gives explanations of the areas that you will see, but only in English.

This option includes a 1-day pass with free stops at up to 12 points of interest and with a total duration of 1 hour. During the tour, there are audio commentaries on board, which will contextualize everything you see.

Why I like this option: first of all, because you can be on board the ship for as long as you want, getting on and off at different places to see different areas and because it is certainly more enjoyable than traveling... on the metro.

Recommended if... you want to take advantage of the cruise to move between different areas of the city and also enjoy a relaxing ride on board.

The most exclusive option

Thames River Dinner Cruise

Enjoy a dinner on board with the best views of the city.

If you want to make the most of your experience on the Thames, this dinner aboard the ship will make you feel like you're in a period movie while enjoying the illuminated city.

Duration: 3 hours

This is the most premium cruise of the three and logically, also the most expensive. This dinner cruise on the Thames River is ideal if you want to treat yourself to a romantic evening with your partner or a moment of relaxation while admiring London and its monuments illuminated at dusk. You will enjoy a dinner with live music show aboard a luxurious boat.

You will board the River Room, an elegant Scandinavian cruise ship equipped with a dining room and a large outdoor terrace, or the newly refurbished Glass Room, with some of the best panoramic views of London and attractions such as Tower Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral and Big Ben, among the 7 totals it crosses. In addition, you can upgrade your cruise by choosing the Premier Dinner option, which entitles you to half a bottle of wine.

Please note that this is not the most recommended cruise for families because, although you can travel with small children, their entry is not allowed for children under 12 years old. This cruise requires good weather and a minimum number of passengers, with a maximum of 15 passengers per voyage. If the cruise is cancelled due to bad weather conditions or not reaching the minimum number of tourists, you will be offered another date to enjoy it or a full refund of the amount paid.

It is recommended to dress casually but elegant for this cruise. Vegetarian and other adapted diets are also available, but must be booked at least 48 hours in advance.

Why I like this option: enjoying a dinner aboard a luxurious boat while sailing the waters of the Thames watching the city illuminated will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable points of your trip to the capital of England.

Recommended if... you feel like enjoying a totally different and unique romantic evening.

In summary, we compare the three options

How to get to the embarkation areas of the Thames river cruises

Views of Tower Bridge from the River
Views of Tower Bridge from the River

Most Thames river cruises depart from the docks in central London and have public transport nearby and in the case of the flexible cruise you can also access from any of its stops at the above attractions.

Embankment Pier

  • Embankment Underground
  • Charing Cross train or tube

Westminster Pier

  • Westminster Underground
  • Tower Pier
  • Tower Hill Underground
  • Tower Gateway DLR light rail
  • Fenchurch Street Railway Station
  • 15, 15H, N15 and RV1 bus routes

Greenwich Pier

  • Cutty Sark Light Railway (DLR)
  • Greenwich Railway
  • 188, 199 and N1 bus lines

London Eye Pier

  • Waterloo and London Waterloo Underground
  • Bus Route RV1

Book a Thames Sunset Cruise

Why a Thames sunset cruise is worthwhile

Sailing under Blackfriars Bridge
Sailing under Blackfriars Bridge

For me, one of the great advantages of taking one of the many cruises on the River Thames is that you can rest your tired legs after traveling tirelessly through a city with so much to see and do.

In addition, they are a saving of the traffic jams that you can suffer on the bus or the crowds of people crowding the subways.

These cruises are ideal to get an overall idea of the physiognomy of the city or to see its monuments from another perspective. I recommend them especially if you are traveling with children as it is a fun and comfortable way to get an overall idea of what London is like and visit some of its main points of interest.

In addition, it connects two of the main tourist attractions of the city: the area of Westminster Abbey, where are the well-known Big Ben and London Eye with the areas of the City and St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London.

Book a Thames cruise with lunch

Other interesting attractions in London

Sunset at the London Eye| ©Stevieboy55
Sunset at the London Eye| ©Stevieboy55

If you have already decided to take the cruise, my advice is to take the opportunity to visit the Westminster Abbey area, from where you can embark to start the boat tour. Right there you will find the London Eye (this is the article I have written about London Eye Tickets: how to buy, prices and schedules), a few meters from the Westminster Abbey (here all the information on London Westminster Abbey Tickets: how to buy and prices) and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

If what interests you is to walk around the city and enjoy it understanding what you see, you can take a look at my article on London Tourswhich can help you to choose a good guided tour of the city where you can learn the best kept secrets of the big city.

Book a cruise on the Thames with dinner and live music

Frequently asked questions

  • How long do Thames river cruises usually last?

    They usually take about 2 hours, as most of them are return cruises. Dinner cruises and other experiences may take a little longer, so a good tip is to plan your night accordingly.

  • Are there vegetarian and gluten-free menus?

    Yes, but you must notify the cruise company at least 24 hours in advance that you want an adapted menu. It is not guaranteed that all menus and products are suitable for all types of allergy or intolerance, as well as that they are 100% free of nuts.

  • What points of interest in the city can be seen from the Thames cruise?

    You will have the opportunity to enjoy views of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, as well as some other minor points of interest.