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 that are 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 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.
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.
Departing from Westminster Pier you can relax on deck or inside the boat to admire and photograph landmarks 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 (the 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'll 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.
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.
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 in a flexible way 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'.
Likewise, you can also choose to stay on board its deck or its interior glassed-in lounge during the hour-long crossing and enjoy the city's skyline while a guide explains the areas you will see, 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 stay 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 internet.
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.
Enjoy a dinner on board with the best views of the city.
If you want to get the most out of your experience on the Thames, this dinner on board the ship will make you feel like you're in a period movie while enjoying the illuminated city.
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. In order to take this cruise you must have 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
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 London's most popular skyline as seen from the Thames at the best price.
Jump on and off this boat tour
Perfect if you are looking for more flexibility and want the opportunity to hop on and off at your leisure to explore each area. In this case, the cruise will also serve as a means of transportation around the city.
Enjoy 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 on board the ship will make you feel like you're in a period movie while enjoying the illuminated city.
How to get to the Thames river cruise embarkation areas
Most of the 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 Underground
- Charing Cross train or subway
- Westminster Underground
- Tower Pier
- Tower Hill Underground
- Tower Gateway DLR light rail
- Fenchurch Street Railway Station
- 15, 15H, N15 and RV1 bus routes
- Cutty Sark Light Railway (DLR)
- Greenwich Railway
- 188, 199 and N1 bus lines
London Eye Pier
- Waterloo and London Waterloo Underground
- Bus Route RV1
Vicky's Traveller Tip
Try to cruise in good weather. If not, bring warm clothes so you can enjoy the views outside the ship.
Why it's worth taking a Thames River Cruise
For me, one of the great advantages of taking one of the many cruises on the River Thames is that you will be able to rest your exhausted legs after traveling tirelessly through a city with so much to see and do.
In addition, they are a saving of the traffic jams 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.
Other interesting attractions in London
If you have already decided on the cruise, my advice is to take the opportunity to see the whole area of Westminster Abbey, where you can embark to start the boat tour. Right there you will find the London Eye (this is the article I wrote about London Eye Tickets: how to buy, prices and schedules), a few meters from Westminster Abbey (here all the information about 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 about London Tours, which can help you to choose a good guided tour of the city where you can also learn the best kept secrets of the big city.
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.