5 Best River Thames Boat Trips and Tours in London
Donna-Kay Delahaye is a London-based travel blogger and founder of Hues of Delahaye. A blog focusing on fabulous European city breaks for busy professionals, and helpful London/UK travel tips. Find out more
Flowing through the heart of London is the beautiful River Thames. The UK’s second-longest river, it has many of the capital’s famous landmarks on its banks, including the Tower of London, the London Eye, and many more — making it one of the best places to visit in London.
The River Thames is home to many enjoyable boat tours and cruises. These travel between various piers throughout the city, passing by royal palaces and iconic buildings and treating you to unobstructed views of the river and the surrounding scenery.
To ensure you have a memorable time, here is a guide to the best River Thames cruises, boat trips and tours.
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Enjoy a Thames river cruise with afternoon tea
A leisurely cruise is easily one of the best ways to experience the River Thames, and combining it with a British tradition makes it extra special. Book a River Thames cruise with afternoon tea to do just that.
Enjoy delicate cakes, little sandwiches, and fluffy scones paired with tea, coffee, or a glass of champagne as you marvel at London’s many historic buildings and attractions.
You can expect to see Shakespeare’s Globe, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, the Tate Modern, and so much more. Some cruises also pass by architectural wonders like The Shard — the tallest building in the UK.
So next time you’re planning a date or looking for a way to celebrate a special occasion, consider this London cruise, especially on a sunny day.
Take a speedboat ride down the River Thames
Thames river cruises are fun, but if you’re seeking a more thrilling experience, then why not hop on board a speedboat? This popular activity is adrenaline-packed and provides a fun-filled blend of sightseeing, speed, and action.
Making your way down the River Thames on a speedboat tour allows you to see the river and its surrounding scenery from a totally unique perspective. These begin at various piers throughout the city, so you can hop on and hop off for more of London’s top attractions.
Unleash your inner James Bond and enjoy the thrill as you speed by some of London’s most iconic landmarks and attractions. Keep an eye out for the towering Shard, world-famous Big Ben, the London Eye, and Tower Bridge.
You’ll also have the opportunity to view more modern sights like the Millennium Bridge and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.
While there’s plenty to see, much of these tours are about the speed. Experienced skippers kick the boat into overdrive, providing an aquatic experience like no other. Twists, turns, wave jumps, and more — this speedboat tour of the Thames has it all.
Following all the action, your River Thames speedboat tour will likely end with a leisurely ride back to your chosen pier. This will provide you with the perfect opportunity to see some of the sights you may have missed during the initial speed run. You’ll also have a chance to take more incredible photos and funny boat-hair selfies.
Tip: On these tours, you’re sure to get a little wet, so wear something waterproof to ensure a more comfortable experience.
Take a Thames river cruise to Greenwich
One of the most popular routes along the Thames, from Westminster to Greenwich, provides plenty of time to marvel at some of London’s must-see attractions, from Big Ben to The O2.
Westminster to Greenwich boat tours often feature guides who are full of personality and clued up on each of London’s many gems. Some tours also offer audio guides. Booking in advance means you can get straight on the boat when you arrive at the pier and don’t have to waste time in the ticket line.
Indulge in bubbly and canapés on a River Thames evening cruise
In search of the perfect date? Then you’re in luck as there’s nothing quite as romantic as a leisurely sunset cruise along the beautiful River Thames. A River Thames evening cruise provides an ideal setting to take in the views of London’s skyline as the city lights up. It’s a chance to see the city’s landmarks in a new light, literally.
To add to the laid-back ambiance, you can expect live musicians performing a range of jazz and pop songs. They may even take requests. Have them perform your special song and you’re sure to have a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Depending on the tour, you can also sip on glasses of bubbly and indulge in a tasty selection of canapés, or enjoy a romantic dinner on board for an extra special evening out.
Tip: Sunset cruises on the River Thames are best enjoyed in the summer when the evenings are warmer, and longer. Even during the summer months, a light jacket is still recommended.
See London on a hop-on hop-off sightseeing cruise
If you only have a day or two in London and wish to see its many attractions as well as the River Thames, then a hop-on hop-off cruise is the perfect activity for you. These tickets provide a 24-hour pass so you can experience most of the city’s highlights in a single day.
You’ll be able to board the hop-on hop-off boats at various times and from several piers throughout London. Common boarding points include Tower Pier, Westminster Pier, and Greenwich Pier.
You’ll find plenty to see and explore within walking distance of these piers. And best of all, a hop-on hop-off tour allows you to do so in your own time.
Near Westminster, you’ll see the famed Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, and Churchill War Rooms. You’ll also come across Westminster Abbey, where Prince William and Kate Middleton married.
As the name suggests, Tower Pier sits right beside Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Both of these are must-see attractions, so be sure to hop off here.
Greenwich Pier is another popular stop. You can spend hours walking around this area which provides a glimpse into London’s maritime history. See landmarks like the Royal Observatory, Queen’s House, and the Cutty Sark — the celebrated historic sailing ship.
Also, make time to stop by the popular Greenwich Market. This is a great family-friendly attraction offering everything from art and antiques to jewelry and clothing. And with over 45 food stalls, it’s also a good spot to grab a bite to eat.
Overall, the River Thames offers plenty of exciting experiences — whether you’re going sightseeing on a hop-on hop-off tour or relaxing on a laidback cruise with afternoon tea or champagne. Enjoy!