I think this river cruises are just one of the things that most people overlook when traveling to London. The usual thing to do is city bus tours – which I totally get. If you’re crammed for time, a city bus tour will get you all over so you can snap a thousand photos of a thousand things and maybe, maybe get off and go look at some of them. I get it.
And while I respect and have experienced that kind of crammed go, go, go! travel…it’s just not how I do things anymore. I still get the urge to shove a whole day in a major city just because I’m already in Europe and it’s so close yet so impractical and I think people do this a lot in London because it always gets pegged as the “easy first European city to visit” for Americans. If you take away anything from the series of London Gems posts it should be that 1) London is easy if you plan ahead (and have a smartphone because they don’t have gridded streets…that paper map is useless!) and 2) there is so much more to London than Harrod’s, old-timey pubs, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace. Whenever I get a chance at a day or so layover in London, I take it. And you should to so that if you don’t give yourself loads of time for one go at it, you can see it slowly and do the things you really want to do, not the things you think you have to.
I had the benefit and the privelege to do a summer short-term in London which gave me the opportunity to explore the city more deeply and more importantly, slowly. One of my favorite things was the city water ferry along the Thames. While there are river tours (and these come with the full benefit of commentary), I prefer the river bus. You can download a sight-seeing app to use while you travel and it will take you past many major sites on your way to some of the less traveled, less touristy parts of London.
The Thames Clippers have five routes and are very affordable with departures from many major piers along the river at roughly every twenty minutes. They are also almost all wheelchair accessible. If you get a Visitor Oyster Card, you can either pay single fares or use an unlimited daily pass to use all forms of public transit, including the Clippers.
Take the RB1 from Westminster for stops along the way and you’ll see the following:
- Tate Britain
- Houses of Parliament
- Big Ben
- SEA Life London Aquarium
- The London Dungeon
- The London Eye – for nearby Somerset House, Courtauld Gallery, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square
- Tate Modern – for the nearby Museum of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Guildhall
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
- HMS Belfast
- Borough Market
- The Shard
- Tower of London – for nearby London Wall, Leadenhall Market, Monument to the Great Fire of London
- Tower Bridge
- Greenwich for Museum of the Docklands, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum, and the O2 for concerts