Cruising Down the Thames River in London

thames london cruise
One more time with feeling, London.

London is the second most visited city in the world (after Hong Kong, for all of you playing at home). So, it’s not surprising that it’s rammed with people, any given day of the year. Back when I actually exercised, I’d find myself playing “dodge the selfie stick” when jogging around Southbank. This isn’t really a fun game.

Living in a city allows you to see a side of it that you normally wouldn’t. That’s nice, but it can be detrimental as well. I’ve been in London for almost two years now and there’s a lot I haven’t done. So long as the city is my home, I’m going to do my darnedest to rectify this situation.

thames london cruise
This is my favourite picture ever, by the way.

So – the aim is to do as many touristy things in London as possible, while avoiding the crowds. High up on the list was cruising down the River Thames.

Related: Two Year’s in London

Here are some points to consider before you go on your very own boat tour of England’s most famous river.

thames london cruise
Blue skies on one side, threatening storm clouds on the other.

Go When the Weather is Terrible

Wait – hear me out! Yes, it would be lovely to experience the city of London from its biggest body of water on a warm, sunny day. Yet let me assure you – essentially every tourist in the city is going to be having the same thought.

[bctt tweet=”Take a cruise down the Thames River to see an alternative view of #London.”]

My advice is to pick a day when the weather seems miserable. Did you wake up to grey skies with a possible chance of rain? Excellent! Grab a raincoat or thick jacket and get thee to the waterfront. Even better if it’s cold. Get on that boat and – I hope you’re listening here – sit on the top deck. Yes, it’s nice and snug on the lower level of the boat, but you’re made of tough stuff. You can sacrifice basic comforts like “staying dry” and “warmth” for an hour or so.

thames london cruise
I am cold but smiling because there is no one else around me.

Is this insane advice? Possibly, but consider this. You see, no one else in their right mind will sit on top of a boat in the middle of winter when it’s pissing down rain. Which means there’s a strong possibility that you will get the entire top deck to yourself. Without screaming children. This is a beautiful thing.

thames london cruise
Storm’s a brewin’.

I took a boat ride down the Thames with during the middle of a thunderstorm. Although I got a bit wet, I got to see London in all its most moody glory.

Related: Wandering Around London Bridge and Beyond

thames london cruise
The catamaran doesn’t have a top deck and is therefore inferior in my books.

Choose the Boat that’s Right for You

There are a few companies that conduct tours up and down the Thames.

If time is a concern, I’d go with the catamaran (picture above). It’s sleek and zippy, moving much faster than any other boat along the river.

thames london cruise
The Shard doesn’t stick out or anything.

The downside of the catamaran is that it has no upper deck. I ended up going with City Cruises, so that I could sit upstairs. The driver clearly thought I was a bit soft in the head, but it beat the view out the window any day.

thames london cruise
Aye, there be Canary Wharf.

Start From Greenwich or Westminster

THIS IS IMPORTANT. To enjoy the full splendour of the River Thames, you should start at either end. Okay, this isn’t imperative, as you can embark upon the boat from both the London Eye and Tower of London. Yet, I feel that by doing this, you miss out on a certain something.

thames london cruise
Oh look, a British icon.

I would personally start at Greenwich and head to Westminster from there. Greenwich is a busy little hub in itself, but rather less so than Westminster. Once there, you can check out some of the sights, like touring Westminster itself or the Churchill War Rooms. So, you’ll have far less people to contend with when trying to nab a bit of space. And as aforementioned, time it right weather wise (with the poorest conditions imaginable) and you’ll double your chances of having the top of the boat entirely to yourself.

thames london cruise
Millennium Bridge and the Tate Modern.

Aim for a Weekday

This is pretty self explanatory. Although London is bustling all year round, at least a chunk of the city’s inhabitants will be stuck at work during the week (and more importantly, their children will be in school).

Related: How to London Like a Local

And for goodness sake, avoid the school holidays if at all possible!

thames london cruise
Peekaboo Gherkin.

Be Aware that Having a Travelcard Saves You Cash on Your Ticket

If you’ve purchased a travelcard for your London travels, flash it when buying your ticket. The cruises aren’t just for tourists – commuters use them to get from point A to B. So, you’ll get a saving on your ticket. And as anyone who has travelled to England’s capital knows – every penny counts.

Why I Rate a Boat Cruise Down the Thames

Why go to all this effort? Well, a couple of reasons.

The first is that boats are awesome. This is a known fact.

That and that you see the city from a different point of view, which opens up the prospect of finding out information unique to that particular perspective. I work pretty much opposite the Tower of London and see it all the time. Yet, if it not for that boat tour I’d not have found out about the Traitor’s Gate at the front of the Tower. It served not only a water gate entrance to the home of the royal family – it was where they displayed the heads of recently executed prisoners, sticking them on spikes!

thames london cruise
If you learn something new every day, then this was the day I learnt about Traitor Gate.

For cities as immense, sprawling and history ridden as London, it’s worth taking the time out to experience them from alternating perspective. The option is of course entirely up to you – whether that be a bird’s eye view, on foot, or when cruising along the city’s famous body of water.

Fancy doing the cruise yourself? Click here for prices and availability.

What are your favourite tourist activities to do in London?

Pin me baby one more time.

See an alternative view of London, by taking a cruise down the Thames River from Greenwich to Westminster. Here's how to make the most of your tour.

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