See London's most beautiful monuments on the River Thames

The Thames is an inseparable part of the London landscape. The famous river rises at Thames Head in Gloucestershire and flows 346 kilometres into the North Sea. The Thames has always held a special place in the hearts of Londoners and, more generally, the English. It is an integral part of London's history, and the city would probably never have existed without it! People draw water, food and energy from it, and it is also a major trade route. Today, most of London's major monuments, both ancient and modern, are located on the banks of the Thames, confirming its importance over time. You can see them from a whole new angle on a cruise along the river. Cradled by the waves, you'll pass through different districts and eras thanks to explanatory commentaries, and learn more about the British capital and the river that runs through it.

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The Thames in history

In 55 BC, Julius Caesar attempted to invade the United Kingdom but his progress was halted by a river he named Tamesis. In 43 AD, the Roman emperor Claudius also attempted to enter the country. He succeeded by sailing up the river and setting up a base some fifty kilometres from the estuary: London, then called Londonium, was born. The Romans took advantage of this strategic position on the Thames to develop the city's international trade. However, they abandoned the city in 407, and it remained abandoned for almost 150 years.

The Palace of Westminster on the banks of the Thames.

- © Mistervlad / Shutterstock

Around 600 AD, the Anglo-Saxons gradually settled back in. It was William the Conqueror who relaunched trade via the Thames and thus the city's international appeal. London then had a population of 30,000. Activity on the Thames continued to grow and, thanks to it, London became the vibrant megalopolis we know today.

What can you see on the banks of the Thames?

A cruise on the River Thames takes in many of London's most famous landmarks. Embarking at Westminster Pier, you can already admire Westminster Palace and Big Ben. A little further on, the eye of the London Eye seems to be watching over the river. Then we pass the strange Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on our right, but don't forget to glance left for a glimpse of the impressive St Paul's Cathedral.

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You then arrive near the Tower of London, behind which the silhouette of the Gherkin building, with its gherkin shape, lends itself to a smile. On the other side, The Shard towers 310 metres above the city. Finally, we pass under the magnificent Tower Bridge to explore Canary Wharf and Greenwich. On the way, you won't want to miss the Cutty Sark, an old sailing ship used to trade tea and wool in the 19th century.

How to discover the Thames

Of course, you can follow the banks of the Thames on foot or by bike, or even by car, but the best way to discover London's famous river is by boat. There are a thousand and one cruises on the Thames. The most classic, offered by all the companies, is a round trip between Westminster and Greenwich lasting around two hours. The trip is accompanied by commentary from a guide or audio guides who tell you more about the monuments you pass along the way.

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Hop-on hop-off boats are also very popular with visitors: these fly boats stop at London's main points of interest, and you can hop on and off whenever you like. It's the perfect option for alternating between sightseeing and cruising.

Those in search ofunusual activities will also find something to suit them on the Thames. As well as the traditional dinner and cocktail cruises, companies are increasingly organising original cruises.

New Year's Eve fireworks in London.

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One example is the off-board cruise, which promises thrills as you take on the role of James Bond in a chase. A quieter option, the tea time cruise is a good way to get into the English spirit, sipping tea and biscuits while admiring London's most beautiful monuments. At New Year's Eve, special cruises offer a unique view of the New Year's fireworks from the London Eye.

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Practical information for a cruise on the Thames

A guided cruise on the Thames is the best way to discover London's most important monuments and learn all their secrets, so don't miss out on one on your next trip to England!

📍 Where to take a cruise on the Thames

There are five piers where you can board cruise ships:

  • Westminster Pier
  • London Eye Pier
  • Embankment Pier
  • Tower Pier
  • Greenwich Pier

The London Eye on the banks of the Thames.

- © Roman Babakin / Shutterstock

⏰ Schedules for Thames cruises

Timetables vary, of course, depending on the type of cruise, the season and the company you choose. For classic cruises, expect a departure every 40 minutes or so. The best thing to do is to get information directly online or at the chosen service provider.

👛 Price of a cruise on the Thames

The price of a standard cruise varies between €15 and €20, depending on the company and the route taken. For special services, contact the company directly.

👉 Good to know: some cruises are included in the London Pass, the Go London Explorer Pass or the London City Card!

by Editorial Team
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