London from the Thames
From London Eye Pier to Greenwich and beyond:
Viewing London from the Thames via the Thames Clipper River Bus
London, England is a delightful city to visit and explore. During my several visits there over the years, I’ve discovered the city via foot and bus. When British friends suggested a day trip along the Thames via river bus, I jumped at the opportunity. With my friends acting as tour guides and pointing out landmarks, the river cruise provided a brilliant new view of the city.
We boarded at the Embankment Pier. The Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, and Convent Garden are nearby. The Embankment is the result of a 19th century civil engineering project which reclaimed marshy land from the Thames River. It incorporates a sewer and underground railway over which a road and riverside walkway have been built.
We travelled west to London Eye Pier, the western end of the blue line. The London Eye, the London Aquarium, and the London Dungeon can be found at this stop. We stayed on the boat as it began its eastward journey and continued on to the end of the line at North Greenwich. We did our hopping on and off on the return journey.
We continued past Blackfriars Pier. From 1221 to 1538, the Blackfriars Monastery, a wealthy and influential institution, was located on the riverside. Temple Church is a 10 minute walk to the northwest and St. Paul’s Cathedral is a 10 minute walk to the northeast.
Bankside Pier, the next stop, is where you’ll find the Globe Theatre, the theatre built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s playing company, and the Tate Modern art gallery. One stop further, London Bridge City Pier, is the Shard. This 1,016 foot tall building is almost twice the size of any other building in London and offers panoramic views of the city from levels 68, 69, and 72. At this stop you also find the HMS Belfast, a museum ship which was once a Royal Navy light cruiser.
The Tower Millennium Pier offers access to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, one of the world’s most famous fortresses, founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century.
Canary Wharf offers access to the Docklands area, once a series of docks serving as the hub for British seaborne trade. The Upper Pool docks closed in the 1960s. Redevelopment of the area into new commercial and residential space began in the 1980s. The Museum of London Docklands provides a look at the history of the port of London from the times of Roman settlement to modern regeneration.
After cruising past Greenland and Masthouse Terrace piers, we reached Greenwich Pier. The ensemble of buildings and the park in which they are set are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings include the Queen’s House, the old Royal Naval College, built by Christopher Wren and the Royal Observatory, home of Greenwich Mean Time. Here you will also find the Cutty Sark, a British clipper ship built in 1869.
At the most eastern end of the blue line, North Greenwich Pier, you find the O2 exhibition arena, originally built as the Millennium Dome. At this stop you also find the Emirate Air Line over the Thames, London’s first and only urban cable car experience. At this stop we transferred to the Weekend Woolwich Shuttle and continued one stop further past the Thames Barrier, before beginning our return journey.
The Thames Barrier, one of the world’s largest movable flood barriers, has been operational since 1982. Its purpose is to prevent all but the easternmost boroughs of London from flooding due to high tides or storm surges. The Barrier is made up of 10 gates buried 24 metres into the river bed. When needed, the rotating cylindrical gates are raised to stop the flow of water. Due to changing tidal levels, the Barrier is being raised with increased frequency.
Coffee shops, restaurants, and pubs near each pier offer opportunity to satisfy hunger and quench thirst. We chose the following refreshment stops:
The Grapes has been in operation since 1583. It is now owned by actor Sir Ian McKellan, whose notable film roles include Gandalf in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The pub was once frequented by Charles Dickens. Drawings of Dickens and Dickens’ characters adorn the walls. And on one corner ledge, in front of the drawings, sits a statue of Gandalf.
Parliament Room in George Inn near London Bridge
The George Inn at 77 Borough Street, Southwark, is an authentic 17th century coaching inn. It is the last remaining galleried inn in London. The current building dates to 1676. Although the northern portion of the building was torn down in 1874, the southern portion remains original. It was in the Parliament Room in this section where we ate dinner, a very good traditional meal. William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens both frequented this inn. It is mentioned in Dickens’ book Little Dorrit.
There are several types of tickets available on the Thames Clipper, including single and return timed tickets. To spend the day hopping on and off, purchase the River Roamer or Family River Roamer. The route from London Eye Pier to North Greenwich takes just under an hour. Departures are approximately every twenty minutes during the day. The Weekend Woolwich Shuttle operates only on Saturdays and Sundays. Monday through Friday, the bus runs to and from Woolwich at select times, during rush hour. For complete timetable and ticket information, refer to the Thames Clipper website.
It is not possible to hop off and visit all the attractions at each stop in one day. Choose one or two or three and save the rest for another time.
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Hi, Donna. Thx so much for bringing these memories to me. We have taken a similar touch and enjoyed it immensely. London and area is a destination like no other.
Glad to bring back some memories, Doreen. Love London.
Loved seeing these pictures! I’ve not been to London in several years, and this post made me want to go back! I never did this cruise, but it really does look like great fun and you get to see so much. When I get back there, and I will….I’ll do that!
Jacquie, glad you enjoyed the pictures. If you haven’t been to London in years, you might be surprised by the change in the skyline. So many new tall buildings. And cranes everywhere – many more being constructed.
Such an amazing city and I greatly enjoyed my virtual tour with you as well as your many tips on things to see and places to eat. I’ll be bookmarking this post for a long awaited visit, hopefully in the near future. It looks like your London friends did a “brilliant” job of pointing out landmarks and the riverboat on the Thames sounds like a great way to see more of the city. P.S. We have English friends who use “brilliant” a lot to describe things they like – I love it! Anita
Thanks Anita. I love the term “brilliant”. One of my British friends said it wasn’t used that much anymore, but then I heard it used many times on my trip – by her and others. Some things are just best described as “brilliant” – like the job our friends did as tour guides.
The Thames Clipper River Bus looks like a great way to explore London …an excellent way to avoid the traffic too!
Yes, London traffic can be quite congested, even with the new Congestion Zone fees.
Perfect timing! I’m heading to London in January and will bookmark your post for my trip! Thanks for sharing.
Janice, I hope you have a great time in London. I will be posting a few posts about London in the next few weeks.
We were in London almost at the same time! Too bad we didn’t have time together. Besides, I was there to visit my seventh grandchild so I was home most of the time. I have not seen much of what you saw on that river bus, haven’t heard of it til you. You had brilliant tour guides!
Carol, we were pretty busy while we were there too and only in the London area for part of our trip. Our tour guides were brilliant – great to see the city with someone who grew up there and loves it. Enjoy your grandchild.
What a wonderful way to see the city. We will definitely try this next time we are in London. Thanks!
I’m sure you’ll enjoy the view from the river bus.
I love the old and new mixed in, London from the water is really spectacular
Noel, it really is quite something to see the new and old from the water.
Love the views from the river! The last time we were in London we also did a river tour and I loved it!
I hope you had as clear a day as we had for our river ride.
What a fun way to see the city of London. I haven’t been to London in nearly 30 years, way too long. Must be time to return. Have you wondered what the fascination is with enormous Ferris Wheels popping up in every major city around the world?
There have been a lot of changes in the skyline in 30 years. I cannot explain the Ferris Wheel phenomenon.
I’m a sucker for river travel and the perspective from water level. It would be fun to travel the Thames further out of the city, too.
Kristin, it is a different view from the river, isn’t it? I agree a river trip further along the Thames would be also be fun.
We’ve been to London several times, and though I plan to go on a river tour, for some reason it doesn’t happen. Your trip shows it is a great way to experience London, so next time for sure!
London looks so nice. It’s on my bucket list. I’m planning on going there next June.
Hi Donna, very well written – full of useful tips. I loved reading it. I will be travelling to London very soon and i have saved your article. We are on same group of Pinterest so i have even saved your pin in my wall.
Priyanka, enjoy London when you get there. It is one of my favourite cities.