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Thames River: Tours and Guided Visits

The Thames River runs through the heart of London and boasts some of its most vibrant attractions, and nightlife on its banks.

One way to see an abundance of the city's sights is by hopping on a boat and taking an unique and worthwhile experience Thames River tour.

You can admire London's spectacular architecture, learn about the city's colorful history and immerse yourself in British culture on one of these river cruises.

Here's all you need to know about Thames River tours, one of the most exhilarating sightseeing options tours in London.

Where is the Thames River located?

The Thames River is the longest river in England, stretching over 340 kilometers across nine counties, including London, and out to the North Sea.

It flows through the center of the city, separating renowned sights, such as the Houses of Parliament from other attractions including the London Eye.

The nearest overground train station to the Thames River is Charing Cross, located less than 5 minutes walk away. You can reach this station from many other destinations across the city.

Alternatively, you can hop on an underground train and follow the Circle, District, Bakerloo or Northern Line to Embankment, which is less than half a kilometer from the river's banks.

What are the best things to do on the Thames River?

Tower of London

The Tower of London — officially His Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London — is one of the city's four UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites.

Originally built during the Norman Conquest in the 11th century, the tower once served as a palace for William the Conqueror. It was then used as a prison for over 800 years and housed many criminals, including the infamous Kray twins.

During this time, Henry VIII ordered his second wife, Anne Boleyn, to be executed by decapitation after failing to produce a male heir.

Today, the Tower of London houses the prized collection of Crown Jewels and holds nine captive ravens who are said to protect both the tower, and the monarch. It is believed that if these birds ever left, the crown and the country would fall.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Another of the biggest attractions on the Thames River is the city's largest religious monument — St. Paul's Cathedral.

The original church that was erected on the site of St. Paul's Cathedral was built in 604 A.D. in total, four cathedrals have existed on this land, and its last reconstruction happened after the Great Fire of London in the 17th century.

The architect behind the project was the well-renowned Christopher Wren, who is buried on-site.

Many interesting individuals have tombs inside the large crypt and several large-scale celebrations have been held here, including the wedding of Prince Charles, and Lady Diana in 1981.

What are the best tours to visit the Thames River?

Westminster to the Tower of London Thames River cruise

Boarding your vessel at one of the most visited spots in the city — Westminster — you'll see London's most iconic buildings from the water.

Sail past the Houses of Parliament, originally built in the 11th century, and the clock tower of Big Ben — officially named the Elizabeth Tower after the former queen of England.

You'll make your way to the Tower of London, where an ominous legend states that if any of its resident ravens ever leave, the kingdom will fall, seeing many of the city's sights along the way.

Hop off the boat at a variety of locations along the river to immerse yourself fully in London's rich culture, such as Embankment, Bankside and the East End.

Canary Wharf speedboat tour

Leaving the main business district of London — Canary Wharf — you'll get yourself settled on deck for a thrilling speedboat ride down the Thames River.

As you zip through the waters, you'll see the city's most spectacular highlights, including St. Paul's Cathedral, where a church has existed since the 7th century.

You'll also see the ominous Tower of London, which was built by William the Conqueror and has been used as a palace, a prison, and a fortress over the last 11 centuries.

You'll also witness the enormity of Western Europe's tallest building — the Shard — which is formed of 11,000 glass panels.

As you travel past these fascinating landmarks, your guide will fill you in on their history, giving you a well-rounded view of London's heritage.

Harry Potter film locations tour plus Thames River cruise

Start this excursion with a walking tour of London, weaving your way in and out of the city's most intriguing monuments.

You'll follow in the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione as you see many Harry Potter filming locations from the "Harry Potter" franchise.

Among these landmarks are the real-life Diagon Alley, where you'll find more spots serving coffee than pumpkin juice, and Kings Cross Station.

This railway station acts as a portal to the wizarding world through its world-famous platform 9 ¾ and is the perfect place to snap a magical shot.

You'll also visit the setting of Gringott's Bank and the Leaky Cauldron, as well as the locations of several battle scenes.

Let your inner movie geek out with a guide who is just as enthusiastic about the franchise as you and provides an exciting, and energetic city tour of London.

Then, board a boat and head down the Thames River to discover the attractions that line its banks.

Afternoon tea Thames River tour

Enjoy a touch of British charm as you sail down the Thames River while enjoying a spot of afternoon tea.

Sit down to a selection of English favorites — finger sandwiches, miniature pastries and scones with cream, and jam — while a commentator points out the monuments around you.

Wash your feast down with an afternoon staple — a copious amount of English tea — as you admire Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and St. Paul's Cathedral.

You'll also see the 20th-century Oxo Tower and London Bridge, which connects different parts of the city.

Crown Jewels of London tour plus river cruise

This half-day tour guides you through two of London's most celebrated landmarks before relaxing on a boat tour along its riverway.

You'll visit St. Paul's Cathedral — home to the largest crypt in Europe — where you'll see the tombs of several famous faces, including Horatio Nelson, Christopher Wren and Alexander Fleming.

You'll also step inside the Tower of London and catch a glimpse of the dazzling crown jewels that have been guarded here for over 500 years. Finally, you'll journey along the Thames River to Westminster, enjoying London's historic architecture.

What are the prices of Thames River tours?

The most budget-friendly way to see the city is on a Thames River tour from Westminster to the Tower of London.

These excursions cost just over £10 per person for a one-way trip. A Harry Potter tour and river cruise costs between £20, and £30 per person.

You'll pay just over £30 per head for an afternoon tea Thames River cruise, which includes food and unlimited hot beverages.

If you wish to zoom through the waters on a speedboat, you can do so for around £50 each.

Alternatively, a Crown Jewels of London tour costs approximately £90 per person.

Where do Thames River tours start?

Thames River tours begin at a range of locations along the stretch of water, including Westminster and Canary Wharf.

London has an excellent public transportation system, which includes regular bus services and underground train routes that will take you within close proximity of these well-known spots along the Thames.

You can see the meeting place of each tour before booking so that you can plan your transportation ahead of time.

When is the best time to visit the Thames River?

The best time to take a Thames River excursion depends on the type of experience you're looking for. If you wish to see as many of London's most spectacular monuments as possible in all their glory, you should choose a daytime excursion.

However, if you're interested in seeing the city from a different perspective, hop aboard your vessel at night when millions of twinkling lights illuminate London town.

Another popular time of day to book a Thames River tour is in the mid-afternoon, in time to enjoy a British classic — afternoon tea — while meandering along the water.

Travel tips

  • It can be windy and cold along the Thames River, depending on the time of year you're visiting London. Bring a spare layer with you, just in case you find yourself a bit chilly.
  • If you suffer from seasickness, take the appropriate medication before setting off on your tour of the Thames River, as the ride can get a little choppy.
  • Book your Thames River tour for the summer months, when the weather is balmy, for the most enjoyable experience.

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