The River Thames is perhaps the most iconic part of London’s landscape. Spanning over 215 miles, it was how the Romans first reached London, establishing a port, named Londinium close to where London Bridge stands today. Since then, the river has acted a vital trade route and has also been the setting for many of Britain’s most significant historic events. Today it’s also an excellent and underused way see some of the capital’s best sights. We suggest buying a River Roamer day pass for the London’s River Bus services and make a day of it by following the tour below.
Start from Westminster Pier, a mile’s walk from the hotel, and slip upstream to Millbank. Visit two of Britain’s foremost art galleries in one day with the dedicated Tate to Tate riverboat service. Begin at the Tate Britain which was built towards the end of the 19th Century on the site of a former prison. The building is home to a comprehensive collection of national artwork from 1500 to the present day. It’s a skilfully curated mix of all artistic media, from painting to video and installation and it’s frequently hosts major exhibitions, including the Turner Prize. Board the River Bus at nearby Millbank.
The short trip will take you past the historic Lambeth Palace, which has been the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, for almost 800 years. Just opposite this, day trippers will also spot the Palace of Westminster or as it’s better known, the Houses of Parliament and the distinctive London Eye on the right side of the riverbank.
Disembark at Bankside, the home of the Tate Modern, which occupies the former Bankside Power Station and is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world. Expect an internationally renowned collection ofartistss such as Matisse, Picasso, Dali and Rothko alongside artworks by lesser-known artists and thought-provoking temporary exhibitions.
Tower of London
From Bankside, it’s a short London River Bus ride to the Tower of London, one of London’s most instantly recognisable monuments. Whilst the Tower is better known as a prison, it is officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress and has played a significant part in British history since the 12th century, acting as a prison, palace and fortress. Today, its most popular attraction is the Crown Jewels, a collection of 23, 578 gemstones that are used for royal ceremonies and remain under armed guard in the Tower.
The RB1 River Bus route heads further east from the Tower of London, offering visitors an opportunity to explore London’s historic Greenwich neighbourhood. The Royal Museums at Greenwich are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and include the National Maritime Museum, Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory, and are well worth visiting. Refuel with lunch at The Old Brewery which is located moments from Cutty Sark. This chic gastropub is housed within the Old Royal Naval Collage and serves a seasonal British menu alongside an expert selection of London craft beers and artisan spirits.
Get back on the London River Bus heading west in order to end your day at London Bridge. Alight here to climb The Shard, London’s tallest building, and enjoy the unparalleled views afforded by London’s highest viewing platform. On a clear day, the views from here stretch for almost 40 miles. Then head down to level 33 of The Shard to have dinner at Hutong, which is well loved thanks to its combination of fantastic Northern Chinese fare and jaw-dropping views.
Occupying a coveted location opposite Buckingham Palace, you’ll be perfectly placed to enjoy London’s sights, whether on land or water, at The Rubens at the Palace.