Whether it’s because I love going on boat trips or not I don’t know, but I always urge people not to leave London without seeing the city from the river.
Plenty of boats from different companies run regular trips down to Greenwich, which is not only a fantastic trip, but also a great destination. The journey down takes just over an hour, but I recommend that you allow a full day if you can – preferably a sunny one.
Your boat will start from Westminster Pier underneath Westminster Bridge and travel down past the Victoria Embankment on your port (left) side and the South Bank on the starboard (right) side. Now, before you think I’m being clever (which I’m definitely not) coming out with all theses nautical phrases I’m just trying to get you in the mood for Greenwich because this is where the National Maritime Museum and Old Royal Naval College is located.
There’s plenty more to see before we get there though.
The boat passes alongside old buildings, new buildings, converted buildings, and under numerous bridges until it reaches the Pool of London. This is the stretch of water between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.
London Bridge was the first bridge to span the river (not the one that‘s here now by the way), and although it was convenient for crossing the river it wasn’t quite so convenient for traffic passing underneath it, and boats often had to moor up in the Pool if they were too big to pass through.
There’s so much to look at that it’s like watching a game of tennis. On the City of London side (the port side), old landmarks such as the old Billingsgate Fish market and the Custom House jostle for space with modern buildings such as the Walkie Talkie, Cheesegrater, and Gherkin, and on the Southwark side you can’t fail to miss The Shard, London’s tallest structure at 310m high.
The other side of Tower Bridge brings us into the old docks area, once the largest docks in the world, and now an area that’s mainly been converted into plush riverside apartments. Terraced houses once occupied by dockers, stevedores and warehouse workers have now been replaced by apartments occupied by people who can afford the colossal rents to live here, and as the river bends round towards the Isle of Dogs, there’s no better example of how the area has changed.
Canary Wharf, part of the old West India Docks, has now been transformed into a financial centre rivalling the City of London, with some of the tallest buildings in the UK and Europe.
Both sides of the river east of Tower Bridge heavily relied on the docks, but for some reason the town of Greenwich doesn’t seem to have suffered the blight of industrialisation in the same way. In fact Greenwich is an absolute delight to visit, which is why I recommend you spend as much time here as you can afford.
There are other ways to get back to the centre of London, but it’s just as well to buy a return ticket and see the river, and London, from the opposite direction.
I don’t think there’s much to choose between the boat companies, and it mostly depends on what you can do to get the best fare, but as there are so many variables you’ll need to work out the best options. None of them will cost you a fortune and whichever boat you choose it’ll be money well spent.