London’s River Thames has something to offer everyone, as it really is the vein of the city.
Whether you’re staying near the river – there are lots of great London hotel offers nearby – or if you’re using it as your base for exploring London, there is something for everyone and every budget along the way.
We’ve put together a guide for enjoying the sights and sounds this wonderful hub of London has to offer.
Getting to the know the River Thames
This river is one of the most famous rivers in the world, having been featured on big and small screens across the globe. Here are the answers to some popular questions tourists (and London locals!) have about it.
How fast does the River Thames flow?
The speed of the river’s flow picks up the further towards the sea you travel and varies each day, though boaters can keep tabs online. This is because as you get closer to the sea, more and more tributaries join the river, adding their water to it:
Buscot 799 million litres/day (176 million gallons/day)
Reading 3,594 million litres day (790 million gallons/day)
Kingston 5,696 million litres/day (1,253 million gallons/day).
How cold is the River Thames?
Despite warm air temperatures, the average temperature of the river is 12°C – so you definitely won’t want to go taking a dip in it!
In pre-19th century London, cold winter weather would sometimes freeze the surface of the Thames. ‘Frost Fairs’ would be held on the ice, with Londoners enjoying dancing and drinking. The last fair was in 1814 and it appears unlikely there will ever be another one because the river now flows too fast for the water to freeze.
That (unfortunately) means you’ll have to leave the ice skates at home.
How clean is the River Thames?
The River Thames is the cleanest river in the world that flows through a major city. This is a rather astonishing feat considering that fifty years ago the river was so polluted that it was declared biologically dead…
What is the River Thames famous for?
The River Thames is 215 miles long and has been an important trade route throughout its history. Some people believe that the Romans may have been influenced by the Thames when they were choosing where to build London. Nowadays, it’s mostly famous for the amazing things to see and do along it.
What landmarks are there along the River Thames?
One of the most popular (and most photographed!) landmarks in London is Tower Bridge, surrounded by nice bars and restaurants to put your feet up and relax in after a long selfie session.
Tower of London
Soaked in history, the Tower of London is a must-visit for history buffs the world over. Learn about the crown jewels, the executions and so many more stories from the city’s past and present.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Whether you’re after a classic representation of the country’s most famous playwright’s work, or you prefer something a little more modern, there are shows for everyone at Shakespeare’s intriguing theatre.
One of the most visited at galleries in the world, the Tate Modern’s views inside are as impressive and as they are interesting, especially from the top viewing floor. Many of the collections are free to enjoy, with some of the private exhibitions viewable for a fee, so check in at the website to see what’s on.
This has become a symbol for cities worldwide, with major cities erecting their own ‘eye’. Take a ride for some seriously impressive views of the capital – just make sure you aim to go when it’s not cloudy.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
Two of the most recognisable landmarks in the city, no trip to London is complete without a quick visit to see the most photographed clock in the world, and where the decisions for the country take place.
A royal church in the centre of London offering daily services for all, and a World Heritage Site with over a thousand years of history, Westminster Abbey also has amazing accommodation near Hyde Park just a stone’s throw away.
Another landmark just a few minutes from the river is well worth a mention due to its popularity and impressiveness. It’s a perfect starting point if staying at the Shaftesbury Hyde Park International, too!
As well as popular and world-famous landmarks across the river, there are a lot of other fun activities and sights to see that are slightly lesser known, but still just as fun to experience…
What can you do at the River Thames?
As you may expect, one of the most popular and unique things to experience on the River Thames is a boating trip, or watching the world go by in one of the many docking marinas.
There are also lots of other great attractions too.
Emirates Air Line
Proof that not all of London’s transport takes place underground – though it feels like it at times! See the city from the air via this unique travel experience. The Emirates Air Line cable car soars over east London and offers views of everything from the 02 to Canary Wharf.
One of the best markets in London for delicious food and drinks, combining classic British food with a fun twist, and dishes from further afield. Come hungry, leave stuffed!
Just down the river, the OXO Tower not only illuminates the night sky with its neon letters, but also offers some of the best views of the Thames from its terrace.
Around another bend lies Kew Gardens, one of the city’s most impressive green spaces. Visit the world-leading botanic gardens and learn all about their science and conservation work.
Dubbed as a ‘new kind of art centre in the heart of London’, you’ll go for the exciting events throughout the year, but stay for the stunning architecture, restaurants and cafés. Hosting everything from festivals to art exhibitions, stay up to date with all the goings on via their website.
Victoria Embankment Gardens
This vibrant public park is part of the chain of open spaces along Victoria Embankment, designed by Sir Joseph Bazelgette and opened in 1865 – perfect for some rest and relaxation after a long day exploring London’s buildings.
Steeped in heritage and offering a truly unique marina experience, St. Katharine Docks are home to a collection of high-quality offices, restaurants and bars. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy watching Wimbledon from the big screen, away from the manic hustle and bustle of more obvious spots.