Stretching for 215 miles, the River Thames is the longest river in England and the second longest in the UK. A large portion of it flows through London, making it one of our most famous and popular landmarks. If you want to spend some time around the river there are a variety of interesting attractions and things to do on and around it. From staying on dry land to cruising along the river at top speed, there’s plenty of discover – check out our guide to things to do on and around the River Thames.
Things to do on and around the River Thames
In this guide
Things to see and do on and around the River Thames
- London Eye – Thames-side observation wheel
- The Line – Immerse yourself in art
- Shakespeare's Globe – Historical theatre
- Uber Boat by Thames Clipper – Comfortable river bus services
- Bateaux London – Elegant dining cruises
- The Golden Hinde – A surprising ship
- Thames Limo – VIP boat hire
- Thames RIB Experience – Experience a super-fast speed boat
- Tower of London – Imposing historical landmark
- Palace of Westminster – World-famous riverside building
- GoBoat – Boating for all
- Hampton Court Palace – Visit a real palace
- Kew Gardens – Riverside botanical gardens
- Skuna Boats – A unique take on a boat trip
- Tower Bridge – Explore a London icon
- Tavolino Bar & Kitchen – Food and river views
- South Bank Book Market – Find a hidden gem
- Battersea Park – Park for riverside walks
- Tamesis Dock – Vibrant floating pub
- HMS Belfast – Distinctive naval museum
- London Cable Car – Glide through the sky
- Eel Pie Island – Mysterious and arty island
- Borough Market – Popular food market
- The River Café – Michelin-starred food
- Tate Britain & Tate Modern – Two world-class art museums
- Victoria Tower Gardens – Central London green space
- Champions Wharf Play Beach – Riverside fun for kids
- The Thames Barrier – Dramatic barrier system
Things to see and do on and around the River Thames
Thames-side observation wheel
Perched next to the river is the London Eye, a world-famous observation wheel that attracts millions of visitors each year. Take a leisurely turn in one of the wheel’s clear pods for great views of the Thames and the city. A trip takes approximately 30 minutes and you can book special experiences.
Immerse yourself in art
Art fans can get outdoors with The Line, a riverside art trail running between The O2 and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This self-guided walk is free of charge and along the way you'll see sculptural works by top contemporary artists. Some of the big names involved are Antony Gormley and Madge Gill.
Located on the riverbank, Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre. Visit to enjoy a Shakespeare play in classic surroundings or pop in for a tour of the building. There’s a regular programme of performances, including shows for kids. The venue also has a shop for souvenirs.
Comfortable river bus services
Whether you want to go sightseeing or you're making your commute more enjoyable, Uber Boat by Thames Clipper is a great way to enjoy the river. This river bus service runs a number of routes along the central stretch of the Thames between Putney and Greenwich. Refreshments are available on-board.
Elegant dining cruises
Have a memorable dining experience with Bateaux London. You’ll cruise along the Thames on an elegant boat, enjoying a gourmet meal whilst spotting London’s most famous sights. A wide range of meal cruises are offered, from a leisurely Sunday lunch to a refined afternoon tea experience. Many cruises include live music.
A surprising ship
The Golden Hinde might be an unexpected sight as you walk along the Thames. This is a full-scale reconstruction of the first English ship to sail around the world in the 16th century. Visit to climb aboard and find out more or attend a special event like live music performances.
VIP boat hire
When you want luxury treatment, go sightseeing or on a charter with Thames Limo, the capital's first water limousine provider. You'll find high-end Italian boats, exacting service, and upscale amenities to make your cruise comfortable. Choose a sightseeing cruise, sunset cruise, dinner, or luxury transfer to get you around in style.
Experience a super-fast speed boat
Thrillseekers will enjoy the Thames RIB Experience. Dash along the river in a high-powered RIB, the fastest speedboat you can find in London. You’ll see the sights on a number of different routes, with a powerful PA system so you won’t miss anything. You can also hire a boat for private events.
Imposing historical landmark
One of the city’s most distinctive landmarks is the Tower of London, filled with over 1,000 years of history. This imposing building is full of fascinating artefacts, most notably the Crown Jewels. Tour the grounds and the moat and discover the intriguing, and often bloody, history of the place.
World-famous riverside building
The Palace of Westminster sits next to the Thames. It’s best-known as the home of the UK parliament and Big Ben. It’s great for photos but you’re also welcome to visit for a tour, with some tours free of charge for UK residents. You can also watch MPs debating from the public gallery.
Boating for all
GoBoat offers self-drive boat hire with no experience necessary. Several routes are available with some cruising along non-tidal stretches of the Thames. Some cruises are seasonal only so make sure to check in advance. The eco-friendly electric boats have picnic tables and you’re welcome to bring your own food with you.
Visit a real palace
Best-known as the home of Henry VIII and his many wives, Hampton Court Palace is a Grade I listed building that’s still owned by the monarchy today. You can tour the building and grounds, including the famous haunted gallery. There’s a café and gift shops, plus a varied programme of events.
Riverside botanical gardens
Explore nature at Kew Gardens. These renowned botanical gardens are set next to the River Thames and there’s plenty to discover. There are towering trees, a huge range of flora and fauna species, and the Princess of Wales Conservatory featuring temperature-controlled zones and a series of micro ecosystems.
A unique take on a boat trip
Skuna Boats offers self-drive electric boat trips but these are a little different. Setting sail from Canary Wharf, you can book either a bbq boat that's fully equipped for cooking or your own floating hot tub. Whichever you choose, you can experience London in a completely unique way.
Explore a London icon
Possibly London’s most famous bridge, Tower Bridge is an iconic landmark that’s a must-see photo opportunity. You can dive deeper with a guided or self-guided tour. Explore the engine rooms, walkways, and towers, and step onto the glass walkway for amazing river views if you’re brave enough. Of course, this isn't the only bridge over the river - why not check out some of the others like Blackfriars Bridge, Millenium Bridge, or the scenic Albert Bridge.
Food and river views
For a riverside meal in Central London, Tavolino is an obvious choice. This spacious and modern restaurant has large windows for unobstructed views of the river and Tower Bridge but there’s also outdoor terrace seating. Classic Italian flavours are on the menu including pizza, pasta, and ice cream that’s made in-house.
Find a hidden gem
With the river in the background, you can shop for rare and secondhand books at South Bank Book Market. This open-air riverside market is a familiar sight for Londoners and attracts a mixture of locals and tourists. You’ll see stacks of books laid out on tables so get ready to rummage.
Park for riverside walks
There are stunning views wherever you turn at Battersea Park, an expansive green space next to the Thames. The Buddhist Peace Pagoda is a unique and impressive attraction here but you’ll also discover a contemporary art gallery, cherry blossom trees, and plenty of space for a leisurely stroll.
Vibrant floating pub
Visit a floating pub – Tamesis Dock. Permanently moored in Vauxhall, this colourful 1930s Dutch barge has lots of history and is now a fun destination for food, drinks, and music. There’s a vibrant and lighthearted atmosphere. The bar does a regularly-changing range of drinks, and you can order pizza and snacks.
Distinctive naval museum
Visit HMS Belfast, moored on the Thames near London Bridge, for a unique museum experience. This World War II warship was part of a number of notable military campaigns. Now it’s a museum with exhibits and interactive experiences set across its nine decks. You reach each level by climbing up and down ladders.
Glide through the sky
Cruise above the river by taking a trip on the London Cable Car. Originally built for the 2012 Olympics, you can now take a peaceful journey by air between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. The journey takes about 10 minutes with slower trips by evening so you can enjoy the sights.
Mysterious and arty island
Eel Pie Island in Twickenham is the largest island in the London stretch of the Thames. Previously a counterculture hotspot, it's now home to artists' studios and some residences and small businesses. Twice a year you can visit to explore the studios and surroundings. The island is accessible by footbridge.
Popular food market
London foodies flock to Borough Market, a sprawling riverside market that’s been trading since 1756. Browse the diverse stalls, grab some street food to munch on by the water, or visit one of the many restaurants here. From fruit and veg to Iranian street food, you’ll find whatever culinary treats you’re after.
You can have an idyllic riverside meal at The River Café. This peaceful spot has long been a dining icon in London, serving Michelin-starred food in a warm atmosphere. Sample fresh and authentic recipes like nettle tagliatelle, wood-roasted pigeon, or the infamous Chocolate Nemesis cake. Indoor and outdoor seating is available.
Two world-class art museums
London’s two Tate galleries sit on opposite sides of the river and both are great for art lovers. Visit Tate Modern to see the finest modern art from around the world, whilst Tate Britain focuses on British art through the ages. Both galleries have permanent collections plus temporary exhibitions and special events.
Central London green space
You'll find Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Thames and the Palace of Westminster. It's a compact green space with a kids' play area as well as several memorials. These include one for Emmeline Pankhurst and another sculpture by Rodin. There's lots of space to sit and observe the river scene.
Riverside fun for kids
Kids can visit Champions Wharf Play Beach to play in a sandy space with views of the Thames and Eel Pie Island. The park opened in 2013 and is suitable for all ages. There's a 7m viking boat and a Victorian water taxi, as well as artwork and seating areas.
Dramatic barrier system
One of the river's lesser-known sights is The Thames Barrier. This is one of the world's largest moveable barrier systems and it prevents London from being flooded. The barrier is a dramatic sight and you can watch monthly closure tests. There's also a picturesque park alongside it that's a great place for admiring the view.