Greenwich feels like a fitting place to start a boat trip along the Thames: it was the birthplace of King Henry VIII, whose famous royal barges carried him and his wives in such style along the river. Taking in docklands warehouses, churches, penthouses and pubs, and heading into the centre of the city, a river journey from Greenwich to Westminster offers a unique view of the Thames and its pivotal role in London life.
The trip is packed with many of London’s classic sights, offering spectacular views of Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, HMS Belfast, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. But there’s also a hidden side of London to be glimpsed from the river, as old cranes, disused wharves, dilapidated docks and warehouses converted into luxury apartments drift by, shadows of the years when London was the frantic, beating heart of an industrial empire. Arriving at Westminster, you can take a short walk to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey for a rewarding tour.
At Greenwich, you can choose between a City Cruises boat to Westminster Pier or a cheaper and faster Thames Clippers commuter boat to Embankment Pier, which is a five-minute riverside walk from Westminster Pier. With the City Cruises option – catering for the tourist rather than commuter trade – progress upriver is a little more leisurely, so you have time to enjoy the constantly changing surroundings as well as taking in an informative audio commentary (available in seven languages). Both services offer easy wheel-on access to the boats, disabled toilets onboard and designated space for wheelchair users.
Coming back, you can do the same trip in reverse, or you might want to cut down the journey time by travelling back from Westminster by tube: Westminster, North Greenwich and Greenwich Pier stations have lift access between street level and the platforms.
Food & drink: Both boat services offer hot and cold drinks and snacks, and the bar/snack areas are wheelchair accessible. A nice option is to bring a picnic to eat on board, or once you arrive at Westminster Pier, head south over Westminster Bridge to Belvedere Road just behind the London Aquarium. There is a raised walkway, accessible from the Westminster Bridge Road end, with a number of cafes and restaurants. Troia Bagel Deli Café is a good option, serving a variety of filled bagels.