I didn’t plan much beyond excessive coffee consumption and decompression from 5 months of backpacking in Asia for my 2.5 weeks in London en route home – but one thing I knew I wanted to do was take a boat trip on the Thames.
On a glorious sunny day, we took a ride with City Cruises from Westminster to Greenwich and back. In one hour of cruising, we passed beneath 8 of London’s bridges. No but really. 8 bridges. 8 BRIDGES! We all know how much I enjoy bridges: crossing them, ogling them, photographing them. It’s safe to say I was very much in my element as we cruised down the river.
I had a blast and a half chilling out on the top deck, listening to the crew’s entertaining commentary, and bridge-watching. A boat trip is the perfect way to spend a sunny day in London!
Technically we didn’t pass under Westminster Bridge, but we were still able to enjoy the view of it from the pier just east, where our trip began. Big Ben and the House of Parliament is one of those iconic views that just never gets old.
You know what else never gets old? Seeing the London Eye. The London skyline would be remarkably different without it there. Somehow, after 2 visits to this city I’ve yet to take a ride on it, mainly because it’s a rough £26.25 ($43 US) – even more if you don’t buy your ticket in advance. Woof.
I think the Hungerford Bridge is in the running for my favorite bridge in London. It reminds me of the similarly cable-stayed Anzac Bridge in Sydney. What’s more, it looks different from every angle, making it super fun to pass beneath.
The Waterloo Bridge definitely isn’t the flashiest of London’s bridges, but it’s ideally located and frames some of the city’s landmarks quite nicely.
Occasionally I got distracted from bridge-ogling by cool-looking buildings like this one:
As further proof of my last statement, I must have been distracted when we passed by Blackfriars Bridge because I have zero photos of it. I’m especially bummed because it’s a colorful bridge, not to mention mystified as to how this oversight could have happened. But for completion’s sake, I’ll borrow someone else’s photo of this pretty bridge:
I spent a lot of time photographing this beautiful pedestrian bridge my first trip to London, so it was very satisfying to see it from below this time around. I love how Millennium Bridge seems to lead straight to St. Paul’s Cathedral, even though it actually doesn’t.
On our way back the tide had gone out significantly, revealing much of the riverbank. Our cruise crew informed us that trash is removed from the city of London via tugboats pulling barges down the river and out to a waste facility in town called Belvedere. They must be mindful of the tide times: at its lowest, the river is just 1m deep in certain spots!
Southwark (FYI – pronounced ‘sutherk’) Bridge is colorful yet simple. And that’s about all I have to say about it.
Despite being the most popular bridge in London, London Bridge is quite underwhelming. That’s due to the fact that it’s only the most recent version of it, following several past London Bridges that have since been replaced. These older medieval bridges were far more exciting than the London Bridge of today.
Fun Fact: One prior version of London Bridge was taken apart, shipped overseas to the US, and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
Behold, the stunner of the Thames: Tower Bridge. Now THIS is the bridge you picture when you think of London. Its two towers, draw bridge, and shades of blue are what make it the winner of my own Best Bridge in London award.
Tower Bridge takes its name from the nearby Tower of London, visible as our boat passed beneath the bridge. I wandered around the grounds during both of my London visits, but have never gone inside because tickets are £21.45 ($35 US), and I didn’t want to see it that badly.
After we passed by Tower Bridge, our boat headed toward Canary Wharf, London’s Financial District. It served as my hub during my first London visit in 2008, but I never made it back there this second time around. There are actually some really cool-looking riverfront buildings in that area – who knew?
The remainder of the cruise to Greenwich is unfortunately bridge-less, but after passing by 8 bridges I definitely had my fill. I can’t recommend enough a cruise along the Thames, especially on a gorgeous summer day!
Which of London’s bridges is your favorite?
As of July 2013 —
You can book a boat trip down the Thames with City Cruises – they offer single and return trips from Westminster to Greenwich and a few stops in-between. The best deal is to book a River Red Rover (daily unlimited hop on/hop off) pass for £15.30 and make a day of it. When I booked online in July, and at the time this post was written in November/December, they had a 50% off special on just the River Red Rover pass, making it £7.65 ($12.50 US) for an all-you-can-cruise day up and down the heart of the Thames.