London’s long and tumultuous history is written upon the face of the city, and the River Thames has watched it all. A 19th-century Member of Parliament, John Burns, said it best: “The Mississippi is muddy water, but the Thames is liquid history.” In modern-day London, history comes to life on the 70 wharves, which have remained in operation after centuries. As you make your way down the river’s dark waters, you will enjoy a unique snapshot of life in this dynamic but resolutely historical city.
Any trip down the Thames is a trip into London’s mighty past, as the story of this river is entwined with the history of London and its surrounds. The current London Bridge is located near the site where the Romans built the river’s first bridge, some two millennia ago. By the post-industrial Victorian era, London was notorious for its dreadful public health conditions and the Thames had become more or less an open sewer. Eventually, however, the river was cleaned up. Some say the decision to clean the river came about because the members in the riverside House of Parliament at the time could no longer bear the smell.
Today, the Thames is far more hygienic and atmospheric. A variety of companies offer cruises of the river. For an unforgettably picturesque experience, take a cruise around sunset. Adventurous visitors might prefer to row their own way down the river, starting in the clear Upper Thames and passing through Windsor before winding into the heart of London.
Take a walk along the Thames Path to enjoy a fine city hike. The path will take you past famous sights, including the Millennium Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tower Bridge, as well as some of London’s quieter zones. The views along the river are beautiful, so remember to bring your camera.
The River Thames is easily accessible from most London locations. Look online to survey the various cruise and tour offerings available.