London’s such a great city to traverse on foot that it’s easy to forget the fact that it’s also home to one of the world’s most famous rivers: the Thames. England’s longest river may not boast the stunning natural beauty of the Amazon or the mythical status of the Nile, but it’s the life source of the city, and the reason it’s the country’s capital, and to this day a ride on the river is one of the best ways to experience London. Various companies offer cruises of different lengths and prices, but some iconic sights will be taken in by many or all of them.
These include the London Eye, which since its opening as part of the millennium celebrations in the year 2000 has become a prominent feature of the London skyline. While it’s renowned as a great place from which to gaze at the rest of the city, it’s a pretty impressive sight in itself and is one of the highest Ferris wheels in the world. Another of London’s most famous riverside sights is the Tower of London, which was famously used to hold prisoners for almost a millennium (a lesser known fact is that among its last prisoners, in the 1950s, were the notorious East End gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray).While the incarceration of high-profile criminals remains its most famous function, the Tower has actually served a great deal of other purposes over the centuries, including as a royal residence for the likes of Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and even as far back as William the Conqueror.The Tower is brilliantly preserved, as you’d expect from one of London’s most-visited tourist destinations, and is a beautiful sight to gaze upon as you bob along the Thames. Thames river cruises start from a variety of locations, but for taking in London’s most iconic waterfront sights, not to mention its myriad other attractions, a city centre location is by far the best. If you’re on the lookout for luxury boutique hotels in central London, the Montcalm at the Brewery London City is a beautiful property conveniently located near both Barbican and Moorgate tube stations.
No discussion of the sights of the Thames would be complete without mentioning the Houses of Parliament. The Palace of Westminster, as the Houses are officially known, encompasses the House of Commons, House of Lords, and Elizabeth Tower – universally known by the name of its bell, Big Ben. The oldest part of the buildings dates back to the 11th century, and this site has been the seat of British democracy for eight hundred years. Originally built as a royal palace, it was the primary residence of the kings of England until it was ravaged by fire in 1512. Rising from the ashes of this and another significant fire in the nineteenth century, as well as surviving the ravages of the Blitz, the Houses of Parliament today are as regally impressive as ever.