Visitors to London have a multitude of things that they can do. The city has fantastic museums, gardens and historical sites throughout. There are parks, sights and attractions distributed across all parts of the city. With so many things vying for the attention of the tourist, it can get to be very overwhelming. Fortunately, there is an oasis of calm at the River Thames.
The London transit system operates passenger boats on the River Thames. While there are many routes and services to choose from, most tourists will really enjoy the Embankment to Woolwich Arsenal service. Vessels on this route travel from the Embankment Pier at Westminister to Woolwich Arsenal but most tourists will normally disembark at Greenwich. The trip runs in both directions and offers passengers a leisurely way to travel.
As well, many sights of London are visible along the river. Near Embankment Pier, the houses of parliament at Westminister and the famous Big Ben clock tower are prominent. Across the river, the London Eye is a spectacular feature when viewed from the water. This attraction is serviced by the Thames cruise vessels. Visitors can take a trip on the world's tallest observation wheel that ascends 442 feet into the air. The views of London are quite impressive from that height. Further downriver, the modern city sights are seen mixed with many historical attractions. The vessels stop at piers located immediately adjacent to these attractions. The Tower of London, the London Bridge and Greenwich are a few locations where passengers arrive at the foot of the best spots in London.
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While on the river, you will be able to see the famous Cutty Sark, the last of the tea clipper sailing ships. The vessel was launched in 1869 for the lucrative tea trade between the orient and England. The ability to move cargo quickly was vital to the profit of the operating company. Cutty Sark was capable of sailing at speeds up to 17 knots. The vessel was already undergoing restoration at the Thames shoreline when in 2007, a major fire broke out. Although the vessel was not severely damaged, the decision was made to close the restoration works to the public. The Cutty Sark is best viewed during cruises on the Thames river. The vessel is scheduled to be available for public viewing in 2011.
Of interest to literature and history buffs is the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, also visible on the Thames shoreline. This building is a reproduction of the original building that was constructed in 1576. A visit to the facility offers a chance to see various Shakespeare plays performed in a period-authentic setting. The view of the building from the river cruise is quite interesting as it gives tourists a sense of what Elizabethan London may have looked like.
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Travel on the river is truly a luxury. Passengers are whisked in comfort either up or down the river. You can enjoy the trip on the outdoor upper deck or the inside lower deck. The view from the upper deck is much better but obviously bad weather favors the inside deck. Remember that London weather can be quite variable and rain is common, even in the summer. Having the interior seating option can make your trip quite comfortable. Numerous benches are available for seating on both decks. There are plenty of viewing windows in the lower seating area so this offers good sightseeing. It also can be quieter inside the vessel.
The vessels negotiate the trip amongst the marine traffic that still uses the Thames as a major shipping channel. Through London, the Thames is still very deep so very large ships can be seen. Tourists will also see tugboats, barges and yachts of every size. The capable crew pilots the vessels through the intricate water course without incident. As they do, they point out the sights along the way. Depending on the crew, you may receive a complete narrative that is informative and entertaining. The Thames has been an important shipping route for centuries. As you travel on this river, you can experience the history first hand. While many sites are little changed, others have evolved and now present completely different faces to the world. Such a facility is the Tate Modern, Britain's national museum of international modern art. Formerly the Bankside Power Station, it is now radically transformed inside. The exterior retains the original look.
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The price of the Embankment to Woolwich Aresnal is £5.30, (about $8.60), each way. This can get expensive. A great alternative is the week long unlimited travel pass. This is a £37.50, or $60, cost. Most tourists visiting London use public transit and will buy a travel card for off-peak, unlimited use of the bus and Tube systems. If you have a transit travel card, you save £12.50 or $20 off the week long river pass. Perhaps you purchased one at the airport upon arrival. Even a two or three day visitor can get a great number of rides on the boats which will save a fortune compared to the single trip cost. With unlimited travel, you can board a boat, travel along the river for a few piers and go exploring. You can get on any boat and continue your trip on the river. It's a great option. Bring a lunch and cruise in style.
At each destination pier, the Thames boats are within walking distance of bus and Tube stations. This makes travel to and from the Thames very easy. The boats even land near some of the railway stations including Waterloo. At many of the piers, there are really nice walking paths along the river. With your day pass, you can walk from one pier to the next and then take a cruise along the rest of the river route. Most people don't include Thames river boats in their travel plans, but the wise tourist should. There are great reasons to use the boats and passengers will find that the dynamic shipping route is always changing. Best of all, there is no traffic congestion on the river and the amount of city noise is minimal. It is a highly recommended attraction for most visitors to London.
For a thousand years, the River Thames has been the lifeblood of one of the most important cities in the world. Tourists can now cruise in comfort on boats that travel in the heart of the river. Daily trips run regardless of the weather. Take the comfortable, scenic route. Marvel at the dockside attractions. View the architecture that spreads out from the river banks.
A Thames cruise is a great way to see the city. Highly recommended. Don't forget your Canon camera!