Walking and Cycling the Thames

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Walking the Thames and canals in London

by Jeannette Briggs

Once you reach London itself you are spoiled for choice as to possible routes for walks along the Thames. History, architecture, world-famous buildings and stunning views greet you along the whole length of the river from Battersea to Greenwich.

All parts of this stretch of the Thames are accessible by London’s public transport system.  Here are just a few of the vast array of walks that you might like to try.  Best of all – if you are getting tired you can catch one of the many boat services that ply the river, back to where you started!

The following are suggested for purposeful walkers in London who want to stretch their legs and do more than 5 kms in a session.For those looking for more gentle walks or stolls near the river, perhaps with a buggy and children, see our section on "Gentle strolls." I outline below a great favourite for most families which starts on Westminster Bridge along the Thames, finishing at Tower Bridge.

From Westminster Tube station, cross Westminster Bridge to the South Bank and drop down on to the riverside walk, past the old County Hall building and the London Eye. Continue to the beautiful new footbridges on either side of the Hungerford rail bridge, cross to the north bank at Charing Cross. Here, turn right and follow the Embankment to Waterloo Bridge crossing back over the Thames to the South Bank.


From here you continue all along the footpath on the south side of the River Thames, past the Tate Modern,with St Paul's Cathedral opposite and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. 

See the Bishop of Winchester’s prison of The Clink and the replica Golden Hinde, also Southwark Cathedral, where John Harvard was baptised.

Cross the River Thames once again at London Bridge, taking in the famous skyline of the City of London and the fantastic new, Shard building before turning right, past The Monument to the Great Fire of London and then on until you reach the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

See all this in the relatively short distance of 3 miles – history from over two thousand years and architecture from the Romans to the present day, all at your feet!  The walk one way to The Tower is about 5km and you can either return by foot, making a total of 10kms, or go for the real treat! Why not catch the river bus back from the Tower Pier to where you started! Enjoy the views once again from the luxury of a seat on a Thames river cruise boats. 

A fascinating long walk which combines the “old” with the “new” can be taken from the stunning skyscrapers of Canary Wharf down to the magnificent classical beauty of  Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Naval College at Greenwich

Start your walk at Westferry Station and follow the road to Limekiln Dock. From here you walk along Westferry Road past the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre and the launching site of Brunel’s famous old ship the “Great Eastern”, to Island Gardens and the Greenwich foot tunnel.  On the other side of the Thames you get the most magnificent view of Greenwich and the Royal Naval College with the Observatory far above them and backed by the splendour of Greenwich Park.


Walk through the foot tunnel to reach Greenwich and all its attractions. Don’t forget the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House (built for Henrietta Maria, Queen to Charles I).  You can access a river boat to return to Central London from Greenwich Pier. This is about 8km round trip.

Photo courtesy Berkeley Homes (South East London) Ltd.

This stretch of the River Thames does a huge loop around the Canary Wharf complex and passes the beautiful buildings at Greenwich

 Written and Researched by Jeannette Briggs

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