They say every great city has a river running through it and London is no exception. The River Thames is England’s longest and arguably most iconic river. It also offers some of the most beautiful, relaxing, and interesting river walks anywhere in the world. After all, a walk along the Thames is about more than getting from A to B, it’s a chance to experience the real London and see this famous city as never before. The river is also lined with tourist attractions and spectacular landmarks, as well as pubs, cafes, restaurants, shops, art, theatres, museums, galleries, and more. There are numerous canals, waterways, and tributaries to explore too.
When you need to clear your mind, stretch your legs, and soothe your soul, a walk along a river is hard to beat, especially in one of the most vibrant and historic cities in the world. From nightlife to wildlife, sightseeing to birdwatching, pubs to pirates, naval history to contemporary art, London’s riverside walks have something for everyone. Here’s our pick of the very best in London.
If you’re lucky enough to be staying near London’s iconic Tower Bridge (not at Her Majesty’s pleasure in the Tower of London’s infamous dungeon, of course!), then this riverside walk from Tower Hill station to Wapping High Street is the perfect combination of famous landmarks and spectacular scenery, just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Officially part of The Thames Path (more on this below), this popular 20-minute walking trail offers magnificent views along the north bank of the Thames as you head in the direction of London’s historic East End, past the sailing barges at St Katharine Docks and Alderman Stairs, towards the trees and cobbles of Wapping High Street and one of its best-loved pubs, The Town of Ramsgate.
This epic 184-mile-walk is the lengthiest on the continent (don’t worry, you don’t have to do it all in one go) and stretches from the source of the Thames in the Cotswolds, right through the heart of London, and out into the North Sea. The Thames Path technically encompasses this entire route, but in reality, it’s divided into several, more manageable sections along the North and South banks of the river. Many of these walks, such as Hampton Court to Albert Bridge on the North or Albert Bridge to Tower Bridge on the South, take you through central London itself, with numerous landmarks such as Canary Wharf, Hampton Court Palace, The Royal Docks, Battersea Park, the Kew Gardens, Thames Barrier, and many more, along the way. With spectacular modern architecture alongside history, heritage, and nature, plus the aforementioned pubs and pirates, The Thames Path is a riverside walk through London’s past, present, and future.
Is there a riverside walk in the whole world that can beat London’s South Bank for culture and vibrancy? With unbeatable views of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, and much more just across the river, as well as landmarks like the London Eye and the National Theatre, plus a vast array of restaurants, galleries, street performers, food stalls, and skaters, the South Bank is one of the quintessential London experiences, with a lively, carnival atmosphere to rival anywhere on the planet.
Created to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympic Games, this 37-mile walk is divided into 10 sections. One of the most popular of these takes you along Regent’s Canal - arguably London’s prettiest canal walk - and an area known as Little Venice thanks to the picturesque barges docked along the waterways. You’ll also get to see Buckingham Palace on the way before continuing past Kensington Palace and Paddington on to Camden - the perfect pit stop for London street food. Regent’s Canal, which extends from Paddington to Limehouse, also takes you through Regent’s Park and is close to London Zoo for more outdoor fun.
This National Trust trail through South West London, following the Thames from Richmond to Ham House, offers England’s only view officially protected by an Act of Parliament. This unique spot upon Richmond Hill is well worth the walk (and the Government’s protection) with its unrivalled view of the Thames and Marble Hill Park. The walk also includes King Henry’s Mound at the halfway point. While this riverside walk takes you out of the city centre, it rewards you with some of London’s most scenic views.
Just five minutes’ walk from Morden tube station, the beautiful Morden Hall Park offers a 125-acre green space right in the heart of the city, and walks along the River Wandle. The park is free, open 365 days of the year, and is an ideal spot for nature lovers with over 100 species of birds and more than 2,000 roses in the gardens. There’s also a picturesque iron bridge in the park over the River Wandle that’s straight out of a Jane Austen novel and perfect for photos. For more hardcore walkers, the full Wandle Trail is over 12 miles and covers from Croydon to the Thames at Wandsworth.
Now for something slightly different. The Line is London’s first dedicated public art walk and is based around stunning contemporary artworks by superstar artists such as Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, Eva Rothschild, and Anthony Gormley. It extends along the waterways from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to The O2 and follows the line of the Greenwich Meridian - the dividing line between east and west and the official starting point of every time zone in the world. The walk begins south of the river at North Greenwich. Along the route, you’ll not only enjoy views of the river itself, but an evolving and ever-changing programme of artworks along the trail. For an added bonus, you even get to travel over the Thames on the Emirates Air Line to Royal Docks halfway through the walk before continuing on.
After all that walking, you’ll want to unwind with a drink, recharge your batteries with a delicious meal, and put your feet up on a soft and comfortable bed. Where better to do all three than the Leonardo Royal Hotel London Tower Bridge? It’s the perfect base for getting outdoors and exploring the UK’s bustling capital, with countless London landmarks within walking distance. It’s also a key part of the historic Thames Path, meaning you’ll have access to all of the relaxing riverside walks we’ve recommended and more. Just make sure you’ve got some comfortable shoes before you set off!