As the river winds through London, it stretches through some of the city’s most sought-after, or most interesting areas. Incorporating many of London’s world famous landmarks, cultural destinations and places of interest the river is also home to shops, cafes, world renowned restaurants, art galleries, theatres and the Thames Clipper linking it all together.
Did You Know
- Much of the city’s waste was dumped into the River Thames before Sir Joseph Bazalgette built London’s sewer system in 1865. In 1858, the stench from all the sewage in the river was so bad that Parliament had to be suspended. This event was called “The Great Stink” and it led parliament to act in creating a sewer system for London, much of which is still in use today.
- Two-thirds of London’s drinking water comes from the River Thames. It is said that a drop of rain falling into the Thames at its source in the Cotswolds will be drunk by at least eight people before it flows into the Thames Estuary.
- The River Thames is approximately 346 km (or 215 miles) long. Several places claim to be the source of the Thames, including Thames Head in Gloucestershire, while the Environment Agency, the Ordnance Survey and other authorities have the source of the Thames as the nearby Trewsbury Mead.
- The River is tidal in some areas and non-tidal in others, meaning that it is subject to tides as much as the ocean. The non-tidal part goes from the source about a mile north of the Village of Kemble to Teddington
- Over 200 bridges cross the river. The first was built in London by the Romans almost 2000 years ago, near to the spot where London Bridge is now. Many other bridges are built where older bridges were founded. Westminster Bridge is painted the same shade of green as the leather benches in the House of Commons. Waterloo Bridge is the longest in the City of London at 1,250 feet.
- The Thames Path follows the river for 296km (184 miles) from its source, making it the longest riverside walk in Europe.
- The River Thames may take its name from the Sanskrit Tamas meaning “dark” as its waters are often dark and cloudy; another school of thought is that it is named after the Roman Tam meaning “wide” and Isis meaning water
- The Thames has been frozen over at various times, the earliest recorded occasion being AD 1150
- 75 bridges cross over the non-tidal Thames. 29 bridges cross over the tidal Thames
Architecture and property
Living on the Thames in London has changed a great deal in recent years. Once London's commercial artery, living on the Thames was strongly associated with trade, industry and as a means to make a living ( properties on or near the river was considered both dangerous and unpleasant). Fishermen, dockyard and warehouse workers, sailors and those servicing the river all made the Thames their home, often living in cramped and overcrowded shanty dwellings.
As golden age of river trade came to an end by the early 80's, most of the dockyards shut and housing demolished, leaving swathes of derelict land lining the Thames from east to west. Significant redevelopment over the last 30 years has seen glittering new developments inhabit old warehouses and industrial depots, paving the way for a new style of London riverside living. Apartment with river views are now considered the paragon on London luxury and lifestyle.
The Thames from West to East
As the river winds through the capital, it’s astonishing to see how much it has adapted to London and its evolution through the ages. From the verdant river banks in Barnes and Richmond with their palatial riverfront villas, to Chiswick and Hammersmith’s “chocolate box” cottages.
As the river runs east to the sea and approaches Fulham, Wandsworth and Battersea, sprawling new developments rise from the banks of the Thames, offering modern lifestyle developments revatilising defunct power stations at Sands End and Battersea Park into energy efficient mega developments, with every available amenity.
Winding towards London's centre, The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben afford some of the finest views from residential riverside property in London. Opposite, there is the London Eye, with its ever changing light show, which literally emblazons London’s riverside living by night.
Further east, the river flowns through historic Southbank and The Globe. As Wapping follows Southbank - an echo of London’s trading empire where goods arrived and departed the banks of the Thames in ships to England’s empire - now converted loft style apartments illuminate the Thames. Further east to Shad Thames, Limehouse and then on to the financial hub Canary Wharf with its gleaming skyscrapers, a power house of global trading and commerce.
Where to eat
Whether you call it a boutique hotel or a restaurant with rooms, there’s no denying that this pretty Georgian townhouse has one of the plummest riverside spots in Richmond, with the Thames flowing serenely beyond the flowerbeds of an immaculately maintained English garden. Inside, the elegant dining room’s French windows open onto a balcony for alfresco eating. The cooking is modern British in the best sense. 61-63 Petersham Road, Richmond-upon-Thames, TW10 6UT; thebingham.co.uk
Its elevated position affords a vista of a broad sweep of river, from Tower Bridge and the City skyscrapers down to Docklands, through floor-to-ceiling windows that are often left open. Colourful, characterful cooking comes simply plated and with an Anglo-European accent. 28 Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YD; blueprintcafe.co.uk
Le Pont de la Tour
Tower Bridge raises its gangplanks towards you as if saluting your good fortune for eating in such a quintessentially summery spot. The menu is a roll call of French classics (foie gras, chateaubriand and a famous seafood platter) and the serious wine list – two pages of fizz, three of Burgundy – is tailor made to lubricate the sense of celebration at being reminded how pretty London can be. 36D Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YE; lepontdelatour.co.uk
There’s an almost seaside feel to this Gordon Ramsay restaurant perched on a bend of the river at Limehouse that feels more like the Thames Estuary than central London. The nautical theme is picked up inside the Grade II-listed dockmaster’s house with whitewashed walls and stripped woods. Formerly Ramsay’s flagship boozer44 Narrow Street, London, E14 8DP; gordonramsayrestaurants.com
Oxo Tower Restaurant
The posher of the two halves at Oxo has the same stunning skyline views of St Paul’s Cathedral as the brasserie but with a more dressed-up gloss: properly-set tables with sparkling napery and fresh flowers sit on a grassed-over balcony terrace and inside there are shiny leather bucket chairs.. Oxo Tower, Barge House Street, London, SE1 9PH; harveynichols.com
The River Café
You’ll need to be sitting outside to be aware of the Thames flowing beyond The River Café’s kitchen garden – but on a sunny day, there’s nowhere nicer to be in London than this legendary restaurant’s courtyard, as summery a slice of la dolce vita as the kitchen’s famous lemon tartThames Wharf, Rainville Road, London, W6 9HA; rivercafe.co.uk
Where to drink
- American Bar in the Savoy Hotel for cocktails.
- Southbank for a vibrant and touristy fun filled night.
- Mondrian Hotel – amazing cocktail bar
Tate Gallery, Tate Modern, Design Museum, Greenwich, Tower of London
Sports & Leisure
Thames Rowing club
Parks & Green Spaces
Battersea Park on the bank of the river in SW11
Thames Clipper from Putney to Blackfriars and form Blackfriars to Greenwich
Remember to include high resolution photos your office has of the area to go with the guide. The more engaging and interesting the photo, the better