Which London Boat Trips Are Best?

This post compares and reviews the various London boat tours and Thames river cruises available to you, including hop-on-hop-off cruises, speedboats, and dinner cruises. 

 

 

Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.

Many of these cruises are included for free or at a discount with any of the many London tourist attraction discount passes available to you. 

TIP: When planning your boat tour or cruise, check out the weather in London.


HOP-ON-HOP-OFF THAMES RIVER CRUISES

If you’re looking for a boat tour or cruise that will allow you the freedom to explore at your own pace, consider one of the following companies.

Although there aren’t many London boat services that specialize specifically in hop-on-hop-off cruises, there are a few that provide the opportunity to explore London however you wish from the Thames.  

You can choose to purchase one single ride, a discounted return ticket or a 24-hour travel pass with unlimited rides. 


City Cruises

City Cruises is probably the most well-known company offering a basic Thames River cruise. They are also the best value for the money. City Cruises also offers speedboat tours and lunch and dinner cruises.

City Cruises offers both single tickets and a hop-on-hop-off service with 4 stops between Westminster and Greenwich. The hop-on-hop-off ticket is called the River Pass.

The River Pass is a 24-hour pass that gives you unlimited access to the river for 24 hours. There is live commentary on every journey.

For just a few pounds more, you can get a 72-hour River Pass giving you three days to use the service.

Guests can sit on the open-aired top of the boat, or inside downstairs if the London weather gets a bit wet or chilly.

TIP: City Cruises hop-on-hop-off service is included for free for holders of a London Pass, a tourist attraction discount card. It is also included for free with the purchase of a 24 or 48-hour hop-on, hop-off open-top bus ticket with Original London Tours. 

 

Click on the map for a larger view.

Thames River Cruise Map

 


Single Tickets

Single ride tickets vary depending on your starting and ending point. Prices start at £10.80/adult (16+), £7.05/child (5-15), free for infants 4 and under.

See their full list of single and return ticket prices here.

If you are planning on taking at least two rides, we recommend that you buy a River Pass. This pass gives you unlimited travel between their piers.


River Pass Tickets

24-Hour Pass

72-Hour Pass

Cruises run every 30 minutes. Exact departure times depend on which pier you wish to depart from. (Frequency changes seasonally).

Highlights along the cruise include the London Eye, OXO Tower, London Bridge, The Shard, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Greenwich.


TIP: City Cruises hop-on-hop-off service is included for free for holders of a London Pass, a tourist attraction discount card. It is also included for free with the purchase of a 24 or 48-hour hop-on, hop-off open-top bus ticket with Original London Tours. 

Reviews of City Cruises

City Cruises sports a 4 out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor along with mostly positive reviews. Thousands of reviewers have given them a 5-star rating, which is definitely a good sign.

The negative comments that have been left often mention unforeseen technical issues with the boats or scheduling software. 

To avoid any issues, make sure to arrive early for your cruise and call them the day before your excursion in order to make sure there are no problems. 

 


River Roamer by Thames Clippers  

Thames Clippers is a commuter boat service that sells single ride tickets but also offers a day-ticket, called River Roamer, that gives you unlimited hop-on, hop-off travel for one day (between 10 am and 11 pm).

The River Roamer is valid in their Central and East Zone lines which includes 18 piers including Greenwich, Tower, Westminster, and more. Boats depart every 20 minutes.

Some of the attractions you can get to easily from the River Roamer piers:

You can download their free audio tour (available in English, Spanish, French and German) if you are taking the boat for sightseeing purposes.

Also, you can buy refreshments on board.

 

 

River Roamer Ticket Prices

Reviews

Thames Clippers has received a 4 out of 5 stars rating on both TripAdvisor and Viator. Most reviews are very positive, stating that it is a great value for the money. Staff is said to be courteous and helpful.

Also, guests said that the boat went just fast enough to get from point A to point B efficiently while still being slow enough to enjoy sightseeing with the downloadable app. Read reviews here.

 


Thames River Service

Thames River Services (TRS) offers a variety of guided sightseeing tours that cover several different highlights along the river. Prices and the length of the trip vary depending on what route you select.

There are a total of ten different tours offered out of Westminster, Greenwich, and St. Katharine’s. In addition, this boat tour company provides transportation to popular sightseeing locations such as the Thames Barrier and the Tower of London.  

Guests have the option to pay for a one-way ticket or round-trip fare as well as a hop-on, hop-off ticket (through Circular Cruises).

 

 


Reviews

With a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating on both Yelp and TripAdvisor, TRS is one of the highest-rated cruise companies in London. A majority of reviews are very positive, but there are a few negative comments. 

Complaints tend to focus on the fact that this is a sightseeing cruise, which means it might not be as speedy as other services.

If you’re looking for a quicker boat tour, you might want to consider one of the hop-on, hop-off options. Other than these issues, most passengers absolutely love Thames River Services!

Find out more about Thames River Service Tours.

 


Tate to Tate by Thames Clippers

This route on the Thames Clippers service is the “RB2 Tate to Tate”. It takes visitors between the two Tate Museums: the free Tate Modern at Bankside Pier and Tate Britain at Millbank Pier.

Boats run every 30 minutes. It is a 20-minute ride and is within the Central Zone so this is a one-zone ticket.

The boats have both outdoor and indoor seating. As this is not a sightseeing boat there is not live commentary.

It is, however, a great way to get out onto the water and move quickly between museums and their surrounding neighborhoods. 

 

 

You can purchase tickets in advance online from the Thames Clippers website, or before you board a boat from a self-serve kiosk on the pier.

You can also use your Oyster card, if you have one, upon boarding the boat.

When you purchase, look for the RB2 service, a central zone ticket price.


Prices (single one-way ticket)

  • Adult  £ 7.00
  • Child 5 to 15  £ 3.50
  • Children under 5  travel for free
  • Adult TfL Travelcard  £ 5.80
  • Child 5-15 TfL Travelcard  £ 2.90
  • London Freedom Pass £ 3.50
  • Oyster Card Pay As You Go users – £6.50 (only available on the boat)

Schedule

For a complete timetable the RB2 route that stops at both Tates, click here for schedules. Look for times for Bankside (the Tate Modern) and Millbank (the Tate Britain).

Reviews

The Tate Boat service has been given a 4 ½ star rating on TripAdvisor. Although it is not a full five stars, the reality is that they haven’t actually received any negative ratings.

There is only one complaint thus far, and it focuses on the length of time it may take to get tickets onto the boat. Even so, the reviewer suggests that you persevere and use this ferry service to get from Tate to Tate.

Most passengers love this form of transportation, so chances are that it’s very reliable.

 


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CIRCULAR LOOP CRUISES

A circular loop cruise is specifically a river tour of the Thames.

From the boat, you will see many amazing sights such as St. Paul’s CathedralTower of LondonHouses of Parliament, and Big Ben.

Most circular loop cruises are about an hour long. Note that some circular loop cruises are hop-on-hop-off while others allow you to leave the cruise at any pier, but you may not board again.

 


Thames River Services’ Circular Cruise

This circular loop cruise allows you to hop on and off whenever you wish so that you can get a better look at the sites located all along the Thames. 

The full cruise takes about an hour, but you can embark and disembark at your discretion throughout the day.

This circular cruise will take you past more than a dozen historic locations that are visible from the water.

There is commentary provided along the way to point out significant sights such as Old Scotland Yard or the Houses of Parliament. 


Ticket Prices 

Click here to purchase tickets.

Single Ticket

  • £10.75 for Adults
  • £7.00 for Seniors/Students
  • £5.00 for Children/Freedom Pass Holders
  • £28.50 for Families (2 Adults + 3 Children)

Return Ticket

  • £14.00 for Adults
  • £9.80 for Seniors/Students
  • £7.00 for Children/Freedom Pass Holders
  • £36.90 for Families (2 Adults + 3 Children)

Reviews

This cruise service has been in operation for several years, but they don’t have a lot of reviews. The few negative reviews say that the tour feels short and that you do not see so many sights. 

Mostly though the reviews are positive, saying that the live commentary is very informative and humourous.

Reviews say that the boat ride was relaxing and enjoyable, and well-organized. 

 


London Eye River Cruise

Whether you’re planning to visit the London Eye or you just want a tour around the Thames which focuses on the giant Ferris wheel, this river cruise is a great alternative to other services.

Although the London Eye River Cruise is not as long as other boat tours in the area, it can actually be a lot more affordable.

This circular loop will take you past locations such as Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London and the Houses of Parliament. If you purchase your tickets online, you can save 10% on your fare.

TIP: This cruise is also part of the London Explorer Pass, which could save you between 20-50% off of the retail price.

 

 

Ticket Prices:

  • £13.50 for Adults / £12 when you book online
  • £10 for Children (3-15) / £9 when you book online
  • Children under 3 ride for free

Before purchasing tickets, note that this cruise is included in the London Explorer Pass, which could save you between 20-50% off of the retail price.

Tour Hours

  • Daily Cruises from 10:45 to 19:45 pm
  • Cruise departs *10.45, 11.45, 12.45, 13.45, 14.45, 15.45, 16.45, *17.45, *18.45, *19.45

Note: *Opening times may vary depending on seasonality. Be sure to check their schedule.

Reviews

This river cruise company has earned a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor. Although there is a small contingent of passengers who had negative experiences, most reviews are very positive.

There aren’t enough complaints to suggest that these are common problems. Positive reviews for the service indicate that other guests found their tour guides to be quite helpful and informative.

The majority of people who take this cruise find it enjoyable. It’s fair to assume that the few complaints may just be random outliers.

 


City Cruises

In addition to their hop-on-hop-off services, City Cruises also provides a circular cruise in the summer months for anyone who wants to experience everything that the Thames has to offer.

These circular loops will take you to Westminster and back again as you enjoy live commentary pointing out all of the historic sites along the river.

The tour takes approximately 50 minutes to complete, which is on par with most of the other circular boat tours offered in London.

The circular cruise operates out of Tower Pier and Bankside Pier.  

The tickets for the circular loop are cheaper than buying a ticket for each direction as well as the hop-on, hop-off service.


Reviews

As we’ve mentioned before, this is one of the most notable cruise companies in the city. Reviews for their circular service are typically very good, although some guests have complained about scheduling conflicts and other unforeseen issues.

Most reviews for the circular cruise are very positive, making note of the excellent commentary provided by tour guides on the boat. If you’re looking for an informative boat tour on the Thames, consider taking a trip with City Cruises.

This circular cruise operates in the summer. Check their website for more information.

 


Thames River Tours

In addition to their speedboat tours and lunch and dinner cruises, Thames River Tours provides a circular loop with commentary and sightseeing.

This circular cruise operates out of Westminster Pier and lasts approximately one hour.

Although it isn’t a hop-on-hop-off tour, you are allowed to leave the cruise at any pier. 

If you’re looking for a boat tour that will provide information about the Thames as you glide down the river, this is an excellent option. 


Ticket Prices

  • Circular Cruise
    • £13.50 Per Person

Reviews

This boat tour company has a 4 out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor, indicating that they provide quite a good service.

Most of the reviews are actually 5-star ratings, but there are a few negative comments bringing the score down.

Positive comments suggest that the guides on Thames River Tours provide a lot of information and point out relevant sites along the river.

Unhappy customers report that they had a variety of scheduling issues, so it might be in your best interest to arrive early and call ahead to make sure that your cruise is still on schedule.

 


Sail on a 1920s Barge 

Hop aboard a historic wooden Thames Sailing Barge, Lady Daphne, and enjoy a voyage through history along the Thames.

Spend a day or an evening on a wooden sailing vessel built in 1923 and have Tower Bridge raised especially for you during the trip!

Lady Daphne is the last wooden sailing barge still working on the Thames regularly and in addition to their private tours, you can take a public tour when offered.

Most trips begin at Tower Millennium Pier, and you pass through Tower Bridge en-route downstream towards Greenwich.

Depending on the time and length of your trip, you can get to see the O2, Canary Wharf, and maybe a glimpse of the Thames Barrier!

Check their website for prices and more information. 

 


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SPEEDBOAT RIDES

Speedboat rides on the Thames are not a budget option, but they are definitely thrilling.

Throughout the experience, passengers will alternate between enjoying a leisurely ride along the Thames for sightseeing and a fast-paced thrill ride.

Guests are well protected with waterproof jackets, a life jacket, and goggle-style visors to withstand the thrilling wind speeds they will experience.

 

 


Thames RIB Experience

This RIB (Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat) is one of the fastest boats on the Thames, jetting visitors along the river at approximately 30 knots.

Each boat (which only holds up to 12 people) is manned by a guide who provides commentary throughout the journey.

In addition to their longer tour of the Thames, this company also manages three shorter tours of Canary Wharf, the O2 Arena, and the Tower Millennium Pier.

Ticket prices typically depend upon the length of the boat ride.


Ticket Prices:

More info or to purchase.

Thames Barrier Experience (75 minutes)

  • £55 for Adults
  • £39 for Children

Canary Wharf Experience (50 minutes)

  • £43 for Adults
  • £30 for Children

RIB Blast at the O2 (20 minutes)

  • £26.50 for Adults
  • £23.50 for Children

Tower RIB Blast (20 minutes)

  • £26.50 for Adults
  • £23.50 for Children

Reviews

The Thames RIB Experience has earned a full 5-star rating on TripAdvisor – and that includes over 2,500 positive reviews.

Many comments report that this is an excellent trip for families on holiday.

Other positive comments mention that you will probably get wet while on this excursion, so it’s best experienced during hot days.

This is definitely intended as more of an entertaining thrill ride. If you’re looking for excitement on the river, consider the Thames RIB Experience.

 


Thames Jet by City Cruises

This speedboat service is managed by City Cruises and offers a similar excursion to the RIB Experience.

They don’t offer as many tours as their competitors, but the Thames Jet is an excellent alternative.

Their Thames Rush speedboat tour is over 50 minutes.

Ticket prices are comparable to similar services, but they also offer family tickets at a discount. 

More information or to purchase tickets.


Ticket Prices:

  • £39.00 for Adults
  • £29.00 for Children (16 and under)
  • £129.00 for Family (2 Adults + 2 Children)

Tour Hours:

  • 9 tours between 11 am and 7 pm (there may be fewer tours in the winter months)

Reviews

TripAdvisor has given the Thames Jet service 4 ½ out of 5 stars. Most of the reviews are very positive, but there are a few negative comments. 

Luckily, the few negative reviews don’t appear to be the norm.

Most people enjoy this speedboat tour, with a majority of reviews stating that the tour guides are very entertaining and informative.

 


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CANAL BOAT RIDESLondon Little Venice

Operating entirely along the canals that flow through the north of London, a canal ride is a charming way to see parts of London that most tourists miss.  

For a true experience off the beaten path, these relaxing and beautiful rides are a definite must.

Jason’s Original Canal Boat Trip

From March to November, you can take a canal boat ride with Jason’s Original with live commentary from trained guides. 

  • One Way: Adult – £10 / Concession £9
  • Return: Adult – £15 / Concession £14

Jason’s London Canal Boat Trip is offered as part of the London Pass, which means more savings for you! 

 


London Waterbus Company

Their Regents Canal Waterbus Tour travels between Little Venice and Camden Lock (where the vibrant Camden Market is located).

Along the ride, the boat passes through Regent’s Park and the grounds of London Zoo. 

 


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LUNCH AND DINNER CRUISES

Sightseeing cruises are nice, but they might not be the best option for business events or dating.

If you’re looking for a more sociable trip along the Thames, consider one of the following Dining Cruises.

In addition to the typical dinner cruise, many companies over a variety of dining and party cruises, such as tea and showboat cruises, that allow you to enjoy more than just the sights and the sounds of London.

To browse a full list of lunch and dinner cruises options by type rather than by company, click here.

 

 


City Cruises

Whether you want to go on a cruise with wonderful music and fabulous food, or you just want to have your afternoon tea out on the Thames, City Cruises offers a wide variety of options.

If you order online during the summer, you can save 20% on each dining cruise offered through this company.

Tickets are already quite affordable, so this is an excellent opportunity to save money while having fun out on the water.


Ticket Prices 

More information or to purchase.

Lunch Cruise on The Thames

  • £35.00 for Adults
  • £22.00 for Children (ages 3-12)

Afternoon Tea on The Thames

  • £32.00 for Adults
  • £22.00 for Children (ages 3-12)

Sundowner Cruise on The Thames

  • £29.00 for Adults (18+)
  • £29.00 for Children  (ages 13-17)

Jazz Cruise on The Thames

  • £65.00 per Adult (18+)
  • £65.00 for Children  (ages 5-17)

The London Showboat Cruise

  • £80.00 per Adult (18+)
  • £80.00 for Children  (ages 5-17)

Reviews

When it comes to their dining cruises, this company has received fairly high ratings on TripAdvisor.

Although this isn’t their primary service, City Cruises regularly receives positive remarks for their dining boat trips.

Most reviewers have given them a 5-star rating, reporting that the food is quite excellent and the cruise itself is very relaxing.

Some have said that their Sundowner cruise is a great way to unwind after a long day, while others have reported that the Afternoon Tea cruise is a good value for the money.

 


Bateaux London 

When it comes to dining cruises, few companies are as notable as Bateaux London. This company provides services for dinner, lunch and afternoon tea. They even have a Sunday Lunch Jazz cruise with live musicians.

Discover all of the wonderful sights in London as you calmly drift along the river past locations such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye.


Ticket Prices 

More info and to purchase.

Classic Lunch Cruise

  • £36.00 for Adults
  • £22.50 for Children 

Classic Dinner Cruise

  • £82.00 for Adults
  • £82.00 for Children (12+)
  • Children under 12 not permitted

Classic Afternoon Tea Cruise

  • £36.00 for Adults
  • £22.50 for Children (3-12)

Reviews

Bateaux London Cruises has earned a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor.

Many reviews report that the food is quite excellent, but there are some comments suggesting otherwise. 

As usual most of the negative comments focus on random issues with scheduling. Most passengers absolutely adore their experience on these dining cruises.

Make sure to arrive early and call ahead to avoid any schedule problems.

 


R.S. Hispanola

The final option for dining on the Thames is the R.S. Hispaniola, which is a floating restaurant that is permanently moored along the riverbanks.

As the ship never leaves the embankment, there is no cost for a cruise. Guests simply pay for their meals while aboard the boat.

Thanks to their permanent location, this company offers a much wider variety of food than you will find with most of the cruise companies above.

If you aren’t sure about actually taking a trip on the river, this is an excellent option that will keep you close to shore.


Meal Prices  

  • Afternoon Tea
    • £28 per Person
  • 3 Courses & Free-Flowing Prosecco
    • £35 per Person
    • Available for Lunch or Dinner
  • 2 Courses from Pre-Theatre Dinner Menu
    • £22 per Person

They offer several other meals and dining events. See the full list here.


Reviews

The R.S. Hispaniola, also known as the Good Ship Benefit, has received a 4-star rating on TripAdvisor. Many guests report that their food is very tasty and the dining experience is second to none.

Although there are a few negative reviews, their complaints are random enough that they don’t suggest a pattern of poor service or food.

Some customers have suggested that this is an excellent restaurant for a girl’s night out. If you’re looking for views of the Thames without getting on the river, this business appears to be both reliable and well-liked.

 


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BUS & BOAT COMBOS

There are a lot of boat tours and cruises offered on the Thames, but none of them will show you everything worth seeing in London.

In order to experience more than just the river that runs through this beautiful city, you’ll want to consider combining a cruise with either walking tours or bus tours.

Thankfully, there are a lot of companies in the area that provide combo packages which include many different types of excursions. These combination packages can be a great way to save money on all kinds of activities!


Big Bus Tours

Big Bus is one of the most popular tour companies in the world. They offer services internationally and are well known for providing quality service.

Their combo package for London includes a cruise with City Cruises, their hop-on, hop-off bus tour, a selection of guided walking tours, and a coupon booklet.

Tickets for this combo package can be purchased either for 24 or 48 hours, allowing you to take as much time as you wish to enjoy everything included.

If you’re looking for a combination package that will allow you to discover as much of the city as possible without paying a lot of money, this is a great choice.

TIP: This tour package is offered as part of the London Explorer Pass. You can save up to 35% on all the attractions by combining three or more services with this pass. 

Click here for more information or to book.

Ticket Prices 

  • “Classic” 24-Hour Ticket  *Cruise one-way
    • £35.10 for Adults
    • £26.10 for Children (ages 5-15)
    • £107.20 for Family (2 Adults + 2 Children)
  • “Premium”  48-Hour Ticket *Cruise return 
    • £40.50 for Adults
    • £31.50 for Children  (ages 5-15)
    • £125.00 for Family (2 Adults + 2 Children)

Tour Hours

  • Tickets can be used on any date within 6 months of purchase.
  • Enjoy each tour or cruise at your own leisure.
  • Follow the tour hours of City Cruises to schedule your boat trip.

Reviews

Big Bus Tours of London has a 4-star rating on TripAdvisor. Most reviews are very positive, and comments about this specific combo package tend to be favorable.

Even customers who did not enjoy their experience reported that the cruise was excellent. Many passengers have said that this is a great value for the money.

Others report that the buses run frequently, allowing you to get off an experience various sites such as the Tower of London.

 


The Original London Sightseeing Tour

This tour service is almost exactly the same as Big Bus Tours. Much like their competitor, they also offer a Thames river cruise pass through City Cruises.

You’ll also have access to three walking tours and 80+ stops at attractions all over London on their hop-on, hop-off bus tour.

Although they claim to be the original sightseeing tour, the reality is that they don’t offer much more than their competitors.

Ticket prices are also very similar, so this might be a great alternative if other combo packages are all sold out.

 
 

 

 

Ticket Prices (online purchase)

  • 24-Hour Ticket
    • £32.00 for Adults 
    • £15.00 for Children 
    • £80 for Family Ticket (2 Adults + 2 Children) 
  • 48-Hour Ticket
    • £42.00 for Adults
    • £20.00 for Children 
    • £104.00 for Family Ticket (2 Adults + 2 Children)
  • 72-Hour Ticket
    • £52 for Adults 
    • £24 for Children
    • £129 for Family Ticket (2 Adults + 2 Children) 

More information and to book.

Tour Hours

  • Tickets can be used on any date within 6 months of purchase
  • Enjoy each tour or cruise at your own leisure
  • Follow the tour hours of City Cruises to schedule your boat trip

Reviews

The Original London Sightseeing Tour has received a 4-star rating on TripAdvisor. A majority of the reviews are positive, but experiences with this tour company are a bit more mixed than other services in the same range.

Most of the complaints focus on a lack of buses, but this doesn’t appear to be the norm; most customers have not reported a problem with their offerings, and there are thousands of reviews suggesting that this company provides excellent service.

Many passengers noted that their tour guides are very good, so this should be a great choice if you want to learn a lot about the London area.

 


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About the author

An American simply by accident of birth, Margaret moved to London over 15 years ago and hasn’t looked back since! With a keen interest in History – and a BA degree to match – Margaret prides herself on her knowledge of the amazing city she calls home and she's been guiding here now for nearly a decade. Social history is her real expertise, with sound understanding of the day-to-day lives of Londoners over the past centuries.