This post compares and reviews the various London boat tours and Thames River cruises available to you.
We include hop-on-hop-off cruises, speedboats, dinner cruises, and commuter ferries.
- Hop-on-Hop-Off Cruises
- Circular Loop River Tours
- Speedboat Thrill Rides
- Lunch and Dinner Cruises
- Canal Boats
- Cruise/Bus Tour Combos
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 Thames cruises, there are a few that provide the opportunity to explore London however you wish.
You can choose to purchase one single ride, a discounted return ticket, or a 24-hour travel pass with unlimited rides.
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 Tootbus Tours.
Click on the map for a larger view.
Single-ride tickets vary depending on your starting and ending point. Prices start at £10.80/adult (16+), £7.05/child (5-15), and 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
- £23 Adults (16+)
- £15.45 for Children (5-15)
- Free for Infants (4 and under)
- More information or to purchase tickets.
Availability might be limited during certain times of the year.
- £23. 50 Adults (16+)
- £15.30 for Children (5-15)
- Free for Infants (4 and under)
- Family (2 Adults and 3 children) £47
- More information or to purchase tickets.
- NOTE: Not currently available as of April 2023.
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 usually included for free for holders of a London Sightseeing 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 Tootbus 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 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 to make sure there are no problems.
Uber Boat by Thames Clippers
Thames Clippers is a commuter boat service that sells single-ride tickets.
But, they also offer a day ticket, called Uber Boat, that gives you unlimited hop-on, hop-off travel for one day (between 10 am and 11 pm).
The Uber Boat is valid in their Central and East Zone lines which include 18 piers including Greenwich, Tower, Westminster, and more. Boats depart every 20 minutes.
Some of the central London landmarks you can get to easily from the Uber Boat piers:
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- Tate Modern
- Covent Garden
- Trafalgar Square
- Borough Market
- National Gallery of Art
- British Museum
- Houses of Parliament
- Churchill War Rooms
- HMS Belfast
- Shakespeare's Globe
- Palace of Westminster
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.
Uber Boat Ticket Prices
- £21.20 Adults (16+)
- £10.60 for Children (5-15)
- Free for Infants (4 and under)
- More information or to purchase tickets.
- This cruise is included with the London Pass.
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 great value for the money. The 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.
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.
Additionally, 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).
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 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 no 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 Tate Shop 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: One Way - £9.40 | Return - £16.60
- Child 5 to 15: One Way - £4.70 | Return - £8.30
- Children under 5 travel for free
- Adult TfL Travelcard: One Way - £8.20 | Return - £14
- Child 5-15 TfL Travelcard: One Way - £4.10 | Return - £7
For a complete timetable of 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).
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 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.
CIRCULAR LOOP THAMES RIVER SIGHTSEEING 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 Cathedral, the Tower of London, the Houses 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.
Click here to purchase tickets.
- £12.40 for Adults
- £8.40 for Children/Freedom Pass Holders
- £18.15 for Adults
- £12.25 for Children/Freedom Pass Holders
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 humorous.
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 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.
- £15 for Adults / £14 when you book online
- £12 for Children (3-15) / £11 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.
- Daily Cruises from 10:45 to 19:45
- 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.
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.
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.
- One Way: £12.85/Adults | £8.65/Children
- Children under 4 ride for free
- Purchase tickets or learn more.
- Daily cruises from 10:00 am - 18:15 (6:15 pm)
- The frequency of departures depends on which pier you choose
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 River Thames cruise, 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.
- Circular Cruise
- £14.90 Per Person
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 5-star ratings, but a few negative comments are 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 toward Greenwich Pier.
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.
Speedboat rides on the Thames are not a budget option, but they are 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, and the Tower Millennium Pier.
Ticket prices typically depend upon the length of the boat ride.
Thames Barrier Experience (75 minutes)
- £61 for Adults
- £47 for Children
- More info or to purchase.
Canary Wharf Experience (50 minutes)
- £48 for Adults
- £37 for Children
- More info or to purchase.
Tower RIB Blast (20 minutes)
- £32.50 for Adults
- £29.50 for Children
- More info or to purchase.
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 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.
- £39.20 for Adults
- £31.20 for Children (16 and under)
- 9 tours between 11 am and 7 pm (there may be fewer tours in the winter months)
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.
CANAL BOAT RIDES
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 - £15 / Concession £11
- Return: Adult - £21 / Concession £17
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.
- Adult (17-59 years) £14.50
- Child (3-16 years) £11
- Student 17+ with photo student ID £11
- Senior 60+ years £11
- Toddler (under 3 years) free
The London Zoo Express ticket, which includes zoo admission, is not currently available as of May 2021.
Check their website for more details and to purchase tickets.
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 offer a variety of dining and party cruises, such as tea and showboat cruises, that allow you to enjoy more than just the sights and sounds of London.
To browse a full list of lunch and dinner cruise options by type rather than by company, click here.
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.
More information or to purchase.
Lunch Cruise on The Thames
- £51.00 for Adults
- £40.00 for Children (ages 3-12)
Afternoon Tea on The Thames
- £54.00 for Adults
- £40.00 for Children (ages 3-12)
Jazz Cruise on The Thames
- £91.00 per Adult (18+)
London Dinner Cruise on The Thames
- £70.00 per Adult (18+)
When it comes to its 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.
When it comes to dining cruises, few companies are as notable as Bateaux London.
This company provides services for dinner, lunch, and seasonal events. 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.
Sunday Lunch Cruise
- Classic: £85 per guest
- Classic Plus: £105 per guest
- Festive Lunch: £109 per guest
Classic Dinner Cruise
- Festive Gold Dinner: £135 per guest
- Festive Gold Dinner: £159 per guest
- Platinum Dinner: £175 per guest
- Festive Gold Dinner: £189 per guest
- Children under 12 not permitted
- Father's Day Cruise: £69 per guest
- Christmas Day Cruise: £169 per guest
- New Year's Eve Cruise: £389 per guest
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.
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.
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 that 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.
Click here for more information or to book.
- "Discover" 24-Hour Ticket *Cruise one-way
- £81 for Adults
- £67 for Children (ages 5-15)
- "Explore" 48-Hour Ticket *Cruise one-way
- £58.50 for Adults
- £49.50 for Children (ages 5-15)
- £191.30 for Family (2 Adults + 2 Children)
- 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.
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 and experience various sites such as the Tower of London.
This tour service is almost 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 80+ stops at attractions all over London on their hop-on, hop-off bus tour.
Ticket prices are very similar, so this might be a great alternative if other combo packages are all sold out.
Ticket Prices (online purchase)
- 24 Hour Tickets: £37.80/Adults | £21.60/Children
- 48 Hour Tickets: £44.10/Adults | £26.10/Children
- 72 Hour Tickets: £50.40/Adults | £30.60/Children
Purchase tickets or learn more.
- 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
Tootbus, once known as 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.
Things to Know When Going on a River Thames Cruise
Do you need to book Thames River Cruises in advance?
You don't necessarily need to, but if you do not book your tickets in advance, then you can get ticket from ticket counters on piers.
Due to limited availability, you may not always get tickets for a particular date or time slot. As such, it is always advisable to book your cruise tickets in advance.
Where can I catch a Thames River Cruise?
Piers of some popular cruises are listed below:
- City Cruises - Westminster Pier, London Eye Pier, Tower Pier, and Greenwich Pier
- Uber Boat by Thames Clippers - Embankment Pier, Westminster Pier, Tower Millennium Pier, London Bridge City Pier, Canary Wharf, Greenwich Pier, North Greenwich Pier
- Thames River Service - Westminster Pier
- Tate to Tate by Thames Clippers - Bankside Pier, Millbank Pier
- Thames River Services' Circular Cruise - Westminster Pier
- London Eye River Cruise - The London Eye pier
- Lady Daphne - Tower Millennium Pier
- Thames RIB Experience - Embankment Pier
- Thames Jet by City Cruises - Westminster Pier
How far do cruise boats go up the Thames?
It all depends upon which river cruise you are taking.
Most of the cruises start from Westminster Pier and goes up to Tower Millennium Pier.
Some long run cruises also start from Millbank Pier and reach Greenwich Pier.
There are also some special river cruises during the warmer months which run from Westminster to Hampton Court Palace.
Are River Cruises safe?
The cruise river boats are inspected by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and they carry modern safety equipment onboard.
Also, trained skippers and crews run the safety briefing as they leave their respective boarding points.
In other words, there is no reason to worry about safety while enjoying a cruise ride.