The river Thames and London are irrevocably connected. This broad river swings itself through the centre of the city and has been a beating artery of trade and leisure for many hundreds of years.
When I first moved to London I was absolutely obsessed by The Thames and I have always lived relatively close to the river. Both in Thamesmead and in Gravesend it would take me less than 10 minutes by foot to get to the Thames.
But what would be the absolute coolest way to cross the river Thames in London? And should you cross the river by bridge, by foot, by boat or even by cable cart? In this article I will provide you with a list of the best ways to cross the Thames, whether it is a Thames bridge, a cable cart to cross the Thames or a clipper boat!
Crossing the Thames by Cable Cart – The Emirates Air Line
One of the absolute coolest ways to cross the River Thames is by the Emirates Air Line – yes that is a great pun indeed. This gondola stretches all the way from London ExCel to the O2.
The Emirates Air Line provides you with a great view over Canary Wharf, the O2 and the river Thames.
I would recommend starting at London ExCel as there is not really a lot to do at that end of the cable cart – unless there is a big convention going on. That way you arrive at the O2 where you can have a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants or even climb the O2 for a great experience and an amazing panoramic view.
How to get to the emirates thames cable cart
Getting to the Emirates Air Line Thames Cable Cart is fairly easy. You take the Docklands Light Railway (also known as the DLR) from Bank station towards Beckton and get off at Royal Victoria. From here it will be a very short walk to the Emirates Royal Docks station.
How to get back to the city from the Thames Gondola
When buying a ticket for the Emirates Air Line you can buy one two-way at the sales point – or you can buy a single. I would honestly recommend buying a single and spending some time at the O2. There are a lot of nice restaurants at the O2 and walking around this concert hall on the outside is actually very cool as you have nice views over Canary Wharf.
From the O2 you can easily take the Jubilee line back into the city. In just a few stops you are as far as London bridge.
What else is there to do at the O2 London
If you want to spend some time at the O2 arena you can. There are numerous bars and restaurants and there is even a Cineworld cinema. The O2 itself has at least two venues – the big O2 arena and a smaller club where bands and entertainers perform.
Another nice thing to do at the O2 is to climb the O2. Up at the O2 was first introduced a few years back when I still lived in London and offers amazing panoramic views over Canary Wharf, the river Thames and the surrounding areas.
How much does a ticket for the Emirates Air Line Cable Cart cost
If you are interested in crossing the Thames via the Emirates Air Line cable cart you pay 3.50 pounds when using an Oyster Card or contactless credit card and 4.50 pounds if you buy a ticket at one of the ticket sales desks.
At these sales desks you can also buy return tickets – but as mentioned before: I would indeed recommend only going one-way towards the O2 arena.
If you want to combine the Emirates Air Line with a tour on the Thames via a Clipper Boat you can buy tickets here.
Crossing the Thames by ferryboat – the Woolwich Ferry
I have cursed many a times at the Woolwich Ferry! Trust me! My bus to work was often stuck in the queues the ferry would cause at the Woolwich roundabout.
Nevertheless – if you are visiting London by car, the Woolwich Ferry is a great way to cross the Thames in a very unique way.
Between the Tower Bridge and The Dartford crossing there are a total of 0 (!!) bridges that connect the North and South bank. No that was not a typo. There is in fact not a single bridge to get cars across the river. Sure – there are tunnels, and we will talk about these later – but no bridges whatsoever.
Londoners have been asking for a bridge in Woolwich or Thamesmead for years now as the Woolwich Ferry is supposed to be the connection between the North circular and the South circular – two very busy small ring roads squirming their way through London.
For now they will have to do with a busy Ferry as hopes of finally getting a well-needed bridge in Woolwich were crushed when then mayor of London Boris Johnson scrapped the whole plan in favour for his billion pound Garden Bridge in a bridge-saturated central London (which was then – you already guessed it, also scrapped).
Where to cross the Thames with the Woolwich Ferry
The Woolwich Ferry is located close to the Woolwich city centre at a large roundabout. The ferry will take you from the South bank to the North bank (Woolwich North) or the other way around.
As a rule of thumb, I would say it is not a good idea to use the Woolwich Ferry during rush hour. It gets very busy, the roads are congested and you will probably have to wait quite a while before you can board the ferry.
It takes about 5 to 10 minutes to cross the Thames by ferry depending on how busy it is on the river.
Woolwich Ferry Price
How much does it cost to take the Woolwich Ferry? I am very pleased to tell you that taking the Woolwich Ferry is completely free of charge! You can just drive up and wait for the ferry to arrive.
Crossing the Thames by passenger boat – the clipper boat services
The Thames Clipper Boat Services are boats that stop alongside the Thames and can be used for your commute or to explore the city via hop-on hop-off tickets.
I myself have used the clipper boats once when trying to get home. There were severe delays on the central line and the jubilee and getting a metro to Charing Cross would take absolutely ages. Sure the clipper service was actually quite expensive in the end – but it is a great experience to be had. I would definitely recommend it for tourists wanting to see the city via the river.
Where can you take a clipper boat service
The clipper service has many stops along the river. Some of the most famous and most important ones are: the London Bridge City Pier, London Eye (Waterloo) Pier, Embankment Pier, North Greenwich Pier and Westminster Pier.
You can look up all different Thames Clipper Piers via this website.
Types of Clipper Boat Service Tickets and Thames Clipper Boat Price
The clipper services have a range of ticket types you can choose from – one of the most popular with tourists is the hop-on hop- off ticket, also known as a clipper roamer ticket. This ticket will allow you to ride the clipper services along the river. At 17.50 pounds per adult, 8.90 pounds per kid or 35.60 pounds per family it is often actually cheaper to buy a hop-on hop-off ticket then to buy 3 clipper rides.
If you just want to experience the clipper services once you can also buy a single or return ticket depending on where you are going. I would recommend buying your tickets online for a 10% discount or using your Oyster Card to save even more money.
Coolest tunnels in London
Another amazing way to cross the Thames is by tunnel. There are a few amazing tunnels in London which I will list below in no particular order.
I will cover the Dartford crossing under the bridges section as the Dartford bridge is far more exciting than the Dartford tunnel.
The Woolwich Foot Tunnel
Instead of taking the Woolwich Ferry you can also take the Woolwich foot tunnel. They emerge at almost the same spot. This magnificent narrow foot tunnel was officially opened in 1912 and formed an alternative for when the Woolwich ferry was not working.
The entrances on both side of the tunnel are grade 2 listed and beautiful examples of early 1900’s architecture.
The tunnel itself was refurbished in 2011 and recent figures showed that more than 1000 people use the tunnel every single day.
The Blackwall Tunnel
Not too far from Woolwich you can find the Blackwall tunnel. This car tunnel was constructed in 1897 and connects Tower Hamlets with Greenwich. On the few occasions I went through the Blackwall tunnel I was in awe of the beautiful entrance and exit.
If you want to cross the river via this tunnel, make sure to check your Google Maps as there are always a lot of problems at the Blackwall tunnel – from massive queues to tunnel closures.
Did you know there is even a famous ghost story concerning the Blackwall tunnel? They say there is a mysterious ghost hitchhiker appearing in the early hours!
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel connects Greenwich with Millwall in the Borough of Tower Hamlets. This beautiful white-tiled foot tunnel was first opened in 1902 – a full 10 years before its Woolwich counterpart. But just like the Woolwich one the entrances consist of a beautiful round building.
I would recommend using the Greenwich Foot Tunnel as it offers a beautiful view over Canary Wharf from one side and allows you to visit the Island Gardens waterfront with amazing views over Greenwich.
In Greenwich itself you can visit the Maritime Museum, the Royal observatory and of course the Cutty Sark.
The Rotherhithe tunnel
Another car tunnel you can use to cross under the Thames is the Rotherhithe tunnel. This beautiful turn of the last century tunnel is beautifully covered in white tiles and still has some of the original evacuation staircases.
I love crossing through the Rotherhithe tunnel as it has that great Edwardian – industrial almost, feel to it.
Coolest bridges in London
As it is paramount that you are able to get from the Southbank to the Northbank in relative easy, London has a number of bridges crossing the Thames in the centre of the city. I have made a little list of the coolest bridges crossing the river Thames in London.
The Tower Bridge
London’s most famous bridge is without a doubt Tower Bridge. This 244-meter-long Victorian bridge over the Thames has been a very important link between the two parts of London since its construction in 1894 and today about 40,000 people pass through it every day. The bridge can be opened, but they try to prevent this as much as possible. The bridge opens approximately 900 times a year.
Tower Bridge can be found next to the Tower of London, another popular London landmark. The bridge also gets its name from the Tower of London. The HMS Belfast, a former battleship of the Royal Navy, is also a stone worm away from the bridge.
Tower Bridge is a popular London attraction and there are many points around the bridge from where you can photograph the bridge well. My absolute favourite is the dock in front of the Tower of London, from here you have a good view over the bridge and you can take great photos. It is also highly recommended to view the Tower Bridge when it is dark.
Another very beautiful bridge is that of Westminster. The Westminster Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in London as it is located just next to The Houses of Parliament and therefore also Big Ben.
The city was initially against building a bridge here in the 18th century, but when traffic in London became too busy in the 19th century, it was finally decided to build Westminster Bridge.
The bridge was designed by Thomas Page, who also designed The Palace of Westminster.
Tucked away in the West of London next to Battersea park you can find Albert Bridge. This bridge was completed in 1873 as a cable-system bridge in the style of Ordish Lefeuvre and is one of the only two bridges in the world of its kind. The bridge was – like other suspension bridges – known to wobble. It was indeed so bad that soldiers who would use the bridge were ordered to break step. The two little octagonal houses on either side were toll booths as this was originally a toll bridge.
Another famous bridge in the centre of London is the Millennium Bridge. This bridge was featured in movies such as Ruby Red and Harry Potter and is together with The Shard a go-to shot for action and spy movies set in London. The Millennium Bridge connects Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s globe theatre with the North bank where you will have easy access to St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Dartford Crossing
Although the Dartford Crossing is both a bridge and a tunnel I will categorise it as a bridge as the bridge has an impressive view.
I have used the Dartford Bridge a few times and was always in awe of the amazing view over London. Sure the bridge itself is quite far out of London, but you have a magnificent panoramic vista over the London Skyline.
The Dartford bridge is a toll bridge and it will cost 4 Pounds to use it but if you are in the area I would definitely drive over it.