- Take a Boat.
Greenwich seems to have some attraction and I can now see why, the boat leaving from Westminster pier opposite Big Ben (but still this side of the river) takes you past Temple, the London Eye, then you see the City of London, now a financial district featuring St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard on the right after Shakespeare’s Globe, next is the Tower of London left and Tower Bridge, with the Mayor’s helmet-like office to its right; this alone is a nice tour and you could just get out at St. Katherine’s Docks or even prior, at Blackfriars, and walk back, which is about three miles. I’ll elaborate on this walk below, as it’s also an option if you defer walking and go all the way further past Canary Wharf (the new financial district), and finally to Greenwich to stand on the zero meridian, see the Cutty Sark and have lunch before heading back. The stretch from Tower Bridge to Greenwich is perhaps less spectacular than the first half, though you can buy coffee and beer on board and might just enjoy being on the river for a bit longer. Having been a commuter to Canary Wharf in my previous life, I can vouch that this is an enjoyable journey that takes half an hour back to Westminster Pier – maybe that’s because I used to take it on the way back from work, it clears the mind; also note that I’d have taken the River Bus as opposed to the River Tour, the latter being more leisurely, with commentary, and a bit more expensive. You could take a Tour one way and River Bus back.
Walk back through Temple district:
- So regardless of whether you go all the way to Greenwich, or leave the boat at Tower Bridge / St. Katherine’s, the walk from or to the Tower of London – which incidentally is not a tower as such, it’s a fortification housing the Crown Jewels (a long line..) guarded by the Beafeaters and worth exploring, take one to two hours – the walk back to Soho is well worth it:
- Cross Lower Thames Street onto East Cheapside, and follow this to Monument – a monument to the Great Fire of London, which you can climb for a view and a certificate. Check the map here, it’s hidden a bit from Monument station. From there navigate either along King William Street to the Bank of England, through the older financial district (now home to lawyers, accountants and actuaries primarily, the financial services as opposed to the main investment banks that are now in Canary Wharf), or along Cannon Street to St. Paul’s Cathedral. You could head south from there and cross Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern, or head down Ludgate Hill and up again to Fleet Street, where the newspaper industry used to be based (and is still referred to by the street’s name), and past Goldman Sachs into Temple district. This is a quintessential part of London. Home to the Royal Courts of Justice, it’s made up of barrister’s offices (lawyers that are admitted to represent clients in Court, wigs and all), it has the oldest pubs in London, and by that time you’ll have earned your pint. There’s Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Ye Olde Cock Tavern, and the ornate ‘The Old Bank of England’ pubs on the way. Temple Church is beautiful and you’ll walk through the heart of British lawmaking on the way. Fleet Street is now The Strand, and past the Courts (mind the press) you reach The Aldwych; continue straight to reach Trafalgar Square, or cut diagonally right into Covent Garden. This old market is opposite the Royal Opera House and you can easily get lost here amongst a plethora of restaurants and tourist facilities; head into Seven Dials and see where it spins you out – north is Shaftesbury Avenue, west is Charing Cross road, if you reach either of these you’re on track for Chinatown and Soho.
- I would actually recommend getting off the boat at Blackfriars and then meandering up through Temple district or continue walking along the Embankment, where when you reach the Tube station, you walk straight through it and up the short incline of Villiers Street which will spit you out onto the Strand and Trafalgar Square. When you walk through Embankment Tube station, before the incline, there’s Gordon’s Wine Bar on your right bordering on a small park, where you can enjoy a – wine – with some tapas, and still have a view onto the river, and the London Eye.
Return price: £16.50
The commuter service (also serves refreshments):