What To See And Do Along The River Thames
The Thames has been a crucial trade route since the Middle Ages. The World War II battleship HMS Belfast, moored next to Tower Bridge, has nine decks to explore. Step back in time to see a full-scale reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s famous galleon, the Golden Hinde, which now nestles on the river near London Bridge. In Greenwich, you can tour one of the last and fastest tea clippers, the Cutty Sark, and visit the Royal Maritime Museum. Why not take the journey along the Thames with MBNA Thames Clippers? The fast fleet is loved by sightseers and commuters alike.
This year is the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of 1666. Ever since Sir Christopher Wren built The Monument in 1671 to mark the disaster, views of the capital have been a huge draw. For more than three centuries, visitors have climbed it to gaze at the panorama. An even more spectacular view is afforded from Wren’s masterpiece, St Paul’s Cathedral. St Paul’s dominated the skyline for centuries, but that honour now goes to The Shard, a 21st-century spire-like marvel of steel. But no trip is complete without visiting the Coca-Cola London Eye, a giant observation wheel.
MPs debate in the Palace of Westminster, better known as the Houses of Parliament. The site has been the seat of governance for 1,000 years, and includes the Queen Elizabeth Tower and its bell Big Ben. When the Romans built a stronghold on the banks of the Thames, they could hardly have imagined it would be the Tower of London, which now houses the Crown Jewels. Next to that is Tower Bridge, which opens almost daily to let tall vessels pass through. St Paul’s Cathedral’s white dome affects modern landmarks to this day; many skyscrapers have an unusual shape to protect its sightlines.
Arts And Culture
Shakespeare’s Globe is a direct link to the past; opened in 1997 by director Sam Wanamaker, it is a reconstruction of the playhouse for the Bard’s plays. Visit the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse too, which is lit entirely by candles. The highly respected National Theatre houses three separate theatres and stands between the BFI Southbank film complex and the Southbank Centre, which incorporates concert halls. Further east, few would have foreseen that a waterfront power station would house the world’s most visited modern art gallery. Step forward Tate Modern – now expanded inside a pyramid-like structure – with paintings from artists ranging from Picasso to Rothko.
Wining And Dining
Dining along, or above, the river is big business. When the art deco OXO Tower opened its eighth-floor restaurant, bar and brasserie in 1996, it demonstrated that location is everything. Skylon at the Southbank Centre and a new ninth-floor restaurant at Tate Modern’s new wing offer a similar vantage point. The Shard, meanwhile, boasts three restaurants halfway up its 72 floors, from British elegance at Aqua and European cuisine at Oblix to Hutong’s Chinese delicacies. Enjoy celebrity favourite The River Café in Hammersmith, with food created by Ruth Rogers and the building designed by her husband Richard Rogers. Here you can dine in a garden surrounded by edible flowers and herbs.