Certainly one of the finest walking paths in the United Kingdom, the Thames Path stretches for 184 miles from the river’s source in the Cotswolds to the Thames Flood Barrier in East London. No matter how long you travel on it, it’s a beautiful path through one of England’s most beautiful places to the very heart of Britain’s capital. Of course, you don’t need to walk the full length of the Thames Path to enjoy it. If you find yourself in London, you can follow it from the moment it enters the city until its end. We have identified ten different things you can see along the Thames Path in London, and if you have any suggestions, you can share them with us in the comments.
Hampton Court Palace
Right along the Thames, one of the first places you’ll want to see is Hampton Court Palace. It was originally built around 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolseley, but after he fell out of favor, King Henry VIII took it for himself as recompense for Wolseley’s disgrace. It ended up being his favorite royal residence, and while still the property of the Crown, it also operates as a museum. It has wonderful decorative chimneys, a Tudor-style roasting hearth in the kitchens, a timber-beamed great hall, and more. A 17th-century aborted renovation left it with some Baroque features as well, making for an interesting hodge-podge of styles.
Kew Gardens is one of the largest and most diverse botanical gardens in the world, with over 30,000 different species of plants spread out over 300 acres. In the middle of all this is Kew Palace, a royal palace that has been home to Robert Dudley, Queen Charlotte, and the children of King George II. The Dutch House is all that remains of the original palace, but it is still worth seeing for its historical value, and paired with the Royal Botanic Gardens, you could spend an entire day here.
One of the largest green spaces along the River Thames at 200 acres, Battersea Park, is a top destination for those looking for some gorgeous nature. There’s so much to do in the park that it could almost make for its own top ten articles. Whether you’re going for the greenery, the Children’s Zoo, the Peace Pagoda, the bandstand, the Pump House Gallery, or more, you’ll find this is a great place to spend the day.
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
Located right next to the river, the Palace of Westminster has been home to the government since it was the palace of Canute the Great. The first Parliament (or “Model Parliament”) met here in 1295, and it became their home after King Henry VIII vacated it for the Palace of Whitehall. The current building dates from the 19th Century after a fire destroyed the original Houses of Parliament. While most people refer to the tower as Big Ben, the name actually refers to the bell inside, and the tower itself is named Elizabeth Tower for Queen Elizabeth II.
One of the best ways to see the Thames and the city is high atop a flight on the London Eye. A thirty-minute ride on this cantilevered Ferris wheel is a thrilling experience and one of the highest views of London you’re going to get. The London Eye also offers special flights for a little extra, and be sure to buy your tickets in advance as it is a very popular attraction.
Right alongside the river in Southbank, Shakespeare’s Globe was the dream of Sam Wanamaker, who sought to build a faithful recreation of the Elizabethan venue in Southbank. This end result is so faithful that it also doubles as a museum where visitors can take tours to learn more about the Bard and theatre performances of his era. In addition to the regular series of Shakespearean plays featured in the Globe’s schedule, the venue also sees other surviving plays from the era and newer historical dramas.
One of the most famous bridges connecting the banks of the River Thames, Tower Bridge is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture in the city. It is also one of the most famous examples of a bascule bridge, built to cater to the increasing traffic along the river. If you ever visit, be sure to go up to the pedestrian foot tunnel for one of the best views of the Thames you’ll get.
While many ships are docked along the Thames, none are as grand as the Cutty Sark. It’s one of the last tall ships left intact in the United Kingdom, and during its lifetime, the ship was a fast clipper that brought tea from China back to Britain. Now, it exists as a museum that lets people see what it was really like to sail on a 19th Century vessel. You can even go under the ship to view its magnificent hull for yourself.
The O2 Arena
Opened originally as an exhibition center, it proved to be a financial flop until it was revitalized into a sporting and concert venue. The brave can venture to the top for one of the best views of the city through Up at O2. There’s also a bowling alley, a movie theater, and even an exhibition center.
The Thames Barrier serves an important purpose for the city in helping to prevent flooding from the River Thames. Of course, the artful design of the flood control measures makes them a tourist destination. They also mark the end of the Thames Path, and you can either choose to begin your wandering here or end your walk.