Walking by the Thames: London’s Crown Jewel

The South Bank, London Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

With the focus firmly on London and the 2012 Olympics this summer why not take a few hours to discover some well-known and some not so well known gems along the river Thames?

London’s South Bank

You can walk along the river from the London Eye to HMS Belfast in about 45 minutes.

The London Eye Photo: ilovebutter on Flickr

The London Eye

EDF Energy London Eye

The 135-metre high observation wheel has been an iconic part of London’s landscape since 1999 and carries approximately 15,000 passengers every day. There are 32 pods on the eye with each one representing one of the London Boroughs. The views from the London Eye are spectacular on a clear day and you can see as far as Windsor Castle-approximately 25 miles away!
During the Olympics the London Eye will be open for late night rides until midnight for those that want to get a bird’s eye view of London during what is set to be an amazing three weeks. London Eye website

Royal Festival Hall in London Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Royal Festival Hall in London

South Bank Centre

The South Bank, at twice the size of the New York’s Lincoln Center, is one of the largest centres in the world. It encompasses the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Hayward Gallery, the Purcell Room and the Saison Poetry Library. The Queen Elizabeth Hall is a music venue that hosts various music and dance performances daily while the Hayward Gallery is one of London’s main venues for large classical and contemporary art exhibitions. It is free to enter the South Bank Centre building and worthwhile just to sit with a coffee and soak up some cultured atmosphere in the foyer. South Bank Centre website

HMS Belfast in London Photo by iambents on Flickr

HMS Belfast in London

HMS Belfast

Originally a war ship, HMS Belfast is now a floating naval museum operated by the Imperial War Museum. Originally built in Belfast, the ship played a key role during World War II leading the ‘D Day’ landings at Normandy and was retired from service in 1963. The museum consists of nine decks and is split into three sections; life on board, inner workings and life at war. You can experience what life was like on board including the gun turret and the cramped living spaces. HMS Belfast website

London’s North Bank

You can walk along the river from Cleopatra’s Needle to Inner Temple Gardens in about 15 minutes.

Cleopatra’s Needle

Standing at 60 feet high this monument is pretty hard to miss. It is known as Cleopatra’s Needle as it was brought to London from Alexandria, Cleopatra’s Royal City, in 1819 although it dates back to 1475 B.C. The monument has earned its place on Victoria Embankment as it endured a terrible sea journey and was cast adrift in a storm and nearly sank. Six men died trying to save it and their names are commemorated on one of the plaques at the base. When the needle was erected in 1878 a time capsule was buried underneath it containing among other things; photographs of the 12 best looking women of the time, a box of cigars, a map of London and a portrait of Queen Victoria.

Somerset House in London Photo: JP on Flickr

Somerset House in London

Somerset House

The Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour, built Somerset House in 1551, however he was executed on the grounds of treason a year later and Somerset House was seized by the Crown. The palace was home to Princess Elizabeth I before she was crowned Queen Elizabeth I in 1558 and also 3 further queens including Anne of Denmark, Henrietta Maria and Catherine of Braganza.
The building currently houses the Royal Academy of Arts as well as having a packed programme of events including exhibitions, family workshops, an ice skating rink in winter and it is also the home to London Fashion. For a special occasion ‘Tom’s Terrace’ named after Michelin starred chef Tom Aikens, is an al fresco bar set on an 18th century terrace of Somerset House. It provides stunning views over the Thames and is lit at night with funky coloured lights. Somerset House website

Inner Temple Gardens in London Photo: RachelH_ on Flickr

Inner Temple Gardens in London

Inner Temple Gardens

Inner Temple Gardens are joined to the Inner Temple, home to the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court. (To practice as a barrister in England & Wales one must belong to one of these Inns) The gardens were noted for their roses and William Shakespeare claimed that the War of the Roses started here. The gardens are open Monday-Friday from 12.30 until 3.00 pm. Inner Temple website

If you want to find out more about the history of London’s riverside landmarks, including those mentioned, ‘The Thames: London’s Crown Jewel’ is a great interactive iPad App that explores the Thames from Chelsea to Tower Bridge. Its features include bite size informative text, visual table of contents, 90 stunning full screen images, music, audio and timelapse videos of the river. It is available on iPad and costs £1.99 with 50% of profits going to the Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation.

Download the app from i-Tunes: The Thames: London’s Crown Jewel

Photo Credits: The London Eye by ilovebutter, HMS Belfast by iambents, Somerset House by JP, Inner Temple Gardens by RachelH_


heatheronhertravels' London - South Bank photoset heatheronhertravels’ London – South Bank photoset

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  • Reply
    Barbara Weibel
    August 9, 2012 at 1:24 am

    I’m looking forward to seeing all this, soon!
    Barbara Weibel´s last blog post ..PHOTO: Women spin wool at Lodrik Old Folks Home at Jampaling Tibetan Refugee Settlement near Pokhara, Nepal

  • Reply
    Patricia Parsons
    August 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks for this! We’ve been to London a number of times but now that our son hs moved there, we’ll be jetting across the pond more often and look forward to becoming much more familiar with this wondeful city.
    Patricia Parsons´s last blog post ..The ups and downs of travel loyalty programs: When is a perk not a perk?

    • Reply
      August 9, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      @Patricia I was brought up in London but now I live in Bristol I enjoy going back and exploring it as a visitor

  • Reply
    Karen Guttridge
    August 10, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Great to see some lesser known attractions highlighted. I’ve visited London many times yet still find new places often by chance. One of my daughters lives in London and I was surprised when she revealed that it’s been easier to get around and less crowded during the Olympics!

    • Reply
      August 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm

      @Karen I try to take my kids back to London when we visit my parents and show them a few interesting things each time

  • Reply
    Elle of Solo Female Nomad
    August 12, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Out of all the many times that I have been to London, I have never done, or thought about, doing that walk. I think most of us are busy utilising the great transportation and miss seeing most areas by foot.
    Elle of Solo Female Nomad´s last blog post ..Things To Do And See In Lhasa Tibet

    • Reply
      August 13, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      @Elle The Thames was the road in previous centuries, the boats were the buses, if you see London from the River you see it as it was intended when built

  • Reply
    Paul (To Asia)
    August 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Just showed my wife this post, we are going to London in a couple of weeks, it will be her first time, but its my home town or at least North London is. We live in Phuket Thailand so its a bit of a trek but well worth it to show my wife and daughter.
    Thanks for your article, its got her more excited about the trip!
    Paul (To Asia)´s last blog post ..The Shaolin Temple

    • Reply
      August 13, 2012 at 11:03 pm

      @ Paul So pleased you’ve got a little London inspiration – in fact walking by the Thames in London is one of my favourite things to do and there are many free things to see along its banks

  • Reply
    Kitty Blake
    September 19, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Great choice! especially Somerset House which with some great events and new restaurants has become a destination in itself. Inner Temple, is also fascinating and often overlooked.

    • Reply
      September 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm

      @Kitty There are so many delightful hidden corners of London

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