Top 4 Water-based Tours of London

No, your geography teacher wasn’t a sham, London’s not on the coast. But this eclectic city does have several waterways, and one of the best ways of seeing London is by finding a stretch of water and taking a tour along it.

We’ve done the hard work for you and come up with a couple of suggestions.  Here we recommend four water based tours of London that are worth dipping your toe into.

1.  Ride a narrowboat from King’s Cross to Islington

Denise Walker renovated a derelict narrowboat called ‘Lapwing’ in January of 2013.  It took six months to get her into shape (Lapwing, not Denise), but now she offers visitors and London locals, a quirky way to see a different kind of London, by providing boat tours along Regent’s canal.  Being ‘food-friendly’ people, our favourite part of the route is from King’s Cross to Islington because there are just so many brilliant food places at the start of the journey.  From Tuesday to Friday you can pick up fabulous street food at Kerb Kings Cross and nibble it on the boat.  Kerb is a series of high quality food stalls along the pedestrianised walkway as you make your way from the Underground to the canal.  If you’d prefer to eat first and cruise second, there are several really good eateries at the start of the tour including Caravan, The Grain Store and Shrimpy’s. Unless you want to arrange a group tour you can probably just turn up to.  The jump-on point is at the base of the large steps leading down to the canal from the square. If you want a group tour you should probably contact Denise’s at Hidden Depths Canal Cruises.

2.  Catch a Clipper along the Thames

If you’ve done one of our Soho Food Walks in the morning, you might fancy putting your feet up in the afternoon and letting London wash over you.  Figuratively speaking of course. The Thames Clipper service is a river bus  running from Vauxhall in the west to Royal Arsenal Woolwich in the east and its a really lovely way to get a sense of the expanse of London without feel too touristy.  If you’ve got a pre-paid Oyster card you’ll get 10% off so make sure it’s topped up before you jump on.

3.  DIY Bike Tour along Regent’s Canal

For your very own, self-devised tour, pick up one of the many ‘Boris bikes’ that punctuate central London streets and head to the delightful Regent’s Park and down to the canal.  Take care as it’s a shared pathway with pedestrians and some sections can be busy, but it’s a truly fabulous way of winding through London without the stress of a group tour or heavy duty transport.  We recommend bringing your head up at Camden, where you can pick up something delicious to eat at the market or sit in the sunshine and enjoy the energy of the place.  There are often buskers and musicians sitting on the banks and you can always grab a beer or other cool beverage while you re-energise for the next leg of your tour. Don’t forget that unless you hire the ‘Boris’ for the whole day you’ll need to switch bikes after half an hour, but that’s probably a nice time to take a break anyway.

4. Self Guided Food Walking Tour of Southbank

I like to start this food-focussed walk at Borough market to pick up some treats from the many stalls there.  Borough Market can be a bit daunting as it does get very busy and there are SO MANY stalls that you can find yourself losing you appetite in the crush.  One of our favorites is Horn Ok Please for their terrific dosas. If it’s all a bit much, just grab a latte from the famous “Monmouth Coffee House” and head down towards the Thames.  From here you can saunter along past Shakespeare’s Globe and on to towards the Tate Modern, smelling the many eateries along the way.  The Real Food Market is a terrific ready-made food market at the back of the Southbank Centre operating from Friday to Sunday and an ideal stop for some re-fuelling. If you’re not full-as-a-gook when you arrive at the Tate Modern, head to the cafe on the first floor where you’ll be able to indulge in an afternoon tea while looking over the Thames. Ah, lovely.

About Michelle Francis

Michelle is an ex-restauranteur and chef, a chatterer and a food lover. She currently runs London food walking tours in the neighbourhoods of Soho and Marylebone. Antipodean by birth, Londoner by love.