London’s Bridges, Tunnels and Ferries: Top 5 ways to cross the Thames


London, Canary Wharf
London's Canary Wharf. Photo ©hidden europe magazine

You probably saw the recent news that London’s civic authorities are pressing ahead with a plan to span the River Thames with a cable car. This new public transport service across the river will connect two important Olympic venues and should be up and running by this time next year.

It is not the first time that a European city has deployed a cable car to speed travelers over a river. The Kölner Seilbahn has been whisking passengers across the Rhine for over half a century, along the way affording magnificent views of Cologne’s fine Gothic cathedral.

But a cable car is a first for London, giving visitors to the city another option for crossing the river. Though, of course, they are already spoiled for choice. London has its landmark bridges, plus tunnels and ferries aplenty, so–while we wait for the cable car to be completed–we have been taking a look at London’s top five river crossings.

1. The London Millennium Footbridge

This is the perfect link between St. Paul’s cathedral and the growing cluster of attractions on the south bank of the river: Tate Modern, Bankside Gallery and the Globe Theatre. The footbridge, which opened in 2002, is airy, light and elegant.

2. The Albert Bridge

Compared to the youthful Millennium Footbridge, the Albert Bridge is a real veteran of the river. Opened in 1873, the bridge connects Chelsea with Battersea Park. It looks for all the world like a suspension bridge, though it fact it is not. It just oozes Victorian grace and is a great spot to linger at night. Traffic is always light. Just now, the bridge is closed for refurbishment, but this prettiest of London bridges will reopen later in 2011.

3. Greenwich Foot Tunnel

This is a decidedly oddball way to cross the Thames. Near the preserved Cutty Sark ship on the Greenwich riverfront is a brick building with a glass dome that many visitors mistake for public toilets. Actually it is the entrance to a foot tunnel under the Thames that opened in 1902. The northern end of the tunnel is in Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs, from where there are super views back across the river to Greenwich. And just in case you are wondering, the Isle of Dogs is not an island at all.

4. The Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf Ferry

This is the only one of our top five river crossings that you have to pay to use. The ferry connects the Hilton Docklands Hotel (on the south bank of the river) with Canary Wharf. The boat shuttles to and fro between 6:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on weekdays. At weekends, it starts at 9 a.m. We think this little ferry hop is at its spring and summer best late afternoon or early evening, when the sun to the west really shows off Canary Wharf architecture at its most dazzling.

5. The Woolwich Free Ferry

Free, just as the name says! Operating day-in, day-out since 1889, the Woolwich Free Ferry is a London institution. Services run from 6 a.m. till 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and from noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday. The Woolwich Free Ferry carries vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

Your favorite Thames crossing?

If you have thoughts on your favorite Thames river crossing, be it by tunnel, ferry or bridge, why not share them here? Within Greater London alone, there are more than 50 options from which the traveler can choose.

About the author


About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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