Free London attractions – wander by water

Continuing with our London guides of the many free London attractions, this time we are down by the riverside!

Ah, the River Thames – beloved by Londoners and visitors alike and such an iconic and important part of present day London and her past.  Nothing beats walking by a river in a big city – somehow you become part of the history and magic that it carries with it.  The many walks and rambles to be enjoyed along the Thames or by London’s charming canals are among the most interesting walks you can take in the capital. These free London attractions involve outdoor fun and activity at its best. Keep the kids and all the family absorbed and delighted by riverboats on the canals, opinionated swans and ducks on the river, busy barges and lock workers, fun bridges to cross, tow paths to explore and riverside cafes to rest and refuel in.


The Regent’s Canal Walk has it all. There are many variations on this particular route, especially where you want to begin and end, but that’s all part of the charm.  You could start out in pretty Little Venice (as picturesque as it sounds) and walk along The Regent’s Canal to Regent’s Park (with London Zoo) into Primrose Hill (great cafes, shops and views of London) and ends up in Camden Lock. There are many delights along the way, including some excellent pubs, The Blue Footbridge, an aqueduct to cross, the aptly named Waterside Cafe and all the charm and energy of Camden lock and the market.  The energetic and enthusiastic can simply turn and go back the other way again and the lucky, slightly more weary ones can catch a riverboat back to Little Venice.  What a treat!

Another recommended version is from Paddington Basin to Primrose Hill. Paddington canal basin has recently been completely redeveloped under the Paddington Waterside scheme. There are some lovely cafes and restaurants by the water to enjoy here, as well as towering glass skyscrapers, incredible sculptures and shops.  The Rolling Bridge is a marvel of design and innovation and children love to watch as it curls up, caterpillar style, to allow a boat to pass through and then quietly uncurls again.

Or start in Islington (good restaurants, shops and the best theatre outside the West End) and end up in Little Venice.  One thing is for sure, whichever way you walk the Regent’s Canal, you will be charmed by the boats and barges, the locals on their houseboats (complete with flower boxes), the birds and wildlife, the bobbing rowboats and some pretty historic taverns and pubs.


The Thames Path is certainly a free London attraction that is seeped in history. The London section of this famous river path takes you through it’s very heart, with cultural landmarks and river scenes at every turn. The path splits up, taking you either along the North or the South bank of the river.  This must be one of the most beautiful urban walks by a river that exists.

The delightfully named Queen’s Walk takes you over Westminster Bridge, along the Southbank with The London Eye to Tate Modern, and then over the Millenium Footbridge to St Paul’s Cathedral. This pedestrianised walk is a popular one with visitors as it takes you past so many of London’s most interesting attractions, such as Tower Bridge and The Tower of London.

If you prefer a shorter route without any particular destination in mind, Chelsea Embankment is lovely in the early evening with the glittering lights on the water and on Chelsea Bridge and Albert Bridge. The famous Chelsea Psychic Garden is along here, and you may want to join other walkers or runners who are heading over the always lovely Chelsea Bridge into Battersea Park, just across the river.

The embankments in London and some of her most famous and historical bridges can certainly be included under free London attractions. Victoria Embankment runs from Westminster Palace to Blackfriars Bridge in The City. The famous statue of Queen Bodicea sits at the start of the embankment by Westminster Bridge.  This was the first street in London to be converted from gaslight to electricity in 1878. There are several riverboat services that sail along various points all along this embankment.

We hope we have given you an idea of how wondrous and interesting it is anywhere in London where the Thames runs close by. It’s hard to think of a free London attraction that is as invigorating and fun as this, and one that is so family friendly. Whether you take a proper, pre-planned river route, amble pleasantly along at your own pace by the canals or embankments, or walk briskly over the bridge of your choice, there will be plenty to entertain and interest you as you go.

Another post in our free London attractions guide is free and green London spaces.