The River Thames cuts a mighty swathe through the sprawling capital and provides a sometimes mellow, sometimes breezy escape from the urban streets. Along its shores you’ll find meandering promenades, village-like boroughs, restaurants, pubs, arts and shining buildings of commerce. Here’s a guide to some of its most pleasurable corners for those for whom a riverside stroll and a relaxing drink go hand in hand.
Isleworth / Twickenham to Richmond Take the train to Isleworth or Twickenham and head down to their river paths for a pretty stroll to Richmond. The quiet stretch of river from Isleworth has barges and bird life along its exposed shores, and only takes around 30 minutes.
Cross over Richmond Lock and footbridge for a photo opportunity of a quieter part of the river, and walk alongside Old Deer Park until you reach the pubs, restaurants and barges of Richmond’s riverfront.
The area retains a laid-back atmosphere despite its pricey eateries, and if you don’t want to splash the cash there are plenty of benches where you can sit with a sandwich and gaze at the weeping willows drowsily overhanging the water’s edge.
The walk from Twickenham takes longer but gives you a feel for the old ‘Surrey Delta’ when this part of south west London was the centre for many famous ‘60s blues-influenced bands who would head over the bridge with their guitar cases to play on Eel Pie Island. Now the island is a private residential area but still worth a peek.
As you follow the riverside path towards Richmond you’ll pass the eerie Sculpture Park of York House Gardens, and the impressive grounds of stately homes Orleans House and Marble Hill House. There are some great picnic spots along here if it’s a dry day.
Cross over London’s oldest bridge when you reach Richmond and head up Richmond Hill to take in the pastoral view across Petersham Meadows and a bend in the Thames which inspired the painter Turner among many. After drinking in the view it will be time for a thirst quencher at one of the country-style pubs nearby.
Riverside pint: London Apprentice, 62 Church Street, Old Isleworth, TW7 6BG The White Swan, Riverside, Twickenham, Surrey TW1 3DN The White Cross, Riverside, (off Water Lane), Richmond, TW9 1TH Lass O’Richmond Hill, 8 Queen’s Road, Richmond, TW10 6JJ
Hammersmith to Putney Once you’ve escaped the hubbub of central Hammersmith and reached its river’s edge you can leave the modern world behind by ducking into the oldest pub in London, the Dove, which was a magnet for literary types like Hemmingway.
If you’re lucky enough to get a seat on the terrace you can enjoy uninterrupted views over the deep waterway. If the pub’s packed head down towards Hammersmith Bridge for a choice of pubs where you can stand outside with a pint and catch the breeze.
Walk over Hammersmith Bridge to leafy Barnes for a tree-lined route along the water to Putney where you’ll only hear birdsong (especially as you walk parallel to the Wetlands Centre), and see joggers and strollers. There are even some shingle patches near the river if you want to get closer to the water’s edge. Keep your eyes peeled for the Michael Jackson statue illuminated over the other side inside Fulham Football Club’s stadium ground.
Soon you’ll approach the rowing club houses of Putney where there are usually teams of strappingly fit rowers carrying their boats overhead and heading eagerly toward the jetty.
Soak up the boating atmosphere at The Duke’s Head pub or head over Putney Bridge intersection to Putney Wharf and its riverside square with pubs and cafes offering more al fresco choices.
Riverside pint: Dove, 19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith W6 9TA The Old Ship, 25 Upper Mall, Hammersmith Q6 9TD The Duke’s Head, 8 Lower Richmond Road, Putney SW15 1JN The Rocket, Putney Wharf Tower, Brewhouse Lane, SW15 2JQ
Southbank The tempo rises considerable in contrast to the river’s more relaxed residential areas as you explore the south-side promenade between Westminster and Tower Bridges.
This is how central London does riverside living so expect lots of tourists and bustle, wide walkways and a jumble of huge concrete and glass fixtures housing some of the country’s premier arts venues including the South Bank Centre, the Royal National Theatre, and BFI Southbank.
There are bars and restaurants wedged in and around the area catering for different wallet capacities and crowd tolerance.
If you’re seeking to stoke up your imagination with visions of ye olde London past, head along to the Globe Theatre, and nearby pub The Anchor which dates back before the 1600s and boasts a succulent fish supper to complement its watery surroundings.
Ease your digestion by doing the obvious and taking your camera to Waterloo Bridge as the sun sets for an iconic memento.
Riverside pint: Anchor Bankside, 34 Park Street, Southwark, London SE1 9EF.
Greenwich Start at the south end of Tower Bridge for a five mile walk heading east away from the crowds and toward the capital’s maritime heartland. Along the way you’ll encounter old and converted wharfs, views of Canary Wharf, the O2 and docklands.
This is where the Thames supported the nation’s industry and seafaring exploits so soak up the atmosphere as the industrial and modern buildings contrast with the maritime elegance of historical Greenwich.
The World Heritage site has lots to see, including the Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark was the fastest sailing ship of her day and is open to the public again after a post fire refurbishment.
The new cultural centre Discover Greenwich will enable you to delve into the area’s seafaring history and boasts The Old Brewery, home of award winning Meantime beers which used to provide liquid comfort to seadogs back in the day.
Give yourself enough time to explore the covered market close to the Naval Gardens where you can pick up some tasty morsels and stroll down to Cutty Sark Gardens and Greenwich Pier.
(If you’re planning to head up to Greenwich Park for sweeping views across the Thames remember that parts of it will be closed for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.)
Riverside pint: The Old Brewery, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich SE10 9LW Trafalgar Tavern, 6 Park Row, Greenwich SE10 9NW Cutty Sark Tavern, 4-6 Ballast Quay, Greenwich SW10 9PD
This article was originally published at http://www.travelbite.co.uk