Travel By Air & River: Enjoy These Two Ways of Seeing London

We know about the famous Underground and London's double decker buses – now experience the city from the air and the water

London is blessed with some iconic public transport. The Underground (aka the "tube") is the world’s oldest underground network and makes getting around this huge city relatively straightforward. London’s city’s double-decker red buses are a famous sight and a top deck seat can give you some of the best views of all.

But there are other unique ways to see the city, where the journey is as much of the experience as the destination. And this month two of them are giving us some extra treats.

Emirates Air Line, London, UK
Drift over the Thames at dusk in the Emirates Air Line (courtesy Emirates Air Lines)

Emirates Air Line, a cable car service that launched in 2012, is one of the world’s cheapest aerial crossings. It costs as little as £3.40 (if you have a pay-as-you-go Oyster Card) and £1.70 for kids, to soar in the air for a 10-minute journey over the River Thames travelling from North Greenwich to Royal Victoria.

This summer things get evening better when Emirates Air Lines stays running even later with special night flights, until 30 September. After 7 pm each day, the flight duration is extended to 25 minutes for a return journey, where you can enjoy an even more relaxing trip over the Thames. You’ll see evening views of The O2 and the tops of the Canary Wharf towers lit up while the sun is setting. Music and video enhance the experience.

You can enjoy these night flights until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday, and to 10 pm on all other days. There is no extra change for these night flights – it’s even better value and very unusual way of experiencing a sunset over the city.

And talking of the Thames, travelling by river has been going since Roman times for essential transporting of goods. But these days, a boat trip up London’s famous waterway is also a fabulous way of sightseeing. How else, for example, can you get such great views of waterfront gems such as Big Ben, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and the London Eye. 

MBNA Thames Clipper, London, UK
The new sleek addition to MBNA Thames Clipper's fleet (courtesy MBNA Thames Clippers)

MBNA Thames Clippers runs a fleet of 13 sleek catamarans, catering for both commuting locals and sightseeing tourists. The River Bus service runs every 20 minutes between key London piers, including Greenwich, Canary Wharf and Embankment. It's also a fabulous way to each The O2 – and has recently extended its route as far as Putney.

The great news is that after a record-breaking 2014, which saw a total of 3.8 million passengers, it’s now introducing two new 150-seater boats. These have a lightweight design and efficient hull, requiring minimal power and therefore reducing the environmental impact.

Next time you’re looking at ways of getting around the city, if you want a change from the usual overland and underground ways, don’t forget to make the most of up in the air and along the water as well.