London » The Best Afternoon Tea Cruise in London – A Guide To Afternoon Tea On The Thames

The Best Afternoon Tea Cruise in London – A Guide To Afternoon Tea On The Thames

Tuck into tasty sandwiches, cakes and scones while seeing sights including Big Ben and Tower Bridge on the best afternoon tea cruise in London!

I’m a big fan of being a tourist in my own city. London might be my home, but there are still plenty of amazing sights and experiences on my bucket list. I’ve been around the London Eye, explored the Tower of London, watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, taken a food tour in Borough Market and even climbed over The O2!

Up at The O2 climb
Up at The O2 climb

So, what next? Well, I’ve finally ticked off a big one – having a luxurious afternoon tea while cruising down the River Thames!

I’ve passed these river cruises countless times and always thought it looked like such an appealing experience. I’ve gazed through the panoramic windows and watched the guests with their pretty towers of afternoon tea in front of them, as they meander past the city’s most famous sights.

Afternoon tea platter
Having afternoon tea on the Thames

I was really excited to get on board and see what the experience was like for myself. I booked via Viator who offer really great flexible tickets with their option to ‘reserve now and pay later’. This is ideal if you’re visiting the capital for several days as you may want to pick the day with the best weather. You can also cancel up until four days before the experience and receive a full refund.

Whether you’re a tourist visiting London for the first time and looking for some fun experiences or you’re a local and fancy a treat, my guide will explain exactly what to expect on an afternoon tea cruise in London.

Seeing the London Eye from a different angle
Seeing the London Eye from a different angle on our Thames afternoon tea cruise

Everything You Need To Know Before Taking An Afternoon Tea Cruise in London

What happens on a River Thames afternoon tea cruise?

This experience  is the perfect combination of delicious food and sightseeing. You’ll start the trip near the Tower of London and cruise upstream to Battersea. Once there, the boat turns around and cruises back down the river down to Tower Bridge. You even get to pass under this beautiful bridge before docking back at the Tower of London.

Travelling under Tower Bridge on an afternoon tea river cruise in London
Travelling under Tower Bridge on an afternoon tea cruise in London

Once seated you’ll be offered hot drinks and served with a tower of afternoon tea delights! There are sweet and savoury items including sandwiches, scones and cakes. Once you’ve finished you may wish to sit on the upper deck and enjoy the views, while listening to an interesting commentary packed full of interesting facts.

How long is a River Thames afternoon tea cruise in London?

The cruise lasts an hour and a half. I boarded the cruise at 3:15pm and we departed at 3:30pm. We arrived back at Tower Pier at 5:00pm. These times may vary by day and season, so check when you book!

What is the food like on a River Thames afternoon tea cruise in London?

I was really impressed with the menu and food quality on this river cruise! It was generous and tasty, with two plates of sweet treats and one of savoury.

Afternoon tea river cruise London
Afternoon tea river cruise London

On the bottom layer of the traditional afternoon tea stand was a plate with eight triangle sandwiches containing four different fillings: egg mayonnaise and cress, smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber, chicken and salad and cheese and pickle. The egg mayo and smoked salmon were my favourites. They were seasoned really well.

On the next layer were lots of gorgeous little cakes and pastries! If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll be in heaven at this point! As with the sandwiches, there were two of each item. We had mini chocolate eclairs, pretty strawberry tarts, delicate little Victoria sponges and lemon drizzle cakes with lemon curd filling. This lemon cake was my favourite – it was so zesty with an indulgent curd lining the centre.

Tasty sweet treats on the afternoon tea platter
Tasty sweet treats on the Thames afternoon tea river cruise

On the top layer were four mini scones with a large pot of clotted cream and two pots of strawberry jam. As I spread mine with cream first and then jam, I looked around the room seeing how many others had gone with this combo, and how many with the controversial opposite! As I mentioned, it was a really generous afternoon tea. I couldn’t finish it all – that’s how substantial it was!

The boat also caters for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets. You just need to make sure these are pre-booked before your trip.

What drinks are available on a River Thames afternoon tea cruise in London?

As this is an afternoon tea cruise, you’ll be able to drink as many cups of tea as you like! In fact, the same goes for coffee – it’s unlimited for the duration of the cruise. There’s an option to order decaf too.

Getting ready for Afternoon Tea on the CityCruises boat
Glasses of bubbly served on the City Cruises Afternoon Tea boat

Something that’s great about this Thames River cruise is that there are lots of other drinks available via the bar. These include alcoholic beverages including Champagne, Prosecco and spirits, plus soft drinks such as orange juice, Coca-Cola and sparkling water.

I saw lots of people enjoying their afternoon tea with a cuppa, then upgrading to a glass of bubbly for the return journey!  

What sights do you see on a River Thames afternoon tea cruise in London?

This cruise is an amazing way to see a lot of the most famous sights in London over a short period of time. Here are just a few of the key places you’ll see:

  • The Tower of London
  • Tower Bridge
  • HMS Belfast
  • The Shard
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Tate Modern
  • Big Ben
  • The Houses of Parliament
  • The London Eye
  • Battersea Power Station
Passing St Paul's Cathedral on our afternoon tea river cruise in London
Passing St Paul’s Cathedral on our afternoon tea river cruise in London
Enjoying the views on the Afternoon Tea cruise
Enjoying the views on the Afternoon Tea cruise

Is there a commentary on board this river Thames cruise?

When we set off on the cruise there was a brief safety announcement. I wondered if there would be any information about the sights. We had two Dutch tourists next to us who were visiting London for the first time and we started the trip by telling them about some of the landmarks ourselves!

Sitting on the top deck enjoying the commentary
Sitting on the top deck enjoying the commentary

However, once we started the return journey one of the crew members took to the microphone and delivered a great commentary. It was full of interesting facts about the buildings with plenty of comedic moments too! Even for a local like me, I learned a lot of new things, so this isn’t a tour that’s just for international tourists. He got everyone involved too, waving at people on the bridges above us and shouting out a few things too!

Afternoon tea river cruise London
Taking photos on our afternoon tea sightseeing cruise in London

Are London afternoon tea cruises good value for money?

At the moment this London cruise costs £43 per adult and £33 per child, which I think is excellent value. You get a really substantial meal (I couldn’t finish it!) as well as the lovely experience of cruising along the river learning about the sights.

Useful information for a London afternoon tea cruise

Keep an eye on the weather forecast. I think the best experience is when you can go outside for some of the journey, so I’d recommend a dry day. With Viator you can reserve now and pay later, so you should be able to guarantee you’ll go on a good day!

Be sure to check where your cruise departs from. There are several piers along the river, each with different companies operating. The cruise I was on departed from Tower Pier, directly in front of the Tower of London.

Lovely views on the Thames cruise
Lovely views on the Thames cruise

Allow plenty of time to get there. The boats have strict schedules so they won’t be able to wait for you!

There’s no dress code for the cruise so you can dress smart like you’re going for tea with the Queen, or relax in more casual attire!

All tables are allocated in advance and window seats are usually only available to those who have pre-booked them (at an extra cost). Wherever you are seated you’ll have a good view out of the panoramic windows. Once you’re on the return journey you can choose any seat you like on the top deck.

The tables are very close together, so if you’re visiting as a two, you might be seated right next to two other people.  

You can bring kids on this Thames cruise! Infants are from age 0-2 and travel for free. Children are 3-12 years of age and will require a child’s ticket (£33).

Ready to book? Click the link below to check dates, times and prices and to book your tickets.

Thanks for reading my guide to taking an afternoon tea cruise in London. I hope you enjoy your trip along the River Thames as much as I did! If you’re looking for other fun London tours this summer, you can check out lots of great options on Viator.

Plus, if you love quirky activities, definitely read my guide to the 49 unusual things to do in London!

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With a passion for food, fun and adventure, Chloe is the content creator behind one of the UK's top travel blogs Wanderlust Chloe. From volcano boarding in Nicaragua, to sailing around Sicily and eating her way around Japan, her travels have taken her to some of the coolest spots on the planet. Named Travel Influencer of the Year in 2022, Chloe regularly works with a number of tourism boards, producing inspirational travel content across multiple platforms. Find out more about Chloe here.

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