Thameside treasures: what to see and do on Victoria Embankment

shutterstock 455056774
shutterstock 455056774

Just a short hop away from so many of the grand and exquisite hotels Kensington High Street, the South Bank is a terrific tourist-tap that attracts millions of visitors every year. Yet, lesser known but just as worthy of checking out is the embankment on the other side of the Thames; on this stretch of the river that runs parallel with the Westminster district of the capital, that is. Indeed, here’s just a trio of the must-visits to discover on – or very near – the attractive Victoria Embankment…

Bateaux London

(Embankment Pier, Victoria Embankment WC2N 6NU)

A cruising experience on the stretch of the Thames that courses right through the heart of the city, Bateaux London truly is like no other boat-based attraction in the capital. And that’s because it offers you the chance to savour a delicious lunch, a delectable afternoon tea or a taste-sating dinner from an utterly unique perspective; that is, taking in the sights of Central London from an angle unlike any other you’ll get to experience – and at any point in the year, at that. You’ll also be able to soak up the historical resonance of this part of the river – and the awesome buildings and monuments of lore you pass – thanks to a commentary that accompanies the lunch-based cruise, while on Sundays all three cruise iterations feature live performances from acclaimed musicians. At present, the Bateaux London fleet comprises two vessels; the Scandinavian Harmony, which can boast the biggest roof deck of any Thames-travelling pleasure boat, and the Parisian-style Symphony, whose full-glass appearance invites fantastic views of the passing sights.

Benjamin Franklin House

(36 Craven Street WC2N 5NF)

Just off Northumberland Avenue (whose southern end concludes at Victoria Embankment), you’ll find arguably one of the most historically important buildings in the whole of London; well, definitely one of the most important in the UK capital for US history, that is. For it was at this address that the legendary Benjamin Franklin, while serving as his nation’s Ambassador to Britain, lived for 16 years. To be found down in an exquisite-looking side-street populated with beautiful Georgian townhouses and, built almost three full centuries ago, this Grade I-listed property, you’ll discover once you step inside for a visit, is split into different sections, each of them tailored to the fascinating and brilliant man’s varied career and interests (this includes then a room dedicated to the collecting of historical artefacts and another to applied science; specifically, there’s a ‘medical history room’, a ‘discovery room’ and a ‘demonstration room’. Top dollar, indeed, for the Founding Father who graces the $100 bill.

Proud Central

(32 John Adam Street WC2N 6BP)

This, the flagship of the London-based chain of Proud Galleries (which includes one in Camden and another in Chelsea; the latter perfect for visiting while enjoying a stay at San Domenico House Chelsea London), is a world-renowned art venue, specifically because it showcases photography drawn from across the decades in UK and US music, fashion and popular culture. The gallery is spread across two roomy floors and is home to a truly extensive permanent collection of major and highly significant works – largely from the 1960s and 1970s – from the lenses of legendary snappers of the era like Brian Duffy, Terry O’Neill and Norman Parkinson. Plus, Proud Central also plays host to myriad fascinating, individual exhibitions, some of which in recent years have focused on iconic images of acclaimed musicians such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Prince, commemorating their talents as well as their contributions to the cultural firmament.