People forget that London floods. Parliament has been under water, and in 1953, surges killed 307 people in the U.K. At least, London used to flood. The Thames Barrier is the city’s primary defense against it, comprised of ten 20m (66-ft.) steel-and-concrete gates that can be raised to block the 520m (1706-ft.) span of the river in just 10 minutes. Most of the time you can’t see the gates, which rest on the riverbed, but the piers that raise and lower them are always visible, strung across the river like a row of mini-Sydney Opera Houses. At the visitor center on shore, you plumb the Barrier’s construction and, if you’re lucky, see a test raise.
Thames Barrier Visitor Centre
1 Unity Way, Woolwich, SE18
Our Rating Hours Thurs–Sun and bank holiday Mon 10:30am–5pm Transportation National Rail: Woolwich Dockyard or Charlton Phone 020/83054188 Prices Admission £4.15 adults, £3.65 seniors and students, £2.65 children 5–15, free for children 4 and under Web site Thames Barrier Visitor Centre
Map1 Unity Way, Woolwich, SE18 London
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.