The Oxford Cambridge Boat Race takes place on Sunday, March, 26. If you’re planning on heading to the Thames to watch it, here’s the best riverside pubs, banksides, bridges and big screens to head to.
The men’s boat race was first raced in 1829, and the women’s in 1927 respectively, making it one of the oldest sporting events in the world.
The race starts from Putney Pier, between The Star & Garter pub and Thai Square, and finishes at Chiswick Bridge, just past The Ship in Mortlake.
Usually, there are two bank-side fan parks for eager spectators: one at Bishop’s Park in Fulham (the beginning of the race), and one at Furnivall Gardens in Hammersmith (the half way mark). Both usually open at 12 noon and have a big screen, bars and street food. The latter is known as course’s liveliest location. But this is still to be confirmed for this year’s race.
For 2023, the races are scehduled to start later than ususal, but March 26 is also the start of daylight savings, so maybe the organisers are just making the most of the sun. Currently, races start at 4pm for the women’s race, and 4.30pm for the men’s. Find the full timetable for the day here
Where to watch the race in Putney
With a rockstar vantage point for the start of the race and a large deck terrace overlooking Putney Bridge, Young’s pub The Boathouse is as great choice to watch the race kick off.
Where to watch the race in Putney
Just a few minutes walk from Putney Bridge tube station, Putney Bridge has great views of the two crews right from the very start of the race, up as far as the Fulham bend. Get there early for a good spot though as fans line the railings up to four or five deep. You can then walk to Bishop’s Park and catch the rest of the race on the big screen.
The Duke’s Head, Putney
At the start of the annual race is the Duke’s Head, a grand Grade-II listed boozer that has been sitting in this prime Putney spot for 150 years. Open all day and into the wee hours, the pub has been a hotspot of the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race for over a century.
Thai Square, Putney
Another start line favourite, Thai Square by Putney Pier has panoramic views over the river Thames. Head over for lunch and request a window seat for a peaceful way to take it all in, or dine outside on the patio to soak up the atmosphere and the cheers as the races start.
Putney Embankment & Barn Elms Boathouse
The busy embankment in front of the boathouses in Putney is a perfectly apt place to see the first part of the race, where you’ll see rowing club members milling about and getting right into the festival spirit. Barn Elms Boathouse in particular has a wide concrete landing stage, from where you can see the crews as they race off towards the Mile Post. Be warned though your feet could get wet.
Where to watch the race in Fulham
Bisphop’s Park, Fulham
The Bishop’s Park Fan Park is located at the very start of The Boat Race, and the focus is on fun for all the family. Open from 12 noon, there will be bars and street food and a big screen to watch the BBC live coverage from start to finish.
The Temperance, Fulham
After seeing the rowers off at Putney Bridge, rush back to the Middlesex Bank and grab a spot at The Temperance to watch the rest on screen. From here you can enjoy the cocktails, beers, food and atmosphere.
Where to watch the race in Hammersmith
The Blue Boat Hammersmith
Officially opened by twice world champion and Olympic bronze medal winning rower, Sarah Winckless in 2015, The Blue Boat is part of swanky riverside development Fulham Reach by St George. It blends elements of a traditional London boozer, lots of Boat Race memorabilia with a modern, spacious area with lots of natural light, comfy seats and an eye-catching central bar.
Sam’s Riverside, Hammersmith
This effortlessly elegant Thames-side venue has geared up for the big day with an extended lunch service with the usual Sunday lunch menu on offer, plating up the likes of Devon crab tart, roast lamb or rhubarb pavlova. Diners can also try the special dessert p Oxfor new college pudding with Cambridge burnt cream. The restaurant will also serve special boat race themed cocktails to quaff as well.
Furnivall Gardens, Hammersmith
The Furnivall Gardens Fan Park, located in the middle section of the Championship Course, offers some of the best views of the Boat Race. Located on the north side of Hammersmith bend, the Fan Park site has a big screen to watch the action, street food vendors and bars selling Shepherd Neame Beer. Free to enter. Ten minutes from Hammersmith Station on foot.
The Crabtree, Hammersmith
Wedged between Putney and Hammersmith Bridge, The Crabtree is a pretty perfect spot to catch The Boat Race. So perfect – with its vast garden and terrace that leads up the water’s edge – it even throws a festival. Expect plenty of big screens, food and drink, live music playing all day long and a DJ set till late. From 11am.
The Dove, Hammersmith
It may have a Guinness World Record for the smallest bar room in the world, but rest assured that there will be space from which to watch the race at this historic pub – as long as you get in early. The riverside terrace is an excellent viewing spot for the Hammersmith to Chiswick Eyot stretch, and a great place for a pint and a meal too.
The Rutland Arms, Hammersmith
The Rutland, a waterside pub with a beer garden, has long been regarded as one of The best places to watch the race. Classic pub meals like fish and chips, pies and mash and burgers will feed the spectators, and the cask ales featuring the best in British beer will be flowing.
The Blue Anchor, Hammersmith
Claiming to have sold beer since before George I was King of England, Captain Cook had discovered Australia and the French revolution had begun, this family run pub is another race day classic. Naturally, the upstairs function room will be booked out and the downstairs packed with spectators. Close to Hammersmith Bridge, this is another great view point for that crucial stretch.
The Old Ship, Hammersmith
Always a popular spot for the Boat Race, the recently refurbished Old Ship has a riverside garden with excellent views of the race. There’s also a good seasonal dining menu plus plenty of cask-conditioned beers and a good wine list so you won’t go hungry or thirsty with all that spectating!
A 10-minute walk from Hammersmith Tube Station, Hammersmith Bridge has always attracted thousands of Boat Race spectators. The bridge provides great views as the crews come in to view from around the Surrey Bend until they race into the distance towards Chiswick Eyot and Barnes. As with Putney Bridge, get there early for a good spot as the crowds will be four or five deep.
Where to watch the race in Chiswick
Of all the good viewing points on the Middlesex bank, all the way from The Dove in Hammersmith to Dukes Meadow, Chiswick Pier is one of the best as one of the crews will often put in a decisive push for the finish line at this stage.
The Emmanuel School Boathouse
Located close to Barnes Bridge on the Middlesex bank, The Emanuel School Boathouse offers spectacular views of the final stages of the race.
A large park and recreation ground adjacent to the river between Chiswick Bridge and Barnes Bridge on the Middlesex bank, Dukes Meadow provides views of the final stage of the race.
Where to watch the race in Barnes
Rick Stein, Barnes
Found on the banks of the Thames at the last half mile of the race, Rick Stein’s riverside restaurant offers up a top spot to catch the last stretch of the race. From 3pm-6pm, the seafood restaurant has a three-course meal (£99pp) on the go, that comes with a glass of French sparkling wine. Signature dishes such as the lobster risotto and passionfruit creme brulee are on the menu.
The Bulls Head, Barnes
Barnes is popular destination on Boat Race day. Plan a visit to The Bulls Head, a historical pub that’s been given a modern-day makeover. The pub, which will be screening the whole race on screens around the pub, is handily located on the final stretch of the race by the Thames so you can really soak up the atmosphere.
The White Hart, Barnes
Another Boat Race staple, The White Hart will be teeming with people come Boat Race day – but there’s a good reason why. This trusty traditional pub is a superb location for watching the blues and the, er, light blues battle it out with their oars for the last mile. Again, get there in advance to secure a top spot. This year The White Hart will host a four-course banquet (£90pp) in its Morely Room that comes with a private balcony overlooking the Thames
The Ship, Mortlake
Celebrate the winning team at the finish line – or head to The Ship Mortlake, which has a view of the finish line and sells a host of refreshing beverages too.
Based on TheResident. Victoria Purcell