Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Airbnb's Floating House on the River Thames, review: A solution to London's housing crisis?

Airbnb have built a house on the Thames - and it's delightful

Mollie Goodfellow
Thursday 21 May 2015 16:28 BST
Airbnb's house boat
Airbnb's house boat

Earlier this week you may or may not have noticed a big blue house, reminiscent of the house in Pixar’s Up, floating down the Thames being reported in the news. It was papped breezing easily past the Houses of Parliament, pretty unmissable to the general public.

The house was property of AirBnB, the online site that matches holidaymakers with quirky, unusual accommodation all over the world. Instead of staying in a generic hotel, why not stay with an actual local in the location of your choice and get the extra benefit of insider knowledge of your destination? It’s been a runaway success in the travel sector.

So, they built a house and put it in a boat on the Thames. And it’s delightful.

I had the pleasure of staying there with a friend on 19 May. We headed down to Canary Wharf to pick up the keys from our host, and were bowled over with excitement. It’d be easy to enough to dismiss the whole thing as a gimmick, but as we stepped through the front door, we realised that this was a fully functional, cute as hell little house.

It had full electricity, running water, a bathroom with a posh double headed shower and flushable toilet. It had two bedrooms, each with double bed and soft plush pillows. The living room was decorated to perfection, with a mustard yellow and nautical themes throughout including a vintage eyeglass on the coffee table, old school Penguin books with sea related titles on the side cabinet. It looked kitsch with a slightly Scandinavian vibe. There was even a steering wheel – is that correct nautical terminology? – next to the kitchen sink.

The interior of Airbnb's houseboat

My friend and I settled in for the night, cotching in the living room in our pyjamas with blankets and a duvet and snacks to keep us going. Every five minutes we’d peek out the window at the buildings across from our humble abode. The juxtaposition of the big corporate tower blocks and our little cottage was mesmerising. It was strange to see people walking around their office floors at 1am, while we were winding down getting ready for bed.

It was an odd nights sleep. Firstly it was pretty cold. Despite the electricity, there wasn’t much in the way of heating, so I slept pretty layered up. I also slept on high alert. Despite the presence of security to make sure no-one commandeered the boat, I was conscious of tourists or passers by trying to get into the garden to keep a closer look. Also being on water, every so often we’d rock or bump into the dock, making a noise prompting me to sit straight up in bed and assess the situation. Luckily nothing ever came of it.

Waking up the next morning was wonderful. It was a beautiful sunny day and sunlight streamed in through the windows and I sat in bed watching people head off on their morning commute to the Wharf.

It was an excellent experience spending the night on the house boat, and I’d definitely consider having a holiday adventure staying somewhere that wasn’t just the norm hotel room. Who knows, maybe big ol’ houses on the Thames could be a plan at solving the housing crisis that plagues London. If so, sign me up for a one bedroomed number please.

On 22 May a lucky competition winner will actually get the chance to spend the night on the house boat, as well as extra treats such as dinner in London and an on-board massage. To see the original listing, and other houseboats up for rent across the world, visit

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in