Call me a geek if you like, but I love the London bus tours. They are a great way of getting your bearings and learning lots of new things about one of the biggest cities in the world.
They are not cheap and you really need to do every bit of it to get your money’s worth, but I could honestly sit on them all day going round and round. Unfortunately, the day we went, we didn’t have the time to do it all (we interspersed our voyage with trips to The Royal Mews, and to have afternoon tea) but we ran like crazy to make sure we caught the last one and had a fab trip round London as the evening drew in, and the lights came up.
For this trip round London, we chose Big Bus Tours.
We saw Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, The London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge, and The Tower of London.
We learned some fascinating facts about The Monument, the city of London, and the buildings on Whitehall.
It was pretty chilly on top of the open-top bus but we wrapped up warm and sat near the front behind the glass screen for a bit of protection.
You can hop on and off during the day to see each attraction better – you need to do this for Buckingham Palace (because tour buses are not allowed to go round the front for a proper look) and Downing Street (because you’d blink and miss it otherwise).
The tours run all day – the last one sets off at 5pm or 6pm – but check the website for more details. You get a map showing all the routes and times, and a pair of headphones.
Under 5s are free. Tickets on the day are £28 for adults, and £12 for children but you can get a discount if you book in advance online.
The ticket included free walking tours (there are three to choose from), and a free river cruise. We didn’t have time to do them on this day but I have done the river cruise in the past and really enjoyed it.
Some of the tours are audio, and you use headphones, choose your language and listen along to the pre-recorded commentary. The children couldn’t get on with this as they found the headphones a bit a of a faff.
Some of the tours have a live guide, which can be a bit hit and miss. Some of the guides are rubbish, others are very enthusiastic. Our guide was Ashleigh who could talk even more than my children.
She was great with them and answered their seemingly endless questioning with gusto, and put up with two hours of my eight year old’s inane ramblings. For me, that was worth paying the money just to get a bit of peace and a sit-down!
Some of the bus tour is a bit dull as you have to pass through bits of London with not much in them of interest to get to the interesting parts again, and then some of it is so close together it goes too quick and you miss bits, but overall, it’s really worth doing if you want to learn more about London. We also missed a bit of the route out due to roadworks and heavy traffic, but we got to see most things.
The part of the trip that we did took 2 hours, but there are other routes too and you change at various points on the route (like Westminster Bridge near the London Eye, or at Marble Arch). To do it all you would need about four hours, including waiting time at the changeover points.
Probably not suitable for very young children. The youngest in our party was four years old, which was do-able. I would recommend it for children of about eight years old and upwards.
Top tip – don’t try and do other stuff alongside the tour. Just enjoy, and leave time to do the river cruise too.
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