Spring time is a wonderful time to visit London before the hordes of tourists arrive in the high season of the summer months. However, as we all know the weather in London especially during the spring can be unpredictable and fickle. One moment it can be clear and sunny and the next moment the weather can turn wet, rainy and unpleasant.
So what do you do when it is pouring rain yet still want to see as much as possible of the city? Purchase a ticket for The Original Tour, a 24-hour hop on, hop off double decker bus ride that has three sightseeing lines which take you to over 150 top sights and destinations in London.
Those of you who are regular readers on my blog know by now that I prefer off the beaten path travel and most of the time would rather be hiking somewhere in the mountains. However, I also do love exploring big cities having lived in both Chicago and Paris during my younger years. When I’m in destination, I also tend to have an immense desire to see it all and end up cramming in as much as possible within the short time I’m there. I want to see the sights, take photos of the architecture, dine at the different restaurants and cafes, and experience the diverse neighborhoods that a large city has to offer.
This is why buying a pass on London’s Original Tour made a great deal of sense. It would allow me, my mom and sister to see a large part of the city in a short amount of time without spending large sums of money on taxis or walking until we couldn’t feel our feet anymore. It also would provide us with a sheltered way to sightsee and stay dry when London’s notorious day-long rain began to fall. Of course we would much rather of had gorgeous weather the entire time and have been able to sit out on the top deck of the bus for a stellar view but we couldn’t control the weather. At least we had the option to move up top in the event the skies cleared.
How it works
Basically you purchase your ticket either online or at one of the stops. There are also lots of kiosks that sell tickets throughout London (The cost in May 2016 is Adults £30 on sight or £26 online). You next grab your map and jump on wherever you want to begin. There are 80 different stops throughout London, and 6 different bus lines (3 are sightseeing and 3 are connector lines). Once you jump on, your 24 hour time period begins. The Yellow tour has a live guide while the red and blue tours provide headsets (in 11 different languages as well as a special guide for kids). The tours are fascinating and I learned a lot about the culture and history of London as well as a few fun tidbits.
For more details on schedules, prices, and routes, click here.
Where it goes
What you see
Overall, you can see up to 150 different attractions throughout the city of London. We spent time on each one of the three main routes, yellow, red and blue, over the course two days (within a 24-hour period) and saw a ton. You can get on the bus at any one of the locations however a central location like Trafalgar Square or the recommended location that is mentioned under each route below is best to see the entire tour from start to finish. We got on at Trafalgar Square, right near our hotel.
The Yellow Route:
This route crosses the River Thames several times and you see a variety of the main attractions in the heart of London such as the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye and Marble Arch. The main departure point for this tour route is located at Coventry Street, Piccadilly Circus but you can board the bus at any stop along the route.
The Red route covers a large area with over 35 conveniently located bus stops around London, brining you to the beautiful Hyde Park, Regents Park, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, The Shard and Madame Tussauds and more.
The main departure point for this tour is located at Grosvenor Gardens, Victoria Train Station but you can board the bus at any Original Tour bus stop along the route.
You can also take the red line to see Big Ben and the Westminster Abbey (however, the yellow route stops there as well as does the green connector line).
The Westminster Abbey is so amazing that it is a must see. Unfortunately you can’t take photos inside but it is a stunning place.
This route is known as the museum tour as it takes you to the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Kensington Palace.
The main departure point for this tour is located outside the Royal National Hotel on Woburn Place, Russell Square but you can board the bus at any point along the route.
We got off near the entrance to Kensington Gardens and walked through the rain to admire the palace from a distance.
We continued walking towards Notting Hill gate where we would explore this quaint residential neighborhood and find a place for lunch. It was lovely filled with flowers and greenery growing along the building walls.
We discovered a quaint street filled with antique shops and a few restaurants where we grabbed a delightful bite to eat before heading back to jump aboard the bus.
There are also three connector routes that bring you to some of the further reaching parts of London such as the Purple “Capital”, the black “Station”, and the Green “Loop” connector. These routes do not have audio or live tour presentations.
Then of course there is Piccadilly Circus which is loaded with theaters, restaurants and shops. Fortunately our hotel was only a ten minute walk away from this part of London so we didn’t need to take the bus to see it.
And of course, all the gorgeous architecture in and around London
Why I liked it
Riding around on the double decker buses was not only convenient, it was fun. I learned a ton of interesting facts about the city and just being on one of the buses was an adventure in itself (especially trying to get around the narrow streets of Central London at rush hour!). The staff was wonderfully helpful with directions and answering questions. The bus service came frequently and once we figured out how to find the stops (you look for the bus stops that include “Original Tour” on them) it was a piece of cake. We had a great time despite the rain.
The Original Tour was founded over 65 years ago and today is the largest and most popular open-top sightseeing red bus tour operator in the world. To learn more, visit their website here. Also, as I mentioned in my previous post on Cruising the River Thames, the boat tour is included in the price. The Original Tour also offers other sightseeing tours as well. Check out their website for details. I would highly recommend giving it a try!