A city sightseeing London bus tour is a popular way to see the city, but is it the best option for you and your kids?
London is a massive city that covers more than 600 square miles. It’s larger than New York City and Los Angeles. Those miles are packed with historical attractions, glamorous palaces, dynamic entertainment venues, and lots of beautiful parks, squares, and calm green spaces. There are dancing fountains, markets full of food trucks, lively bars and theatres, and Crown Jewels waiting for your attention.
No wonder the first thing most people do when visiting London is jump on a sightseeing bus and tour the city. It seems like the best way to take in this expansive terrain and understand the layout, but is it really?
Bus tours take you through London for a quick view of the city. The buses follow a pre-determined route that passes some of the biggest attractions and places of interest. If you purchase a live guide, you may even get to stop at select attractions for an immediate experience. By the end of the tour, you may think that you have a good idea of how London is laid out and what it has to offer.
Unfortunately, it will take much longer to fully understand and appreciate the intricacies of London. There are so many neighborhoods, and they each have their own character and attractions. Most bus tours only go through central London, and they can’t pass by every attraction. That leaves a lot of the city unseen and unknown to most tourists.
There are also a lot of differences between bus tour operations, so your experience may depend on which one you book. Some of the differences include:
A tour lasting two to four hours will cover more ground than a short tour lasting just an hour or less. Some are conducted in double-decker buses while others use open-top buses, coaches, or standard tour buses. You may have a live narrator pointing out attractions and telling lively stories, or you may follow a pre-recorded narration while a guide is there to answer questions.
The best sightseeing London bus tours may also book up quickly, especially during the busy summer travel season. You can reserve tickets online, but that requires a lot of advance planning that is difficult for some travelers.
Many bus tours of London are designed to take you through a set loop around the city within a designated period of time. Passengers come together at a set meeting point and are delivered back to that point at the end of the tour.
Other tours have multiple buses driving through a set route, allowing passengers to get on and off the bus whenever they want. Referred to as hop-on, hop-off buses, these tours are convenient for families who may have trouble sticking to a strict itinerary due to the unpredictable nature of children.
Finally, there are bus tours that double as vacation packages. Guests are accompanied for multiple days, following a designated route with stops at some of London’s must-see attractions. That takes the planning out of the process but also limits the experiences you have throughout your trip.
If you don’t think your family will do well on a city sightseeing London bus tour, you can book boat tours on the Thames River. Some are designed as hop-on, hop-off tours with multiple boarding points along the river. Others run for a set period of time and cruise through a pre-determined route along the river.
You can also enjoy walking tours of London. You will cover less ground due to the limitations of traveling on foot, but you also get a closer look at the attractions and points of interest included in the tour. You can get a more intimate sense of a neighborhood’s personality when you walk through the streets and greet other people along the way.
Bus tours are a great option if you want to see parts of London that you don’t have time to visit. If you don’t have time for a long tour, there are short tours that focus on select areas of the city or buildings that fit a certain theme. Some tours are designed for families, so the narration is lively enough to keep the interest of children as well as adults.
You’re encouraged to take at least one city sightseeing London bus tour when you first arrive in London if you’re a first-time visitor. It will give you a glimpse at some of the more spectacular sights the city has to offer, and you may change your itinerary based on the sights and information discovered during your tour. The city always looks different when seen in full color rather than over the internet.
Remember, you aren’t limited to just one London sightseeing tour. You can take a bus tour and a boat tour or perhaps even a walking tour if it fits into your itinerary. The more you explore, the better you will understand the city.