After an adventurous seven days in Morocco I was ready to explore London in a bit of comfort. I only had a handful of days in the Big Smoke with parts of those days being catching up on work (and sleep). As you either know firsthand or can imagine, London is a big city.
After my visit numerous people asked me what I thought of London. While I wasn’t disappointed by London, London did leave me with mixed feelings. I think the most surprising part of London was that all the historical sites were widely spread out across the city. I just assumed that all the sites would be in a historical neighborhood. Just call me naive.
Enter The Original Tour. One of the first things I do when I visit a new city is look up their free walking tours. I love to walk and I certainly did a lot of walking across Europe. And London. But, since I was trying to pack a lot into a small timeframe I decided a bus tour was a great way to see the city. Who doesn’t want to ride around London on a classic red double-decker bus?
The Original Tour made its debut in London during the Festival of Britain in 1951 as an early version of an open top tour bus. It ran thousands of visitors “around town for half a crown.” It wasn’t until the 1970s that the concept of open top city tours really started to take off. Now, nearly 65 years later, The Original Tour still runs multiple routes around London for thousands of visitors every year. It’s the perfect way to see all of London’s favorite sites.
The Original Tour offers six routes that criss-cross all across the city of London. For first timers, like myself, it is recommended to take the Yellow Route. The Yellow Route is the only route that has a live tour guide on the bus providing you historical facts and commentary. The guide on board for the day was Tim and I couldn’t have asked for a better guide. He was full of local knowledge and humor. He definitely had many of us in giggles during the ride.
I rode the bus around for awhile just taking in the sites and knowledge. After about an hour on the bus I was getting antsy so I decided to hop off at the Tower of London. The Original Tour operates as a hop-on and hop-off with over 80 stops across the city. I spent a few hours at the Tower and then hopped back on the bus and finished the loop.
Buses operate from 8:30am to 5pm everyday with buses stopping every 15-20 minutes during the winter months. Buses run more frequently in the summer so you’ll never be waiting too long for a bus. It was a rather chilly day on my tour day so I was extremely happy to see the bus roll up after about 5 minutes of waiting. Buses are heated downstairs and the front half of the upstairs is undercover allowing me to warm my cold fingers.
The Original Tour offers both 24 hour and 48 hour tickets. There is a lot to see in London so I would recommend a 48 hour ticket if you have the time. You’ll get much more out of it. Both tickets include the price of the hop-on and hop-off bus, three free walking tours, and the free Thames River cruise pass. The 48 hour pass is only additional £10. A second day of sightseeing will most likely cost you more on your Oyster Card so the additional £10 is a bargain.
On my second day I met the tour guide for the free Changing of the Guard walking tour at the main offices at Traflager Square. During the winter months the changing of the guard only occurs every other day so plan accordingly. We lucked out weather wise as it was only a light sprinkle. If you’ve never seen the Changing of the Guard, it’s totally worth it. Get there early and don’t wait in front of the Palace as you won’t see much.
After the walking tour I hopped on the Red Route to see a slightly different part of London. Each bus has recorded commentary in over 10 languages. Either bring your own headphones or use the free headphones on the bus. Personally I recommend bringing your own as the bus headphones are cheap.
I had a great experience with The Original Tour. Although I didn’t get to fully utilize my ticket as I was exhausted and cold, I would 100% do it again. In the summer. I really wanted to take the Purple Route out to Notting Hill to see the pretty houses, but alas I didn’t have time. Next time London. Next time.
Heading to London over the next few months? You’re in luck! The Original Tour is offering a 30% discount for all my readers on both the 24 Hour and 48 Hour Tours. How awesome is that? London is an expensive city so take any discounts you can get! All you have to do is use the code lobster30% when purchasing your tickets online at theoriginaltour.com. Code is valid up until December 2016.
- Tickets can be purchased online or at the Visitor Centre at Trafalgar Square
- Once you have a ticket you can hop on any of the buses across the city
- 24-Hour Tickets cost £30 and 48- Hour Tickets cost £40 (Use my discount above for 30% off)
- All tickets include access to the buses, 3 free walking tours, and the Thames River cruise
- See map of of the tour routes here
A huge thank you to The Original Tour for providing me a complementary 48-Hour ticket and reader discount. Like always, all my opinions are my own. You’ll always get my honest and blunt review. It’s how I roll.