We love the London bus around here. The recent gift given to us by the Mayor of London of the hopper £1.50 fare> (two buses for the cost of a single fare when tapping in within an hour) has made bus travel even sweeter. For the pro-cheapo, bus travel is not only thrifty but one of the best ways of getting your bearings and sightseeing. It’s a great alternative to paying for an official tour of the city. However, if you’re missing a little historical context or running commentary, download free city guides to play along with your bus ride!
Historical landmarks: Bus No. 11
Travel southwest to east (or vice versa), ideally skipping the Fulham-Victoria bit if you’re pushed for time. Starting at Victoria will get you into some prime sightseeing territory.
Hop on at Victoria Station/Grosvenor Gardens (Stop S) and take a top-deck tour through Westminster. Make sure to nab a window seat to get the best view of Parliament Square, The Houses of Parliament, Horse Guards Parade, Westminster Cathedral and Big Ben.
After Westminster comes Whitehall and Trafalgar Square, enjoy the vantage point of seeing one of London’s busiest public areas from up high. Then wave goodbye the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery as you head for your next area: Aldwych.
Aldwych is home to The famous Strand Station, one of London’s 27 defunct Underground stations and the impressive, Gothic architecture of The Royal Courts of Justice. Now you’re on infamous Fleet Street, a former hub of the British Newspaper industry, the birthplace of 17th Century diarist Samuel Pepys and the scene of the murderous antics of fictional villain Sweeney Todd.
Moving away from Fleet Street is St Paul’s and this is also where can The Royal Exchange – Bank of England (one of the oldest in the world).
History and modernity merge as you drive closer to the City of London. The final destination is Liverpool Street, but don’t let the suits and harassed commuters put you off—take a wander to Spitalfields and the buzz of Brick Lane.
Architecture: Bus route RVI (Some London buses have letters too)
Gaze at some of London’s most iconic buildings and architectural landmarks in quick succession, including two major bridges.
Get on right in the centre of town at Covent Garden (Catherine Street Stop C). From here you will cross the Strand to see the beautiful, historic Somerset House. Enjoy a stunning view of the Thames and South Bank as you drive over Waterloo Bridge (also known as the Ladies Bridge as it was re-built by a team of female construction workers after it was bombed in WW2).
Passing through Waterloo you can see The London Eye, and you will snake past South Bank by driving behind it and see The Royal Festival Hall, The National Theatre and the Oxo Tower.
Moving through Southwark you pass Grade II listed The Hop Exchange before driving over London Bridge, past Monument and finally The Tower of London as you alight at Tower Gateway.
Leafy spaces: Bus C2
Pick it up from Victoria bus station (Stop Z12). This is a fairly long route, so avoid travelling at rush hour. But, If you’re happy to sit and take things easy, you’ll be well rewarded.
The start of the route makes its way past Hyde Park Corner, on the edge of Hyde Park, one of biggest parks in London. From there you’ll pass Green Park and the fancy shops of Mayfair.
Travelling north of Oxford Street you pass Portland Place, home of the iconic BBC Broadcasting House and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
From here you drive along the edge of another important green space: Regent’s Park. This is also where you’ll find London Zoo.
The leafy calm makes way for the bustle of Camden Town and then Kentish town. Finally, head onwards and quite literally upwards for Parliament Hill, part of Hampstead Heath and one of the best panoramic views in the city.
Got a sightseeing head for heights? Read our article on cheap and free views of London.