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12 Best Bus Tours in London

12 Best Bus Tours in London

Imagine London in your head. You’re picturing the stuff you already know: Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace. But there’s more to London than just these tourist must-sees. There’s a whole host of excellent and unique experiences that many tourists miss out on when they only have a short time to explore a city.

That’s where I come in — I’m here to guide you through the bus tours in London! I’ve done the research, crunched the numbers, and painstakingly curated this list of not one but twelve London bus tours.

Best Bus Tours in London

1. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours

Red London Tour Bus

If you want to see the best sights without worrying about missing out on anything, hop on a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour! The hop-on hop-off bus allows you to get on and off the bus at any of its designated stops as often as you like during a given day. This flexibility provides travelers an opportunity to plan their trips according to what’s interesting or important for them—and not by some preset schedule.

London’s three hop-on, hop-off sightseeing operators—The Original Tour Bus (Tootbus), Big Bus Tours, and Golden Tours—dominate the sightseeing tours of London. All these three London bus tours offer almost similar services. They all have open-top bus experience, audioguide in multiple languages, and a river cruise.

Although they offer different routes, their stops and destinations are almost identical. All these hop-on hop-off bus tours will take you to prominent Central London landmarks and attractions, including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye, and more.

However, when you look more closely at the individual services offered by each company, you will see that some companies offer products and services that their competitors do not provide.

One thing that sets Big Bus Tours apart from the other bus tour companies is its free walking tours – Changing of Guard Walk, the City of London Walk, and Jack the Ripper.

On the other hand, The Original Tour Bus is the only company that offers Kids Tour, a non-stop bus tour (not hop on, hop off) with kid-friendly commentary and some activity packs. They also provide a 1.5-hr Bar Bus tour, again, not hop-on hop-off but a unique experience with a bar on board.

Lastly, The Golden Tours also covers central London. It is the only one to offer at least one live guide in English but not in a hop on hop off. Also, Golden Tours provides an audio guide in 11 languages.

Overall, whichever bus operator you choose, Hop on, hop off bus tours are a great way to see London’s top attractions. If you’re unsure where to get off the bus for your next destination, pick up a free map from any of the stops along the route so you can plan your day accordingly.

The buses also drive past many of the city’s most famous streets, allowing you to see some of the most beautiful Victorian architecture in all its glory!

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2. London by Night Sightseeing Tours

Bus at Elizabeth Tower and Night Lights

Taking a 90-minute open-top bus tour of London at night is one of the best ways to see the city from a fascinating perspective. The route takes you past Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, and more. The guides are entertaining and well-informed; they can also point out things happening in real time, like fireworks or a rock show.

If you plan to take a night bus tour of London, check if your trip coincides with a scheduled event. The city regularly hosts festivals and concerts (particularly during the summer at Hyde Park), and many of these events include free open-top bus tours as part of their programming.

But, even if no special event is planned, riding at night can still be enjoyable because many of the most well-known London landmarks are lit up at that time. And the bonus is that you can avoid traffic jams during rush hour!

3. Vintage Bus Tour

Red London Bus

Step back in time on this vintage open-top double-decker bus tour of London. Explore London’s sights on a restored 1950s Routemaster Bus.

Get an insider’s look at the London you’ve always wanted to see with a ride along the Thames that includes a tour of some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

The half-day tours leave from Victoria Coach Station, where your guide will meet you. As you listen to the tour, it will provide historical facts about many famous sites in central London, including Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey.

At the Tower Pier, there is also a Thames River cruise. You will see spectacular views of the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. After the river cruise, you will ride back to the vintage bus and head to Buckingham palace for a chance to see the Changing of Guard ceremony. Definitely, a classic ending to an ideal London vacation.

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4. The Harry Potter Bus Tour

From the Great Hall to Hagrid’s Hut, from Dumbledore’s office to the Gryffindor common room, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London allows fans to enter the magical world of Harry Potter and explore the film sets that brought J. K. Rowling’s wizarding world to life.

This fantastic opportunity is available for everyone who loves Harry Potter and wants to see what it was like behind the scenes. The tour features sets and props from all eight films, including costumes worn by Harry Potter and his friends, Harry Potter’s Nimbus 2000, Hagrid’s motorcycle, and even a recreation of Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station.

Come dressed as a muggle or wizard, and take this tour to enter the magical world of Harry Potter!

5. Ghost Bus Tour of London

London Black Ghost Bus Tour
Ian Wright, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ever wanted to go on a ghost bus tour of London? You’re in luck! Ghost Bus Tours offer an experience unlike any other. The Ghost Bus Tour is a theatrical bus tour with actors on board performing hilarious horror shows while you see the city’s sights.

This 1hour and 15-minute bus tour begins at Northumberland Avenue and travels through the city. The Ghost Bus Tour takes you on a journey where terrible things have happened, like sites of murder, execution, and torture.

You’ll be amazed at what you see and hear on this guided tour of London’s most haunted sites. This guided tour takes you through some of London’s most historic sites and spooky legends, from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey.

But don’t worry. They’ve got the perfect mix of humor and horror to keep people entertained as they learn more about their favorite city.

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6. James Bond Bus Tour 

MI6 Building Architecture
image by Jim Linwood is licensed under CC BY 2.0

You’re in London and want to see the city like James Bond. You could take one of those old-fashioned buses like any other tourist. Or you could take a James Bond Bus Tour!

The James Bond Bus Tour will take you on a whirlwind tour of London’s most famous landmarks (and not just the usual ones). You’ll get to see all the secret places only James Bond knows about, like the underground entrance to MI6 headquarters, or where they filmed the scenes from Bond 25, “No Time to Die.”

Step into the dangerous world of 007 and get ready for a wild ride on the James Bond Bus Tour!

7. The Beatles Bus Tour

Scenic Abbey Road
image by Shane Global is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Are you a fan of the Beatles? Then this bus tour is for you! The Beatles Bus Tour is a guided tour of London that takes you to the most important landmarks and places associated with the famous band.

You will hear stories about how The Beatles used to hang out in these spots while they were still a band and even after they had disbanded, as well as what happened to them later in their lives.

Get a chance to step inside Abbey Road Studios and see where The Beatles recorded! (and maybe even sing your version of “Hey Jude” or something). And yes, you get to walk across the famous Abbey Road! You’ll be able to see it all with a guide who knows exactly what they’re talking about.

This tour is perfect for anyone who wants to know more about The Beatles. It’s not just about seeing cool landmarks—it’s about learning how these places shaped The Beatles as musicians and how they influenced billions of people around the world.

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8. Afternoon Tea Bus Tour London

London Desserts and Tea Time

Imagine a world where you can have afternoon tea while strolling around London. Well, stop imagining – because that world exists! It’s called the Afternoon Tea Bus Tour.

This afternoon tea tour will take you through the streets of London and introduce you to some of its most beloved landmarks while sipping on a cup of tea and eating delicious pastries. The best part? You’ll do it all in a double-decker route master bus!

The tour takes you to famous sights and historical buildings, including Big Ben and Downing Street, for approximately 90 minutes.

You can enjoy a wide variety of savory and sweet snacks, sandwiches, cakes, tarts, scones, and muffins with your choice of hot or cold drinks. Nothing beats taking a bite of cake while admiring the views from your window seat.

Just a reminder that no alcohol can be purchased onboard the bus. Alcohol is pre-order only and must be purchased in advance.

9. Bustronome, London

Color Black London Bus
Colin Smith / Black London Bus, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One way to experience London is by taking the Bustronome London tour.

Your journey to gastronomic heaven begins at the Victoria Embankment bus stop 40B, where you will be greeted personally and seated at your table aboard the top deck of the luxury glass-roofed coach.

A full six-course meal, prepared and cooked fresh onboard, will be served to you during a 3-hour tour of London’s most famous sights like St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and many more.

The music in the restaurant creates an ambiance perfect for a date night. After this gastronomic adventure, you’ll be returned to the Victoria Embankment.

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10. East London Gangster Bus Tour

The East London Gangster Bus Tour is a wild ride through the criminal and gangster underworld in East London.

Ride a gangster-themed open-top tour bus down Bethnal Green Road, the site of notorious Ronnie and Reggie Kray’s reign. From 1957 to 1967, the Kray twins were at the forefront of organized crime in London’s East End.

You will also visit the E Pellicci Cafe (famous for its appearance in Legend), where the Kray twins would often visit. You can also tour the site of Ronnie Kray’s infamous shooting of George Cornell at The Blind Beggar in Whitechapel.

Hear all these stories and more from Micky’ Goldtooth’. He will tell you all about the lives of real gangsters and the gangster underworld secrets. The tour departs at Liverpool Street Station and ends near Borough Market.

11. Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes Bus Tour

Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes Bus Tour View
image by GetYourGuide

The Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes Bus Tour is a 3-hour tour through the streets of London that will take you back to the time of Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes.

You will journey through the haunted streets of London in a vintage open-top bus and hear stories about the legends buried at Westminster Abbey.

Prepare to hear your guide explain how the public executioner would raise a severed head in the air so that everyone could see it shake for several seconds after such a brutal blow.

Drive into the East End of London, where crimes flourished in the 19th century. Step back in time to when Jack the Ripper brutally murdered five women.

The tour ends at the Sherlock Holmes Pub & Restaurant. Here, you can enjoy a delicious meal while admiring all the collectible items dedicated to England’s most famous detective!

This spooky tour takes place after dark, giving visitors the perfect ambiance to hear all about some of the city’s most notorious crimes and disturbing legends.

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12. Christmas Lights Tour of London

London Bus on Christmas

The Christmas Lights Tour of London is the ideal way to get into the holiday spirit!

From November – January, you can enjoy the beautiful Christmas lights of London traveling on a restored 50-year-old Vintage bus.

You will travel through the West End to view magnificent colorful Christmas lights while a local tour guide provides live commentary.

You will also pass the Houses of Parliament and the famous Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square.

The tour starts at 4 pm and 7 pm, and it’s not a “hop on, hop off” type of service. You have to stay on the bus for the entire journey, which lasts about two hours.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of bus tours?

Undoubtedly, taking a bus tour has a lot of advantages. They’re super convenient. They bring you to many places in one day, which can be an advantage if you’re short on time and want to pack as much sightseeing into one vacation as possible.

You will learn a lot from a tour guide with extensive knowledge of the places they guide visitors through. They’re a relatively inexpensive way to travel while also getting some history lessons along the way.

Joining a bus tour is an excellent way to meet people, especially if you are new in town. But there are also disadvantages to bus tours. For one thing, you don’t get to choose the pace of the tour, which could be too slow for some people or too fast for others.

If you’re prone to motion sickness or claustrophobia, buses may not be for you. Another obvious disadvantage of bus tours is that you don’t really get to know your fellow travelers. If someone sitting next to you annoys you during your trip, there isn’t much you can do other than try and ignore them.

If you have a driver who drives recklessly, speaks on the phone while driving, etc., these actions may frustrate you. Lastly, the inevitable traffic. If you’re headed somewhere on a bus tour, you’re often traveling a route many other people also want to travel in a similar timeframe. It can mean heavy traffic that you have no control over.

Although bus tours have a few drawbacks, you can still enjoy your journey with the right company and a planned itinerary.

What to Expect on a Bus Tour of London?

London Bus tour is a great way to see the city. You can get a pass for one day or up to three days and hop on and off at any different city stops. If you are staying in London for a few days, you can also purchase an unlimited pass so that you can take as many rides as you want.

Almost all the routes will take you past Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, as well as other famous landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square.

There are also different kinds of buses, like single-decker, double-decker, and open-top buses, so you can choose which suits your needs and preferences best. Bus tours are also great for children because they can learn a lot about London by taking a bus tour of the city.

Tips for Taking a Bus Tour in London

We’ve got the tips you need if you’re looking to get the most out of your tour.

  • Open-top double-decker bus offers a better view of the city, but you also risk being cold and wet. If you’re planning to take one, try to get on during summer or buy a jacket before boarding the bus.
  • Do you want a quiet ride? Or do you prefer a tour guide telling you about the history of London as he drives? You can find both types easily. Look online before your trip so all your bases are covered! And don’t forget to ask if they have Wi-Fi on board!
  • Remember to bring your camera. There will be plenty of photo opportunities along the way—including stops at some of London’s most famous sights.
  • Dress in layers! It’s always cold outside during winter and hot inside the bus.
  • Buy your tickets online to avoid the hassle of queueing. You may also want to look into what kind of deals and combo packages are available so that you can save some money on your trip! Check online for the latest offers and promotions before booking your tour. You might be surprised at how much money you’ll save!
  • Expect traffic. When traveling in London, it’s best to schedule your trip during off-peak hours (like early morning or late afternoon), so you don’t get stuck in unexpected traffic jams on your way to your destination.

Is Taking a London Bus Tour Worth It?

Yes, it is! The city is vast, and it’s impossible to see everything on foot, so bus tours are an excellent way to see the city. They give you a chance to see some of those famous landmarks up close, as well as learn about the history behind them.

It’s a great way to get acquainted with the city and get your bearings. You’ll see all the main attractions in one day, but you’ll also learn about some of the lesser-known sights that are worth visiting too.

FAQ

What is the best London Bus tour?

It still depends on your interest. But for someone new to the city, a typical hop-on/hop-off is probably the best way to see all of London’s famous attractions.

What is the best bus tour for children?

We recommend the Tootbus London Kids Tour, which offers kid-friendly commentary. In addition, kids will learn a lot about the city and its history in a fun way.

When is the best time to go on a London Bus Tour?

The best time to go is during the spring and summer months. However, since everyone visits during this time of year, it’s also the busiest and most expensive.

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