Original Bus Tour London Review

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I know London pretty well, I’ve lived here for over 8 years on and off and I’m able to navigate my way around the city easily by foot, by car and by tube. Buses are a bit of a mystery to me, although my various travel passes (currently Oyster card) have included buses, I’ve very rarely had any need to use them. London is small, easy to walk and the tube system is great, so why take a bus? We had a chance today to try The Original Tour open-top bus sightseeing tour as their guests, an opportunity that we grabbed with both hands. The tour sounded fun and we always like a new experience.

What can beat cruising round London on an open-top bus?

Tower Bridge London World Travel Family blog
Driving over Tower Bridge, passing the Tower of London, the Shard and the Houses of Parliament, and peeking over the walls of Buckingham Palace were some of the highlights of Our Original Bus Tour London day.

There are several bus companies offering similar hop-on hop-off tours around London, but as the name suggests, this is the original one. We were happy to be guests of the company on this day, all thoughts are entirely our own, we are never under any pressure to leave good reviews.

Original Bus Tour London Reviews

Original London Sightseeing Tour Routes and Included Benefits.

Original Tour Bus at Baker St. Station for Tussauds and the Sherlock Holmes museum.
 Photo © Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

When you buy your Original London Tour tickets, you’re not just buying 24 hour access to their 4 hop-on hop-off bus routes.

A river cruise along the Thames is included in the price, as are 3 London walking tours.

It’s a great deal, unfortunately we couldn’t possibly have squeezed it all in. We did one bus route, the T1, yellow, route, hopped off a few times for a leisurely coffee and a few photos, and hopped back on again. That was all we could manage. Our ticket was valid for the next day too, but our plans to return were foiled by a house-sitting difficulty.

It’s a shame, we’d love to try the other routes and walking tours, particularly the Jack the Ripper tour (3.30pm daily). The yellow route is the only one with a live tour guide, that’s what made us pick that particular route. You can find the 4 bus tour routes here.

New London Discoveries from the Original London Bus Tour.

There was a great mix of fun facts, history and modern narrative. We all came away knowing more than we did. Child 1 particularly enjoyed hearing about the Great Fire of London, in sufficient detail for me to consider that topic done and dusted. We’re giving the tour a big thumbs up for education and entertainment. Here are some things I didn’t know this morning, that I do now

1. Buckingham Palace has a delivery door, it’s around the side next to The Queen’s Gallery and the Her Majesty still has her groceries delivered by horse and cart with particular royal livery.

Queens delivery door Buckingham Palace world travel family blog
Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s delivery door. Photography is tricky from the bus but interesting snippets like this make for a great tour.

2. Prince Philip has his hair cut at a particular barber on St James St.

3. Australia House was Gringotts in the Harry Potter films.

4. Daniel Radcliffe went to school on the banks on the Thames.

5. Monument station is so called because the monument to the Great Fire of London is there.

St Paul's Cathedral. World Travel Family blog
Magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral. We need to go back for the internal tour and the view from the top.

6. The St Paul’s Cathedral site has been occupied by a church for over 1,000 years.

7. The Tower of London’s construction started in 1066 as part of the Norman conquest. It has been expended on over the years.

8. After the great fire, when Sir Christopher Wren was busy designing and re building St Paul’s , he also built this pub on Fleet St so that his workers could relax after a hard day’s graft. I’ve checked these facts on the internet, the story I’ve found is that the pub was built for the Masons building St Bride’s Church, I don’t know which is true, but it’s a good story.

The Old Bell Fleet St London
An ordinary Fleet St pub with an interesting history

9. A statue of Queen Anne stands outside St Paul’s, we’d been trying to figure out which monarch it was the day before. Anne was Queen when St Pauls was built in 1710 but this statue is a replica, the original fell into the posession of a 19th century travel writer.

10. Queen Victoria has the most statues of any world monarch.

11. There are some amazing pieces of street art near the Tate Modern, Poured Lines by Turner Prize nominee Ian Davenport and intriguing upside down house installations can be found on Southwark St..

12. Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre once stood on the North Bank of the Thames, it was once taken down and carried, piece by piece, to the South Bank, across the frozen river Thames. The Globe replica now stands near the original site.

13. Charles Dickens and other great literary figures, used to drink in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub on Fleet St, almost opposite Britain’s narrowest shop. This pub was built shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. I’ve been in this pub, it’s well worth a look if you’re in London.

14. The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe and we now know the names of many other modern buildings, including the gherkin,  the cheese grater, the walkie talkie and the sliced egg.

Original Tour London Tips

River Thames view Bus travel blog
Stunning river views from London’s major bridges as the bus cruises around the city. Better still, take the free Thames boat trip included in your ticket.

Do your research! Study the maps and tours, pick what you want to see most. I really don’t think anybody could do everything included in the ticket within the time limits unless they really wanted to get optimum bang for their buck. We recommend the T1, yellow route, for it’s live commentary and guides. Ours were highly entertaining.

On a hot day you will be out in the sun for a long time, you’ll need sunblock

On a cold wet day, they give you plastic ponchos, much appreciated!

rain poncho The Original Tour
The Original Tour protects you from the weather, thanks!

You can go downstairs, or to the front, covered portion, of the bus to escape the elements, you can still hear the commentary, but the top deck is much more fun and has a great view.

We took the tour on one of the busiest days of the year, during August school holidays, we had no problems getting top deck seats and had negligible wait times when we returned to hop-on. There was, however, heavy traffic congestion around St Paul’s, elsewhere it was OK.

The commentary was well amplified, we could hear it clearly at the front or back of the bus.

We found our first tour guide a little hard to understand, she had a slight accent and her microphone was feeding back a little. We hopped off and picked up with another tour guide who was excellent, very easy to understand and great with the kids. It’s simple to do this, we stuck with our second guide and really enjoyed his tour.

In places the bus can pick up a fair bit of speed, it gets windy. Think about wind-friendly hair, hats and warm clothes.

We found it hard to take photos from the bus, serious photographers will need to hop off.

My boys, at 10 and 8 , were old enough to enjoy the commentary and the view, small children travel free and all kids receive a fun activity pack.

Do We Recommend The Original London Bus Tour?

Houses of Parliament travel blog
Pick up the boat near the Houses of Parliament and travel down to The Tower of London and Tower Bridge on the Thames.

Yes, we enjoyed our tour very much. For complete London beginners, it’s a great way to see everything you want to see without having to walk and the commentary is informative, educational and fun. Even for old London-hands like us, it was a great experience and a fun day. Some people like tours, some don’t, you know yourself best. If you love an open top bus in old London town, go for it, have fun!

Visit The Original Tour website for ticket prices.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

14 thoughts on “Original Bus Tour London Review”

  1. I used to live in London too Alyson although I’m a Northern girl and I now live in Berlin as an expat! Our first family trip to London was when my son was 9 (he’s 12 now). We also did The Original Sightseeing Tour and I highly and happily recommend them. We were in London for 4 days. Ample time.
    In fact, I recommend NOT getting public transport tickets as you can use the Hop-on-Hop-off method to get around London instead. If you’re savy and pick a little after noon, it’ll work not only for 24 hours but 2 days!!

    In the end, we took 2 bus routes, the Jack the Ripper walking tour, and a boat cruise from Tower Bridge to Greenwich which then covered East London quite nicely LOL!
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Great tip Victoria! We recommend public transport passes because they’re just so awesome! The boys and I can go into London for the day ( from zone 5) and use the tubes and buses as much as we like for under 8 UK Pounds. So lets say, central London, you can use the Original Tour, further out, get an Oyster! I love my Oyster and I love that kids under 11 travel free in London.

      • Absolutely. I totally agree! The Original Tour or walking, for Central London or within Zone 1/Zone 2 and the Oyster Card for outside “the city.”
        You’ve got a lovely informative post there.

  2. I’ve been to London a lot of times and I’ve never done one of those tours, I’m not sure why but they never really appealed to me. It looks like I should have given it a go though.

  3. Glad you enjoyed the tour and the children got something out of it as well! I’ve never been to London, but definitely plan on doing some sort of bus tour when I do go to try and squeeze in all the sites.

  4. London is one of my favorite cities in the world, but I didn’t hear about this tour when I visited. Too bad because it seems like such a great deal since you get so much.

  5. Sounds like great fun, Alyson!
    Want a tip? if you go on a museum-tour, or a city-tour, and they have “audio-guides” : always ask for the kids’ version. They contain just the right amount of information (the essentials), they’re more entertaining and they are usually very understandable. Even if you are a grown up, you’ll see that the kids’ version is more than enough! (unless you are a historical researcher or litterature professor, in which case the adult version may be passionnate…) I have enjoyed kids’ audio-guides in castles, museums and city-tours, and I’m a fan!!

  6. Yes, today we plan to take the tube and avoid the city central. We’ve had 5 days but the first 2 were mostly spent sleeping and getting oriented. So the 3rd day was the Original bus tour and very nice. The 4th day, yesterday, was almost a total loss. I say almost because we ended up walking all the way through Hyde park and really enjoyed it! Also I could tell my guys walk a whole lot more without complaining. It’s almost a mile to the nearest underground and it feels like nothing. So the 4 museums left on my list (London, British, Science, Nat’l Hist) have to be whittled down to one. We’ll be back in a few weeks. We didn’t get to Harry potter either, nor oxford, bath or Cardiff.

    • You should walk Regents Park too, it’s lovely and you can walk around the outside of the zoo. There’s SO much o do in London, or walk the South Bank, past the Eye, The Clink, the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe etc.Hence we’re here 8 months! Get to the museums for opening time to avoid the holiday queues.

  7. Just hopped off The Original Tour today. We got in it yesterday and it was just right. We stopped at The Tower of London and hopped back on later. Today we had terrible luck because all the main streets were closed for a bicycle your. We planned on seeing 2 museums on the museum tour and the walking tour for changing of the guard. My family doesn’t like tours so I convinced them to do this. Unfortunately so many roads were diverted we never made it to the tour and it couldn’t get us to the pier so we went to the other pier but when it docked there was zero access for a bus anywhere because of all the bicycles. It was a nightmare! I think the Original Tour any weekend when the roads aren’t closed. I wish someone had told me we would’ve been better off renting bikes since all the roads were closed for them. Even the changing of the guard time was different and the public website didn’t show it. Super frustrating day with kids. The closures were so bad you could only glimpse famous buildings through openings of other buildings and it took almost 2 hours to go a few miles. Super poor planning for pedestrians and bus tours.

    • That sucks Dana! Hope you weren’t just here for the 2 days, were you? My husband told me there was a big cycling event on and not to even think of going into the city , we couldn’t anyway, we had to leave our house sit, but yeah, it’s a massive thing. re: museums. They’re vast, I’d suggest a full day just for the Natural History Museum and Science Museum, those 2 are side by side. The British museum at least half a day too. We’ve been to those 3 many, many times and not seen all of them. It’s school holidays in August, so everywhere will be busy, I’ve never seen so many people in London as on the day we did the bus tour, particularly the bridge from the Houses of Parliament to the London Eye, it was insane. This must be why tourists think London is hectic, it’s not normally! How was the tube? Could you not have gone under the crowds and popped up where you needed to be? We crossed the city by tube yesterday morning, all fine for us. Really bad luck picking that day, just as bad as London Marathon day.


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