Along with the vintage red telephone boxes, black taxi-cabs and the red-suited Royal guards with their towering bearskin hats, the double decker bus, traditionally painted in fire-engine red, has become one of the most famous symbols of London. While the classic red versions are now more commonly found emblazoned across souvenir mugs and key rings than chugging along the streets (although there are still some in action), the double-decker bus is still one of the most popular methods of transport for Londoner’s to get from A to B.
Offering the best views from the road, sitting atop a double-decker as you cruise around the city center, is surely one of the most quintessentially English ways to take in the capital, but as London’s passenger buses are notoriously crowded, a much better way is to take a tour. Two companies run double decker bus tours of London, using tailor-made, open-roof vehicles that provide incredible views alongside live commentary from local guides. The tours circuit around London’s key sights, taking three different routes around the city and the tickets (typically valid for 24-hours) allow you to hop-on and hop-off wherever and whenever you please.
Time your visit to catch the changing of the guards at the exquisite Buckingham Palace, brave the climb into the galleries for an impressive view from St Paul’s Cathedral, take a tour of the historic Tower of London where you can view the Crown jewels or get in some unique photo opportunities at the world famous Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. The buses also stop at all of the city’s major museums and art galleries, so there’s no excuse for missing anything off your itinerary. Of course, you could just sit back and enjoy the views – the high viewpoint allows for some great views of Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, Nelson’s Column and Trafalgar Square, The Houses of Parliament & Big Ben and London Bridge.
Many bus tickets also offer discounted entry to some of London’s attractions or additional freebies like a river cruise along the Thames or guided walking tours, so keep an eye out for the best deal.