Like the fire-engine red telephone boxes, double decker buses and suited Royal guards in their bearskin hats; London’s famous Black Cabs are so iconic, they’ve even been immortalized in wax at Madame Tussauds. Despite recent fears that the Coventry manufacturer who produces the ubiquitous Black Cabs is going bankrupt, the Austin FX designs are still very much a part of everyday life in the capital. London celebrities fall in and out of them on a seemingly nightly basis; politicians opt for them over a limo; Sir Laurence Olivier and Stanley Kubrick owned their own; and even Arnold Schwarzenegger allegedly had a fleet shipped out to California. Regardless of economic difficulties, it seems like the time-honored Black taxicab is here to stay.
Traditionally known as a ‘Hackney Carriage’ when they were introduced to replace horse carriages back in 1958, the cabs are still the most popular method of private transport in London and remain the only London cabs licensed to pick up passengers from the street. Tourists on a sight-seeing mission will find few better tour guides than their trusted cabbies – potential drivers go through a rigorous testing procedure on ‘The Knowledge of London’, or simply ‘The Knowledge’, requiring them to learn some 25,000 streets with a 6 mile radius of Charing Cross Station including popular destinations and tourist attractions.
In recent years tour companies have capitalized on their incredible knowledge of London’s backstreets and scenic routes, by offering a number of Black Cab tours around the city center. It’s an arrangement that makes a lot of sense – tours can be tailored to take you anywhere at any time and as your guide comes with their own vehicle, photo stops and detours can be undertaken whenever you desire. Take in views without braving the crowds at tourist hotspots like Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Soho; stop off to explore Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral; or take a night tour along the glittering Thames River, culminating in a ride on the famous London Eye. You’ll get a running commentary from one of the city’s most knowledgeable local guides and best of all, you’ll be picked up and dropped off right at your hotel door.