One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is take a bus tour – we’ve done them in lots of other cities and always found them a brilliant way to get an overview of a city that we don’t know well. So when the Original London Bus Tour got in touch and asked if we’d like to give London’s Original open-top bus tour a whirl I was obviously more than happy to say yes! Providing more than just a great way to travel around the capital, The Original Tour is THE essential introduction to London – founded over 60 years ago they are now the largest and most popular open-top sightseeing red bus operator in the world! And their Top London Packages offer fantastic additional savings on your day out by combining The Original Tour with the best London attractions.
When we plan a trip to London, we always try and pack as much in as possible – being in Dorset it’s not a cheap day out for a family of six (a return day’s travelcard for the family is over £200 before we’ve started) so we like to squeeze every last drop out of the day in the capital.
So last Thursday saw us up bright and early to catch the 8.12 train, and before we knew it we were turning in a slow circle in Trafalgar Square, trying to spot the London Visitor Centre. A quick phone call, and we headed just round the corner to Cockspur Street, and there it was!
Tickets collected (we were amazed that the hop-on-hop-off tour tickets currently last for a full 48hrs, and included a river boat tour, PLUS two walking tours. Sadly we only had one day, so we weren’t going to see a quarter of all that).
We opted to not hop off at all, and simply sit tight at the top of the bus for the full circuit, starting and ending just off Trafalgar Square.
And the tour was amazing! Or guide, Malcolm, was excellent – informative, amusing and deeply passionate about his city. We learned an awful lot, I saw parts of London I’d never seen, and even the parts I thought I knew well I saw with new eyes (who knew there was a glow worm on the Animals in War monument in Park Lane? Not sure how they helped the war effort, mind, we forgot to ask…). Malcolm shared photographs of the Blitz-crushed streets around St Pauls, and the iconic image if standing amidst an air raid, impressing upon the children the devastation caused during the war, and the miracle that St Paul’s survived; the tale of the unexploded bomb that was removed from the foundations stayed with them.
We took a lot of photos, but as it was a dull grey rainy day, they make the tour look far less interesting than it was, and it feels like doing it a disservice to show you them!
We sat up on the top deck, lucky enough to nab the front seats for the best view. Although the front third of the us is covered and protected from the rain, the back is all open which must be spectacular in summer but by heck it was FREEZING up there in December! If you’re planning on visiting soon, either tuck in on the lower deck – or wrap up REALLY warm!
Even with the kids activity pack provided for the smallest, the three hour circuit of London’s original open-top bus tour was a little much for 7yr old Bear, and the grey rainy city all began to look the same to her as the commentary washed over her head in a lot of places. But I think the best thing is not to simply sit still for 3hrs – it’s a brilliant way to get around the city to the many points of interest you’ll want to visit. Take the full 48hrs allowed to you, and use it as a more interesting way to get around the attractions than simply going underground. If we’d had it in short bursts I’m pretty sure that Bear wold have stayed interested – and we wouldn’t have frozen to the bone either!
I’m sad we simply ran out of time to do the river cruise as well, and the walking tours are next on my list for a return visit. I LOVE guided tours, always finding we get so much more out of them than simply wandering alone. And the Original Bus Tour was brilliant – we totally recommend them if you’re heading into town over the Christmas break. Even if you think you know London, we guarantee you’ll learn something new, and see it from a whole new perspective.
Most importantly of all the children got a brilliant general introduction to the city, and picked out the places they really want to go back and explore. It was a genuinely brilliant morning, and we all gained something different, whilst all of us felt on over-reaching sense of the history all around us, in the very stones of the buildings. London’s an amazing place – and London’s original open-top bus tour is a good way to get started on it.
We’re really excited to tell you that The Original Tour have offered us an exclusive offer code to all our readers!