Your definitive list of the best tours in London
London is one of the world’s most majestic cities – and not just because it’s home to the Royal Family.
It’s a sprawling capital that has it all: world-class art, music, culture and shopping plus it boasts a grand history from times past while also being a modern metropolis that leads the international pack.
So, understandably, it can be overwhelming to navigate.
This is where a tour comes in. Whether you’re pressed for time or have days to explore, you can find the right one for you. From discovering the Elizabethan era to the secrets behind modern movie-making, there’s a London tour for every taste.
For first timers
Perfect for those on a short stopover or squeezing in some time on a packed itinerary, this tour in a restored, open-top, 1960’s Routemaster bus will show you the city’s top sights in just 75 minutes. Start at Trafalgar Square and take in everything from Downing Street to the Tower of London and more in record time, while the informative guide entertains you with insider info on the Capital.
There’s a reason you’ll find hop-on-hop-off buses in most major cities – they’re a great way to navigate unfamiliar roads and get to the major attractions while providing you with as much time as you need to enjoy them. Stay a little at the Tower of London, skip the London Eye or vice versa and create your own itinerary.
Not strictly a tour as such, but a handy way to enjoy the city. This all-inclusive pass gives you access to over 80 attractions, including entry to sites such as The Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, plus skip-the-line privileges at places such as St Paul’s Cathedral as well as additional discounts. There are five options, spanning from 1-10 days.
For film and movie fans
If you’ve always wanted to visit platform 9 ¾, then a studio tour to see the making of the magical Harry Potter movies is a must. The behind-the-scenes tour includes the Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office, the cobblestone streets of Diagon Alley and the mysterious depths of the Forbidden Forest.
Whether your favourite movie is Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ Diary or James Bond or you prefer binge-watching The Crown, Killing Eve or Downtown Abbey, you can see your favourite stories come to life by visiting the streets and landmarks where they were filmed. Brit Movie Tours offers a range of London walking tours that take you to the places where beloved shows and films are set.
For fans of the monarchy
As The Crown shows, the Monarchy rivals some of the more salacious reality TV dramas and audiences can’t get enough of it. If you want a taste of the royal life, this is for you. Meet up at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington where many of the royals give birth, check out their abode at Kensington Palace, stop at Westminster Abbey and finish at the Queen’s royal residence, Buckingham Palace.
Its official name is Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. Built by William the Conqueror its bloody history is tied to the monarchy. What started out as a royal palace became a prison – even Elizabeth I was thrown in before she became queen, thanks to her half-sister Mary. A Beefeater will take you on a tour to fill you in on the royal gossip and intrigue over the centuries and also take you to see the Crown Jewels.
Buckingham Palace is open to the public for 10 weeks each summer, so if you want to peek into the Queen’s residence you need to time your trip. You can simply purchase a ticket to enter, but if you want to explore deeper a tour is the way to go and gives you access to the State Rooms which include items from the Royal Collection, the Throne Room and more.
For history buffs
Let history come alive, and potentially scare you in the process, with a new take on the classic Jack the Ripper tour. Ripper-Vision is a fancy name for hand held projectors which make the sinister alleyways the notorious predator hunted on come alive with two-metre high images and film clips of the period so you feel like you were really there. Minus the threat of being gruesomely murdered.
Those fascinated by what goes on during wartime will be hard pressed to skip the sights of the Second World War around Westminster. As well as taking in Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, you’ll also discover the Churchill War Rooms. This underground network of bunkers was protected from the Blitz bombings, which is why they served as the government’s offices during wartime. Wander the halls and learn more about Winston Churchill, the leader who led Britain throughout the war.
London isn’t short of walking tours, but music fans would find it hard to go past the London Rock and Roll Legends tour that takes you around Soho and Covent Garden to the alley where Bob Dylan shot Subterranean Homesick Blues, the red phone box just off Piccadilly Circus where David Bowie posed as Ziggy Stardust for the back cover of his album and the rooftop where The Beatles gave their last live performance for Let It Be.
The Bard’s influence on literature is incomparable and this will take you back to his Elizabethan London. As well as the site of the original Globe Theatre and the new Globe, which is an accurate reconstruction of the original, visit The Guildhall Library where you can see a surviving copy of the First Folio, dubbed the most important work in the English language – a collection of 36 of his plays. It was published in 1683, eight years after his death.