Sightseeing buses are on a lot of people's Top 25 things to do in London list, but it's so much more than a sightseeing tour... it's also a handy way to travel around the city because they give you a hop-on, hop-off ticket. This means you can step off the bus whenever you like, visit an attraction, and then pick the bus up again a bit later. It's a bit like having a travelcard. And they also chuck in a boat tour and a couple of walking tours for free.
They offer a few different routes, but tourists will be most interested in the 'Red' and 'Yellow' routes. The Red one is a little bit better because it shows you more places, but it takes a bit longer. The best place to pick up is near their shop by Trafalgar Square (in Cockspur Street). You can either buy a ticket there, or buy it online before you go.
The Red route will take you down the Strand, past the Royal Courts of Justice and St. Paul's Cathedral, onto The City for the Bank of England and Royal Exchange, before taking in the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Along the way back to Parliament you'll see the Shard and London Eye, before heading down Whitehall for Downing Street and Horse Guards.
Craig has been on several of the sightseeing buses around London, and if truth be told he's not a huge fan (he thinks they are way too expensive). You can read his review of the Original Bus Tour on his blog. He has also done one for the Big Bus Tour as well (a rival bus company). You can find out more information about that tour here. You might also like the idea of taking a bus tour at night, so you can see the city beautifully illuminated.
If you're going to do a sightseeing bus tour then we definitely recommend doing it on the first day. The whole point of these tours is to show you as many sights as quickly as possible, which is handy if you've only got a limited time in London. So get a ticket for your first morning and devote a couple of hours to it. Hopefully you'll see a few places along the way which will get you excited, and you can spend the rest of the day there when you get off.
Guest – “We are going to be in London on the morning of the 20th of October of 2014. I noticed last year the Original Bus Tour had a special of two days for the price of one. I was wondering if they were going to have the same special this year? And if so when should I book the reservation. We definitely want to use the Bus tour for two days. Thank you, in advance for your reply. Dave”
Admin – “They seem to chop and change it around. When it's high season it only runs for 24 hours, and when it's low season you get 48. (Personally, I think that it's not worth it when you only get 24, because you don't have enough time to take advantage of all the tours they offer.) At the moment its high season so the website says 24 hours. but it also says its valid for six months. So if you wait for low season and buy it then (in september?), then you should be able to use it in october. You might want to check directly with them to be certain, though”
Craig’s review – “Can of Coke... check. Gloves, coat and scarf... check. Been down the bank to take out a loan so I can afford to buy a ticket... check. Okay, I'm ready to go. There are three big bus tour companies in London: the Original Bus Tour, Big Bus Tours and Golden Tours, and the Original Bus Tour is the most popular. They offer a few different routes, but unfortunately there'… continued”
London Bus Tour — open-top sightseeing bus – Every day – This traditional open-top bus tour will take in all the best landmarks and attractions, with a free river cruise and guided walk.
Ghost Bus Tour, around London’s dark past – Every day – The Ghost Bus Tour will take you on a journey through London's gruesome past, and into the dark heart of the capital.
See London by night — on a sightseeing bus – Every day – The 'See London By Night' bus tour will show you London's most famous landmarks beautifully lit up in the night sky.
Ride an old-style double-decker bus – Every day – Enjoy riding around on one of London's old 1960s double-decker buses (the one with a conductor and an open platform at the back).
11 — London’s cheapest sightseeing bus – Every day – If you don't fancy spending 25-30 pounds on an open-top sightseeing bus, then there's a much cheaper alternative — the No 11 bus.
TRS river cruise, from Big Ben to Greenwich – Every day – Spend a leisurely afternoon on a TRS river cruise from Big Ben to Greenwich, and see some of the sights along the river.
Boat trip down the Thames, with City Cruises – Every day – City Cruises offer one-way, return or all-day boat trips between Westminster and Greenwich, stopping off at Tower Bridge.
Look for more London bus tours during December
Disclaimer: Event details can change at short notice and you should reconfirm everything before making plans