The traditional old-style red double-decker buses (with a conductor and an open platform at the back) were a much-loved part of London life, so when they were phased out in 2005 lots of people were aghast. Luckily, the Mayor decided to keep a few of the old 1960s buses running on two special 'heritage routes'.
So how about forgoing the tube for a day, and taking a ride on one of London's old buses?
The first route is called No.9, and runs between Trafalgar Square and Kensington High Street:
Trafalgar Square --> Piccadilly Circus --> Piccadilly --> Hyde Park Corner --> Knightsbridge --> Royal Albert Hall --> Kensington High Street
The second route is called No.15, and operates between Trafalgar Square and the Tower of London:
Trafalgar Square --> Strand --> Fleet Street --> Blackfriars --> Mansion House --> Cannon Street --> The Monument --> Tower of London
Craig has written a review of the No.15 on his blog, if you'd like to get an idea of what it's like. Feel free to ask him a question about the bus. He actually recommends catching the No.11 instead, which is a lot more interesting (it's not a heritage bus -- but it's a much better sightseeing tour). He's also put together a marathon bus journey around London which strings together lots of different bus routes, so you can see lots of London landmarks.
Important note: The heritage routes operate between 9.30 AM and 6.30 PM. Modern buses also operate on the same route, using exactly the same bus numbers, but with extended hours and routes -- so make sure you board the right one. The heritage buses have an open platform and staircase at the back. If you want to see some real old buses (even older than these heritage ones), then check out the exhibits at the London Transport Museum.
Because these heritage buses are just normal everyday buses, you can still pay with an Oyster card, Visitor Oyster card, contactless card or travelcard. They don't have any Oyster machines inside, though (those big yellow things that you tap the card down on). They have an old-fashioned conductor instead, with a hand-held machine. So all you have to do is sit down and show him your card when he approaches. Sometimes he's a bit lazy and will just stand by the bottom of the stairs instead, so you have to show him your card as you board, or when you get off.
> Craig’s review of this event – “Have you ever seen one of those No.15 heritage buses they keep running for the bus spotters? I'm on one from the Tower of London to Trafalgar Square today. You don't even realise that it's a vintage bus at first. You look around for the big-yellow Oyster reader to beep your card down and it's not there, and then a conductor comes along and says take a seat, sir (he ac… continued”
11 — London’s cheapest sightseeing bus – Every day – If you don't fancy spending money on an open-top sightseeing bus, then there's a cheaper alternative — the No 11 bus.
The Original Tour — Open-top sightseeing bus – Every day – The Original Tour is one of London's most popular sightseeing buses, and it's also a great way to travel around the capital.
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.
School of Rock – 22 Oct 2016 to 5 Jan 2020 – The Jack Black movie 'School of Rock' has been turned into a West End mind-blowing musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – 6 Nov 2017 to 28 Sep 2019 – 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie' is all about overcoming prejudice, with songs by The Feeling's Dan Gillespie Sells.
If you enjoy Trafalgar Square then you might like to visit Covent Garden (you can walk it in 7 mins), Horse Guards (you can walk it in 6 mins), Leicester Square (you can walk it in 4 mins) and Parliament Square (walk it in 12 mins or catch the tube from Charing Cross to Westminster)
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