Sightseeing by Local Bus
If you don’t want to pay for a sightseeing tour, then try a do-it-yourself version with some of the local buses. Of course, you won’t have the benefit of a guide or recorded commentary and you can’t easily replicate the route followed by the hop-on hop-off bus tours, but take along a decent map and simple guidebook and you should be fine.
Any Travelcard gives unlimited travel on all London buses for the whole of London. If you don’t have a Travelcard, get a Pay as you go Oyster card — the maximum charge for travel by the bus for the whole day is £4.20.
To be honest, you see something of interest on most bus routes in central London. The following bus routes pass some of the major sights:
Bus number 9 from Trafalgar Square to High St Kensington
Bus stop S on Cockspur St,on the south side of Trafalgar Square
Pall Mall — Green Park — Hyde Park Corner (for Apsley House & Hyde Park) — Knightsbridge(for Harrods) — Exhibition Rd (for The Serpentine and the Serpentine Gallery) – Kensington Gore (for the Royal Albert Hall & Albert Memorial) — Palace Gate (for Kensington Palace & Kensington Gardens) — High St Kensington (The bus continues to Hammersmith station).
Approximately 25-35 minutes.
View London Bus 9 Route Mapin a larger map
Bus number 11 from Victoria Station to St Paul’s Cathedral
Bus Stop S on Grosvenor Gardens near Victoria station.
Victoria St (for Westminster Cathedral) — Parliament Square (for Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben) — Whitehall (for 10 Downing St & Horse Guards Parade & St James’s Park) — Trafalgar Square (for the National Gallery & National Portrait Gallery) — The Strand (for Covent Garden) — Fleet St (for Temple Church) — St Paul’s Churchyard (for St Paul’s Cathedral, the Museum of London, the Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern). The bus continues to Liverpool St station
Approximately 25-45 minutes.
View London Bus 11 Route Map in a larger map
Number RV1 from Covent Garden to Tower of London
This is a useful little route route to travel between Covent Garden and the Tower of London via the South Bank. And, you get to ride over Tower Bridge. It’s a single decker, not a double decker bus.
Bus Stop C, Catherine St, Covent Garden
Waterloo Bridge (for the Southbank Centre/Royal Festival Hall) – Waterloo Station — London Eye — Lavington St (for the Tate Modern) — The Hop Exchange (for Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral) – London Bridge Station (for the London Dungeon) — Tower Bridge — Tower of London. The route ends at Tower Gateway DLR station.
Approximately 30-40 minutes.
View London Bus RV1 Route Map in a larger map
For a traditional London bus experience, the famous old-style Routemaster buses, like the one pictured above, run on the central London sections of routes 9 and 15 every 15 minutes between 9.30am–6.30pm.
For more detailed information on what to see on London’s bus routes, some dedicated bloggers are documenting every route:
Image credit: Harry Vale
Last updated: 2 November 2012