Best London Bus Tours
This post provides an overview of the various types of bus tours you can take in London.
In addition to covering the differences between these services, we will also include details about ticket prices, tour length, availability and more.
- Unique Specialty Tours
- Night Bus Tours
- Deals and Discounts
- Free Bus Tours
- Day Trips from London
HOP-ON-HOP-OFF LONDON BUS TOURS
The following will be a brief description, but we also have a full post which goes over everything you may want to know about hop-on-hop-off bus tours in London, including the pros and cons of this service, available routes and potential discounts.
This is a very popular option for a bus tour, as it typically includes both live commentary in English and recorded commentary in a variety of different languages.
The tour will take you to dozens of the most popular attractions in the city, and you’ll have the opportunity to jump off the bus at several landmarks to get a closer look and explore at your leisure.
Tickets are available for 1, 2, or 3 consecutive days at a time, and they are usually valid for anywhere from 9-14 hours per day depending on which company you choose.
Prices range from £30 – £50 on average for adults and £15 – £25 for kids.
Don’t forget to read our full post about London hop-on-hop-off bus tours for more information.
The following section will include some of the most interesting and entertaining bus tours available in London, from the supernatural to the tasty and beyond!
In addition to covering details such as ticket prices, we will also provide information about availability, tour length, and what you can expect to see on each outing.
Harry Potter Bus Tour
This 2 ½ to 3-hour bus tour features many of the filming locations and inspirations from all 8 movies in the series. Some of the stops include Kings Cross Station, 12 Grimmauld Place and the sites used for the Leaky Cauldron.
There is also an opportunity at the end of the tour to buy Harry Potter merchandise.
- Jan – Dec: Saturdays at 2 pm
- School Holidays and Mar-Oct: Wednesdays at 2 pm
- School Holidays and Jul-Aug: Thursdays at 2 pm
- School Holidays and Jul-Aug: Fridays at 2 pm
Ticket Prices: £30 – Adult | £21 – Child (under 16)
Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter
There are several tour operators that offer packages that include your ticket to the studio with timed entry and also transportation from London by coach or train.
Typically, these tours cost approximately £80 – £100 per person (less for children).
Some of these companies play Harry Potter movies on the bus ride to warm you up for your studio visit.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on one especially popular option from Premium Tours. For additional options, make sure to read our post covering Harry Potter day trips from London.
This activity is an absolute must for die-hard fans of the franchise. Included in the price is admission with timed entry, a dedicated studio tour guide, headsets when appropriate, transportation to and from the meeting point in Central London and one butterbeer per guest.
It’s best to book a month in advance as this tour sells out.
When: check their calendar for availability
- £86 – Adult (age 16+)
- £81 – Child (age 5-15)
- £35 – Infant (Age 3-4)
- Free – 2 and under
Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes Bus Tour
As the name indicates, this tour focuses on the true story of Jack the Ripper and the fictional tale of Sherlock Holmes.
In addition to covering these topics, they also provide information about subjects such as the Elephant Man and Smithfield Market.
This spooky bus tour takes place after dark, ensuring the perfect atmosphere to hear all about some of the most notorious crimes and disturbing legends in London’s history.
- Price: £30/Adults | £27/Students & Seniors
- Availability: Daily at 7 pm
- Duration: 3 hours
- Purchase tickets or learn more.
Reviews for this service are pretty good with an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars (read reviews here).
Customers indicate that their tour guides are very friendly and knowledgeable, providing a lot of interesting information about Jack the Ripper.
Sadly, some guests were a bit disappointed that there weren’t more details about Sherlock Holmes. That being said, a majority of people indicate that they had a lot of fun on this trip around London.
Beatles and Rock Tour of London
This is a 3 ½ hour mini-coach tour that will explore the Beatles’ London, including Abbey Road and other rock landmarks related to icons such as Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks, Pink Floyd and more.
With a 4.7 out of 5 rating on Get Your Guide (read reviews here), it’s safe to say this is a pretty popular and reliable bus tour.
- £40/Adult | £25/child (3-11)
- Most days at 2 pm (14:00)
- Purchase tickets or learn more.
TIP: If you’re also interested in a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, it’s worth noting that the Original London Sightseeing Tour includes a Rock n’ Roll history walking tour for free. This could be an interesting alternative!
London Duck Tours
NOTE: London Ducks have suspended services as of September 1, 2017. There is no expected date to restart service at this time.
A whirlwind journey through London in a Second World War amphibious vehicles! The tours run through London giving visitors fun facts and stories about the capital before finishing by splashing down into the river Thames for a boat ride – all in the same vehicle!
BB’s Bakery Bus Afternoon Tour
Afternoon tea with a twist or a sightseeing bus tour with a twist! Either way you look at it, this is one tasty tour!
A full afternoon tea served aboard a double-decker bus that travels through Central London, showcasing London’s famous sights as guests indulge in sweet treats and teas.
Although the theme of this bus tour may seem strange to foreigners, the 4 ½ star rating this company has received on TripAdvisor indicates that it’s a pretty phenomenal service.
There are a handful of negative reviews, but an overwhelming majority of guests report that this is a lovely trip which includes delicious food.
Some reviewers even went so far as to describe the tour as a great experience, indicating that it was a wonderful combination of English tradition and sightseeing.
- Lower Deck seats start at £45/Adults and £43/Kids (5-11)
- Higher Prices depending on seats with better views, Upper Deck, etc.
- Depart daily from 8 Northumberland Avenue, off Trafalgar Square:
- 12:30 pm and 15:00 (3 pm)
- Depart daily from Victoria Coach Station:
- 12:00 pm, 14:30 (2:30 pm) & 17:00 (5 pm)
- Tours last approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Many of the above-mentioned bus tour companies offer night bus tours, like Big Bus Tours. Here is a list of a few more.
Be sure to also check out our post on nights tours of London for walking, bike, boat, and Segway tours.
There is also a Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes night bus tour.
Ghost Bus Tours
A spooky sightseeing tour that takes place on a black double-decker bus.
The commentary is creepy but also amusing and takes guests past some of the most famous icons in the city, exploring the dark and grisly past of this ancient city.
With an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor, it’s safe to say that most passengers have a lot of fun on the Ghost Bus.
This company has received some negative reviews, but they don’t seem to represent the typical experience. A majority of guests report that this bus tour is a lot of fun and can be very spooky.
- Adult – £23.00
- Child – £15.00
- Child under 5- Free
- Student/Concession – £17.00
- Family – £59.00
- Sunday to Thursday – 19:30 & 21:00
- Friday – 18:00, 19:30 & 21:00
- Saturday – 18:00, 19:30, 19:45, 21:00 & 21:15
- Tour lasts approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Location: Northumberland Avenue, near Trafalgar Square opposite the Sherlock Holmes pub.
Commentary Type and Language: Live commentary in English.
Evening Beatles Bus Tour
This is similar to the longer specialty bus tour during the day, in that it covers a lot of notable landmarks related to the history of these rock icons.
Enjoy a 2 hour and 15 min evening mini-coach tour of Central London. Visit 35 locations made famous by the Fab 4 including an opportunity to hop off and walk across Abbey Road!
With a 4.6 out of 5 star rating on Get Your Guide, it’s fair to say that this tour is well-reviewed (read the reviews).
- Every Monday through Friday at 6 pm (March-Sept)
- £35/Adult | £25/Child (3-11)
- Purchase tickets or learn more.
The following section will provide information about all the different ways to save money on bus tours in London. We will include details about tourist attraction passes and other discount opportunities.
If you’re interested, we also have a detailed discount section for hop-on-hop-off bus tours as well.
Tourist Attraction Discount Passes
Most London tourist passes include a hop-on-hop-off tour, but there is currently only one pass that offers any other type of bus tour.
The iVenture Card includes the Ghost Bus Tour which covers the paranormal history behind notable landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, the Tower of London and more.
This service also includes access to several day trips from London such as Stonehenge, Oxford, Canterbury, Bath, and the Cliffs of Dover.
This tourist pass allows you to pick 3, 5, 7 or 10 different attractions for one flat price. Depending on how you use the card, you could save 50% or more off general admission prices.
If you’re interested in going on a self-guided bus tour, it’s worth noting that the London Turbo Pass includes an Oyster Card which you can use for public transport.
Big Bus Tours (24-hour ticket)
Golden Tours (24-hour ticket)
London City Tour
Original London Sightseeing Tour
For more information about these services, make sure to read our full post covering London tourist attraction passes.
London 2 For 1
If you’re planning to use the National Rail to get around, you might have the opportunity to take advantage of London’s 2 for 1 program.
This service allows you to get 2 attraction tickets for the price of 1, and it includes both hop-on-hop-off bus tours and specialty bus tours like those listed above.
If you’re trying to save money on this activity, make sure to read our post about the 2 for 1 deal for more information about how it works.
These sites often provide coupon codes that you can use to increase your discount by an extra 20% off or more. Make sure to check the top and bottom of each page for a banner with a special code to use at checkout.
FREE LONDON BUS TOUR
There are budget-friendly ways of sightseeing in London – really! Free Tours by Foot offers London walking tours for every budget, you name the price.
As many travelers know, there is no better way to explore a city than by walking its many streets.
But of course that can be strenuous, so why not complement our walking tours with self-guided free London bus tours.
Instead of spending lots of money on an organized bus tour, do it yourself and be your own guide.
There are many options, depending on where you start off, and what you want to see.
Also, London For Free offers some pretty good suggestions for a self-guided bus tour.
With a daily bus ticket of less than £5 (make sure you have the exact fare), you can spend all day hopping on and off public buses. Here are some self-guided bus tours we recommend that nicely complement our free walking tours:
TOUR: Tower Bridge via Southwark to Covent Gardens
Take the RV1 bus at the Tower Bridge. The bus stop is opposite of the Tower when you walk towards the top of Tower Bridge. Cross the road, so you are standing on the side where traffic is heading towards the bridge.
Here is what you’ll cover on your self-guided bus tour:
- Tower Bridge
- Southwark Cathedral
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
- Tate Gallery of Modern Art
- South Bank
- National Theatre
- Waterloo Bridge
- Somerset House
- Covent Gardens
TOUR: Westminster Abbey via Trafalgar Square to City of London
For those of you, who take our Westminster walking tour, but are unable to do our comprehensive All-in-One walking tour, take the 11 bus from Westminster Abbey (the stop is located on Victoria Street, between Dacre St. and Tothill St.) and get off at St. Pauls.
Here is what you’ll cover on your self-guided bus tour.
- Trafalgar Square
- The Strand
- Royal Courts of Justice
- Fleet Street
- Ludgate Hill
- Temple Church
- St Paul’s Cathedral
The Heritage Bus route 15 and 9
Using London Buses is pretty easy. Most buses are driver-only operated, meaning you need to board at the front to show the driver your bus ticket.
Routes 9 and 15, the traditional Routemaster buses, work differently, as you can simply board the bus, sit, and wait for the conductor to check your ticket. These older models are worth taking a ride if you get the chance.
Route 9 operates between Kensington via Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. Route 15 operates between Tower Hill and Trafalgar Square.