October 2009
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How to see London as a tourist




A huge number of tourists visit London every year, and follow the regular tourist cycle of visiting the sights of the city. This post is my experience of the same.
We had gone to visit some relatives living near London, and thought about doing a visit to some of the sights and beautiful places in London. We were living in Dulwich, which was some distance away from Victoria station, from where we wanted to start the tour. Now, we had a choice, whether to do the tour using the tube, or using a bus. If you are looking for convenience and a bit of speed, then the tube is the way to go, since it is fast, avoiding London traffic. However, one of the main problems with the tube is that you would feel like a bit of a rabbit, suddenly coming up from a hole to view some great building, and then diving underground to see another building. You do not get a feel of the city, and that is what we were trying to do. So, it was the bus that we are going to use, but there was the realization that London roads can get crowded and traffic would cause a journey on the bus to take time.
There are tourist buses that do the rounds of most of London’s tourist sites, with the buses being of the hop-on, hop-off type. You take a ticket for the bus, get on, get down at any of their stops to see the tourist location, and then get onto the next bus that comes on, and it can be very convenient. These buses come by every 5-10 minutes, so there is not much waiting that needs to be done. Our journey started by taking a train first to Victoria, and just outside Victoria Station, there were these buses ready to start. We had an option to buy take a ticket to Madame Tussaud’s while buying our bus ticket (the bus ticket cost us 21 pounds each), and given that the Madame Tussaud’s ticket allows one to bypass the regular queue, it was well worth it (and did I mention that the ticket was also available at a discount ?). The bus ticket also entitles you to a small cruise on the Thames, which was also great fun.
What are some of the tourist places that this bus tour covers ? There are several different tours, so the actual places covered are different in each tower, but some of the places to cover are:
Buckingham Palace,
Westminster Abbey,
St. Paul’s Cathedral,
The Tower of London,
Big Ben,
London Eye,
Marble Arch,
TrafalgarR Square,
Waterloo (and more places)

A map of the tour is available at this link.

So, you get started on the bus (and it was a double decker bus); I quickly climbed to the upper level even though it was windy, since you get a great view. We got down at several stops on the way, with the places that we spent a lot of time being:
London Eye (you cannot go away from London without doing a spin (1 hour) on the huge ferris wheel),

A view of London Eye at night from outside the entry point
A view of London Eye at night from outside the entry point

London Eye straight ahead - view from the path right in front

London Eye straight ahead – view from the path right in front

Big Ben and surrounding areas (the whole area has many great buildings, where you get a great view of the architecture)

Photo of Big Ben by night - Well lighted up and an important tourist attraction
Photo of Big Ben by night – Well lighted up and an important tourist attraction

Thames (go for a cruise on the Thames, you get a short view of the history of London along with seeing the numerous bridges on the way)

A cruise ship on the Thames in London (similar to the one I was traveling in)
A cruise ship on the Thames in London (similar to the one I was traveling in)

Passing under one of the Bridges across the Thames in London
Passing under one of the Bridges across the Thames in London

The Hungerford Bridge over the river Thames in London
The Hungerford Bridge over the river Thames in London

Tower of London (the place used by royalty earlier, and also used as a detention and execution place)

Part of the Tower of London as seen from the Thames
Part of the Tower of London as seen from the Thames

The Tower of London - A beautiful lawn replaces the moat now
The Tower of London – A beautiful lawn replaces the moat now

The beautiful architecture of Tower of London
The beautiful architecture of Tower of London

Buckingham Palace (the current residence of the queen, there is a great changing of the guard ceremony every alternate day at 11 in the morning)

A closer view of the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace
A closer view of the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace

Close up of marching formation at Buckingham Palace changing of the guard
Close up of marching formation at Buckingham Palace changing of the guard

Front facade of Buckingham Palace when it is less crowded
Front facade of Buckingham Palace when it is less crowded

The beautiful autumn at the Green Park just outside Buckingham Palace
The beautiful autumn at the Green Park just outside Buckingham Palace

Madam Tussaud’s (A world famous wax museum, but I got bored after around 30 minutes)
Trafalgar Square (A great open place, with a water attraction, big lions, and mermaids)

Admiralty Arch and adjoining building near Trafalgar Square in London
Admiralty Arch and adjoining building near Trafalgar Square in London

One of the fountains of Trafalgar Square in London
One of the fountains of Trafalgar Square in London

People enjoying on the bronze lions in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square
People enjoying on the bronze lions in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square

The Tower Bridge looks incredible and one should visit it atleast once.

A beautiful view of the Tower Bridge in London against a blue sky
A beautiful view of the Tower Bridge in London against a blue sky

A photo of London Bridge in a beautiful setting
A photo of London Bridge in a beautiful setting

Photo of Tower Bridge and the buildings to one side of the bridge
Photo of Tower Bridge and the buildings to one side of the bridge

Some other photos from London

Bus that takes tourists on a trip around London to the major tourist points
Bus that takes tourists on a trip around London to the major tourist points

A beautiful view of a partially cloudy sunset over the Thames and Westminster in London
A beautiful view of a partially cloudy sunset over the Thames and Westminster in London

A beautifully decorated London store near the Chinese New Hour in the evening
A beautifully decorated London store near the Chinese New Hour in the evening

A close up of the glass dome of the London City Hall
A close up of the glass dome of the London City Hall

A glimpse of the exterior architecture of Westminster Abbey
A glimpse of the exterior architecture of Westminster Abbey

A jetty on the Thames used to drop and pickup passengers of cruise ships
A jetty on the Thames used to drop and pickup passengers of cruise ships

A more detailed view of the dinosaur skeleton in the central hall of the Science Museum in London
A more detailed view of the dinosaur skeleton in the central hall of the Science Museum in London

A view of the London skyline with the top of the Gherkin (Swiss Re building) in the background
A view of the London skyline with the top of the Gherkin (Swiss Re building) in the background

Constitution Arch with the largest British bronze statue on top in Belgrave Square
Constitution Arch with the largest British bronze statue on top in Belgrave Square

Rick Steves’ London 2012 Streetwise London Underground Map London Sights 2011: a travel guide (Kindle)



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