London by night- open top bus tour


One of the best ways to see London is by taking a bus around the famous capital.

There are plenty of tour companies operating in the city and some offer very unusual ways of seeing the city.

One of the highlights is taking an evening bus tour of London on a open top bus. This unique way to travel means it is easy to see some of the most famous sights, such as the Coca-Cola London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

With the dark setting in, it offers a different perspective of these iconic landmarks – although remember to wrap-up warm during the colder months of the year.

Open-top Bus tour
The tour last just under two hours and starts at 7pm or 8pm – departing from Victoria Station. It is a circular tour, with no option to hop on or off during the journey.

A live guide, speaking English, presents the tour, but for those who prefer other languages there is the option of an audio tour in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.

Get on a bus

Of course, you don’t need to take a set tour to explore London by bus. London is famous for its red double decker buses and they are a perfect way to see the sights of the city, as well as offering the chance to experience the real London.

Over the past few years, the whole network has undergone a major update and the buses are state-of-the-art, there are also more frequent services and improved accessibility.

It is important to note that buses no longer handle cash payments, so ensure you get an Oyster card or travelcard, or you can use a contactless payment card.

Here are just two routes that offer a great way to see some of the highlights of the city.

Route 11

Route 11 is viewed as one of the best bus routes for anyone visiting London for the first time as it takes in many of the key buildings that make the capital world famous.

The route starts in the upmarket King’s Road in Chelsea, the bus travels through the streets of Belgravia before passing by Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament – giving passengers a chance to admire the stunning architecture.

The vehicle then turns on to Whitehall and heads up to the Trafalgar Square, passing along the Strand, then the Royal Courts of Justice, and Fleet Street. The next stops are all in the famous financial district, known as the City or ‘Square Mile’.

You will see the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral at the start of the city, followed by the Royal Exchange, the Bank of England and the Mayor’s official residence Mansion House.

The last stop of Route 11 is at Liverpool Street station, where you can catch a train to another destination or take a short walk to the nearby Spitalfields market, Brick Lane or the Shoreditch area.

Route 388

The 388 bus is ideal for anyone wanting to recapture the memories of London 2012 or are wanting to see how the hosting of the Olympics games transformed East London.

Starting at Blackfriars the route goes through the City and towards Shoreditch – passing close to the trendy area of Brick Lane, which has some fab vintage shops and restaurants.

The landscape then changes as the bus enters the green space of Victoria Park and carries on to the warehouses of Hackney Wick.

At this point the Accelor-Mittal Orbit comes in to view as the bus comes to a stop at the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park. The tower was designed by artist Amish Kapoor. Costing £22 million, the large structure has divided opinion amongst critics and the general public.

Tips on travelling by bus

You can only catch a bus at a designated stop and only the buses on the sign will stop – so make sure you are on the right stop.

There are maps of all the bus routes available online at the Transport for London website and you can also use the online journey planner to find out which bus you need.

Since 2014, it is no longer possible to pay with cash on a bus, so you will need to get an Oyster travelcard. This prepaid pass allows you to board any bus in London and the fare will automatically be deducted from your account when you touch the payment reader on board the bus.