With just 48 hours in London before our self-drive tour of Britain began, we wanted to see as much as possible without over-doing it. Normally ones to discover a city on foot, this time, as my parents were travelling with us, we decided that a Hop on Hop off bus and the Tube was the best option. We pre-purchased a 24 hour Hop On Hop Off bus ticket prior to leaving Australia and by using this and the Tube, we managed to make a reasonable dent in the 'must see' sights of London.
Day one started with us joining the Original London Hop On Hop Off bus in Gloucester Street, a leisurely ten minute walk from our apartment in Earls Court. The friendly driver gave us a route map and a pair of headphones each and we headed to the top deck of the bus for the best views. Different routes stop at different sights and attractions to ensure they are all covered, so make sure you are on the correct route ('red', 'yellow', etc). Sights viewed from the bus on our journey today included Hyde Park, Marble Arch, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Madame Tussaud's and Harrods.
The first stop we disembarked at was Buckingham Palace. We arrived around 10.15am and the crowds were already thick so we decided against staying for the Changing of the Guards which takes place each day at 11am. Instead, we took numerous photos and then wandered over to the adjacent park for a coffee and a bit of crowd-watching before walking through St James' Park and re-joining the Original London tour for our next destination.
After a bite of lunch at a cafe near St. Paul's Cathedral we ventured inside for a look at this impressive building. With it's dome modelled on St. Peter's Basillica, St. Paul's really stands out on the London skyline and inside it was no less impressive. We had also pre-purchased 'skip the line' tickets to the Cathedral so our entry was quick and we picked up free audio guides as we entered which provided a very informative commentary about the Cathedral. After climbing the 271 steps up the dome to the Whispering Gallery, we tested out the Cathedral's acoustics, and my husband then climbed even higher to the Stone Gallery where he had superb views of London.
Next stop was close to Tower Bridge (often mistakenly called 'London Bridge') and we crossed the bridge before heading to the Tower of London. I'd never really included the Tower of London in my 'must-visit' sights before but I was very impressed. Again our 'skip the line' tickets allowed fast access and we were just in time for a free guided tour. Our guide, a real Beefeater (Yeoman Warder), was excellent, and told the history of the Tower in a humourous, but very interesting way. The tour lasted about 45 minutes and we then visited the various displays and museums inside the White Tower.
After a coffee to re-charge the batteries, we caught the Hop On Hop Off bus to a stop close to our apartment where we had dinner and called it a night.
Day two saw us purchasing Tube tickets from Earls Court station and the first destination today was Westminster Abbey. Wow! The church was simply amazing. The Gothic Towers dominate the front of the church and the size of it just blows you away. The Abbey was built over 700 years ago and the efforts taken to build something on such a grand scale beggars belief.
Again, audio guides were included with our entry fee (£20/adult, £17/senior) and they were invaluable - the Abbey is so big with so many different chapels, altars and shrines that we would have been lost without it. After wandering around the adjoining Cloisters, St Margaret's Church and the gift shop, we enjoyed a lovely morning tea in the Cellarium Cafe.
Our next stop was just a short walk away to Parliament Square and despite the weather not being too nice, we walked alongside the Palace of Westminster to see the famous clock known as Big Ben. From Westminster Bridge, which crosses the Thames right beside Parliament Square, we also had a great view of the London Eye ferris wheel.
Back on the Tube, we headed to Knightsbridge for a wander through the famous Harrods department store and in particular, the Food Hall where we chose our lunch from the delicious display cases.
From Harrods, we walked to Kensington Palace Gardens, passing the elegant foreign embassies in the streets surrounding the gardens. Once at Kensington Palace, we admired the gardens but decided against doing a tour of the Palace itself, preferring instead to have a rest in the peaceful park.
A walk and another Tube ride had us back at our apartment late afternoon after a busy, but very enjoyable day.
London Underground ("The Tube") - Zone 1 single ticket £2.40, Zone 1 & 2 Day tickets cost between £6.60 and £12.30 (More details here)
- The Original London Tour (hop on hop off bus) tickets cost approximately $49 per adult for a 24 hour pass - buy online here
- Skip the Line St Paul's Cathedral ticket - approximately $30 per adult - buy online here
- Skip the Line Tower of London entry - approximately $37 per adult - buy online here
(Prices current February 2017)
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. Should you choose to make a purchase via these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.