Explore London with The Original London Sightseeing Tour

If you’ve been following my blog, you would know that the hop-on hop-off bus is one of my favourite ways to explore a new city, especially when I have limited time there. A few months ago, I became a tourist in my own city and experienced the Johannesburg City Sightseeing bus. During the December holidays, I went to explore London with The Original London Sightseeing Tour.

London Streets - Explore London

London Streets

The Original London Sightseeing Tour was the first sightseeing tour of its kind in the world and was formally introduced by London Transport in 1951. Although it has been adapted, updated and emulated many times since then, it remains a pioneer in world tourism.

Westminster Abbey - Explore London

Westminster Abbey

London is one of the most exciting cities in the world with tons of things to see and do. Because of this I was concerned that I wouldn’t even scratch the surface in such a short time there. There are over 80 bus stops on the Original London Sightseeing Tour served by six bus routes. The red, yellow, and blue routes are sightseeing tour routes. The green route is the loop line around central London and the black and purple routes operate as a shuttle service, connecting the sightseeing tours to the train stations and popular hotel districts. Therefore it was a good thing that The Original Tour had a special offer of 48 hours for the price of 24 (running till 29 February 2016), giving one effectively two days to tour with them instead of one. Bearing the multiple routes in mind, we planned our two days carefully.

Streets of London - Explore London

Streets of London

We picked up our tickets from their colourful visitor centre near Trafalgar Square. I was surprised to see that they sold a lot of other products as well, such as half-price West End theatre tickets, Premiership football tickets and day trips around London. I made a mental note to return when I needed those.

Original London Sightseeing Tour Visitor Centre - Explore London

Visitor Centre

There were many advantages to taking the hop-on hop-off bus. Here are some of them:

  • I had last been to London almost 20 years ago and my husband and kids were visiting for the first time. The Original London Sightseeing Tour gives a great introductory orientation tour for first-time visitors and gives you a great feel of London.
hop-on hop-off bus on Tower Bridge

Riding on Tower Bridge

  • We got to see much of London while sitting in comfort in the open section at the top of the bus. When the light rain began, we moved to the covered section at the top and when it got too cold or windy, we sat downstairs.
Thames River Cruise

Thames River Cruise

  • As we had our kids with us, it was much easier to ride on the hop-on hop off bus and alight at the attractions that interested us instead of taking the tube to the attractions then having to walk from the station to the attraction. The children were also excited to receive free Kid’s Club activity packs containing a ‘passport’ to London and an activity book with interesting trivia and games revolving around London.
  • We learnt much about London’s fascinating history from the commentary – which is available in nine languages as well as a kids club channel, on which Jack and Lucy guide kids through London in a fun manner. It was educational and entertaining – think edutainment! The Great Plague of London, The Great Fire of London and King Henry VIII and his penchant for weddings and beheadings – were some of the historical events we learnt about.
Changing of the Guard Buckingham Palace

Changing of the Guard

  • We were regaled with interesting anecdotes about many of the places we passed – which we would have probably not known otherwise. There were fascinating stories about British royalty and British notoriety, literati and glitterati. We even saw South Africa House where Madiba (Nelson Mandela) appeared on the balcony in 1995, as part of his official state visit.
Madiba at Madame Tussauds

Madiba at Madame Tussauds

  • The view from the top of the double-decker bus was great for taking photos. And when the traffic slowed us down, we had more time to get that perfect picture.

We made stops at Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, the British Museum and Harrods inter alia. When the winter sun set at 4 pm, we continued on the bus into the night, and got to experience London by night too.

Festive lights on Oxford Street at night

Festive lights on Oxford Street at night

The ticket includes 3 free walking tours, a free Thames River Cruise Pass and unlimited access to all the bus tour routes. The walking tours include the Changing of the Guard Walk, the Jack the Ripper Walk, and the Rock n Roll walk.

My initial concerns were misplaced and I got to explore London and see alot more in two days with the Original Sightseeing Tour than I thought I would.

See more free fun things to do in London with kids.

For more information and to book, go to www.theoriginaltour.com.

Harrods London


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Vanessa Ball

I lived in London for many years and managed to see all of these sights, there is so much to see! I did a couple of the walks, Ghost tour and Jack the Ripper, they were fab!


Special moments in life,I would love to visit London sometime during the next year to spend my vacation .Thanks for sharing.I will keep this in my travel wishlist!!!


I took this very tour a few years ago – it was awesome! I’m with you…I agree that the hop-on hop-off bus tours, if done right, are the best way to experience a new city in a short period of time. I originally ran across the HO/HO idea in Paris…it was one of the first things we looked for when we hit London.

Your photos and story are great, and it brings back a lot of good memories of the tour!

Jurga - Full Suitcase

I’ve been to London several times but never did the tour. I remember walking for miles and miles – I love walking in European cities, but the distances in London are huge! We were thinking of taking our kids to London and now I know for sure that the hop-on hop-off tour is the way to see London with kids. Thanks for sharing!


    Hi Jurga, I’m sure your kids will enjoy it – because if they are like mine they’ll get tired of walking very quickly and as you said, London is a huge city. Be sure to get the activity packs for them too.

Ellis Veen

This reminds me of a quick London tour I did 7 years ago on a lay over. London is a nice city.

Punita Malhotra

Never tried a hop-on-hop-off, but does seem like a convenient way to reach all the important sights of the city. One of the best choices for practical people 🙂


    You should try it sometime Punita. I’d love to read about your experience when you do!

Bryony Clapperton (travelsandmore)

Thanks for sharing this. Lot’s of information. London is such an incredible city and there should be more reviews out there on sightseeing tours etc.

As I mentioned to you on facebook I did this tour several years ago on a visit to my boyfriends parents in London and it was a real great way to see the city. My boyfriend who’d lived in London all his live loved it too and said more Londoners should try it 🙂


    Thanks Byrony – Yes it’s a great way to see even one’s own hometown with fresh eyes. I’ve lived in Johannesburg for most of my life yet I learnt new things when I took the City Sightseeing Bus here.

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