On the buses (London sightseeing by public bus)

There is no better way to learn your way around London’s streets than travelling by bus.


It’s a far better option than walking or cycling as you’re safe from downpours, and if you sit on the top deck of a double-decker you’re guaranteed a sensational view. Grab your Oyster card (as this will save you almost £1 per journey) and pick a route.

211: Hammersmith to Waterloo

Starting at Hammersmith Bus Station, this bus spends a considerable amount of time winding around Fulham and Chelsea. After busy Fulham Broadway, with its high street shops and fast food eateries, the bus passes Chelsea Football Club and a number of residential roads populated by pretty white stuccoed buildings. You can hop off at the Old Town Hall if you fancy a walk up the once fashionable King’s Road, alternatively stay on the bus a few more stops till you reach Duke of York Square, where the Saatchi Gallery is located, and a farmers’ market is held here every Saturday. There are plenty more sights in store on the route however; peep at the designer boutiques near Sloane Square, watch throngs of tourists wielding trolleys by Victoria Station, and glimpse Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament right before crossing the Thames via Westminster Bridge.

27: Chalk Farm to Chiswick

There isn’t a dull moment on this bus, apart from maybe the very first stop (or the last one depending on your direction) outside Morrisons supermarket. It passes the Stables Market and Camden Lock, both full of sightseers throughout the day, after Camden it heads onto the busy Euston Road towards Baker Street - look out for the green dome which is where the Planetarium and Madame Tussauds are located. The bus continues into Paddington, and the further west you go the more boutiques and attractive terraced houses you’ll see, particularly around Chepstow Villas, for this is one of London’s most desirable areas after all. Independent stores and cafes line Kensington Church Street, followed by high street shops on Kensington High Street. Things get a little more industrial around Kensington Olympia, and there’s the odd skyscraper around Hammersmith before you hit the shopping centre and bus station. These are soon replaced by greenery and wide pavements in Ravenscourt Park all the way till you get to affluent Chiswick, where there are plenty of upmarket restaurants should you feel peckish after your journey. \n\n100: Elephant & Castle to Shadwell

There is a slight downside to the 100, which is that it’s a single deck bus, but aside from that this journey snaking around the river Thames is a great way to see the Docklands. Elephant & Castle is going through dramatic change; this once maligned area has become fodder for property developers, especially by the roundabout where you’ll spot numerous cranes and tall buildings in various stages of construction. The bus heads towards Southwark, where you may alight for the Tate Modern, or stay on to cross the river via Blackfriars Bridge for < ahref="http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/st-pauls-cathedral.php">St. Paul’s Cathedral (for more great views climb the stairs to the top). After St. Paul’s there is a brief tour of the City, where at lunchtime you’ll see hundreds of suited workers marching with great purpose. The magnificent Tower Bridge is up next, along with the Tower of London, the former fortress and prison, and St. Katharine’s Docks. The Docklands were once the centre of Britain’s trade, hence there being places called Tobacco Dock, but now the warehouses have been converted to desirable apartment blocks, as you’ll see in Wapping. Should you fancy a drink, get off here and head to one of London’s oldest pubs, the Prospect of Whitby, where punters once upon a time gathered to watch the public executions on the other side of the river. \n\n3: Oxford Circus to Crystal Palace

You might want to avoid getting on this bus at Oxford Circus at peak times unless you’ve sharpened your elbows, but really the only times when this busy street has some peace is after the shops have closed. The number 3 route gives you a great tour of some of the major attractions: Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and the Thames. After crossing the river you can hop off to visit the Imperial War Museum, otherwise continue south towards leafy Kennington. The bus meanders down several residential roads on its way to bustling Brixton, where Brixton Village, an arcade moments from the tube station, has become a hotspot for quality, budget eating. On the way to Brockwell Lido and Herne Hill the roads become a little more suburban looking, with four storey semi-terraced houses and wide pavements, and you’ll know you’re in Dulwich when you’re surrounded by greenery. Dulwich Park has numerous sporting facilities (golf, tennis, and bowling) and is home to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, but if you stay on the bus a little longer you’ll arrive at Crystal Palace Park, where aside from the sports centre you’ll find a dinosaur park and a museum devoted to the structure that was constructed for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

38: Victoria to Clapton Pond

We’ve included this bus as some of the vehicles are new Routemasters, the last of which were withdrawn from service in 2005. Routemasters have a conductor as well as a bus driver, and passengers hop on and off the step at the back of the bus. There are only eight of them in circulation and they don’t run at weekends, so you may be waiting a while before you catch one. More eco-friendly than traditional double-deckers, they run on a mixture of electricity and diesel, however they are not without their detractors, as concerns have been voiced about fare evasion and the cost of running them, as they’re far more expensive than standard buses.

In terms of the route itself, the bus travels past tourist spots like Hyde Park, < ahref="http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/green-park.php">Green Park, Piccadilly, Chinatown and Bloomsbury before heading north east via Islington, past Sadler’s Wells theatre and onto Upper Street. From here the bus continues through the trendy parts of Essex Road and Dalston, before passing Hackney Central Station and alighting at the pretty Clapton Pond.

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