The best sightseeing tours of London

Greenwich at Night

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A sightseeing tour of London is a fantastic way to get to know the English capital. Especially for first-time visitors who might feel a little overwhelmed by the city’s intimidating size and seemly endless offering of world-class landmarks and attractions.

On a guided tour of London, you’ll be able to get your bearings, tick many of the city’s most famous sites off of your bucket list, and learn plenty of fascinating facts and stories from a knowledgeable local guide.

Taking a tour on your first day in a city also means that you can ask your local guide any questions you might have and get some insider tips. Tour guides are always happy to share their recommendations.

Foodie travel tip – always ask your tour guide where their favourite places to eat in the city are!

There are loads of different companies offering tours of London. You can explore the city by foot, bus, bike, boat and even helicopter. This can make picking the right London tour for you a little daunting.

Fortunately, I’ve taken the hassle out of choosing a tour in London by putting together the ultimate list of the best sightseeing tours of London…

Free London walking tours

A trip to London really doesn’t have to be as expensive as many people make it out to be. If you’re travelling on a budget, a free walking tour of London is a great way to explore the capital.

Most free London tours only cover one particular area or a couple of London neighbourhoods in 2-3 hours (told you the city was huge!), which means you may need to take a couple of different tours to cover all of London’s most famous sites.

Note: These walking tours of London may call themself free, but this usually means they operate on a pay what you can or tips only basis. So if you enjoyed your London tour, be sure to drop your tour guide a little something at the end to say thank you!

Visiting London on a budget? Check out these 50 completely free things to do in London.

Wonders of London Royal Westminster Tour

Wonders of London run numerous fantastic free walking tours in London, but their Royal Westminster Tour is an absolute must for first-time visitors to the city.

This fantastic two-hour walking tour of Westminster will take you to visit many of London’s most famous sites, including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, St James Palace and plenty more.

Along your walk, you’ll also learn loads of interesting facts about the Royal Family and England’s most iconic and controversial politicians.

Strawberry Tours London Landmarks West

Strawberry Tours is another great tour company offering free walking tours of London.

Their London Landmarks West tour will take you around Westminster’s most famous historical buildings and landmarks (similar to above). You might even get to see some of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace during your tour.

  • How much? Free.
  • When? Mon, Tues, Thurs & Sat 11am.
  • How long? 2.5 hours.
  • Book here: Strawberry Tours.

Strawberry Tours London Landmarks East

Also run by Strawberry Tours, the London Landmarks East tour takes you on a stroll through the historic City of London, where Roman ruins and medieval castles sit side by side with modern skyscrapers.

You’ll get to delve deep into the history of London, and Britain, while visiting famous landmarks such as St Pauls Cathedral, The Monument to the Great Fire of London, Leadenhall Market, The Tower of London and more.

  • How much? Free.
  • When? Weds, Fri & Sun 11am.
  • How long? 2.5 hours.
  • Book here: Strawberry Tours.

Paid London sightseeing tours

Where to Stay in London, St Pauls and Millennium Bridge

The only down-side of free London walking tours is that the groups can get fairly large. This is why many visitors to the city choose to pay for a small group or private tour of London instead for a more personalised experience.

Small Group Best of London Day Tour

This fantastic small group sightseeing tour of London will take you to see the city’s most famous landmarks with a professional guide and private bus to get you between locations.

While it may be a little more expensive than other tour options, the Best of London tour includes entry to both the Tower of London and St Pauls Cathedral, as well as a 45-minute sightseeing cruise along the River Thames. Making the tour great value for money.

You can even upgrade to cap off your day with a London Eye flight or cream tea at Harrods.

London in a Day Private Custom Tour

On this private day tour of London, you’ll get to pre-plan a customised itinerary with your guide in advance so that your tour is fully tailored to your personal interests. Your guide will make any travel arrangements and reservations in advance so there’s no wasting time on the day.

Having a private guide to yourselves also means that you can chat, ask questions, and get plenty of personalised recommendations and tips for the rest of your trip.

  • How much? From £116.
  • When? Daily.
  • How long? Half day (4 hours) or full day (7 hours).
  • Book here: Private London day tour.
Visiting London for the first time? You should also read important things to know before visiting London and mistakes tourists make and how to avoid them.

London bus tours

BBakery Afternoon Tea Bus tour of London

The red double-decker bus has become one of the most important symbols of London over the years. And while not every London bus tour is onboard a classic red Routemaster, buses are still a great way of touring London. Especially if walking for long distances isn’t for you.

London Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

On a Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour of London, you’ll navigate the city’s main landmarks on an open-top bus, with live commentary by a fun and informative guide.

Passes are valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours (depending on which you purchase) so that you have the freedom to jump off at any of the 37 stops around the city to explore. You can then get back on to another bus when you’re ready to continue with your journey.

Note: A 24-Hour Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour is included in the London Pass.

London by Night Sightseeing Open-Top Bus Tour

See London’s iconic landmarks lit up against the night sky on an evening open-top bus tour of the city. This bus tour will take you past Big Ben, The London Eye, St Pauls, Tower Bridge, Harrods, Trafalgar Square and more.

BBakery’s Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

BBakery’s Afternoon Tea Bus is a unique London bus tour that takes you around central London’s main attractions while you enjoy a traditional afternoon tea on board a classic Routemaster red bus. The ultimate British experience!

BBakery also runs fun themed afternoon tea bus tours throughout the year, including spooky Halloween teas and festive Christmas teas.

Bustronome’s Luxury Dinner Bus Tour

If afternoon tea isn’t enough, hop on board Bustronome’s luxury London dinner bus tour where you can enjoy a special gourmet 6-course meal with wine pairings whilst traversing the capital’s top attractions on a unique glass-roofed bus.

Certainly one of the most luxurious ways of touring London, and an unforgettable experience for both visitors and locals alike.

Check out more of the most unusual and unqiue places to eat in London here.

London bike tours

Taking a London bike tour is an amazing way to experience more of the capital. By cycling around the city, you’ll get to see more in a short amount of time than you would on a walking tour, while still being able to take the hidden backstreets and stop for photos ops that a bus tour would miss.

Royal London Bike Tour

On this Royal London bike tour, you’ll get to cycle around central London’s most famous royal attractions, including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, while listening to fascinating stories of the British monarchy past and present.

The tour ends with the opportunity to enjoy lunch or a pint of beer in a traditional English pub.

Secret London Tour by Bike

Explore some of London’s hidden gems and listen to weird and wonderful stories on this exciting bike tour of the City of London and the East End.

On this secret London bike tour, you’ll explore the old East End docks, learn cockney rhyming slang on multicultural Brick Lane, cycle in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper, and even visit Diagon Alley and Leaky Cauldron from the Harry Potter movies.

London boat tours

London tour boat on the River Thames

A London river cruise is one of my favourite ways to navigate the capital. Floating along the River Thames, you’ll be able to see the city from a totally unique perspective.

➜ London Thames River Cruise

On this guided London river cruise, you’ll travel between Westminster to Greenwich, past plenty of London landmarks including the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and The Shard, while listening to a live commentary audioguide.

You can then stick around to explore the charming neighbourhood of Greenwich for a while or return on the boat to Westminster.

  • How much? £13.50.
  • When? Daily, every 40 mins between 11am-3:40pm.
  • How long? 1-2 hours.
  • Book here: Thames River Cruise.

➜ Evening London Thames River Cruise

For a more romantic experience, cruise down the River Thames after dark with a glass of prosecco in hand on an evening London river tour.

Enjoy being on the water? Then check out these 10 restaurants on boats in London.

Themed London guided tours

Dark Harry Potter alley London

➜ Ghastly Ghosts London Walking Tour

Horror lovers are guaranteed to enjoy this ghostly walking tour of the City of London.

On a walk from the Tower of London to St Paul’s, you’ll hear spooky stories of the ghouls, ghosts and specters that creep through the city’s back alleys after dusk and listen to tales of terrible crimes and unsolved murders. This scary London tour isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Alternatively, check out this London ghost walk and spooky boat ride.

➜ Magical Harry Potter Walking Tour

This fantastic Harry Potter tour of London will take you to visit the most iconic London sites that were featured in the Harry Potter franchise, as well as filming locations for the movies and spots that supposedly were JK Rowlings inspiration for places in the Wizarding World. You’ll get to stroll down Diagon Alley, visit the Leaky Cauldron, and so much more.

At the start of this fun interactive tour, you’ll even get sorted into Hogwarts houses and can earn points for your house by answering Harry Potter trivia questions throughout the walk.

➜ Jack the Ripper Walking Tour

Another one for fans of gruesome mysteries, this East End tour will let you step back in time to Victorian London and follow in the footsteps of the infamous Jack the Ripper and his unfortunate victims.

On this interactive tour, you’ll get to visit some of the real-life crime scenes around Whitechapel and investigate the crimes with the help of your own suspect cards.

➜ James Bond Walking Tour

Become James Bond for the day on a walking tour of iconic London locations that have featured in various Bond movies. You’ll also get to learn about real life British Secret Service and visit locations in London frequented by spies, such as the MI6 headquarters.

You can also enjoy a glamerous 007 themed dinner and show with London Never Dies at the London Cabaret Club.

➜ Dr Who Walking Tour

Dr Who fans won’t want to miss this London tour of locations featured in the legendary TV show, such as the tower featured in The Bells of Saint John and the cathedral from where Cyberman launched an attack on Earth. You’ll also learn how the episodes were made and get some Doctor Who trivia as you tour.

Unusual & quirky tours of London

People on street art tour in Hamburg Germany

➜ West End Musicals Silent Disco Walking Tour

Throw on your headset and sing, dance and laugh your way around London’s West End on an unusual musical-themed silent disco walking tour.

During the tour, you’ll visit many of London’s top theatres, whilst listening to iconic musical numbers from each of the musicals and shows you come across. You’ll also be able to hear your guide through your headset who will add in some fun facts and stories about London’s theatreland along the way.

Sure, people might stare. But this isn’t the time to be self-conscious. This is the time to lose your inhibitions and enjoy a totally unique London touring experience.

➜ Street Art Walking Tour with Spray Painting Session

Enjoy an in-depth look into Shoreditch and East London’s amazing street art scene with a local street art expert. You’ll get to admire work by a number of world-famous street artists, including Banksy, ROA, Shepherd Fairy and more.

At the end of the tour, you can then enjoy a 45-minute spray painting workshop in which you’ll create a spray paint masterpiece that you can take home with you.

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London City Calling

Emily is a born and raised London girl, starting life in the north of the capital then moving down to Fulham in the southwest. She has a master’s degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from University College London and now works full-time running this blog and as a freelance travel writer, splitting her life between London and travelling the world as a digital nomad.

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