Be a sightseeing V.I.P.—Sightseeing passes grant admission to dozens of sights, avoiding the lines and saving money
Picture this: You sashay up to the front of that hour-long line outside the Tower of London... and just walk right in.
This is the VIP world of museum cards and city passes, which may cost anywhere from $30 to $90 and can get you into the lion's share of a city's sights (usually after four or five biggies, the pass pays for itself and all the rest of the sights you visit are effectively free), sometimes unlimited use of public transportation, often discounts on shopping, dining, and nightlife, and occasionally that rarest of benefits: the right to bypass the often ludicrous lines waiting to enter to top sights.
Another, unwritten benefit of city passes is that most such cards allow unlimited visits to sights, so you can split up your visit to some major sight into several shorter, more manageable visits.
Most cities also offer cheaper versions of their pass for kiddies, though the maximum age varies from 10 to 18. Most cards come in versions good for one, two, or three days or weekly.
Personal experience has taught me that, unless you're lumping together into one day the attractions with the highest admission charges, or are sightseeing at a dead run, the one-day passes rarely pay for themselves. It's better to go with a three-day version and take your time.
A few caveats: Rarely will a pass cover guided tours, renting an audio tour-those wands or portable CD players you can carry around the museum-or special exhibits, and may be invalid during special events.
Keep in mind there are all sort of alternatives to full-fledged city cards, such as cumulative tickets that count at a few related museums, or passes good just on the public transport but not for sights.
There's no way to list all of those available, but going to each city's tourism web site is a good start.
- London Pass - Covers more than 60 major London sights and tours, plus discounts on several others, and an option to buy a transit pass to use on the Tube and buses.Partner
- iVenture Card - Covers several sights not on the London Pass, plus a handful of tours, free meals, 40% off last-minute theatre tickets, and other discounts. Worthwhile if you'll be doing the three popular sights it covers (St. Paul's, Madame Tussauds, London Eye).Partner
- English Heritage Pass - Covers Stonehenge, plus loads of castles, historic homes, ancient sites, and monuments across England.
- Historic Scotland Explorer Pass - Covers 76 attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, Urquart Castle, and Gaslgow Catehdral.Partner
- Scotland Discover Ticket - Covers 90 National Trust for Scotland attractions, including many historic and literary homes, manors, and castles.Partner
- Royal Edinburgh Ticket - I only include this pass to advise against it. At £49.50 it covers two days of hopon/hop-off bus service (which is otherwise £14/day) plus entry to a trio of attractions: Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse, and Royal Yacht Britannia (total standard admission: £42.10). If you happen to want to do all of those things, yes, it saves you about 12% (29% if you use the bus both days); but skip just one and it's overpriced.
- York Pass - Enjoy free entry to 30 top York attractions with the York Pass, a flexible sightseeing pass that allows you to visit the sites that interest you most. Entrance to some of York’s finest showstoppers such as York Minster and York’s Chocolate Story are included. Choose from a 1-, 2- or 3-day pass and sightsee as you wish; all options include an informative York guidebook, discounted entry to attractions in the wider Yorkshire area and discounts on meals at popular York eateries.Partner
- Shakespeare's Birthplace -
Shakespeare’s family homes and gardens offer something for everyone:
- Shakespeare's Birthplace: Walk in Shakespeare's footsteps and explore the house where he was born and grew up.
- Hall's Croft: Explore the beautifully furnished Jacobean home of Shakespeare's daughter Susanna and her wealthy physician husband, Dr John Hall.
- Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Gardens: Relive Shakespeare's Tudor love story where he courted his bride-to-be.
- Mary Arden's Farm: Experience the sights, sounds and smells of his mother's working Tudor farm.
- Shakespeare's New Place: Visit Stratford-upon-Avon’s newest and most exciting attraction. Walk in his footsteps on the site of his family home for nineteen years with specially commissioned sculptures in a contemporary landscape setting.