How to see the best of London, whether you have half a day or a full week
Although I did once have a wonderful time in London on a mere six-hour layover, intentionally scheduling anything less than three days in London is folly. Four or five days is more reasonable.
I know that kind of thinking is tough on a tight schedule. However, if you're flying into London on a longer European trip, remember that upon arrival in Europe it's wise to plan one day of officially doing nothing to recover from jet lag—so giving London five days in your itinerary won't be so hard.
That said, here is how you can fit in all the best of London—no matter if you have a single afternoon or an entire week. » more
- Viator.com - Loads of local river boat rides, from sighseeing crusies and dinner cruises to hop-on/hop-off boats, high-speed boat rides on the Thames to a punting tour of Cambridge. With user reviews and current pricing, the best place to comparison shop the various companies.Partner
- Citycruises.com - standard cruises & dining cruises
- Bateauxlondon.com - dining cruises, music cruises
- Thamescruises.com - party boats
- Londoneye.com - standard cruises
- Thamesclippers.com - river bus
- Viator.com - Best one-stop shopping site for all sorts of activities, walking tours, bus tours, escorted day trips, and other excursions. It is actually a clearinghouse for many local tour companies and outfitters, and since it gets a bulk-rate deal on pricing (and takes only a token fee for itself), you can actually sometimes book an activity through Viator for less than it would cost to buy the same exact tour from the tour company itself. (I once booked a Dublin pub crawl via Viator and later discovered that I saved about $1.50; also, the tour turned out to be sold-out, and they were turning away the folks in front of me in line, but since I had a pre-booked voucher I got in.)Partner
- Londonwalks.com - Since the 1970s, the gold standard in city walking tours and museum tours—and cheap, to boot. Just meet your guide at the appointed time and place (usually a Tube stop), pay your £10 (students or over 65s are £8; under 15 free), and prepare for a good two hours of amazing cultural insight and historic anecdotes. If you plan on taking three or more walks, buy a "Frequent London Walker" card for £2 from your first guide, then each subsequent walk costs £8. They also run popular excursions outside London for £18. Note that the fee just covers the guided tour; you pay for any admissions (or, for excursions, travel expenses) yourself.
- Contexttravel.com - This bespoke walking tour company doesn't even call its 200 tour leaders "guides." It calls them "docents"—perhaps because most guides are academics and specialists in their fields: history professors, archeologists, PhDs, art historians, artists, etc. Groups are miniscule (often six people maximum), and most docents can be booked for private guiding sessions as well. They aren't always the cheapest tours, but they are invariably the best. People rave about Context.Partner
- City-discovery.com - Chief rival to Viator (though with a less spiffy interface and often sub-par text descriptions), representing many of the same tours (at the same prices). However, it also seems to cover more destinations, especially secondary ones. When it comes down to it, City-Discovery and Viator have maybe 70% the same inventory, but then 30% will be completely different (some Viator has City-Discovery does not, other vice-versa) so it pays to check through the offerings from both.Partner