The 24 Best London Tours

Whether it's your first time in London or you're a repeat visitor, you'll experience a side of the city you've never seen with these tours.

By Kim Foley MacKinnon, ContributorJune 6, 2019
By Kim Foley MacKinnon, ContributorJune 6, 2019, at 2:30 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

The 24 Best London Tours

Best London Tours

British food gets a bad reputation. Secret Food Tours will help you see how delicious British food can be.(Courtesy of Secret Food Tours)

As a sprawling, multicultural metropolis, London truly has something for every type of interest and a variety of ways to experience its top attractions. To help you see all the sights, U.S. News compiled 24 of the city's top tours, taking into account traveler sentiment and expert opinion. Whether you vacation by adventure or learn about a city through its food, you'll find a tour to suit your needs on this list.

Secret Food Tours – London Bridge

On this roughly three-hour London Bridge food tour, you'll visit eight different eateries, sampling everything from sausage rolls to sticky toffee pudding. You'll start at bustling Borough Market, where you'll snack on a bacon and egg bap as your guide tells you about the history of the market, as well as an overview of the city's history and culture. Other stops include a historic pub for a cheese tasting paired with English cider, and as always on a Secret Food Tour, there will be a secret dish offered somewhere along the way. As you eat your way through London, you'll also enjoy great views of the city skyline, London Bridge and Tower Bridge. Participants appreciate the quantity and quality of food provided. The tour costs approximately 60 pounds (about $75) for adults, 55 pounds (about $70) for teens and 49 pounds (about $62) for kids 12 and younger. Tours depart several times each day. Secret Food Tours also offers tours of the Shoreditch district, among other areas.

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BrakeAway Bike Tours – The Secret London Bike Tour

The 3 1/2-hour Secret London Bike Tour leads riders past famous sights, such as the Tower of London and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, but also explores lesser-known features of the city, including its street art and secret passageways. It also includes a 20-minute stop at Brick Lane. Reviewers extol the fun guides and say the tour is ideal if you want a break from the tourist crowds. Plus, they say it's a great value for the money. Tours are offered daily mid-March through October. Tour prices, which include bikes, helmets and rain ponchos, start at 24 pounds (about $30) for adults and 19 pounds (about $24) for students and children ages 10 to 17. Groups are capped at 12 participants. For a more traditional tour of London, consider the company's Grand London Bike Tour.

Liquid History Tours – Drink London Tour

If the idea of walking – and drinking – in the footsteps of literary luminaries like Shakespeare and Dickens appeals, this is the tour for you. On the Drink London Tour, you'll walk along the "Street of Shame" (Fleet Street) for approximately 2 miles and stop in at least four historic pubs, some centuries old. You'll stroll by St. Paul's Cathedral, peek into secluded courtyards and listen to tales about Sweeney Todd. Travelers love the stories guides share about as much as they enjoy drinking local brews. Three- to four-hour tours run daily at 2 p.m. and cost about 25 pounds (about $32) per person. The cost of drinks is not included. Participants must be at least 18 years old. Traveling with a group? Liquid History Tours also offers private excursions.

The Ghost Bus Tours

Hop aboard a vintage double-decker bus for a spooky peek into London's lesser-known history with Ghost Bus Tours. Mixing horror with a fair bit of comedy – an aspect reviewers love – the actors-turned-guides will describe the haunted history of top attractions, such as the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, among other famous landmarks. Both visitors and locals value the obscure stories guides share. Tours last approximately 75 minutes and run several times daily, though departure times vary. Tickets start at 23 pounds (about $30) for adults and 15 pounds (around $20) for children ages 5 to 15. A Classic London tour is also available for those interested in a traditional sightseeing bus tour sans ghost stories.

London Bicycle Tour Company – Classic Tour

Travelers consistently give the London Bicycle Tour Company high marks for its fun guides who are vigilant about ensuring riders' safety. On the three- to four-hour Classic Tour – which travels about 8 miles – you'll breeze past Big Ben, Covent Garden, Buckingham Palace, and possibly even see the changing of the guard (depending on the schedule), among other attractions. Your tour guide will offer commentary and give you plenty of time to stop and take photos. Children need to be at least 10 years old and stable riders to participate. Tours are offered daily at 10:30 a.m. and tickets start at round 27 pounds (about $34) for adults and 23 pounds (roughly $29) for children ages 10 to 17. London Bicycle offers a shortened version of this tour which runs for 2 1/2 hours, as well as a night tour, among other options.

Alternative London's tours showcase street art in East London.(Courtesy of Alternative London)

The Alternative London Walking Tour

Promising to show you things London guidebooks don't review, Alternative London's 90-minute walking tour takes you to East London, where guides showcase the area's street art and discuss its culture and history. The company employs street artists and other creative types as guides so you get an insider's look into the community, something travelers say makes the tour unique. No two tours are alike because every guide has their favorite route and spots to highlight. Tours run Monday through Saturday, typically depart at 2 p.m. and are limited to 25 people. Tickets start at 12 pounds (about $15). Alternative London offers bike and pub tours that also emphasize street art.

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The English Bus – Stonehenge, Bath & A Secret Place Tour

After you've gotten your fill of London's hustle, take a daytrip to the countryside. On this small tour of 16 people or fewer, you'll be picked up in London in a Mercedes minibus and head to both Stonehenge and Bath. At Stonehenge, you'll have time to walk around the ancient stones and marvel at their enormity. In Bath, you'll have time to stop for lunch and either explore on your own or take a guided tour. The twist to this tour is that you'll also visit a secret spot on the way back to London, which is only revealed when you arrive. The English Bus's vehicle, with panoramic windows and a glass roof, is small enough to go down back roads and through the countryside – a feature travelers love. Tours, which leave daily, start at 94 pounds (about $118) and do not include food, drinks or admission to Stonehenge.

The Original Tour – Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

The hop-on, hop-off Original London Sightseeing Tour offers you a convenient, comfortable way to take in London's top sights via the company's open-top buses. There are seven different routes you can take around London, with more than 50 stops. Get off the bus to experience attractions like the London Eye or the Victoria and Albert Museum, then hop back on to continue your self-paced tour. Buses run every 5 to 20 minutes. Prerecorded commentary is available on all routes; live guides are only available on select routes and buses. An added bonus is that tickets include a free Thames River boat cruise and the option to join three different guided walking tours. Travelers appreciate that the routes take them to London's top attractions, but warn that buses can run late or infrequently. The Original Tour offers 24-, 48- and 72-hour ticket options. The 24-hour ticket costs approximately 35 pounds (about $44) for adults and 16 pounds (around $20) for children ages 5 to 15. Walking and night tours are also available.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter

Dive deep into the world of "Harry Potter" at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. You'll see sets, props and costumes used in the wildly popular movies. Walk through the Great Hall – which is set for dinner – check out the Gryffindor common room, wander around trees that were used in the Forbidden Forest, and walk through the Hogwarts Express. Other exhibits include Diagon Alley, costumes, such as Quidditch uniforms and Yule Ball dresses, and much more. You can even enjoy a butterbeer in the Backlot Café. Travelers claim this is a must-do activity for fans of the film franchise. Plan to spend at least half a day to fully experience the collection and discover its intricate details. Tickets start at 45 pounds (around $57) for adults and 37 pounds (around $47) for children ages 5 to 15.

City Cruises – Evening Cruise

City Cruises offers a gorgeous way to end your day in London on its Evening Cruise. Once you board, a server will greet you with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine. A singer on board provides the background music while you take in the sights along the Thames. You can sit on the open-air upstairs deck or inside the saloon with picture windows. Also included with your ticket are hors d'oeuvres, served throughout the two-hour cruise. Travelers enjoy the trip, saying it is relaxing and affords spectacular views for photos. Cruises run Wednesday through Sunday at 6:30 p.m. (in winter, Friday through Sunday only) and tickets start at 29 pounds (about $37). Patrons must be age 13 or older to cruise. City Cruises offers a wide range of river cruises, including a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing cruise.

Jack the Ripper Tours guides visitors through the streets of London to hear chilling tails of the infamous murderer. (Courtesy of Jack the Ripper Tour)

The Jack the Ripper Tour With Ripper Vision

This offbeat Jack the Ripper tour has a unique spin: the company uses what it calls "Ripper vision" to tell the story of the notorious murderer. Actually a hand-held projector, "Ripper vision" displays pictures on walls and sides of buildings throughout the two-hour tour allowing the guides to show, as well as tell, all about the gruesome serial killer. You'll visit the actual murder sites where you'll learn about all of Jack the Ripper's victims and what London was like in the late 1800s. Guides, who tour-goers say are informative and entertaining, are members of the Cloak & Dagger theatrical club, a performance team dedicated specifically to crime history. Travelers relish the chilling stories of Jack the Ripper's escapades, but express disappointment with the small pictures displayed by the hand-held projector. Tours are offered daily at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., with an additional 4:30 p.m. tour on select days. Tickets start at 12.50 pounds (about $16). The company also offers Jack the Ripper pub tours.

Eating Europe – East End London Walking Food Tour

Eating Europe's East End food tour is a four-hour exploration of one of London's more diverse and interesting neighborhoods. Participants will enjoy food at seven restaurants, pubs, markets, bakeries and shops. Highlights include a cheese sampling, fish and chips, and a curry. Along the way, your guide will point out amazing street art, Roman burial grounds and more. Reviewers rave about the delicious and varied offerings on this tour and encourage future participants to pace themselves so they can enjoy every bite. Tours run Monday through Saturday, departing at various times, and on Sunday at 10 a.m. only. Tickets start at 80 pounds (about $101) for adults; 64 pounds (roughly $81) for teens ages 13 to 17; and 52 pounds (around $66) for children ages 4 to 12. Eating Europe also offers foor tours of Soho and historic pub tours.

England Experience Tours – Stonehenge, Bath, Lacock and Avebury

This full-day with England Experience Tours takes you to some of the country's most historic sites. After stopping to see the monolithic stones at Stonehenge, you'll wander through the city of Bath and have the chance to tour the famous Roman Baths. From there, you'll venture to Lacock, a rural village that has been used as a filming location for "Pride and Prejudice" and the "Harry Potter" movies. Your trip concludes with a stop at Avebury's Neolithic stone circle – the largest in Europe. Travelers appreciate the stunning views at each location and movie buffs especially enjoy the stop in Lacock. Tours run daily and depart London at 8:15 a.m. Tickets start at 87 pounds (about $110) and include the entry to Stonehenge, but not the Roman Baths. England Experience offers several other daytrips from London, including excursions to Oxford and Canterbury.

Hairy Goat Photography Tours – London Photography Mystery Tour

Head out with a professional photographer to capture London with your camera or smartphone with Hairy Goat Photography Tours. The three-hour London Photography Mystery Tour has no fixed itinerary — guides spend more or less time at each stop depending on group interests and weather. While snapping photos of hidden gems throughout the city, guides share information about London's history, landmarks and everyday life. Visitors say the guides are excellent at finding off-the-beaten-path photo-ops. Plus, they offer helpful advice on how to take better pictures. Tour prices start at 60 pounds (about $76) per person. Tours, which must be booked in advance, are offered twice a week at 11 a.m. The company also offers night tours, as well as a seasonal Christmas lights night tour.

Fat Tire Tours – Royal London Bike Tour

Fascinated with the monarchy? On this four-hour cycling excursion from Fat Tire Tours, expert guides lead you to spots like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Kensington Palace, all while sharing intrigue and stories about British royalty. Midway through the tour, there is a half-hour lunch break at a pub (at your own expense). Bikers say the tour provides a great way to see iconic sights and describe guides as informative and friendly. Tickets start at 27 pounds (about $34) for adults and 25 pounds (approximately $31) for students and children. Fat Tire Tours also offers walking and van tours.

Afternoon tea and double-decker buses are two quintessential London icons; Brigit's Bakery's bus incorporates both on its tour.(Courtesy of Brigit's Bakery's Afternoon Tea Bus Tour)

Brigit's Bakery's Afternoon Tea Bus London Tour

Offering a unique twist on both a bus tour and afternoon tea, Brigit's Bakery's Afternoon Tea Bus London Tour combines both for a tasty outing. During the tour, you'll ride on a vintage double-decker Routemaster bus through central London, passing by Big Ben, Hyde Park, Downing Street and more. As you sightsee, servers pour you tea and offer sandwiches, cakes and pastries, which are quite delicious, according to travelers. In addition to the tour's novelty, visitors find the prerecorded commentary entertaining and informative. However, some complained the commentary can be difficult to hear at times. Tours, which last about 90 minutes, run several times daily and depart from either Northumberland Avenue or Victoria Coach Station. Tickets start at 45 pounds (about $57). The tour accommodates several dietary restrictions, though these options may have an additional fee. Children ages 4 and younger are not permitted. Prefer gin to tea? The company also offers a Gin Lovers Afternoon Tea Bus Tour, among other options.

Tally Ho! – Landmarks and Gems Tour

On the 3 1/2-hour London Landmarks & Gems cycling tour, Tally Ho! leads visitors to the city's major sights, while expert guides offer their insights and informative commentary – a point of praise for many reviewers. Other highlights include seeing the royal guards (and possibly the changing of the guard ceremony), spray painting in the Leake Street tunnel and grabbing a pint at a pub. The tour covers about 5 miles and travels at a leisurely pace, with time for photo stops. Tours ride daily at 10 a.m. Tickets start at 35 pounds (about $44). Tally Ho! offers a variety of cycling and walking tours, including a family-focused bike ride through London.

SANDEMANs NEW Europe – London Grim Reaper Tour

Reviewers rave about the London Grim Reaper Tour for its gruesome and creepy stories delivered by engaging guides. On this two-hour walking tour of the East End, you'll see sights related to Jack the Ripper, hear stories of the ghosts that haunt the Tower of London and learn about the Black Plague and the world's first psychiatric hospital, among other chilling tales. Travelers appreciate the guides' thrilling storytelling and their ability to keep a lighthearted tone even when talking about dark subject matter. Tours run daily at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost about 14 pounds (approximately $18) for adults and 12 pounds (roughly $15) for students. Children 12 and younger can attend for free with an adult. For a less spooky experience, consider the company's "Harry Potter" tour.

Premium Tours – Total London Full Day Tour With the London Eye

On Premium Tours' full-day excurision, which lasts about 8 1/2 hours, you'll take a guided tour of St. Paul's Cathedral then hopefully catch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (if the timing and weather are right). After you refuel with lunch (at your own expense), you'll journey to the Tower of London to view the crown jewels. Your day ends with a cruise down the Thames and a ride on the London Eye. Tour-takers are chauffeured to each landmark in a comfortable bus. While it is a long day, visitors say it is a great way to cover a lot of ground. Plus, they say guides are knowledgeable and humorous. Tours start at 122 pounds for adults (about $154) and 112 pounds (around $141) for children ages 3 to 16. Premium Tours also offers a Magic of London tour with a similar itinerary; however, you'll stop for a cream tea at Harrods instead of a ride on the London Eye.

Thames Rockets – Ultimate London Adventure

Do you have a need for speed? The 50-minute Ultimate London Adventure tour is a sightseeing cruise like no other. As your actor-turned-guide narrates your trip, you'll take in iconic sights along the Thames, such as the Tate Modern, the Gherkin and the Houses of Parliament. Once you get under the Tower Bridge, the speedboat captain ramps up to speeds of 30 knots (35 mph) and takes you on a thrilling ride as the music blasts and passengers shriek. Tour-goers describe it as exhilarating and exciting. Tickets cost about 45 pounds (roughly $57) for adults and 30 pounds (approximately $38) for children ages 14 and younger. Tours cruise several times daily. Keep in mind: From November to February tours are only offered Thursday through Sunday. Thames Rockets also offers evening tours and shorter 15-minute rides, among other options.

See London as Harry Potter did with the Tour for Muggles. (Courtesy of Tour for Muggles)

Tour for Muggles

This tour garners rave reviews from witches, wizards, Muggles and Squibs who appreciate both the knowledgeable tour guides and seeing their favorite "Harry Potter" locations in real life. Tour for Muggles takes visitors through London for 2 1/2 hours to see locations where the movies were shot, as well as places that inspired author J.K. Rowling. Most of the tour is on foot, though you will need an Oyster card to ride the Tube for one section. Tours are limited to 20 people and run several times a day Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets cost approximately 14 pounds (about $18) for adults and 12 pounds (about $15) for children ages 11 and younger.

Gin Journey

If you enjoy imbibing in gin, you'll love taking a tour with Gin Journey, where your expert "gin guardian" takes you to five different venues in London in a chauffeur-driven minibus. During the 4 1/2-hour tour, you'll sample five different gins, enjoy five gin cocktails, visit a distillery and learn all about this spirit and why it's having a modern renaissance. Reviewers praise the guides, the drinks and the tour's great organization. Gin Journeys can be booked in different neighborhoods, including Shoreditch, Soho and Bermondsey. Tours, which are capped at 20 people, are offered at 6:30 p.m. midweek and on Saturdays around 2 or 3 p.m. Tickets start at 70 pounds (about $88).

Strawberry Tours – Free Soho Walking Tour

Since the mid-19th century, Soho has been a haven for musicians, writers and bohemians. Learn about the neighborhood's famous residents and much more on this free 2 1/2-hour walking tour from Strawberry Tours. Your guide will talk about famous bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and their connection to the area. You'll also learn about the history of Soho's sex industry, a topic not always discussed on tours. Guides will also take you by Piccadilly Circus, Soho Square, the West End Theatre District and more. Recent tour-goers rave about the expert guides and are awestruck by the history of the area. As its name suggests, the tour is free, but at the end of tour you can pay your guide what you wish. This tour runs daily at 3:30 p.m. Tickets, while free, must be reserved in advance. Strawberry Tours offers other free excursions around London, such as street art-themed tours and several London landmarks tours.

Free Tours by Foot – World War Two Tour

On this two-hour walking tour, you'll learn about London during the Blitz, hear tales of how the city was rebuilt after the war and walk past landmarks that survived the bombings, such as St. Paul's Cathedral. Tour-takers value the engaging guides and the amount of history shared on the tour. They also say guides tailor the tour to participants' interest. Visitors can name their own price, paying what they think the tour was worth at the excursion's conclusion. Tour times and dates vary. Reservations, while free, are required to guarantee a spot. Free Tours by Foot offers a variety of walking and food tours, including tours of Westminster and London street art, among many others.

Kim Foley MacKinnon, Contributor

Kim Foley MacKinnon is a Boston-based editor, journalist and travel writer. Her work has ...  Read more

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