How to Spend 1 Day in London Aboard the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

by | Last updated Apr 11, 2024 | London and UK Live Work and Play

London needs little introduction. Who hasn’t dreamt of seeing Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben! With this city’s incredible sights to see, you could easily spend weeks or months discovering it but, you only have one day. If you only have one day to spend in London, then you will want to make the most of your time. And one of the best ways to see London is to spend 1 day in London aboard the London Hop On Hop Off Bus. 

In this post, Lucian Herlas of DoubleDeckerLondon takes us on a journey around London to see the best sights from an open-top bus. If you are short on time in London, the best way to get a taste of the things to see and do in London, is to see them from a London Hop On Hop Off Bus. It is one of the best ways to see London in 1 day as a solo traveler, visiting with a friend or your family to London with kids.

So come on, let’s hop on, and off in London in a day! 

Pros and Cons of going on a Hop On Hop Off Bus in London

 

Your first thoughts on the hop on hop off sightseeing bus may be that it is too touristy for you! Well, yes, it is a tourist thing to do, but there are lots of pros and cons to going on this type of sightseeing London option.

 

Pros

  • You are taken to all the best things to see in London.
  • There is a commentary giving you information and history about different places.
  • You can hop off and see a place in more detail and then hop back on the bus to the next spot.
  • Transport cost of getting around London is included.
  • You will fit loads of sightseeing into one day.

 

Cons

  • Very touristy, but so what!
  • Can be cold upstairs outside – so wear warm clothing.

 

Choose Your Route

map of hop on hop off bus route of London.

Hop on hop off London map – choose your route

 

Before boarding the bus, take some time to choose your route with a map of London sightseeing. Most hop-on hop-off bus tours offer multiple routes covering different parts of the city. While there are currently five different companies operating in the city, I’ll focus on the route of the most popular tour, which is Big Bus. If you choose another company, their main route is almost identical to Big Bus.

Big Bus has two main routes that run alongside each other most of the time. The only difference is when you reach the Hyde Park area and the blue route heads West. I highly recommend visiting the West side if you still have time, but first, it’s better to start with the red route. The red route is more frequent, and you’ll find more seats upstairs.

Most importantly, consider what attractions are on your must-see list of London and choose a route that aligns with your interests.

TIP: Do the complete circuit first. This will help you decide which attractions you want to hop off the bus at to explore more.

 

Start Early

 

Begin your London 1 day itinerary as early as you can, to make the most of the hours ahead. The first bus usually departs early in the morning, roughly at 8 a.m. This way, you will have the bus mostly for yourself; the crowds start coming at 9-10 a.m..

Don’t forget to grab a hearty English breakfast before heading to the nearest bus stop.

 

London Bus Stops

 

The easiest way to locate the bus stops is to download the app showing the hop on hop off bus London route. Most reputable companies have an app where you can track the buses and explore the routes. They also allow gps location, making it a breeze to locate the stop. As a note, don’t fully rely on their bus tracking feature, as it isn’t always extremely accurate.

 

1 day London aboard the Hop On Hop Off bus – best things to see

 

Changing of the guard. One of the highlights of your visit in London is the changing of the guard which takes place almost every day at Buckingham Palace. If this is something that you want to see, I recommend planning your hop-on hop-off tour according to it as it takes place only once a day at a specific time.

Trafalgar Square. Once you are done with the Palace consider heading towards the Tower of London with some stops on the way. Trafalgar Square is a great place to get off the bus. You can find great places to eat nearby if feeling peckish. The amazing National Gallery is worth exploring even for a brief time here. Or just hanging in the square, watching how life in London goes by.

The Palace of Westminster. Next important stop on this what to do in London for a day is the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben. This area gets really crowded for obvious reasons. It’s better to head there earlier in the morning or evening for better photo opportunities. You will also get some great pictures from the bus.

Big Ben Clock In The Houses Of Parliament in London

Everyone wants to see Big Ben

 

London Eye. From Big Ben, take the bus a cross the bridge, or you can walk, taking in the beautiful and imposing London Eye. After spending time in the area, visiting the attractions next to the Eye like Dungeon, London Aquarium, or Shrek Adventures, head to the next stop of Covent Garden.

Covent Garden. This is the place to have lunch or dinner. There are hundreds of restaurants in the area, and finding one through the small, narrow, and beautiful streets is an adventure in itself. Whether you’re craving traditional British food like fish and chips or eager to try international cuisine from around the world, you’ll find plenty of options here.

If you don’t want to stop here for lunch or dinner, the next best thing is Borough Market. This is one of the oldest markets in London with great food and great vibes

St Paul’s Cathedral. After Covent Garden, take the bus one or two stops to St. Paul’s Cathedral. As soon as you lay eyes on it, you’ll understand why it’s worth stopping for.

If you decide to visit, make sure you climb all the way to the top. But bear in mind, there are a lot of stairs. It’s worth it though as spectacular views await you at the top. Since the cathedral is on top of a hill and it’s over 100m high, you’ll get panoramic views of all London. When you’re done with the cathedral, hop back on the bus and head towards the Tower of London. Keep your camera ready as some great photo opportunities await while crossing Tower Bridge. Once you reach the stop, you can walk back to the bridge. It’s only 5 minutes away if you want to spend more time admiring its beauty and who wouldn’t, it is just one of the best things to see while in London.

If somebody asks me to recommend the best-paid attraction to visit while in London on a one day itinerary, it’s always the Tower of London. You get some great guides included in your ticket, the famous Beefeaters. And you get to see the crown jewels, the armoury and simply marvel at over 1000 years of history.

River Cruise. Many tour buses include a Thames River cruise, offering a perfect route from the Tower to Westminster. The cruise complements the hop-on hop-off bus well, with knowledgeable guides, snack options, and a unique perspective of London. Once you’ve done the cruise, you can hop on the blue bus and start exploring West London. You get to see Harrods, Kensington Palace, Notting Hill, and some great museums. To catch a glimpse of Kensington Palace, you have to get off the bus, as it is located in the middle of the park. It’s a nice walk, and a stroll through Hyde Park is a must.

Night Tour. Some hop-on hop-off tours include night tours in their packages, while others allow you to add them later if you wish to experience it. These tours follow almost the same route as the day bus although the experience is very different. The city has a completely different vibe during the night. The experience is totally worth it.

Pro Tip: Some bus companies have late departures during summer (on their hop-on hop-off bus); you might be able to ride into the night on their tour and catch some spectacular views during sunset.

 

Enjoy the Ride

 

Once aboard the bus, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Make sure you check for traffic disruptions before you get your tickets and ask the staff about any expected delays. London is a big city, so anything can happen. Try to approach everything with an open mind and you are guaranteed to have a great ride.

 

1 Day London Itinerary

 

Here’s how you could spend your one day itinerary in London

Morning – up early and have breakfast. Do the complete lap of the route.

Lunch

Afternoon – return to a place or places you want to see in more detail.

Dinner – in a pub in London

Evening – see London at night by doing the lap again or spend it in Coven Garden or perhaps see a show in London’s West End Theatre District.

Are You Ready to Spend 1 Day in London Aboard the Hop On Hop Off Bus?

 

Exploring London in just one day may seem impossible, but with the convenience and flexibility of the hop-on hop-off bus, it’s entirely achievable. By following this carefully crafted itinerary, you’ll be able to see the city’s top attractions, snap some great pictures to share with your friends, and create unforgettable memories along the way.

 

Got more than one day in London? Check out my 5 day London itinerary or make your visit to London part of a 1 month Best of Britain itinerary or perhaps 1 month in the UK itinerary that includes Ireland.

 

1 Day London Aboard HoHo seeing Tower of London and other places in London.

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Sharyn McCullum Sailing Through The Panama Canal With Storm Chasing Boat.

Sharyn McCullum – Travel Writer / Blogger, Remote On-line Worker, sometime Digital Nomad and Travel, Live and Work Abroad Expert. Is a chocoholic, coffee connoisseur and lover of ’80s music. Been travelling all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. Lived in London 4 years on a working holiday. Has holidayed in Hawaii over 15 times and currently calls Melbourne, Australia home. Is inspiring others to get the live work play travel lifestyle with this blog. Read more about Sharyn here.

5 Comments

  1. Christy S.

    As someone who has been wanting to see London for years, this is a great guide and I don’t care if the hop on, hop off bus is touristy. It sounds fun and I love the idea of commentary so I can learn more about each site.

    Reply
  2. Valeriya Goffe

    Hoping to visit London very soon, and these recommendations will sure come handy! Thanks a lot for the excellent tips. Will also check out the 5 day itinerary in London for ideas.

    Reply
  3. DMarino

    Haven’t been back to London in a few years, but will be back. The bus may be touristy, but it’s almost part of the reason to do it! Great post.

    Reply
  4. Eriel Cleveland

    I haven’t been to London, but this is a great guide to see the tourist attractions in a day. Great job with the itinerary!

    Reply
  5. Denise

    The Hop On bus in London was indeed a great way to spend a day, especially when a day is all you have!

    Reply

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