Take a Trip Around London with Expert Tour Companies, Discover Hidden Gems
By Emma Wallis
If you are spending time in a new city, guided tours and excursions are a great way familiarize yourself with the area, as well as see some of the great sights. Tours can vary from regular walking tours to helicopter or boat tours, depending on the location. If London is where you will be heading, then roll up roll up, and sign up to these top ten tours in and around London. They will take you by the hand and help you really discover the city and its surrounds. If you like books and literature, then perhaps you'll want to walk around Baker St and Marylebone, and find out all about Sherlock Holmes. If you prefer to be tantalized and just a little bit scared, then the London ghost walks could be for you, plenty of blood, gore and mystery weaves its way through the stories. If walking is not for you, you might prefer to sit back, and relax on the top of a traditional London bus, or with a bit more money, fly high up above the city in a helicopter.
But London might already be known to you so you could head south to Brighton for a glorious day out in the sunniest spot in the UK. Complete with a pavilion built for a former Prince George, a beach, plenty of shops, restaurants, clubs and cinemas and all the fun of the fair.
Original London Walks
This company was the first to offer walking tours around London, and they're still one of the most popular, thanks to a list of 200 customized walks. Treasure hunts, lectures, Explorer Days out of town, and tours in various languages are available, along with excursions tailored to kids. The information-packed events let you get a closer look at some of London's most historic and interesting structures and attractions. Meeting times vary by tour so check out the website. But you can do Harry Potter tours, a trip to Bletchley park, where the British cracked the Nazi codes in the second world war, and in the autumn, foodie walks will be available. Also, if you like archeology, you can even become a mudlark on the banks of the river thames, and hunt for hidden treasure from Roman times onwards. (20-7624-3978, 20-7624-9225)
London Ghost Walks & Tours
At dusk, meet your guide at the Bank tube station to tour through London's spookiest courtyards and alleyways. Host Richard Jones is an accomplished magician with a vast knowledge of the supernatural and of London history. He has guided more than 5000 tours and boasts meticulous research backing up what he tells you. With him, you can traverse Devil's Passage and hear stories that will stay with you for some time. A unique, entertaining tour. Be sure to book in advance. And wrap up warm, this one will send shivers down your spine, and nothing will look the same again. TUBE: Bank (20-8530-8443)
Golden Tours offer the broadest variety of tours and is sure to offer something in an available time frame that covers the sights and attractions you want to see. Day tours include The Total London Experience and Historic and Modern London, not to mention romantic river cruises and trips out of London to Windsor Castle, Shakespeare's Stratford upon Avon, and more. Multi-lingual guides are available. And an American number to call, so you can check out the website and easily book before you arrive. Any tour you find cheaper than theirs, they will refund the difference if what is offered is the same. TUBE: Victoria Station and 30 additional stops. (20-7233-7030)
Evan Evans Tours
Evan Evans Tours was formed in 1930 and has since become known as Britain's premier provider of luxury tours, and claims to be the oldest. Tours take place in plush, air-conditioned coaches and feature professional guides. The diverse array of options includes a full day London sightseeing trip, a hop on-hop off London sightseeing tour, luncheon cruise, nightclub tour, and Bus Trip to Murder, which plays on Agatha Christie's and other famous writers detective novels. Many of the tours also include evening entertainment and meals, and if shopping is more your thing, you can even hop on a bus to Bicester outlet village near Oxford and grab some bargains whilst seeing the very pretty English countryside. TUBE: Victoria Station or one of 30 other stops. (20-7950-1777)
See London from a unique vantage point - high in the sky. This helicopter tour grants views of the historic Thames and London's dramatic skyline from a windowed seat in a helicopter and lets you take in more square miles than any land-bound tour. An ideal tour for the adventurer or flying enthusiast. Cabair takes off from their base at Elstree airfield north of London. You need to take a Thameslink train to get there, and you can charter a whole helicopter, take it like a cab to get to another air field, or take their VIP London tour which includes a four course lunch in an 18th century manor house near the airfield as well as the above birds eye view of London. (20-8953-4411)
For an excursion with a taste of luxury, this company offers tours with plenty of time for lunch at some of the most popular locations which even includes the Eiffel Tower. See Stonehenge, Dover Castle, Leeds Castle; even take a Paris day trip and more. For a thrill try the Jack the Ripper tour which includes a Thames cruise and the possibility to retrace the steps of London's most famous serial killer. Or if Harry Potter is more up your street, then you can take the new Warner Brothers Studio tour, as well as passing by St Pancras station where that famous platform to get to Hogwarts just might still be. Check the website for details. (020 7713 1311, 888-990-1209)
Imagine the fun of being transported all over London in a 1964 classic Mini-Cooper! Step back in time to when Twiggy was the "It-Girl" of the London fashion scene, Beatlemania was taking over the world and a little known rock-and-roll band released their debut album called "The Rolling Stones". The knowledgeable tour guides are dressed in hip sixties attire and are ready to take you to the most popular destinations in town while you listen to music of the era. These little cars can get on back roads that larger vehicles can't so you'll feel like a local instead of a tourist. A truly unique way to see - and be seen - because you will surely be noticed. The company has a new William and Kate tour, as well as The Great Escape which will take in every big attraction in the city. (0044 2075 850 399)
Built in the Eighteenth Century as a pleasure palace for the Prince Regent, George IV, the Brighton Pavillion makes a great focus for a family day out from London. Its elegant onion domes and carved exterior cuts a breathtaking dash in the heart of Brighton. Inside you can see the best Chinoiserei in the British Isles, and children will love learning about George IV and his predecessor's escapades. This is the cream of regency society, and it's worth stopping here first for a tour, before taking in the rest of this regency jewel in the South Coast's crown. Outside the Pavillion, there is plenty of fun to be had in Brighton itself, and if you have time, spend a few days here, chilling out at the beach and getting to know it's brilliant shopping streets, the Laines. (03000 290900)
Located in the heart of the Marylebone neighbourhood is Baker Street. The street is perhaps most famous for its association with Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, and in this area, you can go on historical tours of some of the notable sites from Holmes' case history and the books themselves. There is a museum and shop located on the street providing lots of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia. Just around the corner is the famous waxwork's museum, Madame Tussauds, and the brilliant Planetarium. Queues often stretch around the block, so if you're not a big fan of big commercial museums, then take a walking tour instead and soak up Marylebone's rich history and elegant buildings. (0207000000)
Big Bus Company
The traditional way to see all of London's top attractions, these open-topped buses offer interesting commentary and plenty of opportunity to jump on and off when you reach an attraction that interests you. You can complete the tour in less than two hours and get a city overview, or you can spend all day at stops such as Speaker's Corner, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral. Reliable and informative. Buses run every 10-20 minutes. TUBE: Green Park (for stop #1, though tickets can be purchased at each of the 30 stops)There are also lots of other bus tours in London, including Ensign, so shop around to see which one best suits you. (20-7233-9533)
About Emma Wallis
London gives Emma a warm fuzzy feeling every time she gets back to her home city. As a writer and broadcaster she travels extensively round Europe and the world, but is always happy to return to London town. All that travel means she knows what she looks for as a visitor to a new city: insider knowledge, tips, and the feeling that she's found something that few travellers get to experience. Emma enjoys keeping her fingers on the capital's pulse, in order to make sure that everyone enjoys her favourite city, as much as she does.
Read more about Emma Wallis here.