London's Best Bus Routes For Tourists

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 26 months ago
London's Best Bus Routes For Tourists

The official tourist buses often charge a pretty penny for routes you could take for just £1.50. They usually come with a tour guide with some interesting titbits, so let us be your guide instead. Pick one of these routes, sit back, and watch the sights roll past the window.

Photo: Ian Haber

Route 15

The full 15 bus route runs from Blackwall to Trafalgar Square. However, a shorter version, aimed at tourists and featuring a heritage Routemaster, starts at Tower Hill instead.

Most of the major sights are along this heritage route, but if you do happen to ride the whole route, hop off at Aldgate East for Whitechapel Gallery. It's completely free and is right next to Brick Lane too, if you want to fuel up on curry before continuing the route.

The Tower of London is a rather prominent feature of the route. It may best be known as the medieval home of torture, but there were actually more executions in the 20th century than any previous one. Concentrate hard and you may get a brief glimpse of the Monument on your left as you zoom past — definitely not enough time to spot the secret scientific laboratory that lies within.

Next up  St Paul's Cathedral. The Cathedral that lies on the site is at least the fourth iteration, with a church in place dating back to 604 AD. The current Cathedral does have a store room with bits of the previous St Paul's in it, salvaged from the Great Fire of London.

The abandoned Aldwych station. Photo: aridleyphotography.com

From there it's down Ludgate Hill onto Fleet Street, an area packed with London's major law firms. As Fleet Street becomes The Strand, keep an eye out for Strand (or Aldwych) station, an abandoned station. You might recognise it from the Sherlock episode The Empty Hearse. Occasional tours into the station run for those interested. From there, it's onto Trafalgar Square where this bus terminates. The water fountains that surround Nelson's Column were originally added to reduce space for large gatherings of people.

Route 52

The 52 travels between Willesden and Victoria, notching up some fantastic views along the way. Opposite the first stop in Willesden, Roundwood Park has beautiful rose-filled flowerbeds, and a lovely little Victorian bandstand to rest under. Later on in Ladbroke Grove, take a look in at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. It's a great look at a slice of life that people far too often take for granted.

It'd be remiss not to mention Portobello Road Market at this point. The bus goes parallel to it, but hop off and take a look around. The road name Portobello derives from Admiral Edward Vernon's victory over the Spanish at Porto Bello in 1739. In Spanish, Porto Bello means beautiful port.

Next you're in Kensington and Knightsbridge. If you've got a heavy wallet and a taste for luxury, then this is the spot for you. If not, just keep going and look out at Hyde Park on your left, but make sure you don't miss the majestic Royal Albert Hall on the right. Swot up on the secrets of the Royal Albert Hall before you go. As you reach the end of Hyde Park, you'll drive past Apsley House which historically had the address Number One, London. It was the first house you'd see if you were an 18th century visitor to the city from the west.

Hyde Park looking glorious. Photo: Daniel Stockill

From here the 52 goes down Grosvenor Place and the back of Buckingham Palace Gardens. You won't be able to get too much of a look in, so make do with some history instead: the gardens used to contain a collection of mulberries. King James I had them planted in 1600, to compete with the French when it came to making silk — silkworms eat mulberries. Unfortunately he planted the wrong type of mulberries and the silkworms were unimpressed. The whole venture failed and the mulberry trees were removed in the rebuilding of the Palace in 1703.

Finally the 52 reaches its terminus, Victoria station. If you're looking to sit down, relax and have a drink after a reasonably lengthy journey, check out our list of the best pubs in Victoria.

And one for street food fanatics - route 35

The 35 hits up so many of London's food markets, it's worth wearing your stretchy trousers. Start your journey in Battersea; on Saturdays there's the aptly named Battersea Food Market, which focuses on meats and cheeses. Then you'll go down through Clapham, which has Venn Street Market (again only on Saturdays). These two are more Farmers' Market-esque, with a focus on foods for you to serve at home including vegetables, but there's always a healthy amount of choice if you want some quick street food too.

Customers enjoying the wares at Borough Market. Photo: stuckpixel

Next it's onto one of London's best street food markets, Pop Brixton. Inside on one of the upper levels is Ghana Kitchen. We recommend snacking on the okra fries, a real inventive use of a vegetable most regularly found in curries.

The most recognisable foodie spot you'll pass is Borough Market, nestled underneath the railway tracks. Get off and have a wander round — no doubt you'll be tempted by something to eat. Though there are a few sit-down spots around, nothing compares to grabbing a takeaway and eating your food overlooking the Thames.

The 35 in the shadow of the Walkie Talkie. Photo: Jack Marian

Next it's the city, which doesn't offer much in the way of regular food markets. Make do with everyone's favourite vegetable-themed building, the Gherkin. Have a look whilst you can, you might not be able to see it for long. From there the bus rolls down to Shoreditch, a real haven for street food. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening there's Dinerama on Great Eastern Street. If Dinerama isn't open when you're around, check out the more regular Pump.

Last Updated 24 October 2016