London in Focus: Guided City Tours

One way to delve into heritage is to join a guided tour of the city – whether by bus, boat or on foot – and these will give your group expert insights.

The Original Tour offers seven different hop-on hop-off bus tours from over 100 bus stops in central London, their open top buses giving fantastic views. As well as unlimited hop-on, hopoff access, The Original Tour offers free WiFi, free walking tours and a free hop-on hop-off river cruise.

When you purchase a 24-hour or 48-hour bus ticket, three 90-minute walking tours are also offered free of charge, or if you are not planning to travel by bus, walking tours can be purchased separately.

The three options are the ‘Changing of the Guard’ walking tour, a great way to learn about the Royal Family, the ‘Rock ‘n Roll’ walking tour through Soho where British music history was made, and the ‘Jack the Ripper’ walking tour along the streets of the East End to discover London’s dark and terrifying past.

The Original Tour offers bus and walking tours including a Rock’n’Roll walking tour

The Original Tour offers bus and walking tours including a Rock’n’Roll walking tour

For groups, these can all be offered as standalone walking tours with flexible departure times (except Changing the Guard).

This year, three new walking tours were introduced, ‘Picture London’, ‘Royal London’ and ‘Haunted London’, which can be tagged on to a bus tour booking or booked separately via the groups department. All walking tours are led by entertaining and knowledgeable guides who are passionate about London’s history and culture.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, City & Village Tours specialises in Blue Badge Guide led day trips, holidays and SleepOvers. Over the last three years City & Village Tours has broadened its London programme to welcome groups from farther afield with stays of one to four nights – basing guests in a quiet family run hotel in one of London’s most elegant villages.

City & Village Tours enjoying the Postal Museum

City & Village Tours enjoying the Postal Museum

The company has also developed ‘jam busters’, rearranging day trips and theatre trips to avoid the rush hours and so reduce the time spent in traffic. Any of their broad portfolio London days can begin at midday, so groups can be heading home after 6pm on much emptier roads.

One of City & Village Tours bestsellers has been ‘Legal London’ with visits to the Royal Courts of Justice, the Inns of Court and options to visit the Supreme Court, while ‘The People’s Post’, which includes a visit to the Postal Museum, is also popular.

The ‘Hidden London Interiors’, a three-day SleepOver, comprises visits to Two Temple Place, The London Charterhouse, Royal Hospital Chelsea, St Pancras Hotel and the Freemasons Hall. A recent launch is ‘The Strictly Tea Dance’ combining entertainment, dancing and a classic afternoon tea, and it takes place each Wednesday afternoon on board the air-conditioned ‘Tereza Joanne’, moored in the Royal Docks in London’s East End.

Learn about gin at the Beefeater Gin Factory with Groups Direct

Learn about gin at the Beefeater Gin Factory with Groups Direct

Greatdays Travel Group has introduced several tours in London this year such as ‘Smokey Old London’. During the two-day tour your group will visit Forman’s Fish Island Smokehouse, the East End’s last smokehouse, founded in 1905, to explore behind the scenes and will enjoy a tasting and a two course lunch.

Another new tour, ‘Monopoly London’, includes a coach tour around some of London’s iconic streets from Whitehall to Piccadilly and a visit to The Bank of England Museum where your group can learn about 300 years of England’s financial history, a short walking tour of Covent Garden and a trip on The London Eye for great views across London.

More sampling is on offer during Groups Direct’s new and enhanced ‘Beefeater Gin Factory Tour with Fish and Chips’. The day begins with a delicious fish and chip lunch in a popular London ‘Chippy’ before travelling to the Beefeater Gin Distillery in Kennington.

Greatdays Travel Group Smokey Old London

Greatdays Travel Group Smokey Old London

At the distillery, housed in an Edwardian building, your group will discover how international politics, exotic imports from the British Empire, Victorian entrepreneurs and some savvy American barmen made gin the world’s favourite cocktail spirit and learn how James Burrough created the award-winning Beefeater Gin, cementing it as a true icon of London.

The visit includes a 30-minute self-led museum tour, one hour guided tour and of course, two gin tastings of Beefeaters 24 gin and London Garden.

GTOs can book their own expert to help them explore London and a vast range of specialist subjects are available.

Gold Bullion in the vaults at the Bank of England

Gold Bullion in the vaults at the Bank of England

Our ‘London in Focus’ Series