During my planning stage for London, I stumbled upon the London Pass. Although highly recommended by several sources, I questioned its ability to save me money since many London attractions offer a student discount. After several hours of calculations under hundreds of possible scenarios, I decided to purchase the London Pass. I naturally wanted the London Pass to be an efficient use of money because I paid a large chunk of change for it; nonetheless, I was skeptical of it. Would it be cheaper to purchase student tickets? Is the pass flexible enough? Are the included attractions actually interesting? Will I have the time to visit many sights with the London Pass? Now, to save you time and energy, I wrote this London Pass guide.
How the London Pass Works
After purchasing the London Pass, there is no additional entrance fee to any of the 60+ attractions included on the London Pass during the London Pass’ activation period. All you have to do is show your London Pass at the ticket booth and the attraction’s staff will print your entrance ticket. Some major sights, like the Tower of London, even include a fast track entry allowing you to skip the ticket booth queues and immediately enter the attraction.
1, 2, 3, 6, and 10-day passes are available for purchase. Purchasing the London Pass does not immediately activate the card, therefore you can purchase a pass up to one year before using. Entering your first attraction will activate the card. The London Pass must be used on consecutive days, so be sure to plan accordingly.
For a higher purchase fee, an Oyster card can be purchased with the London Pass. The higher fee is equivalent to the cost of the Oyster card plus the preloaded fare, so it really doesn’t matter if you purchase the Oyster card or not. If you purchase an Oyster card with the London Pass, I recommend you skip the shipping fee and instead pick up the pass in London.
I purchased my London Pass on their website, however many tourist shops and ticket booths across the city offer the London Pass as well. I carried my confirmation ticket to their office near Trafalgar Square and retrieved my London Pass, guide book, and Oyster card.
Attractions I Visited
Let’s continue on with the London Pass guide. Below I list each of the attractions I visited while on my London Pass. Included is a short description, pictures, whether or not I recommend the attraction, and what the attraction would’ve cost without the London Pass for students and adults in pounds. As you’ll probably soon realize, London attractions are expensive.
Tower Bridge Exhibition
London Bridge is not the iconic Victorian-style bridge commonly associated with London. London Bridge is a boring, concrete bridge. Tower Bridge is the stunning bridge iconic to London. The exhibition showcases the design and construction of Tower Bridge. Part of the flooring is made of glass, allowing you to view the bridge from above. One side even has a mirror on the ceiling for some awesome selfie-taking. Tower Bridge is the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever built. In its day, the bridge used hydraulic power on a scale never before attempted.
***Recommended for everyone, including families
London Bridge Experience
Although extremely touristy, I enjoyed the London Bridge Experience. It is deemed the scariest attraction in London. The experience is broken up into two parts — the history tour and the tombs. The history tour explores the history of London Bridge with live actors and actresses. Although a bit eery and spooky, it is not necessarily scary. I thought the experience was an interesting way to explore London’s history while focusing on London Bridge, however I wouldn’t pay the price just for the history part. The tombs are the horror part and it is optional to go through these, but note it is included in the sale price either way. I’ll be honest, the anticipation was much scarier than the actual event. Everyone is required to walk through in a line with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them. Perhaps there really is strength in numbers?
***Recommended if you like haunted houses
Growing up, my father and I toured several historic Naval ships together. To keep this tradition alive, even without my dad as a travel partner, I thought it was necessary to view this cruiser. Anyone with interest in Naval history will find HMS Belfast fascinating. The exhibits are extensive and you can visit nearly everywhere on the ship. You’ll need hours to see everything! One note: I found the pathway markings nearly nonexistent, and thus had to backtrack several times to see things I missed.
***Recommended if you or your children enjoy war/naval history
This is certainly a must-see in London. Not only did William and Kate marry in Westminster Abbey, but the church is also a burial ground. Over 3000 world-renowned Brits are buried here, including Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. There are many important sights within the church, such as the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. The grave is made of black stone with gold type and is surrounded by red poppies. It even received a US Congressional Medal of Honor! The High Alter, where Queen Elizabeth II and many Kings and Queens before her were coronated, features intricate marble designs made by an Italian artist. The Coronation Chair is also available for viewing. It is the same chair used since 1308! Its longevity represents, as told in the audio guide, the Royal Crown’s continuity and adaptation. The Lady’s Chapel is my personal favorite in Westminster Abbey. Light pours in from the windows and colorful knight banners line the walls, making this a cheerful room.
***Recommended for everyone
Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms
I could’ve spent my entire day here. Not only do you gain access to the war rooms, but also to Churchill’s museum. Touring the war rooms doesn’t require much time, but the extensive and highly interesting Churchill Museum requires at least a couple hours. The tour and museum give interesting insight into the man behind the name. My favorite things learned? Rifle racks were located throughout the bunker for anyone to use in case of an attack. A weather sign stated “windy” during air raids. Churchill hated noise, thus he and his closest staff used noiseless typewriters. He referred to President FDR as the “greatest friend Britain has ever had.” Churchill had a direct phone line to FDR, and later Truman, inside a closet-sized room that appeared to be a bathroom from the outside. He hid the telephone to discourage staff from eavesdropping. Churchill once said, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” Finally, a consensus amongst Churchill’s staff was that, despite the difficulty working for Churchill, it was a great honor and he was an extremely inspirational leader. This particular point especially resonated due to my interest in leadership studies.
***Recommended for everyone, especially history buffs
Located at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, ArcelorOrbit Mittal is an art structure which offers stunning views of London. It is a developing area and is near a massive shopping mall. The London Pass offers free entrance to the viewing, but the slide costs an additional five pounds. Let me tell you, the additional expense is 100% worth it. The slide is absolutely the most fun experience I’ve had in London! It is the longest slide in the world. I’m jealous of the workers who can slide down several times every single day! May I have a job application please?
***Recommended only if you’ll pay extra for the slide
London Transport Museum
This museum is one of the most unique during my visit to London. Learn about the growth and modernization of London’s transportation system through colorful and interactive exhibits. Although I don’t find transportation infrastructure particularly interesting, it was fun to explore another historical side of London. Overall, though, this museum didn’t blow my mind.
***Recommended for families
Monument to the Great Fire of London
Climb the 311 steps for gorgeous view of the city. Climb down the 311 steps to pick up your certificate of accomplishment. It’s been a while since I’ve earned a participation award! If you’re looking for inexpensive views of the city or a quick workout, go here.
***Recommended if you want city views and don’t have mobility issues
Tower of London
Although often rated as one of the “must-do’s” in London, I was not excited for the Tower of London. Turns out my impressions were correct. The highly-recommended Beefeater Tour was not as comprehensive or satisfying as I expected it would be. The various exhibitions weren’t particularly fascinating. Perhaps little kids will find it amazing to run amongst the knights’ armor, but I did not. I’m also not a medieval history fan. The one turnaround during my visit? Seeing the Crown Jewels. I previously believed the jewels were highly overrated, but woah was I wrong. I honestly believe one does not truly understand the meaning of the word “priceless” until having viewed the Crown Jewels.
***Recommended for families or if you want to see the Crown Jewels
City Cruise Hop On Hop Off River Tour
Although a river tour is not my #1 recommendation for London, it does provide a unique vantage point to explore London. View the London Eye from a distance without obstruction, travel underneath the Tower Bridge, see the Traitor’s Gate at Tower of London from its entrance point, and more. I traveled from Westminster to Greenwich with the river tour and appreciated the different perspective.
I will mention, though, that there is a London ferry service that is much faster and cheaper. You can even pay for it with your Oyster card. If you are only looking for water transportation, try the London ferry service.
***Recommended as a slow form of travel
Cutty Sark & Royal Observatory
Although two separate attractions, with one requiring a hefty hike up a mountain to reach, there is a combination ticket. Since I would’ve purchased the combo ticket if I didn’t have a London Pass, I included that price instead of individual prices.
Cutty Sark was the world’s fastest tea clipper during its time. Touring the Cutty Sark takes you through the growth and decline of tea trade via sailboats, the variety of goods Cutty transported, and life on the water. Exhibits are geared towards children, but I also enjoyed the tidbits of information, short films, sailing games, and sea chanteys.
Personally, I believe the Royal Observatory is a must in any London tour. Stand on the Prime Meridian, learn about astronomy and time, explore the Astronomer Royals living space at the Royal Observatory, and enjoy gorgeous views of London. Be sure to visit the website to see what free special events are occurring during your visit.
***Recommended for everyone, including families
Golden Tours Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour
My disliking towards bus tours continues. Not only do they prevent you from truly appreciating the sites, but it is impossible to take a good photograph! For a photography enthusiast (read: I like to pretend I’m a photographer), bus tours are the death of me. Golden Tour’s bus tour particularly disappointed me. I was impressed with their Stonehenge day tour and had high expectations for this bus tour. Unfortunately the two tour guides I had both relayed very inaccurate information and one had several disgusting coughing fits into the microphone.
Many friends recommended I visit Shakespeare’s Globe while in London, but I honestly had little interest in visiting. Shakespeare and I never hit it off in high school literature classes. Nonetheless, its inclusion in the London Pass made it easier to write it onto my “to-do” list, though at the bottom. Boy, were my expectations wrong! Shakespeare’s Globe was one of my favorite experiences with the London Pass. Not only did it reignite my love for theatre, but it also sparked an interest in reading Shakespeare again.
***Highly recommended to everyone, including families
Other Included Attractions
The London Pass includes many paid attractions in London, as well as other perks. Aside from the ones listed above, below are some other interesting inclusions I eventually wish to visit. To see all the attractions and perks of the London Pass, visit the website or look inside the guidebook provided to every customer upon pass pick-up.
- Hampton Court Palace
- Kensington Palace
- Kew Gardens
- Royal Albert Hall
- IMAX film at the Science Museum
- Wembley Stadium Tour
- Beefeater Gin Distillery Tour
- London Bicycle Tour
- Chelsea Physic Garden
- Cartoon Museum
- Jason’s Original Canal Tour
- London Wetland Centre
- London’s Brass Rubbing Centre
- Museum of Comedy
- Benjamin Franklin House
- National Theatre Backstage Tour (I attempted to participate without realizing a prior booking is necessary as spots do fill up)
- Royal Mews
- Rock n Roll Walking Tour
- Chislehurst Caves
As you can see, there is much to see and do with the London Pass. In fact, since my visit in London only a couple months ago, the London Pass has partnered with several more attractions and tours! The company is apparently continuously growing, which leads me to believe this pass is not a one-time thing. Indeed, when I return to London it will be necessary to purchase another London Pass in order to visit the above sights.
Tips for Using the London Pass
- If you purchase a London Pass, do not forget to use it in the attraction’s cafes and gift shops! I bought souvenirs at the Churchill Cabinet Rooms and coffee/cake at the Cutty Wharf. Both times I forgot to show my London Pass and both times the attractions offered discounts.
- Ensure the London Pass will be worth it for you. Before purchasing, write a list of attractions which interest you. Then map out an attack plan while using your London Pass. You’ll reasonably be able to visit 2-4 attractions per day. The shorter the pass’ duration, the more attractions must be visited in one day to save money.
- Be aware of a future price increase. The London Pass website forewarns guests to buy now because the price will soon increase. Hopefully the new, higher price will still make this sightseeing pass worth buying.
- Do not visit free attractions while using your London Pass, unless it’s to quickly pick up a free guide book. It only wastes your time.
- Check out the special offers for London Pass holders. There are a wide variety of discounts, including helicopter tours, waffles, cell phone hires, and massages. I wish I was able to try a few of these!
- Realize you should create a general plan for the duration of the London Pass before attacking the attractions in order to get the most out of it, but the pass is also highly flexible. It helps to generally plan each day with sights that are near each other.
- Reference this London Pass guide again to refresh on the inter-workings of the pass and usage tips.
Do I Recommend the London Pass?
I purchased the London Pass for 161.15 pounds during a 20% off sale. This price included six consecutive days with the London Pass and an Oyster Card with 40 pounds preloaded. Without the London Pass, I would’ve spent 199.45 pounds on student entrances plus 40 pounds on transportation. The London Pass, without a doubt, saved me lots of dough — even as a student. Not only that, but I was able to visit several wonderful attractions I wouldn’t have otherwise visited because they were included in the London Pass. The perks of the London Pass — from savings, skipped queues, discounts, flexibility, and more — are obviously worth the price. I 100% recommend the London Pass, but I would forewarn potential purchasers of the 1, 2, or 3 days passes that they will feel incredibly rushed through attractions to meet the break even point. For those who have visited London several times or are in London for a couple weeks, as I was, the London Pass is a great option for you.
Have you used other sightseeing passes? Was it worth it in your experience?
Thank you for reading this extremely long post! It is my first full-length guide and I’m excited to share it with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts — what you liked, room for improvement, or future post ideas. Let me hear them in the comments section below!