Thursday, May 15, 2008

Getting Around London: The Final Chapter

This article wraps up my series on getting around London, and will focus on traveling around London by the more traditional and your feet! If you missed the first three posts of this feature, check it out for information on using taxis, buses and the Underground.

So let's see here. You've hailed a taxi, taken an bus, and surfed the city on the Tube. One thing that shouldn't go without mention is that a great way to see the sights is by walking the city or from gliding down a canal or the Thames.

Pied a Terre

As tourist London is a relatively compact city and well signposted, you may find that using your own two feet to see things is quite easy to do. Many guide books offer their own walking tours as well, which make it easy to plan your route and day.

If you would like to explore a theme or an area of London in more depth, guided walking tours are quite useful. The London Pub Walks is one way to combine experiencing some of London's best pubs, learning about beer and public houses, *and* getting some history under your belt. All this while knocking back a pint or two (or more!). This tour meets every Friday at 7.30pm outside the Temple Underground station. For more information, call Peter Westbrook at 44 (0)20 8445 9191.

The Original London Walks is a highly acclaimed organization offering over 100 themed walks every week, rain or shine. Older kids will love their popular Jack the Ripper walk. Each walk lasts about two hours, and begins outside a designated Underground station meeting point. The cost is £5.00 for adults, £3.50 for seniors and students with ID, and children under 15 walk free when accompanied by a paying adult. For recorded information, ring 44 (0)20 7624 9255 or call the office at 44 (0)20 7624 3978. Their web site is

Anchors Away!

There are numerous different companies that offer cruises down the Thames. As there are way too many to mention here, I will give you a sampler and guide you to the Tourist Information Centre to do some research on finding one that will suit you best. The Thames Passenger Boat Services offers one of the more typical tourist cruises. This company offers a 45 minute full commentary cruise from Westminster Pier to Greenwich in an all weather boat. The nearest Tube station is Westminster.

Ticket prices for the Thames Passenger Boat Services are £6.30 for adults (£7.60 for return ticket), £5.00 for seniors (£6.30 for return ticket), £3.30 for children (£3.80 for return ticket), or £16.80 for a family ticket (£20.00 for return ticket). Additionally, your ticket will entitle you to 20% off of admission to the National Maritime Museum, The Queen's House (no, not Buckingham Palace!), and the Royal Observatory. For enquiries, ring 44 (0)20 7930 4097.

A more unusual way to tour the Thames starts this year with London Frog Tours. I am certain that this company's tour will appeal to children as they offer a 1 hour 20 minute circular tour in an amphibious vehicle, with live commentary from a "character" guide! Tours leave from County Hall (Tube: Westminster or Waterloo) and go part by land and sea. For inquiries, ring 44 (0)20 7928 3132, or visit their web site at Ticket prices were not available at the time of writing.

Another way to see London by boat would be to hook up with the London Waterbus company. They offer single and return trips in weather-protected narrowboats along Regent's Canal from Camden Lock to Little Venice (Tube: Camden Lock). These leave daily on the hour from 10am to 5pm, and stop at the London Zoo along the way. Tickets cost £4.00 for adults, and £2.60 for children. Ring 44 (0)20 7482 2660 for more details.

Top Travel Tips

If you are taking a hopper bus tour as an introduction of the city, keep in mind that the Big Bus offers a free river cruise and walking tours with the price of your ticket, and that the Original London Sightseeing Tour offers a cruise for £2.50 with the purchase of a ticket. For more information on these offers, see Part II in the Getting Around London series on the web site if you missed it first time around.

If you are planning to try several of the Original London Walks, ask about a Discounted walkabout Card, which may be a money saver. If you want to do some themed walks on your own, you may want to pick up Time Out's London Walks (sadly, not widely available outside of Britain currently). I also highly recommend the book "Walking London: Thirty Original Walks in and Around London," which is what I used when I first moved here to explore different neighbourhoods in addition to the traditional sights.

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