Short on time but want to see iconic London sites? One of the best and least expensive ways to see classic landmarks is on the number 11 bus. The hybrid routemaster travels from Fulham Broadway to Victoria Station, along Victoria Street and through Parliament Square. Then it’s down Whitehall and through Trafalgar Square, on to the Strand and into the City.
The three-mile stretch in the middle of the route passes through some of London’s most significant historical sites and the ones most people come here to see. Just be aware: London buses charge each time you get on and off so if you plan to see several sites near each other, walk between them rather than getting back on the bus. Be sure to have a paper travelcard or Oyster card.
Begin at Victoria Station, about half-way through the route and head west toward Liverpool Street. You won’t be able to thoroughly visit every point of interest detailed in this itinerary in one day. But even if you just pass by, this provides a show-stopping delight of London icons.
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A short distance from Victoria Station is Westminster Cathedral (just walk from the station if you plan to stop here). Often overlooked in favor of its famous neighbor, Westminster Abbey, this Catholic cathedral has beautiful mosaics and a fantastic viewing gallery in its distinctive brick tower.
A few stops later is famous Westminster Abbey, the Royal family’s home church. This is where the Royals traditionally hold most coronations, weddings and funerals. Allow a full half-day to see the many treasures and go early to beat the crowds. To avoid the expensive entry fee, consider attending a service. Evensong is weekdays at 3pm and weekends at 5pm.
Parliament Square is on the doorstep of the abbey. Best view for photos? From Westminster Bridge, about half-way across. Here, you get a clean view of Palace of Westminster, home to Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower which houses London’s iconic Great Clock and Big Ben, the 13.7-ton Great Bell. The number 11’s next stop, Horse Guards Parade, is where the Queen’s Life Guard watches over the official entrance to St James and Buckingham Palace. There is a 30-minute guard-changing ceremony daily.
Trafalgar Square, just one more stop along Whitehall, has been the scene of demonstrations and events for hundreds of years. The National Gallery, which houses the UK’s collection of paintings in the Western European tradition, is on the north side of the square.
Midway along the Strand after Trafalgar Square is Covent Garden, a short walk to the north from Strand. This site of an early fruit and vegetable market is now a tourist-popular shopping enclave, busy with street entertainers, food vendors and restaurants. It’s a fun place for lunch; there’s something to suit all budgets.
After your visit, return to Strand where the bus travels along Fleet Street, once the center of the British national newspaper industry, and past the Royal Courts of Justice and the Old Bailey, where criminal cases are tried. Unless you want to go inside the court houses, this is a good time to ride the bus for a bit.
As Fleet Street becomes Ludgate Hill, the route moves into the City of London, the original Roman quarter. Sir Christopher Wren’s elegant dome of St Paul’s Cathedral has watched over the City for more than 300 years.