I spent last weekend trying out the London Pass. It’s a sightseeing city card which gives you entry to a choice of over 60 popular tourist attractions in the city and is available for either 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10 days.
In one day, I reckon it’s possible to get around four tourist attractions if you start early – but be warned, you will be exhausted by the end of it. We managed to make it to the Churchill War Rooms, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge and used our London Passes to get free tickets to the Curzon cinema in Mayfair to see The Imitation Game. I’ve put together a short break-down of each attraction below in the handy tabs below, and at the end I’ve summarised what I thought of the London Pass.
Buried in a once-secret basement next to Horse Guard’s Parade the Churchill War Rooms offer a fascinating insight into war-time London and the war cabinet that were secretly fighting for Britain from this dank dark basement. There’s an impressive museum section with tons of interesting Churchill facts and artefacts displayed in modern, visual ways. It’s also cool to see the original rooms like the Map Room where they planned their attacks and Churchill’s bedroom where he spent many a sleepless night.
However, do not be fooled – as we were – into going to the introductory talk by the Churchill War Rooms volunteer speaker. Yes, he was a nice chap, but he spoke for NEARLY AN HOUR about every minute detail you were about to see, from the tissue on Churchill’s desk to the pen he held to the toilet lid he sat on – thus rendering the experience of walking around the War Rooms somewhat pointless as we already knew everything the signs were telling us.
GOOD BITS: no que, great museum section
BAD BITS: boring bastard speaking for nearly an hour
London’s spectacular Westminster Abbey is at the top of many tourist’s hitlist. And quite rightly, it is one of London’s most spectacular Cathedrals and home to an impressive number of important dead people. We spent about half an hour wandering around, gazing at the impressive architecture, stained glass windows and elaborate coffins.
Sadly, it’s popularity meant that the queues outside were large and we had to wait 20 minutes in the cold to get in. This was particularly disappointing as the London Pass booklet that we were given with the cards advised that ‘fast track’ entry was available for London Pass holders at the Abbey. When we asked, this wasn’t the case and we were sent to the back of the line.
GOOD BITS: spectacular building
BAD BITS: massive queue, no fast track
Having once lived in Borough I had passed Tower Bridge many times but never gone up to the exhibition. Thus, we deemed it an important addition to our London tourist day activities. The queue was fairly small, although still no fast track (even though it was advertised). Within about 15 minutes we were up at the top of the bridge.
The exhibition wasn’t particularly impressive – just a video playing that was really aimed at children. And I’m afraid the view from the top wasn’t that spectacular either as all the iron infrastructure means there are only small gaps to look through and a mass of glass and padding (presumably to make it safe) obstructs the best views. Walking over the glass see-though walkway looking down to the river and bridge below was certainly entertaining, and fairly vertigo-inducing – that was certainly the best bit.
GOOD BITS: exhilarating walk over the see-through walkway
BAD BITS: the walkway was the only good thing about it…
SO, WHAT DID I MAKE OF THE LONDON PASS OVERALL?
GOOD BITS: The London Pass will save you money, if you are prepared to do 4 or more tourist attractions in a day. We added it up, and had we purchased separate tickets to the Churchill War Rooms, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge and the cinema (before 5pm) using the London Pass would have saved £10. It also just makes it easier, especially as a tourist as you just pay once and don’t need to then worry about having currency with you, or fumbling about to buy tickets at each new destination.
BAD BITS: A one day London Pass will set you back £49. I think that’s expensive. To make your money back you’d need to do at least 4 tourist attractions a day which is really tiring and not entirely pleasant. It’s not just the London Pass’s fault: London tourist attractions are ridiculously expensive! The Churchill War Rooms cost £17.50 per person, and Westminster Abbey is an astonishing £18 each.
THE VERDICT: If you are desperate to see all the London tourist sights and you only have a weekend or so to do it, a London Pass probably makes sense. However, London is full of so many fantastic free museums, markets, walks, cathedrals and icons I just don’t think you need to spend out £49 per person to make the most of it. Touristy London is London at its worst, and if you want to experience the real London there are so many brilliant things to do that don’t involve queuing or shedding out tons of cash.