Although you can get to pretty much anywhere you will want to go in London by means of riding the Underground, you may want to enjoy a ride or two on the London buses, especially on the upper deck of one of London's 'trademark' double decker buses, if for nothing more than to enjoy the view and explore some of the sights as the bus winds its way across the city. Riding the buses is actually an enjoyable way to get an overview of some of London, as you won't actually see much of anything travelling on the Tube.
The buses actually get around central London quite well with the help of bus only lanes and the congestion tax reducing the number of cars entering the city. Take a day or so during your vacation and explore some of the sights and sounds of London by bus. Try to get a double decker if you can so you can enjoy views that are unimpeded by the traffic.
There are 100's of bus routes criss-crossing London for you to explore. Of course getting a bit lost can actually be fun if you aren't on a schedule and just want to explore. To help you get started we have suggested the following three bus routes. These routes will take you through a variety of historic neighbourhoods, passing a number of historic sites and attractions along the way.
This route still runs some of the famous old London Routemaster buses making it a good choice if you want to experience a little bit of London nostalgia. Starting on The Strand just North of Temple Station you will head wast past the London Transport Museusm, Saint Paul's Cathedral and Trafalgar Square, before heading up Regent's St. to Piccadilly Place near Piccadilly Circus. From there it heads west along the northern boundery of Green Park and the grounds of Buckingham Palace. It then continues around Hyde Park Corner and follows Kensington Road all along the southern edge of Hyde Park passing right in front of the Royal Albert Hall.
The eastern end of this route originates at Liverpool Street Station and takes you right next to Saint Paul's Cathedral before heading down Fleet Street and along The Strand to Trafalgar Square. It then travels south along the famous Whitehall Street passing around Parliament Square near Big Ben then along Victoria Street by both Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. It then continues through Victoria Station to Sloane Square and along King's Road into the historic neighbourhoods of South Kensington and Chelsea.
This scenic, north-south route starts by Hampstead Heath Station just south of the beautiful Hampstead Heath wilderness area, and takes you past the famous and bustling Camden Market. It then continues down Tottenham Court and Charing Cross Road to Leicester Square and, then Trafalgar Square. From there it goes south along famous Whitehall Street passing around Parliament Square near Big Ben then along Victoria Street by both Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, throught Victoria Station and then continues into Pimlico.
Note that you effective on July 6th 2014 you can no longer board buses in London with a cash fare. You must prepurchase a ticket or Travelcard or have a "Pay as you go" Oyster Card ready when boarding. You can purchase these the airport. Tube Stations and London Travel Information Centers. We highly recommend visitors go with the Oyster Card (see our page on Fares for more information). Whatever fare medium you are using, simply touch it onto the yellow card reader as you enter the bus. Double decker buses must be boarded through the front doors, but the articulated buses can be entered through any door if you have the Oyster Card. There are yellow card readers located at each door.
You can download a very helpful PDF Visitors Brochure from Transport for London which includes a simplified and illustrated Bus Route Map covering central London. This is the simplest and best Bus Route Map I have found for tourists exploring London. Download it from the link below and you can print it out at home.
PDF Download: London Visitors Brochure and Route Maps
Official Website: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/