Planning your trip to London and before you know it, you’ll be faced with this question: should I buy the London Pass? Is it worth the money? How can I figure this out?
If you don’t know already, with the pass, you can have access to 80+ sites. This means you buy one pass and you don’t have to pay to enter any of the participating sites. Some of the sites you can visit are:
- The View from the Shard
- Charles Dicken’s Museum
- Churchill War Rooms
- Kew Gardens
- *Hampton Court Palace
- *London Bridge Experience and London Tombs
- *St Paul’s Cathedral
- *Tower Bridge Exhibition
- Tower of London
- Westminster Abbey
- Windsor Castle (free transport included)
- London Zoo
Fast track available (*)
Other perks of the pass are fast-track entry for certain sites, 1-day hop-on-hop-off bus (HOHO bus), and exclusive discounts to partner retailers.
After your purchase, you can also download their guidebook with all sorts of London tips. If you have a smartphone, you can download their mobile app and the pass will automatically load after your purchase. No need to carry around a paper copy.
Sounds good, right? It does! But for some, the price may seem a tad bit high, especially if they are travelling with a big family or if they are on a tight budget. This is where this post comes in.
There are five different choices for the London Pass, depending on how many days you want to be sightseeing to these major London attractions.
One day is £75/adult and £55/child
Two days is £99 and £75/child
Three days £125 and £89/child
Six days £169 and £125/child
Ten days £199 and £149/child
As you can see, the more days you purchase, while the overall cost is more expensive, the more you save.
So, how does one decide if the pass is good to purchase or not? The basic rule of thumb is:
Yes to buy if you:
- Want to visit many of the sites London is famous for
- Are able to visit 2-3 of these sites in one day
- Don’t want to worry too much about spending money once in London
- Don’t want to spend time pre-purchasing tickets from the many websites before your visit to London or don’t want to spend time queuing for tickets on the day
No to buy if you:
- Only want to visit a few of the places listed
- Want to go on a more leisurely pace
- Are with small children
- On a short visit and want to also visit the many free sites in London
- Are motivated to pre-purchase your tickets before arriving in London or queuing on the day
London Must See/Do
The next step of the decision-making process is to sit down and decide what you want to really see and do while you are visiting London. Obviously the more days you have the more you can enjoy but often times than not, people visit London for a week or less. So many choices but so little time.
he decision-making process is to sit down and decide what you want to really see while you are visiting London. Obviously the more days you have the more you can enjoy but often times than not, people visit London for a week or less. So many choices but so little time.
Let’s say you’ll be in London for five full days and after seeing many of the London choices, you decided that you want to visit and do the following sites and activities (note that the price listed are pre-purchase online prices which are often cheaper than buying at the gate).
Day 1: London Bridge Experience, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the Shards
Day 2: St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey
Day 3: Kew Gardens and Hampton Court
Day 4: Windsor Castle
Day 5: Free day and great time to do the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus and River Cruise
For each of the sites listed, the prices are below (these are September 2019 prices):
View from the Shard (£25), Kew Gardens (£16.50), Hampton Court (£21.30), London Bridge Experience (£26.95 — but if you go at opening time and if tickets are still available, it can be as low as £19.95), St Paul’s Cathedral (£20), Tower Bridge (£9.80), Tower of London (£28), Westminster (£21), Windsor (£22.50 and the train cost would be £21.50/rt), Boat cruise (£17.50).
Total price: £233.05 (train price to and from Windsor included).
At that price and itinerary, a 6-days pass for £169/pp will definitely be a money saver! If you’re truly just in London to hit as many places as possible, you can even add a few more sites in between what you have listed above. The HMS Belfast for example before the Shard.
London with a Family
What if you have a family? The process is the same. You go to each website and see what the cost is for your and your family and add them all up. When you are going through this process, what I want you to pay attention to is if there is a family ticket option. If there is, and your family fits the criteria, do plan on purchasing the family ticket. It can save you a bit of money.
To help clarify this, I’ll give you an example and we’ll use the Tower of London for this.
An adult ticket is £24.70 and a child age 5-15 ticket is £11.70. Children under 5 are free. If you are a family of four, two adults and two children, your ticket total would be £72.80. But don’t just purchase ala carte! On the website, there is a family package option for £62.90. Almost a £10 savings!! Buy it!
Pay attention to opening and closing times when planning your sightseeing route. The Shard is open late and night view of London can be as amazing as sunset view so putting the Shard last and late would be perfectly fine. Also, don’t forget this part of the London Pass condition:
All London Passes are to be used on consecutive days – NOT 24 hours. For example, if you have a 3 day London Pass and start using it on a Tuesday, it will be valid for that day, Wednesday and Thursday.London Pass
Note: If you start using you London Pass in the evening or late in the day that will count as your first day.
Free London Sites
The top paid sites in London are amazing and I highly recommend seeing as many as you possibly can. At the same time, don’t forget the plethora of free ones that London has to offer. Some of my favourites are the below but there are many many more! This was why I didn’t pack the above itinerary with 20 paid sites. Some of my favourite free sites and activities to do in London are:
- The Science Museum (kids love this place!)
- The British Museum
- Natural History Museum
- V&A Museum
- Hyde Park
- Exploring the many street foods in Borough Market and Camden Market
- Nottinghill market and neighbourhood
- Hampstead Heath, which includes a lovely hike and view of London
- Mews of London
Incorporating all my favourite sites into my itinerary, my days will now look like this:
Day 1: London Bridge Experience, book lunch at the Sky Garden, a stroll through St Dunstan, Tower of London, maybe St Katherine’s Docks marina for coffee (keep in mind closing time for the next site), Tower Bridge, a meal at Butler’s Wharf and watch the Thames life go by, and end at the Shards.
Day 2: Start with HOHO and stop at St Paul’s Cathedral, the National Gallery if you are into art, British Museum if you are into ancient art, Science/Natural History Museum, and Westminster Abbey. Just keep in mind when your Pass sites are open so not to miss them.
Day 3: Kew Gardens and Hampton Court. This is on one tube route and you will be spending all day at these two places. Plan on entering Kew at opening time so not to waste your day.
Day 4: Windsor Castle and spend the day checking out the town
Day 5: The National Gallery, Chinatown, any place the HOHO went by the other day and you want to explore more of, a day in Hampstead, if a Harry Potter fan, walk through some of the areas where they filmed or JK was inspired by. Or, use this day to go to the HP studio.
The above will take up most of your days. But, if you have a short amount of time and this is your first time, you probably want to see as much as possible. Plus, most sites close by 6 pm, so you will have plenty of time to hang out at the many London pubs and eateries.
London with Kids
If you have little kids… as much as you want to see as many places as you can, you just gotta be a bit more realistic. Do the HOHO, yes to the cruise, but do pick and choose which paid sites will be worth going to with them. By incorporating the free, and often quite child-friendly sites, you will not only have a very memorable and educational time in London but also a more budget-friendly one.
Some super friendly children attractions I recommend are:
- Diana Memorial Garden and Hyde Park in general
- The Natural History and Science museum. These two are next to each other.
- Watch the Changing of the Guard. You do need to try and grab a nice spot an hour before the event starts.
- Google for “Free London City Farms” and there are a few to choose from. Mudchute I think is the biggest at 32 acres. Which kid doesn’t like farm animals, right?
- Coram’s Field and the nearby Foundling Museum. The field is seven acres of playground and park just for kids.
- Kew Garden is free for kids under 17. You can enjoy the garden and the kids can run around a bit also.
Have a fantastic time in London!