06 April 2014

#SundayTraveler: A Day with the London Pass

I love museums and historic sites and finding deals on their admission costs, so when I was planning our recent trip to London, getting the London Pass just made good sense. It let us hit some of the "touristy" sites with a discount, and it kept an entire day packed with things to do.

We decided when looking into the London Pass that with our short time in London a one-day pass would be our best option at just £47 (the price has since increased to £49). There were four sites on the pass that we wanted to visit and were within easy distance of each other. It was important to make sure they were within a reasonable travel distance so we had time to really see each site. And, of course, I checked the costs before purchasing to make sure that each site was discounted enough by the pass to make the initial cost worth it. With our London Passes, we spent our Tuesday visiting Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the Tower of London, and the Tower Bridge Exhibition.

Westminster Abbey

We got an early start and arrived at Westminster Abbey before opening time. We weren't clear that the visitors' entrance was in the back, so we ended up further back in line than anticipated, but the line moved quickly and we still got inside pretty early in the day.

Unfortunately, the Abbey's "no photos" rule is strictly enforced, so we have none of the interior, but it's worth checking the website to see the interior. There has been a church on the site since the 10th century, and the church has held the special honor of being England's coronation church since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066. It's quite amazing to see the number of ancient tombs and objects all collected in one spot, and it's hard not to be impressed by the hundreds of influential citizens have been interred at the Abbey.

When visiting the Abbey, be sure to plan well in advance as the Abbey often hosts special events that closes the church to visitors. A calendar of events in available on the website. Typical admission for adults is £18, £8 for children 11-18, free admission for children under 11, with discounts available for seniors and students. Free audio guides are offered to everyone in several different languages. Entry is free with the London Pass, but you will be required to stand in the same queue as those that need to purchase tickets. There is no admission for those attending services. Strollers are allowed inside, but some of the small corners of the church are not accessible. If you're trying to stick to a schedule, you may not have time to listen to the whole audio guide as the Abbey is full of nearly a millennium's worth of history, but it offers lots of very interesting information and you can select what information you want to listen to, making it easy to hear the "highlights".

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

From the Abbey, we took the Underground and did a bit of walking to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The original Globe Theatre used by William Shakespeare's playing company was demolished in the 1640s, but today a reproduction stands about 750 feet down the road from the original site. The new building was built as accurately as possible to the same specifications (using the same materials and methods) as the original building and hosts plays just as the original theatre did.

Costumes used in performances at the new Globe Theatre

An exhibition and tours are offered to visitors to give the history of theatre in London and Shakespeare's plays and the original play house. During the theatre season (April to mid October) tours are limited due to performances. During the off-season, tours are held throughout the day but the exhibition is open during all opening hours.

During our visit a company was rehearsing for a performance and no photos were allowed of the interior. The exhibition takes about an hour to explore and tours of the theatre are approximately 45 minutes long, check the website for opening times based on the season. Typical admission for adults is £13.50, £8 for children 5-15, free for children under 5, with discounts available for seniors, students, and families. London Pass holders have free admission but stand in the same queues to get official tickets for the exhibition and tour. Separate pricing is available for performances. Strollers are welcome, but need to be closed up and carried when going into the theatre.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London sits about a mile down the Thames from Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. We walked the distance between the two after a brief lunch outside the theatre next to the river.

The Tower dates back to the 11th century and is famous as the home for the Crown Jewels, a bloody history as a holding for prisoners and site of their torture and execution, and for the ravens and beefeaters that guard the castle. While the Tower was a sign of the crown's defence and power through most of it's history, it was opened up to visitors in the 1830s during a revival of fascination with England's medieval past. Today the tradition continues and visitors can learn much of from exploring the Tower on their own or by joining a guided tour by the beefeaters.

Photos are allowed in all parts of the Tower except the Crown Jewels exhibit. The Tower is open to visitors every day, but it is a good idea to check the website for closure and event information. Buying tickets in advance through the website gives you a small discount, and all prices shown include an optional £2 donation which you can opt-out of during purchase. The online prices (including £2 donation) for adults is £20.90, £10.45 for children 5-16, and children under 5 are free. Additional discounts are available to seniors, students, and families. Entry for London Pass holders is free and you can go straight to the entrance and skip the ticket line. Strollers are allowed in the Tower but are required to be left outside of some buildings or difficult to carry through.

The Tower Bridge Exhibition

The Tower Bridge is an easy walk from the Tower of London and well worth including on your visit if you're already in the area of the Tower.

Tower Bridge is a marvel of Victorian engineering that provided a second crossing point over the Thames and allowed large ships to continue to move past. The huge bridge used a state of the art hydraulic system to lift the crossing and allow the boats through. A visit to Tower Bridge walks you through the history and construction of the bridge and brings you through the engine rooms to see how the bridge was raised. And the top of the bridge gives a great view of London on both sides of the river. Children are given a "passport" and collect stickers at different stations in the bridge to place on the passport, which is a great hook to further their interest in the bridge or keep them entertained as their interest fades.

View from the Tower Bridge

Kids' Passport

Photos are allowed in every part of the Tower Bridge Experience. Admission prices for adults are £9, £3.50 for children 5-15, and free for children under 5. Discounts are available for families. If you wish to watch the bridge open for ships, check the website as it lists scheduled times (it doesn't happen every day), but the exhibition is open daily.

Our Result

We had a day packed with activity that we all enjoyed. We were on the move the entire day, but we planned for it and had a good time doing it. We paid £94 for 2 adult passes plus £7 delivery fee (Little Man was free since he's still under 5 years old), for a total of £101. Had we paid full admission at each attraction, we would have paid £118.80 (excluding the donation at the Tower) for two adults. The savings were only £17.80, but we felt they were worth it, especially when we factor in the exchange rate into Euros.

Tips for Using your London Pass

Before you purchase, check the website for which sites participate in the pass and go to the individual websites for admission prices without the pass. Also check the location of the sites and how easy/difficult it is to travel between sites. You may find that you don't have the time and/or the cost of the pass is not better than the admission prices (especially if you qualify for discounted admission).

Make a schedule for the day(s) you use the pass and stick to it. This is especially important for those with the one-day pass in order to reach all the sites with enough time to feel like you really got to experience it.

Purchase your London Pass online, in advance. This allows you to hit the ground running as soon as you like in London without having to find time to pick up the pass. The London Pass often offers a discount on certain passes only available online, so you can receive further discounts doing so in advance. It also lets you read the handy booklet that comes with every pass.

Check the free walking tours that come in the London Pass booklet. It provides easy directions to take you past some of the "big sites" (i.e. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, etc.).

Today's post is part of the #SundayTraveler link up with Chasing the Donkey and friends. Please be sure to check out the other great posts through the linkup!

Have you used the London Pass? What did you see and do?


  1. What an ambitious day you had! I missed out on Westminster Abbey when I was in London, but I did check out the Tower of London and the Globe Theatre which were both just so fascinating. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler again! See you next week :)

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  2. What a brilliant time!! The Abbey is 'on my list' with the rest of London.. one day. Particularly love Little Mans pasport K-UTE! Big thanks for linking up with us this week for #SundayTraveler again.

  3. You packed so much in! And as per usual, I love your pics! :)

  4. Amazing - you got to see a whole bunch of iconic places all in one day! Great photos!! Would love to visit sometime and I think the London Pass is the way to go!

  5. frankaboutcroatia07 April, 2014 10:07

    I've missed out on the Shakespeare's Globe Theater! Going onto my bucket list for the next time I am in London. Your photos are great!

  6. Thanks, Adelina! It was a VERY busy day, but totally worth it. =)

  7. The Abbey was fantastic- I just wish I could have taken some photos (but I understand why...) The passport was great! When he was starting to fade, we'd pull it out and used it after the bridge as a good distraction, too. =)

  8. I really recommend it - and if you're around for a longer stretch of time, I think you can do really well with the discounts. =)

  9. slightly astray09 April, 2014 21:21

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing this. I'm going to be in London in July and not really sure what to do with my 3 days that I'll be there. This is great!

  10. Great photos! We were in London last summer but decided not to get the pass. It looks like we missed out on some great things. We saw some of these from the outside but thanks for inspiring us to go beyond the gates next time.

  11. Ashley Hubbard11 April, 2014 18:24

    Ahhhh London - love this place! Love the photos so much :) Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

  12. Thanks! We really enjoyed doing them. Some we had each done during a visit as kids, but it was really fun to share them again together and with Little Man =)

  13. Thanks! London is definitely a favorite of mine =)

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