As mentioned in Welcome to London, we utilized the London Pass to save a couple hundred pounds on activities and transportation. We did our research prior to purchasing the pass to see whether the activities offered in the pass were those that we were interested in, and whether there would be a significant enough cost savings to justify the purchase. While not exactly inexpensive, the London Pass, like other city passes we have used on vacations past was indeed a money-saver. The other benefit was that we took advantage of other activities that were not originally on our itinerary.
We purchased the three day London Pass with the Oyster travelcard, as we were spending four days in London. This was sufficient for our needs, however I did make the mistake of picking up the passes once we arrived in the city. We were staying in Fulham, which was nine Tube stops from the redemption desk on Charing Cross. I should have foreseen needing the transportation cards prior to arriving in the city, and confess that this portion of the trip is where I failed to fully plan. This cost us about 30 GBP extra in transportation costs. Lesson learned.
The London Pass site has sample itineraries for different pass lengths. I recommend choosing those must-do activities and pencilling those in first, then using some of the other options to fill time if you have it. Another piece of advice given to us by a friend is to use the Hop On Hop Off tour that is included in the pass to get a feel for the city if it is your first time to London. We actually did this on our second full day, so it didn’t quite accomplish that, but it did take us though places within the City of London that we would not have otherwise visited, while also getting us to a planned destination. The kids also enjoyed the Thames River Cruise that was included in the pass. We picked up sandwiches and ate lunch aboard the boat, and enjoyed the tour while also using it as transportation. Our tour captain was hilarious, and it was a bright and beautiful day to be out and about.
Here are a few of the activities we used our passes for, not including the Tower of London. That will be my concluding post on our tour of Great Britain series.
The Churchill War Rooms
Also known as the Churchill Bunkers, this is the actual site under Westminster where the Allied war effort was coordinated by Winston Churchill and his Cabinet. Here we were able to see and imagine what life was like underground during the war as the Allies worked in secret to gain victory during World War II. We all engaged in the visit, from Mike, Jacob, and Emily who are history buffs, to the younger kids who haven’t learned about the Second World War yet in school, but have an appreciation for the war efforts across the Atlantic, and the impact that it continues to have today. It was amazing to experience this through an American lens. I studied the World War II and the events leading up to it, having written many an essay in high school and college, but to see the Transatlantic Telephone Room where Churchill phoned Roosevelt to coordinate and plan was something else.
Unfortunately, we were all so immersed in the experience that we didn’t take many good photos. I would strongly recommend a visit to the Churchill War Rooms. For us, it was a reminder of the fragility of our relative peace and the high cost of freedom. It also reminded me that it takes the effort of many nations to protect it.
Less than a quarter-mile from the Imperial War Museum is Westminster Abbey. Site of many a royal wedding- and yes, I walked the aisle trying to imagine what that would have been like to marry a prince- Westminster Abbey is more importantly still a place of worship, and has daily services. It is free to attend church, however it is 23 GBP for an adult ticket to visit. It is one of the many places included with the London Pass.
Westminster Abbey was another very interesting experience for us. There are no photos of our visit inside the Abbey, as photography is prohibited. The Abbey was founded in 960 AD, and has been the site of coronations since 1066. There are about 3300 people buried at the Abbey, some of great fame or historical significance, people who were monarchs and politicians, as well as scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and most recently Stephen Hawking. The kids thought it was rather funny that Queen Elizabeth I is buried on top of her half-sister Mary. There are also memorials to great leaders, regardless of country of origin. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and President Franklin D. Roosevelt are honored within the walls of Westminster Abbey. Perhaps the most touching tribute, though is on the west end of the Abbey’s Nave. Located here is the grave of the Unknown Warrior, a British soldier who gave his life in the Great War in France. The stone reads, “They buried him among the Kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house.” He may not be known to us, but may he never be forgotten.
Switching gears entirely here, one of the previously unplanned places we visited offers up the highest view of London’s evening lights. We went up 72 floors to the viewing galleries of The Shard. This modern multi-use space, consisting of office spaces, retail, and dining, opened in 2013, and is a popular attraction for its viewing galleries. It is pretty easy to get to, as it is right by the London Bridge Tube station. This is not an activity that we would have thought of apart from the London Pass, and indeed, Sami had a little panic as the elevator took us up at a rate of approximately 6 meters per second. I would say that it is a better date night spot for the view and the bar than it is a kid spot, though the older kids did enjoy taking photos for their social media.
Unfortunately there were a few activities that we had planned to use our London Passes for and just didn’t have the time to get to. The Royal Air Force Museum was on Jacob’s must-see list, and it was unfortunately further from the other places on our itineraries. We also didn’t get to Windsor Castle or Kensington Palace on this trip. We did make it to the Tower of London and viewed the Crown Jewels, and that will be the subject of the final post in my Great British Adventure series.
I’ll leave you with a photo from the London Transport Museum. The boys went while Emily and I were shopping in Covent Garden. This museum is geared toward younger kids, and is included in the London Pass. You can see however, that the boys, eighteen-year-old Jacob especially had a great time. Happy trails, and all aboard!
For more information on the London Pass:
Costco also sells a four-day London Pass at tme of writing, however this does not include the Oyster cards.
For more information on the places we visited, and source info: