It’s been a while since I’ve explored London like a tourist. I’ve been living in this city on and off for eight years and sometimes I forget to take time and actually explore both the old and new attractions. That’s where City Wonders have come in. They’ve given me and Dan the opportunity to explore London with them and I can’t wait to share what we got up to. So here’s a little more about the company and how we spent our time exploring London with City Wonders.
Who Are City Wonders?
In case you haven’t heard of them before City Wonders is a tour operator across Europe. They began way back in 2004 in Rome and since then have grown into a business that now offers 150 tours, across 9 major European cities. Are you wondering which European cities City Wonders operate in? They offer tours in the Vatican, Rome, Pompeii & Almalfi, Venice, Paris, Florence, Milan, Barcelona and London.
But what makes City Wonders different? A few things actually. When you buy a tour with them you’re given early access to attractions. And when they say early access, they mean it. No waiting around in queues, you can just walk up with your tour group and away you go. Groups are always small in number and tour guides are always passionate and knowledgeable about the city they’re working in, which really shines through during their tours.
What London Tours Do City Wonders Run?
There are 17 tours that City Wonders currently offer for London. Visit Buckingham Palace, enjoy one of their Royal London tours or discover the Tower of London with a private audience with an authentic Beefeater Guard. And for those of you wishing to get a behind the scenes look at the Houses of Parliament, there’s even a tour for that too. History buffs will love the WW11 Westminster secrets tour, which includes a visit to Churchill’s War Rooms and Museum. And foodies you’re covered too! There are afternoon tea experiences for you to enjoy too.
My favourite of the London based tours has got to be the Making of Harry Potter, Warner Bros Studio Tour. If you’ve not been I would highly recommend you go. Having your transport covered in this City Wonders tour is also super helpful as getting to Watford Junction from central London can be a bit of a faff if you’re not sure which way to go. Highlights from this tour include the Great Hall, Hagrid’s Hut and the Hogwarts Express. Events run throughout the year so do time your visit around special occasions if you want to witness something even more special. From September until the start of November delve into the world of the Dark Arts. Or why not wait until mid-November when Hogwarts is transformed for its spectacular Hogwarts in the Snow event.
Do City Wonders Run Tours From London?
As well as their London tours within London, City Wonders also offer day tours departing from the city too. These include a Stonehenge, Windsor and Bath in one day tour and a guided day trip of Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor Castle. As well as a semi-private express tour of Windsor from London by train. Like the London city tours, these are a quick way of seeing some famous sites, especially if you are short of time.
Exploring London with City Wonders
Let’s start with the first of City Wonders tours, which was the Buckingham Palace tour with Changing of the Guards. If you’re looking to get a view of this historic ceremony then this tour is a great way to do so. Our tour guide took us to all the best spots to catch each element of the Changing of the Guard. So instead of being crammed against the gates of Buckingham Palace unable to see, we got front row spots with excellent views and photo opportunities.
After we’d learnt more about the Royal Family and the ceremony we headed to Buckingham Palace where the State Rooms portion of the tour began. From that moment on we were left by our guide and were able to spend as much or as little time exploring the palace. With the help of our included audio guide we moved through the White Drawing Room, the Throne Room, Picture Gallery and more, whilst learning more about the life of Queen Victoria (which was this year’s choice of exhibition). But if you want to tour Buckingham Palace, you can do so, but you’ll have to wait until next summer, as the State Rooms are only open for 10 weeks during the summer months (as well as some select dates during winter too).
Next up is City Wonders’ Tower of London tours. There are a few options to choose from, but we went on the Best of Royal London tour which includes the Tower of London and Changing of the Guard. We met the Chief Yeoman Warder at the gates of the Tower where we proceeded to Traitors Gate in time for the Opening Ceremony. This takes place every morning and once the outer gates of the tower are unlocked the public are allowed in. This tour gave us exclusive access to this ceremony and our group was the first visitors of the day to visit the Crown Jewels, which get extremely busy throughout the day. We also spent some time in the White Tower admiring all the beautiful suits of armour worn by previous monarchs (including Henry VIII), as well as learning more about being imprisoned at the tower. We saw where prisoners such as Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey were held before their executions, as well as a simple statue to commemorate their passing. The rest of the tour continued with a ride on the Thames Clipper to Embankment, where you disembark and head towards Buckingham Palace to watch the iconic Changing of the Guard.
What Other Tours Do City Wonders Run?
If you’re not planning on exploring London anytime soon, why not check out the other tours that City Wonders are offering around Europe. With over 150 tours there are just too many to list here. But rest assured City Wonders have a whole range of cultural and informative tours within each destination. As well as a diverse tour offering City Wonders is award-winning too. This year their Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s Basilica tour has been voted the number one experience globally by Trip Advisor! You’ll find wine tasting, vineyard and regional food tours available on their site. As well as tours of iconic landmarks, including the Palace of Versailles, Pompeii, Eiffel Tower and the Sagrada Familia. Experience something different on a night tour and gondola ride in Venice or head underground to the Paris Catacombs for another view of the city.
Have you ever been on a tour of London? How did you find it? And where did you go? I’d love to hear about your London tour stories below. And if you’ve not yet been on a tour with City Wonders you can book online with them here.
Until next time.
*NB* The Buckingham Palace & Changing of the Guards tour and the Best of Royal London tour were both gifted to me by City Wonders for the purpose of this blog post. But please note that all views of the tour and experience are my own.