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Best Tours of London:  City Wonders

Best Tours of London: City Wonders

EUROPE, LONDON, SITES TO SEE, TOURS

What better way to see the sites than on a guided tour?  On our way through London, I thought it would be best to view some historic landmarks of London in the little time we had in town.  I studied a few of the sightseeing tours that were being offered and ran across City Wonders tours, which offered tours around London. The one that caught my attention was Best of Royal London Tour, so we signed up!

We started out early in the morning and met with our City Wonders tour guide, Augusta, just outside the Tower of London at 8:15 a.m.  Though we arrived a little late, she met us enthusiastically and warmly welcomed us to the group. It was good size group of 20 of us. We waited a few minutes and started walking towards the gates of the Tower of London, our first stop.

 

Walking towards Tower of London
Walking towards Tower of London

Tower of London

Once at the outer gates, our group was ushered through the main entrance by a Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace, often called Beefeaters (because part of their salary was paid with chunks of beef back in the day).  We walked down towards Traitor’s Gate and the Bloody Tower, where we were asked to stand behind a line on the floor and wait.  He kept us entertained with his stories and explained to us the history and tradition of the “Opening Ceremony” of the Tower of London and how the ceremony would unfold.

 

Entrance to the Tower of London
Entrance to the Tower of London
St. Thomas infamous river entrance to the Tower of London known as Traitors' Gate
St. Thomas infamous river entrance to the Tower of London known as Traitors’ Gate
Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace, Tower of London
Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace, Tower of London
Tower of London - members of the duty regiment Foot Guards
Tower of London – members of the duty regiment Foot Guards

 

We were asked to be quiet and to put away all our camera equipment including our phones (No pictures allowed) doing the ceremony.  At precisely 9.00 a.m. the “Opening Ceremony” began. Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower comes out of the Byward Tower, dressed in red, carrying in one hand the Queen’s Keys and walks to Trailor’s Gate to meet members of the duty regiment Foot Guards.  They walked in step and escorted him throughout the ceremory to the outer gate, which is then unlocked. The military escort walked back down to the main gates of the Tower and then halted by the sentry, who challenged them to identify themselves (all part of the ceremony). It was quite an experience to hear those boots marching smartly on the pavement with all of us silently watching.

 

Chief Yeoman Warder dressed in red, carrying in one hand the Queen’s Keys in the Opening Ceremony of the Keys
Chief Yeoman Warder dressed in red, carrying in one hand the Queen’s Keys in the Opening Ceremony of the Keys
Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower carrying in one hand the Queen’s Keys, walking with members of the duty regiment Foot Guards.
Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower carrying in one hand the Queen’s Keys, walking with members of the duty regiment Foot Guards.

 

The tradition of opening of the Tower of London and has taken place every day, without fail, for at least 20 years and takes place again in the evening in the gate-closing ritual. The importance of securing this fortress every day is still very relevant because, although the Monarch no longer resides at this royal palace, the Crown Jewels and many other valuables still do!

After the ceremony, we had about an hour to roam around the property.  We rushed in to see the crown jewels first, which are on display under heavy glass and on a moving walking path.   When one of the crowns is being used by the queen, the case is empty with a note (in use).

 

The Jewel House at the Tower of London
The Jewel House at the Tower of London
Foot Guard stations and armory in front of the Jewel House, Tower of London
Foot Guard stations and armory in front of the Jewel House, Tower of London
Entrance to Jewel House, Tower of London
Entrance to Jewel House, Tower of London
A picture of Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation on Jun 02, 1953 wearing the crown jewels
A picture of Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation on Jun 02, 1953 wearing the crown jewels
The Crown Jewels ~ (photo credit: Joseph Echeverria via Flickr)
The Crown Jewels ~ (photo credit: Joseph Echeverria via Flickr)
A view from inside the grounds of Tower of London
A view from inside the grounds of Tower of London
White Tower - At the heart of the Tower of London is the oldest part of the Tower, built to strike fear and submission into the unruly citizens of London
White Tower – At the heart of the Tower of London is the oldest part of the Tower, built to strike fear and submission into the unruly citizens of London
Courtyard of Tower of London
Courtyard of Tower of London
Royal Armouries Dragon was constructed using objects and materials that represent ten institutions which were housed in the Tower
Royal Armouries Dragon was constructed using objects and materials that represent ten institutions which were housed in the Tower
Royal Armouries museum displaying different types of armor
Royal Armouries museum displaying different types of armor

 

In the museum, there are several displays of different types of armor and the busts of the kind of horses they rode, including a small set worn by the Boy King, Edward. There is an entire room dedicated solely to weapons, including some interactive sets where you can attempt to pull back different draw-strings or lift heavy swords. The Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After touring the grounds of the Tower of London, we all gathered at the front entrance and were given headsets.

 

Just outside the Tower of London with the Tower Bridge behind me.
Just outside the Tower of London with the Tower Bridge behind me.

 

Thames Clipper River Shuttle 

We walked over to the Thames Clipper stop (Tower Millennium Pier) by the Tower of London and waited a few minutes until our boat arrived.  Even though it was a fairly warm day for London, I had on a jacket which kept me warm waiting along the river.  The Thames Clippers is a river bus service on the River Thames in London. It operates commuter services between eastern and central London and is certainly a great way to rest from a little sightseeing.  Our tour guide handed our tickets to the agent and we all boarded the Thames Clippers.  The ride along the River Thames was short, but it gave a chance to relax our feet (and use the bathroom!) while enjoying the sights along the way until we reached our stop at Embankment where we disembarked. Throughout the ride, Augusta excitedly told us all the nicknames for different well-known buildings as we passed them and educated us about the history behind the different isles of London.

 

Thames Clipper stop (Tower Millennium Pier) by the Tower of London
Thames Clipper stop (Tower Millennium Pier) by the Tower of London
Inside the Thames Clipper river bus with comfortable seating
Inside the Thames Clipper river bus with comfortable seating
London Thames Clipper River Bus Services on River Thames (photo credit VisitLondon)
London Thames Clipper River Bus Services on River Thames (photo credit VisitLondon)

 

 Horse Guards at St. James’s Palace

We walked for ten minutes until we reached the entrance to St. James Palace in Whitehall just in time for the 11:00 a.m. Changing of the Guard ceremony.  The entrance is still guarded by mounted sentries from the Queens Household Cavalry.  Augusta our guide knew the exact spot for us to stand to watch the Changing of the Guard without it being crowded.  Changing the Guard takes place here every morning at 11:00 a.m. (Monday to Saturday) and 10 a.m. on Sundays and the ceremony last for 30 minutes.

 

 Horse Guards at St. James's Palace
Horse Guards at St. James’s Palace
 Horse Guards Ceremony, changing of the guard at St. James's Palace
Horse Guards Ceremony, changing of the guard at St. James’s Palace
 Horse Guards Ceremony, changing of the guard at St. James's Palace
Horse Guards Ceremony, changing of the guard at St. James’s Palace

Buckingham Palace

From here it’s a short walk through St James Park to Buckingham Palace, our final stop. While we relaxed outside, we heard about the few break-ins that have occurred, including one that got so far that the intruder ran into the Queen! We learned so much during this tour, including lots of quips that were unexpected and made us feel like we had intimate knowledge on the city.

 

St James's Park looking up The Mall to Buckingham Palace
St James’s Park looking up The Mall to Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace in the background, London
Buckingham Palace in the background, London
Buckingham Palace Gate London England
Buckingham Palace Gate London England
St James Park, London
St James Park, London

Tour Information:

Start Time:              8:30 a.m.
Duration:                 4 hours
Meeting Point:        Front of Ticket Office at Tower of London
Operating Days:     Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat
Tickets Price:         $106. 20 (Adult), 98.51 (child)
Tickets includes:    Entrance to Tower of London,  Thames Clipper Fare,  Audio Headsets
Arriving By Tube:   Get off Tower Hill Station (Circle and District Lines), turn right upon exit and    cross the street.  It’s a short walk (approx.  3 mins)

Make sure to wear comfortable shoes because the tour involves a reasonable amount of walking.

Our tour guide Augusta from City Wonders was fantastic, very charming and knowledgeable.  She led us through making sure that we got to see all the highlights before they got crowded and give us real insights into each site we visited.  City Wonders really offers the best tours of London.

Disclaimer: We were invited by City Wonders to experience their tour in London.  I was not paid by them to write this.

 

About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder and Senior Editor of Carmen's Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Our travels allows her the opportunity to pursuit her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.

6 Comments

  1. Suze The Luxury Columnist
    July 10, 2015 at 4:13 am
    Reply

    I’m impressed at how much you fitted in Carmen! I’ve been to the evening Ceremony of the Keys, it’s fascinating seeing such an old ceremony being reenacted.

    It was so nice to meet you, have a great weekend.

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    • Carmen
      July 10, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      It was my daughters first time in London and I wanted to make sure she saw some of the sites before we left. Enjoy you weekend too!

  2. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    July 11, 2015 at 6:08 pm
    Reply

    I love seeing blog posts about tours on my own home town here in London as it always serves to remind me why I love London so much as it’s easy to end up taking it for granted! Funnily enough, I haven’t been to see the Crown Jewels since I was a child and would love to return and see them again now with a better understanding of the history. You’ve taken some really lovely pics ☺

    • Carmen
      July 12, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      I love visiting London, and walking around the city. It had been years since I visited the Tower of London and saw the Crown Jewels myself. I remember how crowded it was and felt rushed last time I went. The tour with City Wonders was great because we got there early before it was open to the public. Our guide was wonderful and very knowledgeable.

  3. Zoe Love and Limoncello
    July 12, 2015 at 3:21 am
    Reply

    Wow! Doesn’t london look stunning! Everytime I see a blog post on london makes me think should appreciate what I have here even more!

    • Carmen
      July 13, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      London is a fabulous city and if you need to escape you have the country side which is spectacular too.

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