When it comes to exploring London, there are plenty of ways to get around. Bus tours, walking tours and even boat tours are all popular options, and one mode of transport that’s gaining tracton among tourists is cycling.
Cycling offers a variety of benefits for getting around the busy city. It’s faster than walking, meaning you can squeeze in more on a short visit and, depending on the traffic, it might be quicker than a bus ride too.
Bicycles also give you the chance to get off the beaten track and explore whenever you wish, and you can more easily get to places that don’t have a Tube stop or train station nearby.
If you’re planning a bicycle tour of London, here are our top tips:
Consider a guided tour
Several companies across the capital are now offering guided bicycle tours. For example, BrakeAway, based near Waterloo Station, provides a wide range of tours, covering locations like the City, Southbank and Westminster.
Bicycle tours usually comprise small groups led by guides who know the cycle routes around the city well, and who are also experts on the history and architecture of London. Options include family bike tours, foreign language bike tours and private bike tours.
Since London is a pretty flat city, you don’t need to be super-fit to take part in a cycling tour, and most of the tour companies map out the most leisurely routes so you can enjoy a comfortable pace.
The tours include the use of a bicycle and a helmet and, in most cases, you can use your own bike if you have it with you.
Tours run seven days a week, rain or shine, and ponchos can be provided in case there’s bad weather.
Do it yourself
A guided bicycle tour is certainly a great option if you don’t really want to plan a day of cycling around London. But you will be travelling around the city with a group of people you don’t know, and you won’t be able to go off in another direction if something piques your interest.
So, another option is to get hold of a bicycle, plan your own route and get pedalling.
There are several bike rental companies in London. Or you can opt to use the London cycle hire scheme. The latter can be a good way to save money, too, as short journeys under 30 minutes are free – and you just have to pay a daily access fee, which is only a couple of pounds.
Planning your route
Once you’ve got a bicycle, it’s time to plan your route – but where should you go?
Popular landmarks that you might want to visit include the Bank of England, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Mall.
There are many beautiful parks throughout the capital as well, and these can be a pleasure to cycle through – but be sure to keep an eye out for signs, as some of the parks don’t allow bicycles.
Transport for London (TFL) has also put together some suggested cycling routes through the city. These maps can be downloaded from TFL’s website, with options including Sporting Sights, London’s Secret Gardens, Quirky London, Independent Shops and Markets and Saturday Markets.
The streets of London can get very busy, and motorists aren’t always particularly careful of cyclists. So, always be alert during your bicycle tour, keep an eye out for pedestrians and if you’re from a country where they drive on the right side of the road, remember that it’s the opposite in the UK.
The good news is that there are plenty of dedicated cycle routes running through the capital. These provide cyclists with their own lane for increased safety, and if you plan your journey carefully, you can avoid the more hazardous areas.
Of course, you should also always wear a helmet, and use a high-visibility jacket to help drivers see you more easily.
Choose some great accommodation
After a long day of pedalling around this big, beautiful, busy city, you’ll probably want nothing more than a long, hot soak in a tub and a comfortable bed to lay down on.
Here at the Park Grand London Kensington, we offer both, as well as stylish decor, friendly staff and a fabulous hotel restaurant that serves delicious meals throughout the day.
Located in the heart of Kensington – just a two-minute walk from Earl’s Court underground station – our hotel is ideally located for those who want to explore the capital, and rooms are equipped with a variety of home comforts such as flat-screen TVs, kettles and free Wi-Fi.