The London Bicycle Tour Company's new Central London tour allows you to see the city's long list of attractions in two and a half hours. Whether you're travelling alone or in a group, a bike tour takes the hassle out of navigating among London's landmarks. An experienced guide will lead the way.
The tours run every day except Christmas and New Year's Day, starting at 10:30 a.m. You'll see London's famed attractions for less than 16 pounds ($24) and be done in time for lunch.
Meet your group and guide at Gabriel's Wharf on the south side of the Thames River. If you're early you can window shop in the stores nearby or indulge at the House of Crepes Cafe next door.
After you pick your bike and test its brakes, your guide leads you and a small group along the south side of the Thames. The spacious river way bustles with street performers, and the views along the river are lovely.
Make your first stop in front of one of the largest Ferris wheels in the world, the London Eye. You can see tourists line up for a ride, but your guide will tell you that you can get just as good a view without the steep price by climbing St. Paul's Cathedral.
Continuing along the river, you'll stop to hear the story of Big Ben -- the name refers to the bell and not the clock -- and the Houses of Parliament while taking a postcard picture from across the river.
Crossing over the Thames on Lambeth Bridge and through side streets into the courtyard of Westminster School, you can admire the belfry of Westminster Abbey.
Biking through the quiet side streets allows you to see the quaint red brick houses lined with flowered window boxes. Some houses have blue plaques, telling you the names of famous Britons who once lived there.
London by Bike: Parks, Palaces, and Markets
Through St. James Park you'll reach Buckingham Palace just in time to see the Changing of the Guard. There you'll learn the history of the palace and join the crowd of tourists taking pictures in front of its golden gates. To see if the Queen is there, look for her flag atop the palace.
If it's a nice day your guide may even give you the option of cycling through Hyde Park, where you can see memorial fountain dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales. Swans float in the ponds. Londoners enjoy the sun when it's out. Cycling through the picturesque parks connects the history and sights of London in ways beyond what any bus or boat tour could give.
Now you turn back to central London. You'll have to get off your bike and walk it down the busy steps of Trafalgar Square. If you look up you'll see Lord Nelson looking down on the square from his pedestal. Back on your bike, you ride through Leicester Square and China Town to the market and piazza of Covent Garden. See handmade gifts being sold and smell hot waffles or the famous "Ben's Cookies." Musicians perform on the cobblestone square.
On you go, through London's legal district and into Smithfield's Market, one of London's oldest meat markets, now transformed into one of the most modern in Europe. Then stop at St. Paul's Cathedral before heading back across the river and back to your starting point.
Starting in April you can top off your tour by stopping for a plate of Britain's traditional Fish and Chips.
"Only having a few days to stay in London, I don't see any other way for how I could have seen all that I did in those few hours," said a visiting U.S. student.
If you want to go a few extra miles, you can take the nine-mile East Tour, which includes Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London's disused docks, and the multicultural East End. Or take the nine-mile Royal West Tour, which includes the eccentric scene at Speakers Corner.
London by Bike: Seeing the City at the Perfect Pace
"Cycling allows you to go at a speed where you can appreciate your surroundings," said Robert Graham, director of London Bicycle Tours. "You can get up close to everything, can stop at, and get involved in sites."
To encourage tourists to go back to their favorite tour sites and explore more of London, the London Bicycle Company is encouraging customers to take their bikes after the tour with their "Bike Hire, Bike Tour Combo" special. For just one pound more, travellers can continue cycling for the day, with new knowledge of the city of London.