How to Get Around London By Bus

How to Get Around London By Bus

Wai Kwan highlights some London bus routes that pass by key attractions as well as places off the beaten path. Taking each of these bus routes could very well become a day’s worth of itinerary!

The red London Bus is an undeniable icon of the British capital. With its extensive bus network consisting of more than 700 routes, it is very well utilised by locals and tourists alike. From major attractions to places off the beaten path, London’s buses have them all covered. If you wish to spend a day exploring Central London and beyond, hop on one of these bus routes to discover more!

Bus 9 – Aldwych to Hammersmith (Central & West London)

Clockwise from top left: Bus 9 through Central London (Image credit: Martin49), Somerset House, Royal Albert Hall, Trafalgar Square

Bus 9 is one of the most popular bus routes that serve many key places in Central London itself. It starts from Aldwych, a walking distance to places of interests such as Covent Garden and Somerset House, with the Thames being just a stone’s throw away. Passing by the all-time favourite hangout place of Trafalgar Square, it then calls at the royal landmark of St James’s Palace, with Buckingham Palace just around the corner. Skirting past Green Park, it arrives at the upscale retail district of Knightsbridge where Harrods is located. It then straddles along the southern perimeter of Hyde Park, stopping by Royal Albert Hall followed by Holland Park (for Design Museum) and Olympia exhibition hall. The bus then reaches the western transport hub of Hammersmith where it terminates. Take a walk down to the western part of the Thames and marvel at the design and engineering feat of Hammersmith Bridge.

Do you know? Bus N9, the night variant of the daytime service, extends much further west to Heathrow Airport. Running from late night through the wee hours every day, it is a useful and most budget option to catch a flight if you’re flying out early in the morning!

Bus 11 – Liverpool Street to Fulham Broadway (Central & West London)

Clockwise from top left: Bus 11 through Central London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Saatchi Gallery (Image credit: Jim Linwood)

It’s another highly recommended bus routes for tourists. From Liverpool Street area, it begins the journey through the City of London, the historic financial district. The looming St. Paul’s Cathedral would appear several blocks further down the street. Duplicating Bus 9 from Aldwych to Trafalgar Square, it then makes a left turn towards Westminster, home to the iconic Big Ben, Parliament House and Westminster Abbey. The bus then calls at the railway hub of Victoria before continuing past Slone Square where one could visit the Saatchi Gallery for contemporary art exhibits. Alight along the local thoroughfare of King’s Road famous for boutique shopping that stretches towards Fulham.

Bus 12 – Oxford Circus to Dulwich Library (Central & South London)

Clockwise from top left: Bus 12 passing by Westminster, Peckhamplex, Dulwich Village, Imperial War Museum, Regent Street

Beginning from the heart of London’s most famous shopping district, bus 12 cruises down the magnificent Regent Street, a visual delight especially during Christmas, when it is lit with festive displays. Turning past the busy Piccadilly Circus, it makes its way down towards the Big Ben via Trafalgar Square, before crossing the Thames over Westminster Bridge. Make a stop at Imperial War Museum to check out its comprehensive exhibits and learn about world affairs dating from World War One up till today. After that, sit through the bustling Camberwell Road before arriving at Peckham, now a hip area renowned for its ethnic diversity and thriving art scene. Check out the local Peckhamplex Cinema with cheap tickets of £4.99 all day. Or unwind at the Frank’s Cafe rooftop bar, best visited during sunset for that epic view.

If you wish to chill somewhere in London’s southern outskirts, head all the way down to the residential area of Dulwich where the bus terminates. Take a walk across Dulwich Park and you’ll end up in the quaint settlement of Dulwich Village, a respite from the hectic pace of Central London. If you’re into art, visit the Dulwich Picture Gallery and immerse yourself in the world of European paintings dating back several centuries.

Bus 14 – Warren Street to Putney Heath (Central & West London)

Clockwise from top left: Piccadilly Circus in the day, Natural History Museum, British Museum, Piccadilly Circus at in the evening

This is the perfect route if you wish to cover as many museums in a day. Start off from Euston by visiting Wellcome Collection which exhibits relating to science, medicine, life and art. Down the route, don’t miss out the “king” of all museums in this area, the British Museum. Museums get really aplenty in this area and it’s impossible to introduce them all here. You definitely need more than a day to explore of all them.

The route then goes past the ever lively Chinatown and Piccadilly Circus before cutting through the retail district of Knightsbridge. Soon after, it calls at South Kensington, another major museum destination (Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum). Next, discover the hidden gems in the upmarket neighbourhoods of Chelsea and Fulham before crossing the Thames into Putney. Take a walk along the less visited part of the river to enjoy the tranquillity.

Bus 15 – Blackwall to Trafalgar Square (East & Central London)

Clockwise from top left: AEC Routemaster on Bus 15 (Image credit: Paul Robertson), Canary Wharf, Monument to the Great Fire of London, Tower of London, National Gallery

Probably the most famous London bus route among tourists, it begins from the unassuming eastern terminus of Blackwall, in the vicinity of Canary Wharf that is part of the London Docklands inner-city redevelopment. Now a commercial centre alongside the City of London, it has a rich history that is well documented at the nearby Museum of London Docklands. Take a ride on the elevated Docklands Light Railway, which meanders through what was once the world’s largest port.

The bus then cruises down Commercial Road, once an arterial route linking that world’s largest port to the historic City of London. Making the important tourist stop right outside the Tower of London, it then continues past the Monument to the Great Fire of London before joining Bus 11 at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It then ends its service at Trafalgar Square, right in the heart of London. Alight here for the National Gallery.

Bonus: If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to catch the limited AEC Routemaster running on this route! Plying a shorter distance between Tower Hill and Trafalgar Square, it gives you that quintessentially London experience on a traditional London bus passing by numerous iconic landmarks!

Bus 24 – Pimlico to Hampstead Heath (Central & North London)

Clockwise from top left: Bus 24, Big Ben, Chinatown, Camden Town, view from Hampstead Heath

The route begins beside the north bank of the Thames before calling at Victoria. It then continues past Westminster and Trafalgar Square, followed by Leicester Square that is home to London’s Chinatown. Skirting the vibrant Soho district to the left and the museum district to the right (as mentioned with Bus 14), it then heads northward and enters Camden Town, a renowned hub for food, shopping, entertainment and alternative culture. If that isn’t your cup of tea, you could always head down for a leisurely walk along the quieter Regent’s Canal which will bring you to Regent’s Park, London Zoo and Primrose Hill. Or you can head all the way up to the northern terminus of Hampstead Heath, a giant, hilly parkland that gives you some of the best views of the capital.

Do you know? 24 is London’s oldest bus route that has been unchanged since 1912!

Bus 29 – Trafalgar Square to Wood Green (Central & North London)

Clockwise from top left: Bus 29, Camden Town, Emirates Stadium, view from Alexandra Palace on event day, Alexandra Palace (Image credit: neiljs)

Duplicating Bus 24 from its starting point to Camden Town, Bus 29 then makes its way northeast, passing by the vicinity of Emirates Stadium, home to Arsenal Football Club. For football fanatics, a stadium tour can be booked, and it also has an in-house museum documenting its proud history and achievements. If football isn’t your thing, head up all the way to Wood Green, the northern terminus. From there, it’s about half-an-hour walk up to Alexandra Palace, a recreational, entertainment and sports venue with one of the most panoramic views of Greater London. If you’re feeling lazy, you can always hop on Bus W3 and get off right there after a few stops.

Bus 35 – Shoreditch to Clapham Junction (Central & South London)

getting around london bus

Clockwise from top left: Beigel Bake along Brick Lane in Shoreditch, Leadenhall Market, The Shard, Borough Market, Brixton Market

The route starts from one of the most hip areas of London that prides itself with a vibrant street scene that incorporates art, entertainment, food and business. Don’t miss out the Brick Lane Market opening every Sunday to great fanfare for all people. The historic Old Spitalfields Market is also within the vicinity. Down the route nearby, check out the grand looking Leadenhall Market fitted with stunning interior designs reminiscent of the glorious Victorian era. Once you’re done, ride the bus southbound across London Bridge with The Shard, tallest building in the United Kingdom towering in front of you. But the most famous establishment in this area is the all-time favourite Borough Market, where you’d probably eat till you drop once again!

It’d be a better idea if you stroll along the south bank of the Thames after that feast, catching a glimpse of the world-famous Tower Bridge before jumping back on the bus. Sit through the streets of south London past Camberwell before hopping off at Brixton for a feast yet again! As an ethnically diverse neighbourhood, you could find almost every cuisine you could think of at the many food establishments within the Brixton Village and Market Row!

The bus continues on past the wooded street across Clapham Common, which is quite a sight when viewing from the top front seat. It would eventually find itself at Clapham Junction railway station, which is, in fact, the busiest in Europe by the number of trains using it!

Bus 148 – Camberwell Green to Shephard’s Bush (South & West London)

getting around london bus

Clockwise from top left: View towards Westminster from the bus on a rainy day, Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch, Kensington Palace in Hyde Park, Bayswater

Begin your journey in south London and witness the busy thoroughfare of Camberwell Road, and experience the real local vibe that you hardly get in central London. Alight for the Imperial War Museum after the southern transport hub of Elephant and Castle. Next up, enjoy the riverside view of the iconic Big Ben and Parliament House in sight as the bus crosses the Thames. Shortly after, the bus arrives at Victoria where you could get off for the Buckingham Palace and the surrounding Royal Parks. It then continues on along the eastern and northern perimeter of Hyde Park, passing by the mighty Marble Arch followed by the cosmopolitan area of Bayswater that is renowned for the variety of ethnic restaurants available. The journey then concludes at Shepherd’s Bush where you could indulge in retail therapy at Westfield London shopping centre or the local Shepherd’s Bush Market.

Bus 188 – Russell Square to North Greenwich (Central, South & South East London)

getting around london bus

Clockwise from top left: Southbank, Maltby Street Market (Image credit: Matt Brown), National Maritime Museum, view from Greenwich Park, O2 Arena and Emirates Air Line cable car

Set off from the prime district of research and academia, home to the prestigious University College London and British Museum. A short distance down the route will be the London School of Economics. Crossing the Waterloo Bridge, it will then enter the Southbank area that houses two performing arts venue, the National Theatre and Royal Festival Hall. Soak up the riverside vibe by taking a walk along the Thames, where there is a chance of encountering an outdoor book market and food market (open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays). The journey continues past Elephant and Castle and you’ll arrive in Bermondsey. Press the stop bell once you see the railway arches in front and follow alongside it to the picturesque Maltby Street Market (open Saturdays and Sundays), a hidden gem for foodies.

The bus then goes deeper into London’s South Eastern region and makes a stop at Greenwich, a historic and significant maritime town. Tour around the area and visit the National Maritime Museum to learn about its glorious past. Grab some bite at the Greenwich Market before taking a short hike up to the Royal Observatory at the top of Greenwich Park. Enjoy the scenic view of London’s skyline from there.

Visit the O2 Arena at the end of the route, the place for large-scale events and entertainment. For thrill seekers, climb up the dome-shaped roof for an exhilarating rooftop experience. Or take a breathtaking ride up the Emirates Air Line cable car for unparalleled views of the great capital.

Bus 388 – Elephant & Castle to Stratford City (South, Central & East London)

Clockwise from top left: Tate Modern, Barbican, Columbia Road Flower Market (Image credit: Upupa4me), Broadway Market, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Get off at the southern terminus of the Underground Bakerloo Line and begin your journey northwards towards the Thames. Alight at Blackfriars Bridge for Tate Modern, a modern art gallery that exhibits international and contemporary creations. Cross the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral where you have a choice to hop back on the bus or walk a little bit more to the Museum of London situated in the Barbican Estate, a mixed-use development well-known for its ground-breaking brutalist architecture. Head on to the hip destination of Shoreditch and you could also pop by the Colombia Road Flower Market (open Sundays only) within walking distance. Further up the route, alight for Broadway Market (open Saturdays only), a bustling local hub selling a wide variety of street food and fresh produce. Towards the end of the route, explore the vast recreational area of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a legacy of the 2012 London Olympics that helped in the urban regeneration of London’s East End.

About Author

Tang Wai Kwan
Tang Wai Kwan

Tang finds joy through immersing himself in a local environment, savouring street food and meeting new people. He finds transit maps fascinating and loves navigating through different modes of transportation. While on the streets, he's easily distracted by cats, and he often wonders if cats in different countries "meow" in different languages. When he's not travelling, he's often seen consulting maps and exploring creative ways of getting between places for his next adventure.


Related Posts