Old-Fashioned Fun: A Victorian Omnibus Tour of London

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London has almost as many different ways of sightseeing as there are sights to see in the city.  I’ve been on duck tours, walking tours, double decker bus tours, cycling tours – you name it.  The one thing that I had not done until last week was the Omnibus Tour.

A horse drawn Victorian omnibus tour of London

The Stanfords’ Omnibus

The Omnibus Tours are run by Stanfords, the travel maps and books store, in Covent Garden that I love.  When my friend Melanie from Sunny in London asked me to be her plus one on a complimentary Omnibus tour, of course, I agreed enthusiastically.  As far as I’m concerned, anything associated with Stanfords should be fabulous.

Omnibus London Tour
The unmistakable red, yellow and green omnibus

The restored Victorian Omnibus is by pulled three horses and technically can seat 18 people. I’m thinking Victorians were a lot smaller even with their poufy skirts because that seems like a tight fit to me.  Apparently people would hang off the sides and squeeze in where they could.  Clearly, health and safety was not much of a concern.

Omnibus London Tour
The horses drew many admirers.

The coachman and driver were in full Victorian regalia which, of course, meant they were immediately easy to spot even in the crowds of Covent Garden.  They told me the team of horses are imported from Belgium because Belgian horses make the best carriage horses.  When they are not navigating the streets of central London, the horses are stabled near Watford.

The Omnibus Tour of London

True to her name, the day of our tour was indeed gloriously sunny.  We took a late afternoon jaunt through the main tourist areas of London on the top deck.  Although the tour was an hour, the ride seemed a lot less.  We weaved our way through traffic at a surprisingly fast clip.

Omnibus London Tour
Stuck in London traffic but at least you are perched in a cool vehicle.

Of course, the tour starts in front of Stanfords in Covent Garden. The rest of the route takes you on a loop through Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, the Palace of Westminster, Pall Mall, Picadilly Circus and Soho as well.  There is a tour guide on board whose patter I thought was fairly basic.  Usually tour guides are chock full of trivia but I didn’t learn very much new.  I’m sure it’s fine for a first time visitor to London.

Omnibus London Tour
Shaftesbury Avenue
Omnibus London Tour
Eye level with the top deck of a double decker

Here’s a short video of what you can expect to see  – many of the clips are from the Omnibus Tour.

The Omnibus Tour Photo Gallery

Although I’ve seen these sights many times before, it’s still thrilling to see London as a tourist.  It’s all very grand and beautiful.

Omnibus London Tour
Pretend the Banana Republic isn’t there and you are in Victorian England
Omnibus London Tour
For more than map storage nowadays
Omnibus London Tour
Pretty and he knows it.

What’s the Verdict?

I had a very enjoyable time and I know my kids would love the Omnibus tour.  We have taken horse and carriage rides through many a European city (yes, we are those people).  I want to take the kids next time when the Christmas decorations lights are up in London.  It’ll be like stepping back in time riding an Omnibus through London’s historic streets.  What better way to start the Christmas season in London?

Omnibus London Tour

The Omnibus Tour can be booked through the Stanfords website or in the store itself.  The tour runs three times in the afternoon every Tuesday and Thursday. The tours started in the summer and will run through December.  A family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) costs £60.


This post is linked up with Wednesday Wanderlust and Travel Photo Thursda, The Weekly Postcard and Photo Friday on Pierced Wonderings.

My Brown Paper Packages
Travel Notes & Beyond
Pierced Wonderings

It’s also time for Wednesday Globetrot again!

Wednesday Globetrot



23 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Fun: A Victorian Omnibus Tour of London”

  1. I really can’t wait to go to London, Andrew is the only one whose been there and he’s always talking about how fantastic it is. This tour looks like just the kind of tour we’d love to take while we’re there. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Your post reminded me how beautiful London is. I want to go back so much and next time I do I’ll make sure to take a ride in the Victorian Omnibus. It looks charming!

  3. Shobha, I loved reading your review of the Omnibus Tour and really appreciate you coming with me. I totally agree about the guide response. It is definitely an activity to do just to have the experience of riding through the streets in a hourse-drawn carriage and not to learn more about London. I chuckled when I read your bit about 18 Victorians fitting on the vehicle. I felt like there wasn’t even enough room for the four of us on top! Cheers and hope to see you again soon!

  4. What a fun opportunity! I love that photo of the driver – you did an excellent job of capturing him! We’ve done several horse-drawn carriage tours, but nothing quite like that omnibus.

    Thank you for joining us for Photo Friday this past week! I hope you’ll be back 😉

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