London National Gallery

London in March | 10 Things to DO

Posted by & filed under London.

Are you wondering what March is London, how the weather will be in London and what to do?  Weatherwise, March can be a mixed bag in London.  Although technically the beginning of Spring, it’s still a bit  of a chilly month. Average highs are about 11 C. (52F) with lows averaging around 4C (39F). It’s oftentimes a wet month, with rain falling for about 1/3rd of the month on average. Lots of clouds mean sunshine is limited and you can expect to see the sun for around 3 hours a day – make sure to get outside when the sun is out!

Wear layers and pack a waterproof jacket, if you’ve got one. You’ll likely not need shorts or skirts and it’s a good idea to pack a couple jumpers/sweaters with you, too!

Things to do in March in London

The Head of the River Race : While not quite as famous as the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, the Head of the River Race follows the same route and is free to watch. Crews from all over the world will be completing a 4.25mile journey from Mortlake to Putney. A number of pubs line the river along the route, so grab a drink, and enjoy!

St. Patrick’s Day: Celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day include a parade, followed by a party in Trafalgar Square. The parade route runs through central London, beginning along Piccadilly at 12:00noon on Sunday, 15th March and will finish in Whitehall. Meanwhile, in Trafalgar Square the festivities will be in full flow: a celebration of Irish food, music, clothing, and dancing will be taking place. Many pubs throughout town will be commemorating St. Patricks’ Day, as well, so it’ll be easy to join in the festive fun, no matter which part of town you’re in! London’s City Hall has all the info you need here. Read more »

Oxford self-guided tour

Self-Guided Oxford Tour

Posted by & filed under London.

For those who want to explore Oxford on foot and would like to tread the streets on their own, we’ve put together a self-guided tour of the city that will take you through the historic halls of the universities, past world-class museums and gardens and gives you multiple opportunities to climb towers and spires and take in wonderful views of Oxford. Oh, and don’t forget a visit to a filming location and the inspiration for the Great Hall in Harry Potter!

The length of the tour depends on which places you wish to enter and visit. If walking straight through, the tour would take around two hours, but if you wish to visit some of the museums, enter some of the historic locations, and maybe stop for a drink and a bite to eat in the covered market, this walk could easily last you an entire day. Check out our other blogs on Visiting Oxford and Reasons to visit Oxford as well.

Click for movable map.

Self-guided Oxford tour

START: Carfax Tower

FINISH: Oxford Castle

 

Oxford Carfax tower Carfax Tower (A)

Start your tour at the Carfax Tower, the last remaining part of the 12th century St. Martin’s Church. Standing at 74 feet (23m), no building in Oxford may be built higher than this tower. It’s a good idea to go inside and climb up the 99 steps to the top which gives you an unparalleled view of the city you’re about to explore. For those traveling on a budget, don’t worry, as entry is under £5.00 for both children and adults!

Walk up CORNMARKET STREET and after a few minutes you will come to St. Michael at the North Gate on your RIGHT HAND side.

St. Michael at the North Gate (B)

This is the oldest building in all of Oxford, dating back to the 11th century. The tower here dates from 1040 and is part of the original church, which can be visited. Inside, the cell where the Oxford Martyrs were held is still available to see. The marriage certificate of William Morris and Jane Burden, who were married here in 1859, is also on display inside.

Continue down CORNMARKET STREET which turns into MAGDALEN STREET. Ahead on the RIGHT HAND SIDE will be the Martyr’s Memorial.

Martyrs’ Memorial (C)

The Memorial here is a Victorian creation, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, commemorating the Oxford Martyrs who were put to death nearby in the 16th century. Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were burned at the stake for their Anglican religious beliefs in 1555 and this memorial is dedicated to their memory.

Across the street from the Martyrs Memorial sits the grand entrance to the Ashmolean Museum.

 

Oxford Ashmolean Museum Ashmolean Museum (D)

The world’s first University museum, the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology was established in 1683 and has been thrilling visitors ever since.

There is much to see inside and highlights include drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, paintings by Turner, a Stradivari violin, works by Picasso and van Dyk, Oliver Cromwell’s death mask, the lantern Guy Fawkes carried during the Gunpowder Plot, and works of art and architecture dating back literally thousands of years!

The Museum takes a good chunk of time to visit so it’s up to you to decide whether a visit to the museum will fit into your walking tour or if you’d prefer to carry directly on.

MAGDALEN STREET here turns into ST GILES. Follow ST GILES past the Museum and eventually on the LEFT HAND SIDE will appear The Eagle & Child.

 

The Eagle and Child (E)

Standing here since at least the mid 1600’s, The Eagle and Child is affectionately known in town as the Bird and Baby or the Fowl and Foetus and is one of the best loved pubs in Oxford because of its history and literary connections. The pub was the meeting point of The Inklings (a writing group that included Hugo Dyson, Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien) met on Thursday evenings at Lewis’s college dormitories but soon began meeting on Mondays and Tuesdays for lunch at The Eagle and Child.

Turn back down ST. GILES STREET. Take the fork on the LEFT for MAGDALEN STREET EASY which will take you past Balliol College on the LEFT HAND SIDE. Then turn LEFT onto BROAD STREET which takes you past Trinity College on the LEFT before taking you to Blackwell’s Book Shop.

 

Balliol/Trinity College (F)

Balliol College, founded in 1263, counts three prime ministers, five Noel laureates and two Indian cricked captains as alumni.

Trinity College, founded in 1555, counts three prime ministers, a King of Belgium, numerous politicians and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton as alumni.

 

Blackwells (G)

Blackwells boasts the largest single room devoted to book sales in Europe: the Norrington Room. With 10,000 sq. ft. and over 3 miles of shelving, Blackwell’s is an Oxford institution and has been selling books to Oxford students and literati such as J. R. R. Tolkien since its construction on New Year’s Day in 1879.

With Blackwell’s on your LEFT, the building on your RIGHT is The Sheldonian Theatre.

 

Oxford Sheldonian Theatre Sheldonian Theatre (H)

Designed by noted architect Christopher Wren, the Sheldonian Theatre was built in 1668 with the sole intention of hosting graduation ceremonies. Today, the theatre is used for music recitals, conferences, ceremonies and performances. The top of the building houses a viewing gallery set into an eight-sided cupola, which is open to visitors.

With the Sheldonian Theatre on your RIGHT, continue up BROAD STREET for a few minutes until you come to the Clarendon Building on your RIGHT.

 

Clarendon Building (I)

Designed by Christopher Wren’s pupil, Nicholas Hawksmoor, The Clarendon Building was completed in 1715. Originally it was home to the Oxford University Press and was funded by Edward Hyde, the 1st Earl of Clarendon. Today it is part of the Boldeian, the main research library of Oxford University.

Continue up BROAD STREET until it ends then turn RIGHT onto CATTLE STREET. Take the first LEFT onto NEW COLLEGE LANE until you get to the bridge spanning the road.

 

Bridge of Sighs (J)

Technically named The Hertford Bridge, The Bridge of Sighs gained this nickname due to its similarity to the famous Bridge of Sighs in Vienna. Far more recently constructed than much of Oxford, the Bridge of Sigh was completed in 1914 and designed by architect Sir Thomas Jackson in order to connect two sections of Hertford College.

Just after The Bridge of Sighs take the first LEFT onto the small ST. HELEN’S PASSAGE. Follow the path along as it curves and it will lead you to The Turf Tavern.

 

Oxford Turf Tavern The Turf Tavern (K)

Known mostly as “The Turf”, The Turf Tavern is a popular historic haunt in Oxford. With foundation doing back to the 13th century and the bar area from the 17th, the pub is bordered on one side by the remaining section of the old city wall, as the pub was strategically built just outside the city wall in order to host illegal activities such as gambling! The Turf has also hosted two events in popular culture…

  1. It was here that Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke set a Guinness World Record for consuming a yard-long glass of ale in 11 seconds.
  2. Rumour has it that it was at The Turf that American president Bill Clinton (who was attending Oxford) infamously smoked marijuana but “did not inhale.”

Come back out onto St. Helen’s Passage back to New College Lane and turn LEFT. The path will take you past New College as it turns into Queen’s Lane. Follow Queen’s Lane, passing St. Edmund’s Hall on the LEFT before taking a RIGHT onto the High Street, taking you past Queens College on the RIGHT. Walk until you get to St. Mary the Virgin on your RIGHT.

 

New College (L)

Founded in 1379, New College counts Virginia Woolf, Hugh Grant and Dennis Potter as alumni.

 

St. Edmund Hall (M)

Founded in 1278 and containing the last surviving medieval hall at the University of Oxford, St. Edmund Hall counts two MPs; Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times; Journalist Samir Ahmed; and Olympic fencer Allan Jay as alumni.

Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin University Church of St. Mary the Virgin (N)

Built in the 13th century, but with foundations going back to 1086, St. Mary the Virgin is said to be the first church of Oxford University. The Tower can be climbed by the public and the 124 steps to the top reward guests with fine views around Oxford, including a stunning panorama including the famous view of Radcliffe Camera.

While facing St. Mary the Virgin, take the path to the RIGHT of the building, Catte Street. All Soul’s College will be on your RIGHT and take either the first or the second path on your LEFT around the Radcliffe Camera.

All Souls College (O)

Founded in 1438, All Souls College counts Christopher Wren, T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), and George Nathaniel Curzon as alumni.

 

Radcliffe Camera (P)

One of the most recognisable buildings in Oxford the circular dome and round structure if Radcliffe Camera is world-famous. Built in 1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library, the structure is now a reading room for the Bodlean Library. Funding from the structure was provided by the estate of Dr. John Radcliffe who left a fortune to Oxford University in his will. Although not open to the public (unless taking a guided tour) the Radcliffe Camera has a place in popular culture: J. R. R. Tolkien claimed that the building resembled Sauron’ Tower; it is mentioned in His Dark Materials; has been seen in Inspector Morse; and is the location of important scenes in Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

Go back down Catte Street and turn RIGHT onto High Street before making a LEFT onto Magpie Lane. Then turn LEFT onto Merton Street which takes you past Merton College. Follow on until you return to High Street and make a RIGHT, passing Magdalen College on your LEFT. The Botanic Gardens are located on your RIGHT.

 

Merton College (Q)

Founded in 1264, Merton Collee counts J. R. R. Tolkein; T. S. Eliot; the heir to the Japanese Throne, Crown Prince Naurhito and Kris Kristofferson as alumni.

 

Magdalen College (R)

Founded in 1458, Magdalen College counts Oscar Wilde, C. S. Lewis, Dudly Moore, T. E. Lawrence, Sir John Betjeman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and King Edward VII as alumni.

 

Oxford Botanical Gardens Botanical Gardens (S)

Started in 1621, and spanning 4.5 acres (1.8 hectares), this is the oldest botanic gardens in Britain. The Botanic Gardens were previously dedicated to the study of medicinal plants and today houses examples from over 90% of the higher plant families. It is believed that the gardens were the inspiration for the gardens where Alice in Wonderland encounters the Queen of Hearts’ servants painting the roses red!

When facing the Botanical Gardens, turn back on yourself RIGHT down High Street then take the first LEFT onto Rose Lane. Rose Lane will split and take a LEFT onto Christ Church Meadow Walk along the park. Walk until you come to Broad Walk on the RIGHT and take this path. The Broadwalk will dead end on St. Aldate’s and here take a RIGHT. Walk up, passing Christ Church College on the RIGHT and continue until you reach the Museum of Oxford on your RIGHT.

 

Christ Church (T)

Founded in 1522 and soon taken over by King Henry VIII, Christ Church counts Lewis Carroll, Albert Einstein, John Locke and William Penn as alumni. It’s also worth noting that The Great Hall at the college was used for filming scenes in Harry Potter!

 

Museum of Oxford (U)

The Museum of Oxford displays original treasures and artifacts found in the area from the prehistoric times. A relatively recent organisation, the Museum of Oxford was founded in 1975 (although the building here dates back to 1897) and the exhibitions here contain items donated by Oxford Colleges and contains a medieval crypt.

Keep the Museum of Oxford on the RIGHT and continue up St. Aldate’s until it turns into High Street. Follow it to the RIGHT and you will come to the Covered Market on your LEFT.

 

The Original Ben’s Cookies/Covered Market (V)

Officially opened on 1st November 1774, the Covered Market began when it was decided to clear the, “untidy, messy and unsavoury stalls” from the main streets of Oxford. Architect John Gwynn designed the covered market which today is home to dozens obtruding stalls, including greengrocers, butchers (who sell famous Oxford sausages), flower shops, sandwich stalls and bakeries.

Notably it is also home to the original Ben’s Cookies stall, located here since 1984 guests can still buy delicious, fresh baked world-famous cookies.

Get back onto High Street after visiting the Covered Market. With the Market BEHNID you, turn RIGHT. High Street will turn into Queen Street as you walk straight ahead, passing the Carfax Tower where you began. Continue straight until Queen Street turns into Bonn Square which turns into New Road. Keep going straight ahead until the Oxford Castle appears on your LEFT.

 

Oxford castleOxford Castle (W)

Dating back 1,000 years and doubling as both a home and a prison, Oxford Castle now has a new life as a hotel. The original castle was damaged severely in the English Civil War but still operated as a prison until 1996 before being transformed into a historic place to stay. The ruins of the original tower, such as the base of St George’s Tower, still stands and the crypt is preserved and may be visited. The grassy motte outside of the Castle dates from the 11th century, as does the crypt, and both are worth a visit.

It is here your walk finishes.

 

Oxford reasons to visit

Why visit Oxford? 12 reasons to go

Posted by & filed under London.

An easy day trip from London, Oxford has been attracting scholars and tourists alike for the centuries. So if you want to walk the hallowed halls of the older university in the English speaking world, take a relaxing boat ride along a beautiful countryside stretch of the river Thames, or just enjoy the sights – this list will give you our top reasons of why to visit Oxford and give you tips of things to do in Oxford.

Also check our self-guided Oxford tour and our page on Visting Oxford.

1.You Can Sail Down the Isis

Tracing the River Thames to its’ origins in the West Country of England will take you straight through the centre of Oxford. However, once the Thames comes into the boundaries of Oxford, its’ name changes to The Isis. A classic way to enjoy the Isis is to travel its’ length through town, in either a row boat, a pedal or the absolutely classic favourite; a punt. Check out this website for some more details on hiring your boat.

2. It’s Full of Ghosts

With the amount of history here in Oxford, it’s not surprising that it has a reputation as one of the most haunted cities in the United Kingdom! To explore the ghostly side of Oxford, considering joining a walking tour like the ones run by renowned ghostly-guide Bill Spectre.

Oxford University3. The Architecture is Unparalleled

The modern day streets of Oxford run along the original Saxon design, which means waking the streets of Oxford is like walking through history. The architecture today dates from medieval times and has given the city the nickname of ‘Dreaming Spires,’ for the delicate stone carvings that rise up into the air. Beautiful stone carvings, elegant domes, and charming stained glass all come together to make Oxford one of the most architecturally impressive cities in the world.

4. The Museums!

No matter where your interests lie, there is a museum in Oxford for you! From the world-famous Ashmolean Museum (art, architecture and antiques) to the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Natural History to the Museum of the History of Science – they are all here for your enjoyment.

5. The Famous Covered Market is Home to the Original Ben’s Cookies

Founded in 1774, Oxford’s Covered Market boasts dozens upon dozens of stalls and traders, including traditional market stalls like greengrocers and butchers, down to fresh flowers, bakeries and gift shops. But for us, the best stall is that of Ben’s Cookies – opened in 1984 and now trading throughout the country, fresh, warm delicious cookies an still be bought here today.

Oxford castle 6. You can Stay in a Real Castle

Dating back 1,000 years and doubling as both a home and a prison, Oxford Castle now has a new hotel! The original castle was damaged severely in the English Civil War but still operated as a prison until 1996 before being transformed into a historic place to stay. The ruins of the original tower, such as the base of St George’s Tower, still stands and the crypt is preserved and may be visited.

7. There’s an Open-Air Theatre 

Run by the Oxford Shakespeare Company, there is an open air theatre in Oxford showcasing some of the Bard’s best work throughout the summer months. Check out their website to see what’s on during your visit.

8. You Can Support Students by Drinking 

Owned by St John’s College, the Lamb & Flag on St. Giles’ Street sends profits to needy students at St. John’s University. As well as putting profits to good use, the Lamb & Flag is also the location where Thomas Hardy wrote Jude the Obscure and featured in Inspector Morse as well as getting a mention in P.D. James’s book The Children of Men.

Oxford Ultimate Picture Palace s9. There’s an Ultimate Picture Palace

Now a grade II listed building, the Ultimate Picture Palace was opened in 1911 as Oxford’s first purpose built cinema. today it’s truly beautiful Art Deco auditorium holds 116 seats for their single screen, showcasing films from Hollywood’s past and present. Check out the website to see what’s on during your visit.

10. You Can Climb a Medieval Tower

The Carfax Tower in Oxford is the remains of a 12th century church, and stretches 23m (74ft) into the air. A law is in place that states no buildings in Central Oxford may be taller than this tower, which means once you’ve climbed to the top, you can literally look down onto all of Oxford. Not only that, but it’s a bargain at just £2.20 for adults and £1.10 for students.

11. It’s Where “Harry Potter” Was Filmed!

Many of the scenes in the Harry Potter films that take place in and around Hogwarts, were actually filmed here in Oxford. The Great Hall design was also based on a replica of Oxford’s famous Christ Church.

12. Books, Books, Books! Or: You Can Browse the Largest Room Dedicated to Book Sales in All of Europe

Boasting 10,000 sq ft. room, The Norrington Room is located in Blackwell’s Bookshop, is the largest room of books available for sale in Europe, with over 3 miles worth of book space!

Harry Potter Tour London

Harry Potter Tour London

Posted by & filed under London.

Harry Potter Tour of LondonThis post is a self-guided Harry Potter Tour of London. Whether you received your invitation to Hogwarts or not, everybody knows the magical world of Harry Potter. Not only does Harry journey to and through London throughout the 7 best-selling books, numerous scenes from all 8 movies were filmed right here in the capital of the U.K.! Always enchanting, often interesting, and each one easy to get to, what follows is a guide to the real-life counterparts of many of the magical locations you have read in print or seen on the big screen!

So whether you’ve memorized the books, seen the films, or proudly own every bit of Potter paraphernalia around – join us as we dive into the magical world of Harry Potter! This particular route will focus on film sites to the north part of London, so grab your travelcard, lace up your trainers (or grab your broom!) and follow us!

London Harry Potter tour map Read more »

Subculture Tours

Subculture Tours

Posted by & filed under London.

Free Tours by Foot is pleased to partner with Subculture Tours to offer a way to experience London like a local. You’ll discover art, markets, craft beer and local cafes in some of the most vibrant neighborhoods in London. If you’re interested in seeing more than just what the guide book tells you and really learning about the diverse communities, sign up for a Subculture Tour.

What you get with Subculture Tours:

  • Experience London’s multicultural and vibrant neighbourhoods
  • Meet the localslogo-final
  • Discover great graffiti and street art
  • Try locally crafted beer
  • People watch
  • Eat with the locals
  • Street Food Markets
  • Community Projects
  • Interesting Guides
  • No boring history lessons
  • You get cool and interesting stories

These tours are designed to show you the best neighbourhoods, the places that you really want to eat and drink.
Experience London, don’t just see it!

Brixton- Graffiti, Food, Community, Culture

brixton_bg_boxWhere: Stockwell Station (Victoria/Northern Line) by the flower stall
When: 10:30 Tuesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday
Duration: 2.5hrs
Price: £15

Buy Tickets (coming soon)

Brixton to many is a place they know for the wrong reasons, the riots of the 1980’s. Will Smith recently visited saying he wanted to see London’s version of Harlem. Brixton once closed off to locals and visitors, now welcomes everyone to the neighbourhood to live in.

On this tour:

  • We visit Brixtons famous indoor and outdoor markets.
  • Sample Organic Chocolate
  • Eat and drink in Londons foodie capital, sample food from around the world English, Caribbean, Colombian, possibly London’s best pizza and many others.
  • Visit Community Projects
  • Hangout and drink a locally crafted beer
  • Walk around a thriving art district, Graffiti, Street Art and Murals
  • Experience the Caribbean/African/South American and Portuguese Communities
  • Use the local currency: Brixton £

Hipster Shoreditch-PopUps-Street Art-Community Projects

subculture tours

Where: Old Street Station Exit 1 (Northern Line) Meet at the top of the ramp
When: 14:00 Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday
Duration: 3hrs
Cost: £15

Buy Tickets (coming soon)

East London has been the creative and artistic centre of London for the last decade, known for its hipsters, creatives, PopUps and Indian food. Discover and area of London that has a barber just for beards…yes that’s how cool this neighbourhood is.

On this tour:

  • Street Art/Graffiti/More Street Art and then some more Graffiti
  • Visit Community Projects
  • Hangout and drink a locally crafted beer/Coffee
  • Visit the latest trending PopUps
  • Eat some of London’s finest street food
  • Walk the old Victorian cobbled streets

This side of London is constantly changing everyday something new appears. Experience London, don’t just see it!

Covent Garden Food tour banner

Covent Garden Food Tour

Posted by & filed under London.

Self-Guided Covent Garden Food Tour

Covent Garden food tour - dishoom menuLondon is a culinary capital and food tours here are becoming more and more popular. But at Free Tours By Foot we think paying upwards of £50.00 for a food tour isn’t necessarily affordable and value for money. So we’ve put together a self-guided Covent Garden food tour that is absolutely FREE to take – aside from the tasty treats you’ll need to purchase yourself!

**Be sure to check out our other free London food tours as well as our full list of self-guided tours.

This food tour takes place in the popular London locale of Covent Garden – the hub of London’s West End. Covent Garden is absolutely rammed with bars and restaurants, which can be overwhelming for visitors. Also, our handy guide will lead you to the tastiest spots and help you avoid common tourist-traps. This tour will incorporate foods from all over the world, and will finish off with a cheeky cocktail at lead guide Margaret’s favourite bar in town!

[Note: This tour can run morning or evening at any day of the week. Because Covent Garden is a VERY popular location, going day time weekdays will make things quieter. Or perhaps you can start late afternoon to finish up in the evenings and watch the West End come alive.

Also, this tour will start off with savoury dishes, with sweets in the middle, and finishing savoury again. You may wish to visit in your own order, if you’d prefer to have your sweet treats at the end! ] Read more »

London Eye Christmas

Eyeskate at the London Eye Frostival

Posted by & filed under London.

This year in London, the Coca-Cola London Eye is holding a Frostival on the banks of the river Thames! This is a winter fete for both adults and children which contains one of the best ice skating rinks in town!

Guests to the Eyeskate are given a 45 minute time slot to skate underneath the twinkling lights of the world’s most famous ferris wheel: the London Eye. Visitors are also able to book a trip on the London Eye complete with specialty hand-crafted winter cocktails to warm up after your skating adventure.

The Eye is also offering a “Frosty Guided Experience” where capsules of the London Eye are filled with ice-like sculptures, transforming each one into a frosty winter cave. Smells of mint and chocolate as well as the sounds of crackling fires and snowy nights play throughout the 30minute ride as winter facts about London’s most famous landmarks are relayed to the guests inside. Read more »

London Black Cab

London Black Cab Tours

Posted by & filed under London.

Famous the world over, London black cabs are iconic symbols of our city, right alongside red telephone boxes and Big Ben. It is estimated that today there are over 22,000 black cabs operating in London and, despite the name, they don’t necessarily need to be painted black and you will see cabs of different colours throughout the city – even baby pink!  But did you know that your taxi driver may also double as a tour guide?  There are actually many London black tours available and we list a few of the top choices below.

For quick results on tour options, click here.

Black Cab Tours

Not only are these cabs an iconic part of London, they are also a great way to explore London as many drivers operate as tour guides as well. Many cab drivers offer guided tours of London from the luxury of the backseat of their taxi cabs. While the idea of your cab driving giving you a tour may sound a bit strange, you’ll find that the amount these men and women know about London is staggering, all thanks to their training process, known as The Knowledge.

The Knowledge

The Knowledge is the in depth study of London streets, routes, and places that black cab drivers must have memorised before they are allowed to obtain a license. Initiated in 1865, the idea is that black cab drivers should be able to act immediately in deciding which routes to take, where to go in case of obstruction, and to be able to accommodate any request or question posed by their passengers. This involves becoming intimately involved with over 25,000 roads and 50,000 points of interest.

It’s widely regarded as the most demanding training course for cab drivers anywhere in the world and, on average, it takes around 34 months for a driver to learn all that is needed to pass the final exam. Part of the final exam involves sitting in an empty room and detailing a journey from a randomly selected point to another. The would-be driver needs to list the names of all roads used, junctions crossed, notable roundabouts, when to make turns, and to list which notable buildings are on either side of the road they are taking in their potential route.

This means that these cabbies know more than most (aside from our guides, of course!) about our capital city and a surprising amount of the history that comes with it. Some drivers have been exploring London from behind their wheels for decades and are more than happy to share their facts, tips and stories with you.

Which London Black Cab Tour is Best?

There are actually quite a few companies/guides to choose from when it comes to Black Cab Tours, and most of them have very similar names, so here is a guide that highlights the the cream of the crop!

London Black Cab ToursLondon Black Taxi Tours 

Run by Michael Churchill, a native Londoner, London Black Taxi Tours is one of the highest rated black cab tours in town – as their TripAdvisor reviews will prove! A taxi driver for over 28 years, Michael is not only a licensed driver, but he is a licensed guide and member of the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers (a fancy name for the official black cab guide organisation). Guests can choose from a full 4 hour in-depth tour or a whistle-stop 2 hour tour which both showcase all the highlights of London, with Michael behind the wheel and sharing his boundless knowledge!

London Cab Tours 

Graham Greenglass, a licensed taxi driver as well as certified City of Westminster Tour Guide operates his own company: London Cab Tours. Tours start as short as 2 hours and can extend into full 6 hour all-day adventures! Standard London sight-seeing tours, or ghost stories and ‘Jack the Ripper’ Graham runs a wide range of authentic London tours. And, with a door-to-door service, guests can be collected and dropped off at any chosen destination, making it flexible and convenient no matter where you are staying.

Black Taxi Tours of London 

Black Taxi Tours of London tout themselves as the best way to see our city, as tours are led by those who know it best: black cab drivers! The company offers guests the chance to choose their own itinerary from broad-range London highlights to specific niche tours showcasing things like films, Christmas lights, the Thames and – of course – Harry Potter! A proud recipient of the Trip Advisor Certificate of excellence from 2015, Black Taxi Tours of London is a superb company for seeing the London you want to.

Top Class Black Cab Tours

Top Class Black Cab Tours separates itself from the back by offering black cab tours outside of London as well as within! With a wide list of specialty tours like the Beatles Tours, Rock n’ Roll Tour, and even a Murer Mystery Myth Tour, the company has a lot for guests to choose from! And in addition, tours to Windsor Castle, Oxford, Rochester, Stonehenge..etc. etc. are also on offer. All tours are led by qualified black cab taxi guides and visitors can also arrange round-trip airport drop offs through the company website.

 

Aside from Black Cab Tours – How Do Black Cabs Work?

How to Hail a Black Cab

Firstly, see that the orange ‘taxi’ sign is illuminated on top of the cab. This means that the cab is free for hire.

Although shouting ‘taxi’ is an acceptable way to hail a cab in other cities, it is actually against the law in the U.K! Here, you must stick your arm out when the taxi is approaching to let the driver know you wish to use their cab.

When the cab pulls up to the curb, go to the front window and tell the driver where you want to go.  After the cabbie (colloquial term for the driver) has acknowledged what you’ve said, take your seat in the back.

Talk…or not! Black cab drivers are occasionally up for a good bit of chat and a conversation, but are also happy to let you sit in silence if you’d prefer.

Once you arrive at your destination your driver will tell you the total your journey’s cost. You can actually keep an eye on how much your journey is adding up to because the fare meters are displayed in the centre of the windshield where both driver and passenger can see.

Pay! Cash is best but some cabs are able to accept card now-a-days. Tipping is suggested/expected if you feel in the mood, but is not mandatory.  Read our post on tips for tipping in London.

Fast Facts

  • Legally, London black cabs must be tall enough to accommodate a passenger wearing a bowler hat.
  • Women taxi drivers account for only 1% of London taxi cab drivers. 
  • Most cabs have a turning circle of 25ft. This ensures they can navigate tight corners – as well as manage the tiny roundabout in front of the Savoy Hotel, which originally was the reason why this standard was set.
  • Since most cabs are owned by the driver, you are technically entering a shop every time you get into a black cab. The cabs are run as independent businesses – worth remembering when it comes time to decide whether or not to tip!

Introducing San Francisco Walking Tours

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City, Berlin, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, London, Miami, New Orleans, Paris, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC.

Happy holidays, everybody! As you have probably seen, Free Tours by Foot has been growing rapidly in the past few years, providing name-your-own-price walking tours in cities all over the United States and throughout Europe. Today, we are pleased to announce that we are now expanding to the West Coast. Starting Saturday, November 28, we will begin offering free walking tours in San Francisco!

Our first guide is Britt, a Bay Area native who has lived in the area for over 20 years. For the past year, he has been working with Free Tours by Foot in Washington DC, offering tours of our Nation’s capital.

We will begin by offering five different tours covering all different parts of the city and to explore various eras of San Francisco history. Maybe you’re interested in the hidden alleyways of Chinatown, one of the most vibrant and active areas of the city. Or you may want to learn about the massive art deco skyscrapers along Market Street, known as the “Path of Gold.” Or for the more adventurous visitors, maybe you want to learn about the Wild West outlaws during the Gold Rush on our Secrets, Scandals, and Scoundrels tour. We have something for everyone!

If you are interested in learning more about our San Francisco walking tours, you can read the descriptions below. Or, if you want to sign up for some of these great tours, click on the Tour Calendar page to register!

If you have any questions or would like further information, please feel free to contact us any time. Otherwise, we hope to see you soon in the City by the Bay!

Our San Francisco Walking Tours

Chinatown

Join us as we explore the streets and hidden alleyways of one of the oldest, largest and most active Chinatown in the world. In this tour you will discover how this 24 square block area was transformed from unwelcoming sand dunes in the 1700s to the bustling center of activity that it is today.

Chinatown was the first step for millions of Chinese immigrants in what would become their (often difficult and painful) American adventure.

North Beach/Little Italy

Starting our tour at the tallest building in San Francisco and walking back through 150 years of history, you’ll get to experience a little piece of Italy in this city. From the earliest days of Italian fishermen bringing their catch back to Fisherman’s Wharf to the hub of Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation in the 1950s, North Beach has been a cultural institution in San Francisco.

We’ll visit all of the important landmarks of North Beach, including the place to get the best Italian sandwich in San Francisco!

Secrets, Scandals and Scoundrels of San Francisco

Welcome to the Wild West! In the 1850s, San Francisco was a frontier land where gambling and prostitution were legal, and gunfights were commonplace. Hundreds of thousands of people made the difficult and dangerous journey to San Francisco to try to strike it rich in the Gold Rush. When most of them failed, many turned to “other” pursuits to make their fortune.

On the Secrets, Scandals and Scoundrels tour, you’ll learn about famous outlaws, robber barons, great hoaxes and swindles, and even a war fought over eggs (yes, eggs!)

Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square

In earlier days, San Francisco was the West Coast hub of fishing and shipping. When the city was growing up, hundreds of fishermen would gather at Fisherman’s Wharf in the morning, earn their day’s catch, and meet back here in the evening. These days, the Wharf has turned into one of the most highly visited spots in San Francisco.

As we walk through the area we’ll see Ghirardelli Square, home of the legendary chocolate maker, the world famous San Francisco cable car, and we’ll get a behind-the-scenes look into how Fisherman’s Wharf really operates.

Market Street

Market Street is San Francisco’s Main Street. On this tour, you will see how the city developed from a tiny village on the far edge of the world to a center of our global economy. This street was born as the city’s first major boulevard, and is now compared to the Champs Elysees in Paris, and Fifth Avenue in New York City.

We will explore the history of this region and the fascinating buildings lining both sides of the boulevard.

Things to Do in London for Christmas

Things to Do in London for Christmas

Posted by & filed under London.

As the song tells us; “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” And that is true particularly here in London. With festive treats, exciting events, seasonal drinks and activities for the whole family, Christmas in London is fun for London Eye Christmaseveryone. So if you want to see the lights, drink traditional mulled wine, shop at our famous Christmas markets, take in a panto or sing some carols, this guide for things to do in London for Christmas is for you.

Also check our guides for:

See Reindeer in Covent Garden

For the 2015 Christmas season, Covent Garden has been turned into a winter wonderland, boasting over 100,000 lights, 320m of garlands, 40 hand crafted mistletoe chandeliers and the biggest hand picked Christmas tree in London! The festivities this year also include live reindeer on Saturdays for feeding and petting!
Fee: FREE
Nearest Underground Station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square

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