Reviewed by David Savage
Free Tours of London offer 3 FREE walking tours in London exploring different aspects of our capital city and on Friday 5 June I set off for London to experience the tours for myself. The three tours they offer are Royal Tour, Old City Tour and Jack the Ripper Tour.
My first tour was the Royal Tour which is a daily tour starting at 11am, so I headed off to Westminster by tube. After leaving the tube station I walked a couple of hundred yards down to Parliament Square, the meeting point for the start of this tour. So before you even start the tour you already see Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and of course Parliament Square with the 10 statues of previous prime ministers and other notable figures including Winston Churchill, Gandi, Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln to name a few.
The meeting point for the start of the Royal Tour is on Parliament Square in front of the 12 feet high statue of Winston Churchill, just look for the guide holding a large orange umbrella. On this occasion our tour guide was Glenn.
The Royal Tour takes you on a tour of 3 Royal palaces; Westminster Palace, St James’s Palace and of course Buckingham Palace, Clarence House (the home of Prince Charles), Big Ben, Churchill’s War Rooms, Horse Guards Parade, Trafalgar Square and other historic places of importance throughout British history.
Before starting the tour Glenn introduced himself, explained how the tours worked and what places we would be visiting and at 11am we set off on our 2½ hour walk around London.
At every stop Glenn gave us a brief history of the place including the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament and how Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Night came into being. At Buckingham Palace we managed to see the end of the Changing of the Guard and were able to see them matching along The Mall (where there were no crowds as they were all done the road at Buckingham Palace jostling for space). The tour ends at Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square with the Fourth Plinth proudly displaying a sculpture of a skeleton riderless horse titled Gift Horse.
After the tour finished Glenn took a group photo which will appear of their Facebook page and then we were invited for a pub meal where you can get a burger and chips, glass of wine, beer or soft drink for the special price of just £6 – where else in Central London are you going to sit down and eat for that price?
Overall, this is an excellent tour. On first hearing that the tour was for free I doubted that the tour would be great, I think at first I expected just to be shown the sites and told what they were, but I could have been more wrong. The tour explains lots and is obviously well researched by the guide who clearly takes pride in his job.
The people on the tour were from all over the world and of various age groups so appeals to everyone whether you are a student, a foreign national looking to learn more about British history or a British national looking to learn more about our own history.
The tour guide, Glenn, was approachable and friendly and answered any questions. He was humorous and a good showman and all the information was delivered in more of a conversational manner rather than being lectured at making if fun and interesting rather than boring and long winded.
At 2½ hours long there is lot of walking so make sure you wear comfortable shoes and make sure you bring a bottle of water as on the day I visited we were very lucky with the weather and it was very hot.
So as this is a free tour how to the guides earn a living? Well the simple answer is that you effectively tip the guide paying what you think the tour and the guide are worth. So if you didn’t like the tour or you feel the guide wasn’t any good you pay nothing, but if like me you found it interesting and insightful, friendly and humorous and you take away some knowledge from it (I grew up and went to school in London and learned things that I didn’t know and saw a lot of sights that I had never visited before) then you pay what you can realistically afford and what you think it’s worth. So it is affordable for every budget.
I highly recommend Free Tours of London and it is definitely worth taking the time to do, worst case scenario is that it only costs you 2½ hours of your time, although from my and that of the other people of the tour I spoke to there is no reason you wouldn’t enjoy it. You are even given a tip how to get into Westminster Abbey for FREE!
There is need to make a reservation (unless your party are a group of 10 or more), just turn up at Parliament Square at 11am, find the guide with the orange umbrella and off you go!
Thank you Glenn for a fun and informative tour.
If you would like to take the Free Tours of London Royal Tour just turn up at Parliament Square in Westminster any day of the week at 11am. For more information visit www.freetoursoflondon.com.