I was invited by City Wonders, the tour company, to go on one of their tours of my home town of London. I chose to go on the Buckingham Palace and Afternoon Tea one as it is only open for a limited time each year – and it can be hard to get tickets independently. In past years I have been organized but this year was not, and so was excited to join the tour.
The tickets came by email along with detailed instructions on where and how to meet the guides near Westminster Tube Station. Despite this I could not find them and was surprised, and pleased, that the company called me (and other guests) that had not found them to assist. My tip if you do the tour is look behind the large statue of Boudica on her carriage as that is where they were waiting.
There were mostly American and Australian visitors joining the tour, of which there were three on the same one. The groups are limited to 25 people which means each guide can take more care of each. A great touch is that we all had personal earphones and receiver and our guide could talk to us and explain what we were seeing without having to shout above the noise of the city and other tours. It also meant you could stray around to take photographs, and if you got separated he could guide people to where the rest of the group was.
My tour was hosted by a cheerful and knowledgeable Kieran from the North of England. He kept the pace brisk and was always ready to answer questions. The tour lasted from 10:15 am until 2:45pm and took in a walking tour from the Houses of Parliament, up Whitehall past Downing Street and Horseguard Parade, through Trafalgar Square and the Admiralty Arch, up The Mall to Buckingham Palace. Once there we watched the Changing of the Guard before entering the State Apartments and Gardens of Buckingham Palace. We were left to tour through the Palace using the official audio guide and then Kieran escorted us to afternoon tea at Rubens Hotel in Victoria.
I had a great day exploring my city as a tourist and learning bits of trivia and history about London that I did not know despite living here for over 27 years. The tour was well organized, slick and the commentary and guiding by Kieran was friendly and welcoming.
Going to see some icons like Horseguards Parade, Changing of the Guard and inside Buckingham Palace is something I can highly recommend. Doing it on this tour was a pleasure. It is especially recommended if you are visiting London in August and September as you will find it hard to buy individual tickets for the palace unless you have been very organized. Below are some highlights from the day:
Declaration: I was a guest of City Wonders tours who invited me to experience this London excursion.