They’re bright scarlet, have two floors, four wheels (back in the day, sometimes more) and rumble up and down the roads of the UK capital. Yes, they’re the cheerily cherry-red London buses; one of the absolute icons of one of the most iconic cities on the face of the planet. And to hop on one of them for a ride (perhaps straight out of one of the excellent budget hotels in London) also happens to be one of the very best ways to see the sights in the Big Smoke.
That’s because if you board the Number 9 bus and ascend the stairs to its top deck, you can take in the salubrious, much vaunted neighbourhoods of Kensington, Knightsbridge, Mayfair and St. James’s before the bus terminates around by Trafalgar Square; all of it in the very heart of Central London, right in the middle of where everything goes on and where so much that’s worth seeing in the capital is located.
Kensington, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and Knightsbridge
To be specific then, you should board the Number 9 bus on Kensington High Street, a supreme shopping street in the locality. From here, you’ll find your ride passes along the southern side of Kensington Gardens and then Hyde Park, enabling you to take in the awesome Royal Albert Hall concert venue, as well as – just inside the park – the magnificent edifice that’s the gilded Albert Memorial statue. Sure, if you’ve made your vacation base one of the hotels in Barbican London or, say, the Shaftesbury Premier London Paddington, this bus journey won’t exactly be on your doorstep, but boy will it be worth it!
Beyond the park, the bus will quickly enter Knightsbridge, an urban area for which the word ‘swanky’ could well have been invented. Home to possibly the world’s most famous and most illustrious department store, Harrods, it also boasts many elegant retail outlets, including the flagship store of the Harvey Nichols brand (affectionately referred to by customers as ‘Harvey Nicks’). Depending on the time of year, look out for the vibrant, eye-catching displays that fill both these establishments’ windows; not least in the autumn and the run up to Christmas.
Green Park, Buckingham Palace, St. James’s and Trafalgar Square
Next up is Green Park – surely the most peaceful and tranquil of the graceful Royal Park’s that make up the ‘Green Lung’ running right through the centre of the city – and, yes, straight after this, you’ll find your ride’s fast upon the indefatigably iconic magisterial abode that’s Buckingham Palace, so famous the world over for the daily ‘Changing of the Guard’ ceremony and Royal-spotting atop the frontage’s balcony on major national occasions. From here, the Number 9 route passes down St. James’s Street, which is one of the very best preserved of all the capital’s streets, with practically all its Victorian and Regency architecture intact, including the likes of the globally renowned wine purveyors Berry Bros. & Rudd and Lock & Co. Hatters, the oldest hat shop on Planet Earth.
And, finally, having passed another Royal palace, St. James’s Palace no less, the bus’ll turn on to the bustling but sleek Pall Mall and head down to Trafalgar Square, the near-incomparably famous piazza in the very heart of the city – where Nelson’s Column pierces the sky, flanked by four bronze lions, while the sides of the square are lined by major attractions such as St. Martin in-the-Fields church, the glorious National Gallery and just around the corner, its just as brilliant sister venue, the National Portrait Gallery. What a bus ride, indeed, eh?