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Freedom of the City of London
London in General
Member Name: Newfloridian
London in General
Date: 02/11/03, updated on 03/11/03 (131 review reads)
Advantages: A simple way of organising and facilitating travel and sight seeing around the city
Disadvantages: Some offers may not be current, Check carefully when you apply
Despite planning, reading guide books and asking friends and travel agents it is often a problem navigating the transport system and choosing from the list of sights to see and things to do - especially in an area the size of Greater London. I had some experience of a City Pass on a visit to Amsterdam last year and my investigations on the internet found a similar scheme - "The London Pass".
The scheme is run by the Leisure Pass Group and ordering can be done from their website (http://www.londonpass.com). It is available in 1-, 2-, 3- and 6-day versions - with or without transport - and there is a cheaper rate for children. The pack consists of a Guide Book (three languages - English French and German), a Smart Card and a transport ticket. Together this provides travel on the City's transport system (buses, all six regions of the Underground and certain of the ordinary rail network), admission to a wide range of attractions and vouchers giving discounts at other sites and restaurants.
The Smart Card is the central part of the package, initialised when you present it at your first port of call and then gaining you free admission thereafter. The 2- and 3- day travel tickets are valid for the appropriate number of consec
utive days. The 6- day pass comes with a seven-day travel ticket. Usefully it can be used straight from your point of entry including Heathrow. The one day travel ticket is valid from 9am on the day of issue. The other varieties are valid for the full 24 hours.
The Guide Book contains descriptions of all the places on offer and these are divided up into sections (Places of Interest, Historic Buildings, Museums, Galleries). Within each section the items are subdivided by district. Each entry has a short description of the attraction with a guide map and travelling instructions.
At the time of our visit the available edition covered 2002/2003 - maybe not a concern in itself but many of the 'extra special' features did relate to the Queen's Jubilee Year celebrations. Consequently many had already passed. A good example of this was the offer of free tickets to the tour of Buckingham Palace between August 5th and September 29th 2002 to 2-, 3- and 6-day pass holders. There is no evidence that the offer will be available again in 2003. Similarly there was a display of the Royal Wedding Dresses at Kensington Palace which the booklet advertises to April 1st 2003. We were fortunate that the facility had been extended for a further month.
The list of places of interest include the London Aquarium, HMS Belfast, Wimbledon Tennis Museum and Kew Gardens. There are a further nine venues in this section. The historic buildings include the Tower of London, Hampton Court, Windsor Castle, The Royal Mews and St Paul's Cathedral (plus thirteen others). The British, The Guards, The Jewish and London's Transport (and ten more) make up the Museum list. There are six galleries including the Bankside and the National.
It is perhaps noteworthy some of the sites that are NOT included in the package. These include the Victoria and Albert Museum, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye.
MORE TO SEE AND DO
There is a fifty minute courtesy narrated catamaran tour from the South Bank pier along the river to Tower Bridge and back. There is an alternative cruise on a narrow boat along Regent's Canal from Little Venice to Camden Lock. There are also a number of escorted walking tours in the heart of London.
Many of the sites also offer free cakes with coffee, entry into additional exhibition, free loan of tape guides or discounts in the souvenir store.
The London Pass offers a discount on certain full price theatre tickets (bought on the day of the show). The current range includes "Les Miserables", "My Fair Lady" and "Phantom of the Opera".
Orange offers a free five day mobile telephone rental.
There is free afternoon admission to the Curzon cinemas (Mayfair and Soho) and Richmond Film House. Sessions are available at a bowl, skating rink, go-kart track or Namco Station interactive entertainment complex.
Discounts are available on tickets for the river bus, Catamaran Thames dinner cruises and bicycle and roller blade hire.
Hamley's toy shop offer a souvenir teddy bear with purchases of £20 or more.
Discounts on food are also offered at Planet Hollywood, Bagelmania and The Sea Shell fish and chip restaurant.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Our six day Pass cost us £104 each. It has to be said that many of the places in the guide (museums and galleries) have free admission anyway but there are supplementary areas which also become free to pass holders. Many accept the Pass instead of a ticket at the main gate which obviates the need to join long queues.
We kept a close eye on the admission prices of the places that we visited (these ranged from £6.50 to £12). Overall we probably did not make much of a profit over the whole week but we were rapidly aware of the simplicity and saving of having a multi-day travel pass (a singl
e zone journey on the Underground is about £1.80; a cheap day return to Hampton Court is £4.90). The Guide Book promises a total saving of about £350 (unrealistic of course as you would not be able to visit everything in the time available) but it also introduced us to places that we might never otherwise have discovered and we saw several places that we would have missed. There was also a feeling that we could 'dip in and out' - not lingering at places of lesser interest just because we had paid at the door.
As I said in the body of the review, the card and booklet is current for a long period of time (two years). The web site is still advertising the same range of attractions (although the Queen's Jubilee features have been removed) and the year date is not mentioned. Presumably the 2004/5 series will be issued very soon.
[POSTSCRIPT: The Leisure Pass Group also offer similar packages to New York, Bath and York]