London pass: Which city pass for London’s sights is worth it?
If you want to visit a lot of attractions in London, you can save a lot of time and money with a city pass. We’ll show you which London passes are available and help you decide which one is the best for you.
If you’re in the middle of planning your trip to London, you’ve probably already realized that admission prices to many of London’s attractions are quite steep.
Many attractions charge 20 to 30 pounds, which can quickly add up to quite a handsome sum of money over the course of a few days.
But there’s a cheaper solution available: Many visitors choose to buy a London pass, i.e. a city card that grants them admission to many of the major sights and attractions.
In addition to saving you money, passes can also save you a lot of time. Some attractions have special entrances for pass holders, so you can just skip the lines altogether.
But there are several London passes available. So which discount pass is the best? Which London pass offers the best value for money? And what are the differences between all the passes anyway?
We’re going to answer all these questions for you in this post.
Our London pass review will help you decide whether one of these passes is worth it for you, and if so, which one.
Spoiler alert: This is the best London pass
This post features an in-depth review and comparison of all available London passes, where we crunch the numbers for different travel itineraries to help you figure out which pass is best for you.
But if that sounds like too much of an info dump and all you need is a quick tip, not to worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are our recommendations for the “too long, didn’t read” crowd:
#1 The best London pass if you want to see as many attractions as possible:
Best choice: London Pass
If you want to visit as many attractions in London as possible, the original London Pass is definitely the best option for you.
It includes almost all the major sights and offers the biggest savings if you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing.
What’s more, the London Pass includes the most fast tracks, meaning you can use it to skip the line at several attractions.
#2 The best London Pass if you want to see the main sights at a slower pace:
Best choice: London Pass or Go London Explorer Pass
If you want to take things a bit slower and maybe only visit a handful of the typical sights, there are two good options.
Depending on which attractions you want to see, either the London Pass or the Go London Explorer Pass is the best option for you.
The London Pass has the advantage that it also allows you to skip some lines.
The Explorer Pass, on the other hand, is more flexible, because it charges by number of attractions, not by number of days. So you don’t have to desperately blaze through as many attractions as possible in the space of a few days just to get your money’s worth.
Depending on what’s more important to you, we recommend one of the two passes.
#3 The best London Pass for families with kids
Best choice: Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass
Instead of the typical London sights, would you rather visit places like Madame Tussauds, the SEA LIFE Aquarium, or the London Dungeon? Especially if you’re traveling with kids, these highlights are sure to keep them entertained.
So if you’re planning a family trip to London, you should definitely consider purchasing the Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass. It offers some serious savings on five fabulous family-friendly attractions that are sure to delight young and old alike.
How do London passes work?
London passes are special discount offers for visitors to London. These passes are also often referred to as city cards.
You can buy all passes online from the comfort of your own home and then visit various sights, museums, and attractions in London without having to buy individual tickets at each venue.
What’s more, some of the passes also include walking tours of London, sightseeing bus tickets, and Thames river cruises.
There are two types of London passes:
#1 Time-based passes
Some passes are valid for a certain number of days. You can buy a pass that’s valid for, say, 2, 3, or 5 days and use it to visit as many sights, tours, and attractions as you want – or as many as you can manage – within the allotted time.
#2 Attraction-based passes
Other passes are valid for a certain number of attractions. You can buy these passes for, say, 3, 5, or 7 attractions, which you can visit at your own pace whenever you want during your trip.
All London passes are available as digital mobile passes. You’ll receive an email with your mobile pass once you’ve completed your purchase. The pass on your smartphone functions as a ticket to all the attractions.
You can download the mobile pass directly onto your smartphone, so you don’t need to be connected to the Internet when you arrive at the venue.
Of course, if you don’t have a smartphone or you’d rather have a hard copy on hand just in case your battery dies in the middle of London, you can also print your pass out on paper.
Which passes are available?
Many cities only offer a single city card, but London being London, it offers no less than four!
That doesn’t make choosing the right London pass any easier, but then why we’ve written this London pass guide.
The following table provides a quick overview of the available passes. Below the table, we review each London pass individually, highlighting the pros and cons.
|London Pass||Explorer Pass||London City Pass||Merlin Pass|
|Validity||1-5, 7, or 10 days||2, 3, 5, or 7 |
|1 to 7 days||-|
|Price||£69 to £169||£44 to £118||£77 to £160||£90|
In the following sections, we profile each London city pass individually, summarizing all the key features and weighing the pros and cons for each pass as concisely and comprehensively as possible.
#1 The London Pass
Let’s start with the London Pass, sometimes also referred to as the original London Pass.
This pass is definitely the most all-encompassing on the market and includes the most attractions by far.
What does the London Pass have to offer?
The London Pass includes more than 80 attractions. Almost all of London’s top sights are represented:
- Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral
- The View from The Shard
- Many exclusive attractions, such as London Zoo, Windsor Castle, and the Wimbledon Experience
- Hop-on, hop-off buses and a river cruise on the Thames are also included
- Football fans will love the tours of Chelsea’s and Arsenal’s stadiums, as well as Wembley Stadium
How much does the London Pass cost?
The London Pass is available for different validity periods. You purchase a pass for a specific number of days (1 to 5, 7, or 10) allowing you to visit as many attractions as you want during that period.
As you can see in the table below, each additional day costs a bit less, so you’ll get a better deal if you buy a pass with a longer validity.
Pros and cons
Pros of choosing the London Pass:
- The pass with the most attractions included
- Includes some exclusive attractions, e.g. Windsor Castle
- Fast-track admission to certain attractions, e.g. St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge
- One-day ticket for hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus included
Cons of choosing the London Pass:
- The London Eye Ferris wheel and Madame Tussauds aren’t included
- The pass isn’t worth it if you don’t want to visit that many attractions
Our verdict on the London Pass
The London Pass is definitely the best choice if you want to visit a lot of attractions in London. If that’s the case, you can save a lot of money with this pass.
Especially during the peak summer travel season, it’s also a huge advantage that pass holders can skip the lines at some attractions. That’s a massive time-saver.
#2 Go London Explorer Pass
The Go London Explorer Pass follows a different approach to the classic London Pass. Instead of choosing a certain number of days, you choose a fixed number of sights.
You have a total of 60 days to visit the attractions, allowing for a much more flexible sightseeing schedule.
What does the Go London Explorer Pass have to offer?
The Go London Explorer Pass includes more than 20 attractions, e.g.:
- Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, and Saint Paul’s Cathedral
- The London Eye Ferris wheel
- Madame Tussauds and the SEA LIFE Aquarium
- Hop-on, hop-off-bus and Thames river cruise
How much does the Go London Explorer Pass cost?
When you purchase the Go London Explorer Pass, you choose a specific number of attractions you want to visit within a 60-day period.
Pros and Cons
Pros of choosing the Go London Explorer Pass:
- Fair pricing model: You only pay the attractions you want to visit
- No rush: It’s valid for 60 days
- The London Eye Ferris wheel is included
Cons of choosing the Go London Explorer Pass:
- Some highlights aren’t included, e.g. the Tower of London or The Shard
- No fast track lanes with preferred admission
Our verdict on the Go London Explorer Pass
The Go London Explorer Pass is a great alternative if you want to avoid the stress of rushing from one attraction to the next and would rather take things a little slower.
The simple pricing model makes it easy to figure out if the pass is worth it for you.
#3 London City Pass / Turbopass London
Like the classic London Pass, the London City Pass from the German company Turbopass is also a time-based pass.
You select a certain number of days and can visit all the attractions included in the pass during the allotted time period.
What does the London City Pass have to offer?
Compared to the London Pass, the City Pass has a much more limited selection of about 20 attractions. Nevertheless, it includes some major highlights, e.g.:
- Amazing views from The Shard and the London Eye
- Tower of London and Kensington Palace
- Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure
- Hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus and Thames river cruise
How much does the London City Pass cost?
You purchase a London City Pass for a certain number of days (1 to 7). The longer the validity, the better the deal, as the each additional day costs a little bit less each time.
Pros and Cons
Pros of choosing the London City Pass:
- A bit cheaper than the London Pass
- A good mix of classic sightseeing and family-friendly experiences
- The only pass to include both of London’s best views: The Shard and the London Eye
- Pass holders can skip the lines at some attractions
Cons of choosing the London City Pass
- Several major highlights aren’t included, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, and Westminster Abbey
- Fewer fast lanes than the London Pass
Our verdict on the London City Pass
The London City Pass is a bit cheaper than the London Pass, but it also lacks some important attractions.
If you want to see the classic sights such as Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, or Tower Bridge, the City Pass probably isn’t worth it for you.
But if you’re looking for more of a mix between classic sightseeing and family-friendly experiences, the London City Pass might be a good choice for you.
#4 Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass
The Merlin Magical Pass isn’t one of the typical sightseeing passes for London. It only includes five attractions which are of special interest to families with children.
What does the Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass have to offer?
This pass includes admission to exactly five attractions – far too few for the typical London tourist. That’s because the Merlin Pass specifically caters to families with children.
The following attractions are included:
- Madame Tussauds
- The London Eye
- SEA LIFE Aquarium
- Shrek’s Adventure
- The London Dungeon
How much does the Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass cost?
The pass costs 90 pounds. That works out to just 18 pounds per attraction, which is quite a substantial savings. Regular admission to all five attractions adds up to almost 150 pounds.
Pros and Cons
Pros of choosing the Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass:
- Perfect for families with children
- Big savings if you visit all 5 attractions
- Allows for a very flexible schedule, as it gives you a total of 90 days to visit all the attractions
Cons of choosing the Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass:
- Almost none of the classic London sights are included in the pass
- Not interesting for most visitors to London
Our verdict on the Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass
In a nutshell: If the five included attractions sound appealing to you, this pass is a real bargain.
These are fantastic experiences for the whole family, and your kids are sure to have the time of their lives. But it doesn’t include any of the typical sights and attractions, except for the London Eye, so most tourists would be disappointed with just the Merlin Pass.
Differences between the London passes
So now that we’ve reviewed all the different London passes individually, it’s time to see how they fare in comparison.
In this section, we’ll take a look at how the London passes differ from one another, and what they have in common.
Difference #1: Validity by number of days or attractions
There are two basic types of London passes:
- Passes that are valid for a certain number of consecutive days during which you can visit all the included attractions.
- Passes that are only valid for a certain number of attractions, but allow you much more time to visit them all.
Both types of passes have their pros and cons. You can see which pass works according to which model in this overview:
- The London Pass (1 to 10 days)
- London City Pass (1 to 7 days)
- Go London Explorer Pass (2 to 7 attractions)
- Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass (5 attractions)
Time-based passes are especially worthwhile if you want to visit as many attractions as possible. The longer the validity of these passes, the cheaper it gets per day.
Passes that let you choose the number of attractions you want to visit are great if you’d rather remain flexible and don’t know if you’ll be able to visit enough attractions to make the most of one of the time-based passes.
Difference #2: Number and variety of included attractions
Not all London passes include the same sights and attractions.
Unfortunately, the perfect pass for everyone doesn’t exist. Each of the available discount passes has certain drawbacks.
The London Pass is definitely the most all-encompassing of the bunch. With the exception of the London Eye Ferris wheel, it includes pretty much everything you could wish for.
Aside from the Tower of London and the View from The Shard, the Go London Explorer Pass also features a very good range of attractions to choose from.
The London City Pass isn’t for everyone because it lacks many of the classic historical sights. But it makes up for that with a more balanced blend of sightseeing and kid-friendly experiences.
You probably have some attractions that you’re absolutely dying to see (if not, then check out our list of 22 amazing sights and attractions in London for some inspiration). So of course you should take that into consideration when choosing a pass.
To help you find the right London pass to match your itinerary, the following table provides an overview of some of London’s major attractions and shows you which ones are included in which pass.
|London Pass||Explorer Pass||London City Pass||Merlin Pass|
|Tower of London||yes||-||yes||-|
|St. Paul’s Cathedral||yes||yes||-||-|
|Hampton Court Palace||yes||yes||-||-|
|Royal Observatory, Greenwich||yes||yes||-||-|
|Churchill War Rooms||yes||yes||-||-|
|Royal Botanic Gardens||yes||yes||yes||-|
|For sports fans|
|Stamford Bridge |
|Emirates Stadium |
|Bus and boat tours|
|Hop-on, hop-off bus||yes||yes||yes||-|
|Thames river cruise||yes||yes||yes||-|
|SEA LIFE Aquarium||-||-||-||yes|
Difference #3: Waiting in line vs. fast-track admission
Especially during the peak season and on weekends, London’s sights get really crowded and the lines outside can be a nightmare.
In most cases, you have no choice but to wait patiently. But some passes include fast-track admission to select attractions, with special entrances that allow pass holders to just skip the line.
Attractions offering fast-track admission for London Pass holders:
- Tower Bridge
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Hampton Court Palace
- London Zoo
- London Bridge Experience
- Kew Botanical Gardens
Attractions offering fast-track admission for London City Pass holders:
- Tower of London
- Kensington Palace
Unfortunately, the other two passes don’t include any skip-the-line privileges, so you’ll have to wait outside with everyone else.
Which London pass is the best for you?
Now that you have a good understanding of all the factors to consider, we need to answer the most important question: Which London pass is the best for you?
There is no universal answer to this question. Each pass may be the best option for certain types of travelers, and there are definitely cases where buying a pass would be a waste of money.
So we’ve gone ahead and crunched the numbers for three typical types of travelers to find out which London pass is the best for whom.
These are the types of travelers:
- Travelers who want to visit as many attractions that charge admission as possible
- Travelers who want to visit the most famous sights at a more leisurely pace
- Travelers with children
Traveler type #1: As much as possible
Are you one of the travelers who always want to see as much as possible in a city and panic at the idea of missing any of the sights? Are you an expert at mapping out the sights and creating the perfect sightseeing schedule for each day of your visit?
Then a typical itinerary for you might look something like this:
Westminster Abbey (£18)
St. Paul’s Cathedral (£20)
Tower of London (£29.90)
Tower Bridge (£10.60)
The Shard (£39)
London Eye (£31)
Kensington Palace (£23)
Hampton Court Palace (£25,30)
A tour of a stadium (£23)
River cruise on the Thames (£19)
One guided tour (£30)
Total price: £269
That’s a total of 12 attractions, which is totally doable in 4 days.
If you bought all your tickets to buy all the tickets at the venue, you’d have to pay a total of £269 in admissions.
The following tables shows you how much you stand to save with each of the London passes:
|London Pass||London City Pass||London Explorer Pass|
|Cost breakdown||£141 (4-day pass) + £31 for London Eye||£135 (4-day pass) + £96 for non-included attractions||£118 (7 attractions) + £88 for non-included attractions|
The London Pass offers the biggest savings by far for our example itinerary. It would only cost you 172 pounds with this pass, saving you 97 pounds. Plus you could skip the line at three of the attractions on the list, saving you a lot of time as well.
Traveler type #2: A handful of sights
If you’re not the type for power-sightseeing and prefer to take things a bit slower, we totally get that.
Let’s assume you want to visit seven selected sights:
Westminster Abbey (£18)
St. Paul’s Cathedral (£20)
Tower of London (£29,90)
Tower Bridge (£10,60)
London Eye (£31)
Kensington Palace (£23)
Madame Tussauds (£34)
Total price: £167
If you’re really fast, you could breeze through these sights in two days. But three days would be much more relaxed.
You’d have to spend 167 pounds for all seven sights if you bought your tickets at each venue. Let’s see how the passes stack up in comparison.
|London Pass||London City Pass||London Explorer Pass|
|Cost breakdown||£95 (2-day pass) + £31 for London Eye||£100 (2-day pass) + £52 for non-included attractions||£94 (5 attractions) + £40 for non-included attractions|
As you can see, the passes don’t offer quite as much value for money for a more relaxed itinerary. Nevertheless, you can still save 31 pounds using the Go London Explorer Pass and 41 pounds using the London Pass.
And if you’re going to be in London for a while, for example for an internship or visiting friends, the Explorer Pass lets you space out your visits over several weeks (60 days max).
For certain constellations, the London City Pass may also be the better alternative.
Traveler type #3: Visiting London with children
If you’re traveling to London with kids, visiting churches and historic buildings probably isn’t your top priority.
In that case, the Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass is a great option for you. For just £90, this pass grants you access to Madame Tussauds, the London Eye, the SEA LIFE Aquarium, the London Dungeon, and Shrek’s Adventure – all of which your kids are sure to love.
Individual tickets for these attractions would cost you almost £150, so it’s definitely a great bargain.
London without a pass
Does every visitor need a London pass? Of course not!
The passes aren’t worth it for everyone. If you don’t plan on visiting a lot of attractions that charge admission, we wouldn’t recommend getting a pass.
Without a pass, you’re more flexible because you don’t have to rush from one attraction to the next to make sure you get your money’s worth. You might end up spending a little more money, but you’ll have a more relaxing trip.
Even you decide to go without, we still recommend pre-purchasing your tickets online. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have to commit to an itinerary!
You can buy tickets to many attractions at very short notice, often even just a few hours before your visit. Subject to availability, obviously. And online prices are almost always lower than on-site prices.
You can pre-purchase online tickets to the following attractions in advance, even without buying a London pass:
|Door price||Online price||Order tickets|
|St. Paul’s Cathedral||£20||£17|
|Tower of London||£29.90||£29.90|
|Thames river cruise||£20||£20.50|
Frequently asked questions
Last but not least, we’ve done our best to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the different passes.
Do you have a question that we haven’t answered here? Then simply write us a comment below and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible!
Are London passes also valid for public transport?
Unfortunately, no. Not on their own anyway. You have the option of booking a London Travel Card with some of the passes, which is basically a public transport ticket for tourists.
But unlike the London passes, the Travel Card isn’t a good deal, and we wouldn’t recommend it. In most cases, it’s much cheaper to just get a top-up Oyster Card for public buses and the Tube.
If you want to avoid the hassle of dealing with the vending machines when you arrive in London, you can also have an Oyster Card delivered to your doorstep before your trip:
Are there discounted passes for children?
Yes! All the London Passes featured here also offer a discounted version for children. Very young children (mostly up to 3 years) usually go free.
How do I get my pass after I order?
Pretty much right away, actually: All of the passes are fully digital and will be emailed to you once you’ve placed your order. Then you can use your smartphone as a ticket to all the attractions.
If you don’t have a smartphone or you’d like a paper copy just in case, you can also print out the passes.
Are the passes cheaper in London?
No, you’ll always get the best deals online.
Can I visit individual sights more than once with the pass?
Sorry, but that’s a no. Your pass only lets you visit each attraction once.
Can I use the hop-on, hop-off buses for as long as my pass is valid?
That’s another no. You can only use the hop-on, hop-off buses for a single 24-hour period. But we think you’ll find that public transport in London is much more convenient anyway.
Since we already summed up our recommendations right at the top of our London pass review, here’s a very brief summary of the main points:
The best pass for as many attractions as possible:
The best pass for a more relaxed itinerary:
The best pass for families with children:
We hope we were able to shed some light on the thicket of London passes and make your search for the perfect London pass a little easier.
If you found our review helpful and you decide to buy one of the passes for your trip, we’d really appreciate it if you could use one the links in this post to make your purchase. That way, we get a small commission for our efforts – at no extra cost to you of course!
And just so you know, the commission is the same for every pass, so we have no incentive to recommend one pass over another.
Do you have any questions or suggestions? Then we look forward to hearing from you in the comments!