Originally Published: November 3, 2013

London by day is a renowned and remarkable world class city, and by night it shows off an alternate colour and vibrancy.  The illuminated grandeur of London’s landmarks as night descends shows the capital, if you’ll forgive the pun, in a whole new light.

There is an extraordinary allure about London in the dark.  The city’s attractions fill the night with a certain splendour leaving visitors enraptured.  Just because the day is over, it doesn’t mean your sightseeing is.  There are an array of evening tours by bus, boat, and, as us Brits say, by Shanks’ Pony (on foot).  Each brings something different and fresh to the epic tale of the city.  Here are our pick of the top London night tours:

1. Wheels on the bus

There is a plentiful supply of night bus tours in London.  Each will immerse you in London’s extraordinary attractions.  You can take London night tours by bus with the likes of London by Night and See London by Night.  Alternatively, discover a spooky side to the city, aboard a Ghost Bus Tour.  Among the highlights of each tour are Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, Parliament Square, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Harrods, Buckingham Palace, and Tower Bridge.

City of London night tours on the River Thames. Photo:  Duncan, Flickr
City of London night tours on the River Thames. Photo: Duncan, Flickr

2. All aboard!

Get ready for a big jazz-hand accented ending aboard the London Showboat Dinner Cruise, where you can enjoy a convivial evening of food, wine, and entertainment as you cruise through along the River Thames.  So much of the highlights of London’s skyline are best seen from the river, including Tower Bridge, the Thames Barrier, the O2 Arena, the London Eye, and the Houses of Parliament.  The River Lights cruise has a jazz quintet to relax you while you take in London’s most dazzling landmarks.  Ticket prices include a glass of bubbly, canapés, and live entertainment onboard.

3. Dark side of the moon

Explore London’s dark recesses with a meander into the macabre.  There are walking ghost tours of the many haunted corners of London, the murderous sites of the notorious Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel, and the East End streets ruled by the Kray Twins and other legendary London (but thankfully, long gone) criminals.  Among the hearty selection of ghost tours are the London Ghost Tour and London Walks, which also runs Jack the Ripper tours.  These are experiences you’ll never forget as you learn about the ghosts and grisly skeletons in London’s cupboards, as well as dark secrets of London’s history.

The streets of Whitechapel look fairly innocent by day, but take a London night tour to learn all about their grisly history. Photo: Sarah Lee
The streets of Whitechapel look fairly innocent by day, but take a London night tour to learn all about their grisly history. Photo: Sarah Lee

4. The beef on the tower

Besides visiting the Tower of London during the day – taking in the likes of the Crown Jewels – it is also possible to take an evening tour led by one of its legendary Beefeaters, or Yeoman Warders.  The tour takes in some of the more gruesome sights and spooky stories such as the Bloody Tour, Traitors’ Gate, and the Scaffold Site, as well as revealing all the royal gossip and the secrets kept within its ancient walls.  Get there early and you can also combine your trip with the Ceremony of the Keys: the traditional locking up of the Tower of London.  It has taken place on every night, without fail, for at least 700 years, securing the fortress, and the Crown Jewels within it.  The Ceremony of the Keys is free to attend, but is so popular you need to book at least a month in advance to be sure of attending.

5. Shhh…

One of the more unusual London night tours is the Silent Night Tour of artist Dennis Severs’ House, a residence and living museum in Spitalfields, close to the starting location of the Eating London Food Tours.  The house is both a museum and experience, where you’re able to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of an 18th-century London family.  For the 45 minutes it takes to tour the house you are requested to maintain a strict silence.

6. Light me up

It’s one thing seeing a museum’s treasures with bright daylight streaming in, but quite another by candlelight.  Well, that’s the principle the Sir John Soane’s museum works to, anyway.  On the first Tuesday of each month you can tour the house of this former architect with only candles providing atmospheric accents.  The museum is open between 6pm-9pm and admits the first 200 people on a first come-first served basis.  It’s a very popular tour of the museum, and more people turn up than can enter the small house.  Get there early!

Piccadilly Circus at night by Duncan, Flickr
Piccadilly Circus at night. Photo: JJ Hall, Flickr

7. Crawl your way ’round town

Vic Norman may just have the best job in the world.  He is the organiser of a series of London Pub Tours.  Likely the worst part of his job?  Choosing which pubs to include in the seven tour routes he runs across the city.  The tours promise a journey through 1,500 years’ history and visit to up to six of the best pubs in London, all between 7pm and 10pm.  Upcoming tour dates are on the website.

Whichever way you chose to tour London by night, be sure to wrap up warm if it’s winter, and if you want to see the city lights in all their glory, start later in summer. The long summer evenings push sunset to around 10pm in June.  Tell us your favourite London night tour, or your best evening spent in the city.

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Looking for a daylight tour to satisfy both your camera and your appetite?  Join us for a walking, eating, and sightseeing tour of London’s East End! Eating London Tours is ranked among the best things to do in London on TripAdvisor.

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