“The world is your oyster” is a famous phrase credited to the equally famous William Shakespeare. First used in The Merry Wives of Windsor, for contemporary Londoners this now translates to their city opening up, with the help of the cleverly named Oyster card. This pre-paid pass is by far the easiest and most expansive way to explore the capital. All you have to do is tap the card reader on-boarding transport, and the city unfolds, via tube, bus or most appealingly, via river services up and down the legendary Thames.
If the Oyster is convenient for Londoners, the Visitor Oyster card is even better for travellers, as it’s loaded with exclusive offers and discounts at many London attractions, including selected restaurants and exhibitions. Order online in advance from the Visit Britain website, or pick one upon arrival at Heathrow, choose the amount of credit you’d like and then proceed to zip around the city at both whim and convenience. There’s a daily cap that makes this the most affordable way to explore as much of London as you like within a day, a few days, or a week.
It’s a much cheaper option than buying single tickets or the hassle of finding the right change for each journey. But best of all, it’s valid on all forms of London transport, other than taxis. So from the Strand Palace Hotel you could, for instance, take the Number 9 bus to St James’s Palace, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park or Kensington Palace. Then hop onto the tube to South Kensington for the famous Natural History and Victoria and Albert museums, before a stroll down to Cadogan pier or Battersea Power Station to catch a Thames Clipper service to take you on a riverside return to the Strand, with landmarks on either bank, including the iconic silhouette of the Houses of Parliament.
You could stay on the boat of course, to cruise down to Canary Wharf and step off to sample a real city of London night out before a bus ride back, or keep going to Greenwich or even the Thames Barrier, a startlingly sculptural finish to the river before it meets the sea, before heading back. Or you could stop off at the Emirates Cable Car for a ride over the river – this is a discounted treat with a Visitor Oyster Card.
In fact, with an Oyster in hand, you could make up any combination of the capital that takes your fancy on a holiday or in-between business day, with time and money saving convenience – and a most satisfactory feeling of freedom.