How to sightsee in London more sustainably

London is full of world-famous sights and landmarks, from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament to the London Eye and Tower Bridge. With so much to see, it can be tempting to jump in a taxi, order an Uber or hop on a bus without much thought other than all the exciting plans ahead. 

Whether you want a guided tour to experience this action-packed capital or stay for a few days longer, you can walk everywhere or take advantage of London’s cycle-friendly lanes. Whatever eco-friendly mode of transport you opt for, this article will help you enjoy seeing London’s top attractions, theatres and museums without harming the environment.

Enjoy the Sights Minus the Emissions

London’s extensive public transit network, bike lanes, and walkways allow travelling around the capital to be done sustainably. The capital is making considerable strides to go greener with a goal for its 9,200 fleet of iconic red double-decker buses to have zero emissions by 2037. Hop on and off as you please and enjoy views from the top deck, or book an exciting city tour on another special zero-emission sightseeing coach

Along with a great system of buses, the city’s world-famous London Underground (also known as ‘the Tube) has stepped up its sustainability agenda by improving its social, environmental and economic impact as much as possible. In 2022, the Mayor of London announced that the first steps towards powering the Tube with 100% renewable energy had been made. 

For visitors using the Tube, most top museums, attractions and landmarks are just steps from tube stations. A user-friendly, paperless Oyster card system lets travellers tap at electronic points before catching a tube or stepping on a passing bus. Looking ahead, London has pledged to adopt further accessible services that operate sustainably. Meanwhile, the green light is already in place for hotels and commercial buildings to offer electric vehicle (EV) charging units across the capital.  

Cycle on Eco-Friendly Routes

Cycling is an eco-friendly way to cover more ground in this exciting city. 22% of Londoners live within 400 metres of a London Cycleway. Central London has over 100 miles of protected bike lanes and car-free streets. With cycle lanes running on most roads, cyclists’ safety is a priority across the capital. Its extensive network of cycle paths has protected lanes. In recent years, SafeCycleLDN introduced a map of safe routes showing the efforts to encourage visitors and residents to choose this sustainable mode of travel. If you are cycling in London as a visitor, a cycling accident is the last thing you need, so it helps to know standard bike signals and learn more about the designated lanes. The regulated low-traffic zones across London also help to keep cyclists safer and more at ease.

London’s cycle hire schemes are eco-friendly and great for short sightseeing trips to break up the day. If you have a bike for longer, you’ll have time to cycle to many of London’s famous sights alongside the Thames or through many of the city’s lovely parks that are a great retreat from the hustle and bustle in the streets. London’s largest royal parks, Hyde Park and Regents Park, are perfect for cycling, with broad pathways for riders of all skill levels. Take advantage of the beautiful Kensington Gardens, home to Kensington Palace and the Diana Memorial Fountain.

There are guided cycling tours that combine a cycle trip with a royal visit to Buckingham Palace or a breeze past St Paul’s Cathedral. Tours provide bikes and helmets and handle the route planning, too, plus electric bike (e-bike) London tours if you are low on pedal power. Whether you’re cycling or on an e-bike, popular routes include Regent’s Canal towpath, a scenic path connecting Little Venice to Camden Market and The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, with 60km of trails around parks built during the 2012 Olympics. Other top sights will include Big Ben and Trafalgar Square. 

Explore the Capital on Foot

Discovering London on foot is the most eco-friendly way to tick off the sights. With a pair of comfy shoes, counting your steps on the city’s well-trodden streets is an ideal way of getting to know a particular area in more detail. Not only is walking emission-free, but it also enables you to wander and admire historic and modern buildings while getting some exercise. You will be more accessible to spot London’s renowned blue heritage plaques inscribed on period properties and meander along vibrant streets to browse in markets or tip street performers. If you have a special themed walk in mind, from London’s infamous gangsters to the royal family, there are walks for every group member to sign up for. 

The South Bank area surrounding the River Thames offers miles of walkways past attractions like the London Eye, Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. If you’re after a more modern production or keen to book a musical such as ABBA Voyage, visiting the capital is only complete with heading to London’s West End. If you go Northwest, you’ll find Notting Hill, better known for Portobello Market and its colourful Victorian row houses. In addition, if you want to shop or not, a stroll down Oxford Street, which is now primarily car-free with wider pavements, is well worth a visit.

Cruise the River Thames 

London’s river buses are a fun and sustainable method of transport to take in the sights.

All the boats on the River Thames make stops at cultural sites like the Tate Modern. There are many riverside landmarks to watch, from the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Modern and London Eye – and loads more visible from the Thames. 

View on Tower of London from Thames

Launched back in 2022 and 2023 as part of Uber’s net-zero strategy, the Uber Boats by Thames Clippers offer sustainable river travel with passenger ferries, inviting people to enjoy the sights of London from the water. In addition to their ultra-quiet operation, these hybrid vessels run solely on battery power, transporting day trippers past significant landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge and The O2.

London, therefore, has ample opportunities for eco-conscious travellers thanks to its cycling paths, pavements and a world-renowned public transit system. Recent and ongoing investments in green infrastructure continue to facilitate the city’s drive towards sustainable tourism.

The demand for and growth of eco-tourism in the city is also likely to expand as more and more travellers choose to plan their visit to London, making more eco-friendly options a part of their itinerary. A report in April 2023 stated that 76% of travellers wanted to travel more sustainably in the following year.

Savvy travellers can get anywhere in London sustainably if they want to. From walking or cycling to a specific spot or opting for the vast network that ties the city’s highly-developed infrastructure together, it’s possible to visit this unique city and be environmentally aware. Thanks to state-of-the-art public transport systems and low-emission buses, tourists can explore the famous attractions in England’s well-connected green capital.