Are there sites in London where you would think it was really worth it to hire a private or very small group tour instead of doing on your own with RS? I’ve been doing a lot of research and highlighting of RS guide but I was unsure if some consider assistance for some sites such as Tower of London, Westminster etc or if audio guides and research would be enough and the lines not preventative. When we went to Italy, I was so glad we paid extra money to have a private tour of the Vatican and also in Venice around St Marks Square bc we were able to gain entrance early, skip lines, and really enjoyed the info presented. In Florence, we used the Rick Steves self guide tour for the Uffizi ; it was wonderful, felt complete, and we were glad that we didn’t spend the extra money for a private guide. We will have 4-5 days
I was in London in May and found that the Beefeater tour at the Tower to be super fun. One RS tip that payed off for us bigtime was to go when they first opened and make your way to the crown jewels. We pretty much had the exhibit to ourselves, and then went down and took the tour with everyone else. By the time we finished the tour, the line to get in to see the crown jewels was wrapping around the building.
For Westminster, we used another RS tip and went with a London Walks tour. For 10 extra pounds per person, you get a fantastic guide and get to skip the line everyone else was standing in.
We were in London for five days and ended up going to evensong performances all around town. Tourism is closed for an hour and you are allowed inside some of the great structures in the city for free. You can't really move around, but you get a really great sense of the place in a smaller, peaceful setting. We are not religious people, but the acoustics of St. Paul's, Westminster, etc were unreal.
Have a fantastic trip!
Agree with the above post regarding Tower of London strategy and the value of London Walks tours.
For Westminster Abbey, the free audio guide provided with admission is excellent. It's narrated by Jeremy Irons, and you can download it onto your phone ahead of time for free from the Abbey's website if you'd rather listen on your own device versus using one of their handhelds. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/audiotour
Another excellent option is their Verger-guided tour, led by the Abbey's own staff. It's only an extra 5 pounds, well worth it, and you are allowed into the Shrine of Edward the Confessor which is otherwise closed off to the public because it is fragile. If you want to do this and skip the lines at Westminster Abbey, once you know what day you're visiting, you can buy your tickets in advance from the Abbey's website, and then show your printed ticket to the queue staff and you'll either be directed to a fast track line (high season) or skip the single queue (off season). Verger tours cannot be booked in advance, so you'd sign up and pay for that at the desk inside once you enter. (At least, this is how it worked when I visited this past year) http://www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/verger-guided-tours
Of course, with London Walks, you can just decide on the day, no advance booking.
Enjoy your visit to London!
I totally agree with the previous poster that the Verger tour is excellent!
We use tour guides some places as you did in Italy, especially for complex sites. We found the R.S. guide and available audio tours (St. Paul's, Westminster) to be excellent and all we needed. We did take some London Walks tours that were more off-beat, and we even did a Brit Movie Tours walk once, which was great fun.
The Beefeater Tour at the Tower is excellent, too.