Make no mistake, London is expensive. Celebrated attractions like the Westminster Cathedral or the Tower of London will set you back at least £20.00 a pop, so budget travel in London can be challenging. However, if you plan your trip well and throw in some free attractions you’ll stretch your budget. You might even afford to splurge on a couple of traditional experiences, like High Tea at the Ritz! Here is a terrific list of things to do in London if you are a budget traveler.
The Fun & Unexpected Stuff
Enjoy a Shakespearean play at the Globe Theatre. Tickets can be purchased for as low as £5 if you are willing to stand in The Yard. Theatre reconstruction opened for performances in 1997. Visitors come from around the world to tour the theatre, participate in workshops and enjoy a performance. The Globe Theatre is located on the bank of the River Thames.
Try British, American and even international cereals and 25 different varieties of milk and toppings at the Cereal Killer Cafe (starting at £3.10). Try their banoffee stacked hot chocolate. Cereal Killer Cafe also offers “cereal cocktail,” like the feckin nut case (£4.70). It’s a combination of crunchy nut clusters, crunchy nut cornflakes, honey nut cheerios, hazelnuts, and almond milk. They also carry 18 kinds of Poptarts and 13 spreads for your toast. This might be the most fun you have eating out! If you are a cereal junkie, you can count on a sugar-induced coma good time.Watch an exciting play at one of the pub theatres. Check out the Hens & Chicken Theatre (from around £10). Hen & Chicken Theatre makes use of the floor above the pub and only seats about 54 people for a more intimate experience. If you are willing to stick around after the performance, you might have the opportunity to share a pint with one of the cast.
Strike out at the retro bowling alley, Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes (from around £7.50 per person for one lane). The 1950s style bowling alley is complete with 8 lanes, pool tables, a cocktail bar, ping-pong, retro arcade games, karaoke booths, a dance floor and an American diner. Bloomsbury Bowling lanes also throw fabulous themed parties, including ‘The Big Lebowski,’ and ‘All Shook Up! – 50s & 60s Party.’ Check out their calendar to hit one of their hoppin’ parties.
Nothing is more English than tea. Next to the British Museum you will find the London Review Book & Cake Shop. They have an interesting selection of off-the-wall titles,solid classics, and current books. Pick up a book and read one over a pot of tea in (starting at around £3). You might think you are going for the books, or you might think you are going for the tea, but let’s be real, you are really going for the mouth-watering cake! (Pistachio & Rose cake anyone?) Ask the staff to do a cake and tea pairing.
Try a traditional steak and kidney pie at one of London’s famous eateries. My favorite place is Rock & Sole Plaice in Covent Gardens (£7.50). If you are down for a splurge, go for their famous Fish & Chips, using a 145-year-old recipe! You won’t be disappointed. It is served with all of the traditional trimmings. Covent Gardens is a lovely area to kick around in. They have some delightful, quirky shops. Also in Covent Gardens, there is a neat little restaurant called Avobar, dedicated to the Avocado. Their plates are indulgent food porn if you are interested in trying a White Chocolate Vegan Cheesecake (made with avocado) for dessert (£6)
Looking for the “purr-fect” place to have a cup of coffee? If you are all about cats, check out Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London’s oldest Cat Cafe. Sit among the rescued cats but make sure to check out the house rules (no children under 12 or parties more than 6 are among them). This shop requires reservations (£10, coffee and tea is included).
Prepare to be amazed by aquatic life from around the planet in London’s oldest aquarium at the Horniman Museum. This is a great place to spend a rainy afternoon. The entertaining and educational experience is worth far more than the money you will spend. An adult ticket is £4, £10 for a family of 4.Stargaze at a live planetarium show at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich (starting at £10). Time travel through the historic home of British astronomy. Learn the difference between the Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian of the World. Discover how time was standardized. Find out how scientists first mapped the stars and seas. This is an educational “must” for homeschoolers and astronomy buffs.
Are you a taphophile? Visit the Highgate Cemetery (£4). Opened in 1860, The East Cemetery is the final resting place of revolutionary Karl Marx and writer, George Eliot. Karl Marx’s robust bust by the famous English sculptor and fellow communist, Laurence Bradshaw, tops his monument. The impressive West Cemetery is only available by guided tour. It will cost you a bit more, but the 70-minute tour will astonish you with its Egyptian architecture, carved Victorian figures, and Terrace. This is an incredibly fascinating place to visit if old cemeteries and history are your thing.
British Museum vs the Museum of London
If you only have time to visit one museum in London, then choose the British Museum. he collections comprise Over eight million items and documents make up this collection dedicated to human history and culture.
The Museum of London tells the story of London from the Roman times right through to the present day with interactive and educational displays. It’s an interesting collection if you have the extra time.
The National Gallery vs The National Portrait Gallery
The National Gallery is home to over 2,000 Western European paintings from the middle ages to the 20th century. Their collection is a must-see for art lovers.
On the other hand, if you have a bit of extra time, The National Portrait Gallery houses a collection of portraits of historically important, including famous British people throughout history like Shakespeare, Queen Victoria and Churchill, just to name a few.
Natural History Museum
Specializing in life and earth science specimens comprising over 70 million items including pieces collected by Charles Darwin, dinosaur skeletons and the impressive life-size model of a blue whale.
National Maritime Museum
Discover everything there is to know about Britain’s maritime history at this interactive and interesting museum in Greenwich.
Victoria & Albert Museum
One of the greatest art and design museums in the world, the V&A contains some of the best examples of Renaissance works of art and most precious jewel collections surviving in the world today.
Tate Britain VS Tate Modern
Tate Britain focuses on the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day while the Tate Modern focuses on more recent art.
The Parks & Gardens
Regents Park vs Kensington Palace Gardens
If you are looking to people watch, London’s most popular and famous Hyde Park is a generous 350 acres in the heart of the city. Stroll along miles of walking paths, past dozens of statues and fountains. There’s even a beautiful lake. Often time you can see street performers or political soap-boxing.
At the far western end of Hyde Park is the elegant Kensington Gardens. While there is a fee to enter the palace, the bright, manicured gardens are free. Visit in spring when everything is in full bloom.
Regents vs St Jame’s Park
However, Regents Park is known to be one of London’s stunning gardens because of its aromatic rose garden and gorgeous flowering displays throughout the year. The area around the lake is often surrounded by picnickers.
St. James’s Park is popular with tourists mostly because of the many royal events that take place, like the annual Trooping of the Colour. It’s great to catch the pageantry if your timing is right.
Hampstead Heath vs Richmond Park
For a more natural park in London check out Hamstead Heath. It’s 320 hectares of parklands with picturesque views over London from the top of Parliament Hill.
A little further out is Richmond Park. London’s largest park is home to kinds of flora and fauna. You can also find trails for riding and walking and large open fields.
Borough Market is London’s foodie gourmet nirvana. You’ll find everything from fresh veggies and fruits to meats, artisan cheeses, fresh baked goods and vendors whipping up delicious street food.
Portobello Roads is famous for its antiques. The bustling Saturday market is also good for knick-knacks and vintage clothing. Go early to avoid the crush of the crowd.
Camden is a string of markets linked together. This weekend market is packed with furniture, second-hand items, clothing, tchotchkes, food, jewellery and more. It’s a great people watching spot too!
Columbia Road Flower Market
Here you will find gorgeous displays of flowers and plants for sale along with fun and quirky gardening accessories.
Check out one of London’s longest running markets! Local artisans and small business stalls sell everything from jewellery and clothes to one-of-a-kind gifts.
Old Spitalfields Market
If you are in east London (around Shoreditch) you’ll find this weekend market packed with the usual goods but you can also grab a pint and fish ‘n chips at one of the local pubs.
Changing of the Guard
The 45-minute ceremony takes place at the gates of Buckingham Palace. Show up well before the 11.30am Changing of the Guard if you want to see. You can catch the icon event most days during summer and alternate days during other times of the year. The royal band provides the music as the guards make a spectacular spectacle as they change over.
Old Royal Naval College
Inside Sir Christopher Wren’s twin-domed masterpiece you’ll find fine frescoes and an attractive chapel.
Nothing is more iconic than a walk over the famous Abbey Road crossing, made famous on the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover.
Okay, Trafalgar square is pretty cool. But it’s jammed with tourists and pigeons. You’ll see some of Westminster’s famous landmarks like Nelson’s Column in the center of the square guarded by four stately bronze lions.
You can walk a section of the Thames or trek all 180 miles of the National Trail path that runs along the Thames from the Thames Flood Barrier at Woolwich in South East London to Kemble in Gloucestershire, west of London.
Platform 9 ¾
If you are a Harry Potter fan get yourself to the station platform made famous by series. You won’t miss the trolly disappearing into the brick wall at Kings Cross Station.
At the edge of London’s East End, Covent Garden is a hip square that hosts some of the best shops and cafes in England. No matter the weather you are sure to see some great street performers.
Free Walking Tour
Sandermans New Europe offers gratuity-based walking tours. In about two and a half hours your guide will show you around some of London’s most interesting sights. (Be sure to tip, that’s how they earn their wages!)
Do you have any budget-friendly ideas for London? Share them in the comments below!
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