Attraction tickets, meals out, a few drinks – they all start to add up. London is an amazing city though with so much to see and do – from museums to markets, parks to pubs – so don’t let the cost of visiting put you off. In our years in London we've picked up lots of tips about what to see and do without breaking the bank, and more importantly what not to do. Here are some of our top tips for making the most of London on a budget.
THINGS TO DO
One of the easiest and best things you can do in London on a budget is wander around and see the sights (weather permitting). London is a huge city, but its centre is pretty walk-able and you can see a lot within a fairly small area. One of our favourite walks is along the Thames, following South bank from opposite the Houses of Parliament, past London icons like the London Eye, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, HMS Belfast and ending up at Tower Bridge.
There are also plenty of parks in London to explore. You can row in the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, visit the rose garden in Regent’s Park, spot the royal palaces at St James’ Park, take a dip in the pools on Hampstead Heath or hang out with the deer in Richmond Park. There are plenty of smaller green spaces tucked around the city too that make a good lunchtime picnic stop.
When you’re visiting big London attractions, you can often save by booking online, even the day before – London Eye tickets are £27 versus £30 on the day, or the Tower of London is £24.70 instead of £27.50. If you’re visiting a lot of places, it’s worth investing in a London Pass. They cover over 80 attractions with skip-the-queue access and a free bus tour. There are versions for 1–10 days, with or without travel, costing from £75–£254 (£55–£204 for children).
Street food is huge in London, with food stalls from around the world at markets, selling dishes for around £5. There are lots to choose from but some of my favourites are Borough Market (Monday–Saturday), Portobello Road Market (Monday–Saturday), the Real Food Market in Kings Cross (Wednesday–Friday) and the Southbank Centre Food Market (Friday–Sunday).
And if the weather’s good enough for a picnic (or you’re self-catering), then you can pick up supplies from one of London’s supermarkets. There are local/metro versions of Sainsburys, Tesco and the Coop around the city, or more high-end are Marks & Spencers and Waitrose.
LOW-COST LONDON TRANSPORT
The best way to travel around London on a budget is to get an Oyster card – you can pick one up at any Tube station or order one online in advance. They bring the price of a single Tube fare in Zone 1 down from £4.90 to £2.40. You can also get the same reduced fares by using a contactless payment card (including overseas Amex, Mastercard and Visa cards). Prices are capped so the most you will pay in one day is £7.20 for travel within Zones 1 and 2.