London is an expensive city, sometimes prohibitively so, but this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Here are a few pointers for those visiting London on a budget.
Tour for Free
History lovers should join the 40-minute Undiscovered London walking tour, or tag along for one of the British Museum’s daily eye-opener tours. If you’re into street art, the Alternative London walk might be more your speed.
Get a Travel Card
Pay-as-you-go transportation is quite expensive in London. Forget about catching a cab; a one- or three-day travel card offers the most affordable option if you’re not planning to stay long. For an all-in-one option, the Travel Pass includes unlimited transportation and access to over 55 attractions. And if you’re traveling into London by train, your ticket gains you 2-for-1 access to several main attractions like Madame Tussaud’s and the London Dungeon.
For 50% off at hundreds of restaurants, try the Taste Card. It offers a free 30-day trial for those who don’t want to fork up the fee. If you’re willing to dine outdoors (weather permitting), you can go to plenty of places to eat on the cheap. Borough Market is a South London must-see, and vendors often give away samples if you’re lucky. Portobello Road Market is another classic stop for lunch under £5, with plenty of street food trucks. If you’re looking for a good curry, head to Brick Lane’s ethnic food arcade.
Free gigs rarely happen on the weekend. Instead, look out for events during the middle of the week; like the first Thursday of every month when 150 East London galleries come together to host free events. For live music, head to St Martin in the Fields at noon, where there are free concerts on most weekdays. If you’re a theater-goer, Wednesday is one of the best days to get half-price West-End tickets at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. And for cheap movie screenings, venture west to Notting Hill, where you can see a recent flick for a mere £3.50 at The Coronet (the cinema is undergoing renovation, but reopens in the spring of 2015).
Free city views:
Some of the best views of the city are free. Hampstead Heath is one of the hilliest parks, with a stunning view of London’s skyline, and the rooftop of One New Change in Holborn is the best place to see St. Paul’s Cathedral lit-up at night. Skip the expensive tour bus and use your travel card to take advantage of regular London routes that drive by the city’s landmarks. Bus #88 goes by Camden, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and over the Thames.
London was ranked the world’s 5th greenest city in 2014, and there’s no wonder given the number of public parks, squares, and gardens. Walk into Regent’s Park and you’ll forget you’re in the heart of a hectic capital. Pack a picnic, rent a bike, or just go for a stroll; they’re all free.
Getting a good deal is a matter of catching it at the right time. Book online the day before to visit big attractions like the Tower of London. If you’re not into couch surfing or staying in a stranger’s home, but still looking for something cheap and cheerful, check out sites like Hipmunk for regular offers on London hotels.
London hides many secrets beneath its mask as one of the most expensive cities in the world, and you only need to do a little digging to discover what they are. Visit London often? What are your tips for touring London on a budget?
*This post is a part of the #HipmunkCityLove Project, in which I am a participating author. For suggestions of cheap London hotels for your next trip, check out my post over at Hipmunk.