The United Kingdom might be a rather small set of islands, but London is a great city with an even greater personality. Everywhere you look you’ll see iconic cultural landmarks such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and St Paul’s Cathedral, and the streets are more or less covered in red telephone boxes, red double-deckers and people in bowler hats saying “Cheerio, old chap” to everyone they meet. Okay, fine, the last part might not be true but one can dream, right?
Either way, in London you can soak up the Britishness and experience a truly metropolitan city, but wherever lots of people gather the higher prices seem to come with them. There’s no reason to let a money shortage stop you from visiting though, so are you ready to experience London on a budget? Well, jolly good then!
In London, you can walk around among skyscrapers, and a few minutes later find yourself in the midst of a colorful market, just like that. The neighborhoods can vary quite a lot, but you can always be certain that there’s a pub or two just around the corner.
The same goes for hostels, which definitely is the way to go if you want to save a buck or two. The city is full of them, but they are quite high in demand, so to make sure you get the one that you want – you might want to book a room or bed in advance so that you won’t have to end up sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs. Pro tip: try to make sure you’ll be close to a tube station.
If you’re not familiar with co-living, it’s basically like a super affordable mix between an apartment (although you might have to call it a flat) and a hotel: you get your own place and also access to work and communal spaces – and all the bills are included! Our favorite is The Collective, where you’ll find a gym, laundry facilities and even have your apartment cleaned – all while having all the fun while getting your work done and meeting new, exciting people! Hotels might soon be obsolete, and you heard it here first.
If you want to splurge on a taxi, you can find one pretty much everywhere but that’s also true for bus stops and tube stations (tube is what they call the subway) which means that the most convenient way to get around – both for you and your wallet – is to get a one day ticket (one week tickets are also available) so that you can use the public transportation as you please.
Just bear in mind that there are several different zones – so depending on how many zones you want to travel through – prices of your daily or weekly ticket will vary. And, of course, stand to the right on the escalators.
Get an app for the buses and study the tube map and you’ll be mastering the art of public transportation in a heartbeat. If you choose your routes carefully, you can even put together your own — almost free — tour of London. Great, right?
What to do, what to do? There are so many fun and interesting places that choosing would be hard even with an unlimited budget, but you can find many amazing gems that won’t break the bank. If you choose smaller venues theater tickets can be downright cheap, and Unseen Tours will give you a truly unique perspective of the city – namely that of someone who at some point has been living on its streets.
What else? Music. You don’t have to pay through your nose to enjoy some live music – and it doesn’t matter if you prefer classical music or rock. Many churches have free concerts, you can rattle your jewelry at the Royal Opera House at lunchtime and many record stores – such as Banquet Records, have free gigs on. And the same goes for some pubs, so your ears won’t feel forgotten during your amazing London trip.
We are big fans of thrift shopping because not only is it kind to your wallet, it’s also kind to our planet. The fact that you can find amazing, one-of-a-kind items, that’s just a bonus!
How about a French work shirt from the ‘30s or a gorgeous day dress from the ‘50s? London is full of places where you can make real bargains and find pieces that go with your own, unique style. Or if fashion is not a top priority and you just want good quality clothes, you can find that too! They just don’t make them like they used to, right. Vintage stores can be found all over the city, but East End Thrift Store is great for anyone looking to save some pennies.
Brick Lane is well worth a visit at any time, but on Sundays, the streets are alive with performers, delicious food and a fantastic collection on secondhand and vintage items at various prices. Try the cafés and restaurants lining the streets, and keep your eyes open for that piece of Art Deco furniture you’ve always imagined looking fantastic in the lounge.
Portobello Road Market, one of the most iconic not only in London but in the world, is open all week except for Sundays and here you can find all sorts of things: antiques, fruit and veg, bric-a-brac, secondhand goods and lots and lots of food – and vintage clothing, of course. Hopefully, your suitcase won’t need replacing after trying to hold all your new, but old finds.
Walking along the River Thames or in Hyde Park provides great sights, and a visit to Buckingham Palace is always a lovely experience. Try to catch the changing of the guards (you know which one we mean), and when you’ve managed that – museums. The British Museum, the Tate and many, many others will keep you entertained for hours – and you might learn something, too.
Taking your inspiration from the entertainment industry, go have a look at the street that played the part of Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films, walk on the Abbey Road zebra crossing made immortal by the Beatles, or go search for clues at the locations where Sherlock was filmed. It’s quite hard to not get excited by all these opportunities, don’t you think?
Sure, you can get a full meal almost anywhere in London, but you really won’t want to miss the cafés, the coffee, and the tea. Keep your phone ready, because you might fill up your memory card with photos of one these places alone.
If you want to eat with your eyes as well as your mouth, Elan Café is second to none for Instagram posts – the chairs alone are beautiful enough to have their own little photo shoot. The abundance of flowers and pastel colors creating an amazing atmosphere is not the only reason to visit this delightful place: the coffees and desserts are also to die for.
If you’re not to discouraged by the name, at Cereal Killer Café you’ll find every cereal flavor you can imagine, and you can choose between lots of different kinds of milk. Not to mention plenty of vegan options including their scrumptious milkshakes!
It would be almost criminal to visit London without at least one afternoon-tea experience – the Queen might be unavailable, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying scones, desserts and perhaps some champagne – all while drinking tea, of course. At Peggy Porschen the cupcakes are almost too perfect for your Insta feed, and at The Savoy, the scones are homemade and come with both jam and lemon curd. Beware of the dress code though, as gorgeous places lite the Ritz might require certain outfits.
London is so packed of sights, attractions, and adventures that you could probably fill a whole week just visiting streets that starts with an A, but we’ve tried to note down some of our favorite places to visit in this gorgeous city, places that won’t break the bank but still offer amazing experiences.
How about you, do you have any top tips on how to enjoy London on a budget? If so, please tell us because we would love to know!