How to experience London on a budget

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London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, there’s no question about that. You won’t be finding a cocktail here under the price of about 8 pounds, you’ll be paying double the standard rate for a cab and hotel prices probably aren’t worth mentioning. However, fear not, it is possible to experience London on a budget. There are so many wonderful art galleries, neighbourhoods to explore and sights to see that cost very little or nothing at all. To help you on your way here’s our selection of the best and cheapest ways to explore and experience London whilst sticking to your budget.
Emma Bates London

V&A Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum neighbours the Natural History Museum and holds many exhibits from Greek statues through to Alexander McQueen. Whilst their special exhibitions usually do cost and need to be booked, you can easily walk in and have a wander around everywhere else. There’s a huge amount to see and a beautiful courtyard to relax and read a book in if you fancy a break!

Entertainers in Covent Garden

Fancy watching a show but it’s too expensive? Well why not take a trip to Covent Garden on a sunny afternoon, you’ll be sure to spot all manner or weird and wonderful mini-shows and street performers. Jump from one to the other and take in the atmosphere around you! Not quite the same as a West End performance but I’m sure you’ll have just as much fun.

Hampstead Heath Ponds

It’s a hot, sunny day and you fancy a swim. Don’t want to pay for a pricey entry into a swimming pool, how about taking a trip up to Hampstead Heath enjoying the sun with a good book and then cooling off with a dip in the fresh water ponds. If you’re not up for swimming with the ducks then it’s definitely worth a trip there for how beautiful it is!

London

Temple Station Terrace 

This is my favourite spot to sit and admire London. Head out of Temple tube station and up the stairs, turn left and you’ll see gated stairs that go up to a little terrace with benches on top of Walkabout nightclub. I found this one lunchtime at university when I wanted to sit outside and eat. If you’re looking for a different view of almost every major landmark in London then here’s your spot.

The Natural History Museum 

Potentially one of the most beautiful buildings in London, the Natural History Museum sits beautifully in South Kensington on Cromwell Road. It is free to potter round and the grand entrance hall is worth a visit all on it’s own, with a huge skeleton of a dinosaur and beautiful architecture you’re sure to find plenty of opportunities for a photograph.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is a beautiful place to walk through and take a little break from the city, you can walk all the way from Kensington Palace through past the lake and down to the Serpentine. It’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle that surrounds it. There’s plenty of activities to do in Hyde Park from renting Boris Bikes to pedalos on the Serpentine. It’s a great way to enjoy the city on a sunny day.

London

Catch the water ferry from Waterloo to Tate Modern

There are a number of London’s iconic monuments lining this stretch of the river and it gives you a totally different perspective of the city to see it from here. Tickets are comparatively cheap compared to the tourist ferry’s you can catch down the Thames, you can even use an Oyster card for discounts on this service. Check out their website to learn more about the routes and prices.

The Saatchi Gallery 

This gallery is located in Chelsea off Duke of York Square, all of their exhibitions are free and they often have a number of really great ones at a time. For example, most recently Hermes had an installation on the top floor of the gallery running for a few weeks. It’s a lovely, white haven of an escape and it’s all free so you should go and pay it a visit just for this!

shoreditch 5

Columbia Road Flower Market

You’ll find the flower market thriving only on a Sunday, you don’t have to buy anything but if you want a big bouquet of flowers or some new plants for your garden you’ll be paying a very reasonable amount. The atmosphere on a Sunday is lovely, you can wander down having a look at the stands, pop into the quirky shops along the road and also pick up a bagel and some coffee to fuel you on your exploration. It’s a lovely place to spend a Sunday morning and a unique way to experience a different part of London on a budget.

Brick Lane Street Food stands

Off of Brick Lane you’ll find a series of stands, all relatively cheap and all equally delicious. One of these locations being Ely’s Yard, plenty of different cuisines and a cheap way to eat out in a city renowned for being very expensive!

London

The Street art in Shoreditch 

Not too keen on museums? How about wandering the streets of Shoreditch and viewing plenty of the street art that decorates all manner of surfaces. My favourite graffiti is on Ebor Street opposite Shoreditch High Street station and all along Brick Lane. If this sounds more like your idea of art gallery then this area definitely  has some of the best in London.

 Vintage Shopping in Shoreditch 

Are you visiting for a weekend and you want a new outfit for a night out? Head to Brick Lane and there’s a collection of vintage stores located in a basement near All Star Lanes. There’s so much choice and it’s all really good value, instead of heading to one of London’s high street stores how about picking up something a little more memorable and original from here! Rocket Vintage is also located off Brick Lane, it’s a little more pricey but they always have a great selection of clothes, jackets and accessories.

Rent an AirBnB

AirBnb is potentially one of my favourite websites to use while travelling and in London especially they have an incredible selection of apartments, houses and rooms ready and waiting for you to stay in. These will without a doubt not only be better value but also far cheaper than many hotels. You’ll also have a more genuine experience of London life through renting someone’s apartment or home. Renting on AirBnB will also enable you to cook and buy your own food, again making this very expensive city far cheaper! Be sure to check them out before booking a trip or a weekend in London.

London2

Wander down Portobello Road 

Whilst the Market probably isn’t the cheapest in London you can find some good bargains if you look hard enough. The weekend’s are when the most stands are open but during the week it’s a lovely street to have a potter down, to see the infamous coloured houses and maybe stop off for a coffee along the way. Gail’s does a great cappuccino if you’re looking for one!

Monument 

The Monument was constructed to commemorate the Great Fire of London and the rebuilding of London between 1671-77. It is located a short walk from Monument Tube station and the views from the top are quite spectacular, as London viewing points go, Monument is really very affordable! Adult tickets are £4, Concessions are £2.70 and anyone under 16 is £2. Check out their website for details about viewing times.

London1

Cross Waterloo Bridge and walk down the Southbank

This is without a doubt my favourite view in London, crossing Waterloo Bridge offers a view of Big Ben and the London Eye on one side and a view of St Pauls, the Shard and further East on the other. Snap lots of photos and stop along the way to admire the majority of London’s sights from a distance. Once you’ve reached the other side, stroll along the Southbank and watch all the street performers, they’re free unless you enjoy them a lot and want to leave a little donation in their money baskets!

Walk!

Probably the simplest recommendation. Don’t pay for one of the bus tours round the city, you’ll discover more of the real London by just getting lost in a neighbourhood. Pack a pair of your comfiest shoes, your camera, a map and just get out and go! On a sunny day there’s nothing more delightful than a stroll around the streets of London.

Happy exploring!

WOW Contributor

Story by World of Wanderlust contributor Emma Bates.

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37 Comments

  1. tazz.kubba08@gmail.com'

    Tajirul @Top Travel Lists

    July 21, 2015

    There is no doubt London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. It really is difficult too to have best out of a London trip when there is budget constraints. Yes, maybe one can check a couple of expensive but must do things to do in London and try to spend less when it comes to other activities with plenty of alternatives. And your post mentions some of the best alternatives to make a London Trip on Budget…… the idea is simple, one can easily go for all the free things to do in London…

  2. theeighthoursblog@gmail.com'

    TheEightHours

    June 19, 2015

    Instantly homesick.
    You’ve forgotten our favourite tip: eat your way around some of the amazing markets and the tasty testers. Borough Markets my fave. Get a few bits and go for a picnic.

  3. ohhayblogs@gmail.com'

    Lauren

    June 19, 2015

    All of that is basically the reason I need to go back to London. I’ve been three times in my life, once with family and the other two as an ‘educational’ trip. So wandering about was limited. But I loved seeing Shoreditch for the first time last year and am in love with all the graffiti!
    Lauren
    xxx

  4. molliebylett@hotmail.com'

    Mollie

    June 18, 2015

    Great list!
    Borough Market and Camden Market are amazing ones to add too!!

    🙂
    molliebylett.com

  5. charactersandcarryons@gmail.com'

    Joyce

    June 18, 2015

    This is a great list, and on point for the topic. London is way too expensive but I’m glad that there are a lot of ways to enjoy it while on a stricter budget. I think going to the parks is one of my favorite things to do in London, especially the beautiful Primrose Hill!

  6. lovelyforliving@yahoo.de'

    Yvonne

    June 17, 2015

    Thanks for this amazing post! Its actually possible in every city, you just need the know how! So cheers again and happy traveling!
    xx
    Yvonne

  7. social@squeezepod.com'

    Christian from Squeeze Pod

    June 16, 2015

    Nice review of London on a practical level. Everyone knows that to enjoy traveling to London you should have a huge budget. Your article helps me as as a student traveler to survive when get to London. Thanks for sharing!

  8. alongdustyroads@gmail.com'

    Emily

    June 16, 2015

    Great to see East London finally listed – there are so many ‘what to do in London’ posts that fail to mention my favourite part of London, and somewhere that so few tourists actually visit 🙂

  9. ellen_dorsman@live.nl'

    Ellen Dorsman

    June 16, 2015

    Take the ferry out to Greenwhich and snag a bag of peanuts in a little shop. The Greenwhich park has hundreds of little squirrels that will hop out when they smell and hear the bag. It’s a great experience, and very cheap!

  10. Melanie.k.andersen@gmail.com'

    Melanie Zelnick

    June 16, 2015

    Great tips!!!! I need to come back to London and visit!
    melanie @ meandmr.com

  11. Lydialulurose@gmail.com'

    Lydia Lulu

    June 16, 2015

    As a London girl who has lived in this city my whole life, you’ve flagged up some of my favourite spots! The ferry from Waterloo to the Tate has been added to my Bucket List xx

  12. camillemariemola@gmail.com'

    Camille

    June 16, 2015

    Awesome post, and so helpful! I’m visiting London this summer and this post certainly helps.

  13. jiahantong@gmail.com'

    Chloe

    June 15, 2015

    Ah this post was lovely! Could you also do one on which flea markets are the best in London? x

  14. monique.reinheimer@gmail.com'

    Monique

    June 15, 2015

    This is a great post and I feel like I need to go back to check everything on your list! 🙂

  15. susannamolson@att.net'

    Susanna Olson

    June 15, 2015

    London can be SO expensive, but there are many free things to do and explore. I really enjoyed hanging out in Covent Garden. My friend and I explored the city by walking from one Whittards Tea destination to the next and enjoying free samples at each shop. That may sound silly, but it ties in with your last point: WALKING IS THE WAY TO GO. We never would have seen so much of the city or felt the London vibe if we were on a tour bus the whole time. Getting lost in the hubbub is part of the experience. To my fellow Americans may I just say, do not forget that those two legs you have, they are actually a surprisingly economical means of transportation.

  16. wanderbeforewhat@gmail.com'

    Sarah Lynn

    June 15, 2015

    I didn’t know doing London on a budget was even an option! Lol.
    Love the city, as long as you don’t think about how much you’re paying for a pint!

  17. gouchr@cox.net'

    Gouchr

    June 15, 2015

    Read the last post. I stayed @ a B & B & it was wonderful.

  18. freckle.akl@gmail.com'

    Jess

    June 15, 2015

    One day I will make it there! Good to know there is a way to do London cheaply too, I would definitely like to check out a lot of the spots you have mentioned.

  19. gouchr@cox.net'

    Gouchr

    June 15, 2015

    Day passes are the answer to traveling in Europe… EVERYWHERE IN EUROPE!!! When you go there through a travel agency, their getting a kick back from staying at hotels and the such. (that’s how some make their income).The last time I was there, I stayed @ a B & B. I took all of my meals there, and they told me how to save when traveling through the country….. I got friendly with a cabby,,, WE LITTERLY WENT EVERYWHERE!! And he was tipped well for his time. He got to see sights that he’d never seen before. After a couple of days, he only charged me a flat rate. And as fore the B & B, I stayed in Strafford on AVON. they had cut the price in half,,,,, because I helped chop wood for the cooking stove. I don’t know it just seemed the right thing to do@ the time. They didn’t ask, I just did it. 4 days …………… NO CHARGE!! Saved $200.00

  20. gouchr@cox.net'

    Gouchr

    June 15, 2015

    Purchase day passes.

  21. gouchr@cox.net'

    Gouchr

    June 15, 2015

    See post to Julia before going.

  22. gouchr@cox.net'

    Gouchr

    June 15, 2015

    See the post to Julia before going.

  23. gouchr@cox.net'

    Gouchr

    June 15, 2015

    purchase day passes. this will cover trains & other modes of transportation. Or you can get them,,,,,, through your travel agent…. That’s what I did. With these documents, there’s no wait in lines at the sights, you just walk up to the person on duty show the day pass and you go right through. It’s like having an appointment. Got that from the programs. & & & , it can take about 300 American off of the trip….

  24. gouchr@cox.net'

    Gouchr

    June 15, 2015

    Rich Steve’s, is another that has a travel program on PBS station. Check your local listings for time & dates.

  25. info@tokyo-direct-guide.com'

    Kozue @ Tokyo Direct Diary

    June 15, 2015

    V&A Museum and the street arts are so attractive.
    Must-sees are not all. I really feel so. Thanks, Emma! I keep checking your posts!!

  26. henna.marttila@hotmail.com'

    Henna

    June 15, 2015

    I think I´m going to London soon, so these tips are really useful! I found your blog a couple days ago, and I love it. It´s so full of knowledge of places and the appearance is fresh and cool. 🙂

  27. centratravels@gmail.com'

    Ivy Kriste

    June 15, 2015

    Very useful information. Thanks

  28. intolust@gmail.com'

    Brittany Walker

    June 15, 2015

    London is soooo pricy, but luckily the exchange rate is REALLY good right now. When I went to London last spring, it was much higher and made the trip THAT much more expensive.

  29. gouchr@cox.net'

    gouchr

    June 15, 2015

    I learned through watching “Smart Travel” on PBS.

  30. lioninthewild@gmail.com'

    Kiara King

    June 15, 2015

    They say London is ridiculously expensive to visit, but I think you’ve just proven that even the most expensive city doesn’t have to be that way at all. I’m adding these all to my list!

  31. karmapoliice@gmail.com'

    Tessa / Bramble & Thorn

    June 15, 2015

    Totally agree with your recommendations, particularly the V&A! It’s such an amazing museum!

    Tessa

  32. exploresmore@gmail.com'

    Julia

    June 15, 2015

    I just love the V&A, when I was younger I saw a fashion exhibit there that has stuck with me until today 😀 London is soo unfairly expensive though, it makes Paris seem like a cake walk (a bargain cake walk)

    Julia

  33. clgoyette1211@aol.com'

    Christie

    June 15, 2015

    This is a great list! I really love the graffiti in Shoreditch too, and the South Bank and Hyde Park were a couple of my favorite spots to visit last time I was in London. I haven’t been to any of the other places you mentioned but I’ll definitely have to check them out next time I’m in London! The Temple Station Terrace and museums sounds especially awesome 🙂

  34. madison@thehornblows.co.nz'

    Madison

    June 15, 2015

    Aaah I want to visit London!!!

    PS: I have a blog
    Please check it out lovelies xxxx

  35. julia@julialundin.com'

    JLu

    June 15, 2015

    You’ve covered it perfectly, feel like I need to visit that Temple terrace!

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