It is no secret that London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. In fact, I have heard it said that it is cheaper to commute from Spain, than to live in this historic city.
This does not surprise me at all. In a city who's population is over 8 million, living expenses are bound to be high. That doesn't even take in to account the appeal to tourists, when you've got history as rich as London's you can pretty much charge what you want, as people will always pay to see the sights.
But don't scratch it off your bucket list just yet. There is plenty to do and see in this diverse, vibrant city that will not leave you up the Thames without a paddle.
There are tons of budget savvy tips on travelling in general, and many certainly apply here. Hostels are fantastic (when selected properly) and many offer private rooms, so you'll hardly know you're not in a 5 star hotel. But those tips are for another post.
Here are 5 things you can do in London that will cost you virtually nothing, but still give you that trip of a lifetime!
1) Visit their Museums:
I know this may sound crazy, but many of London's top museums are free, with a suggested donation. Pay what you can (the average is 5 pounds) and enjoy. With a large variety of exhibits, from ancient artifacts, and rare jewels to modern art and fashion, there's something for everyone. Spending a couple days of your trip enjoying London's free museums will not only stretch your budget, but also...you're mind.
-Natural History Museum
Amazing dinosaur exhibits and load of information on Charles Darwin. This may be one of my personal favourites, with stuffed animals and an amazing gem and stone collection.
-The British Museum
One of the world's top museums, it houses collections from the Acropolis in Athens to the Rosetta Stone. If you are familiar with British history, you know they loved exploring and much of the treasures they returned with are here on display.
-National Portrait Gallery
Filled with portraits and images from British monarchs to everyday people. You can walk through history gazing into the eyes of those who lived it. If you are a fan of British history, you'll love the chance to put a name to a face, including Queen Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn and Oscar Wilde to name a few.
Displaying art from the 1500's to present day, you'll get a chance to see works by masters such as Degas, Andy Warhol, Henry Moore and even Beatrix Potter! For those of you looking for more cutting edge galleries, the Tate Modern houses a vast collection of new works.
**These are some of my favourites, but there are still even more free museums to choose from!
2) Take a stroll along the Thames:
This may seem like an obvious idea, but most of London's top attractions sit along this scenic river. Here's a great walk that takes about an hour and gives you fantastic photo ops, and a glimpse of both old and modern culture.
Here's what you'll do:
Starting at Westminster Station, you'll get a chance to see Westminster Abby. Take some time to stroll around the area. The highlight will definitely be Big Ben!
Cross Westminster Bridge to the opposite side for an even better view.
Once on the south bank, stroll east (your left as you cross). You'll pass the London Aquarium and have the best views of the Parliament buildings and the embankment. But, of course, you'll also get to see the London Eye.
As you walk along taking in the sights on both sides of the river Thames, you'll also be walking through one of the trendy areas filled with food trucks, street performers and skate parks. The whole area gives off a really hip vibe, and makes a great place to grab a cheap lunch to eat as you watch the overpriced tourist boats float past.
A further walk along the river will take you past Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. While this building is a reconstruction, it was built using all the same technology and tools as the 1597 original. They still perform Shakespeare's plays, in the round, and for 15 pounds there are various tours. By now you'll see the iconic Tower bridge, or London bridge as most know it. If markets are your thing, to the south (to right) you can heard to the Borough Market, an awesome food market filled with locals!
When you hit Tower bridge you'll also have the chance to cross over to the iconic Tower of London! (Which is totally worth it, but not on the cheap list.)
Before you know it, you'll have had an awesome day and didn't break the bank, plus you got a workout in!
3) Visit Abby Road Studios:
Located at 3 Abby Road, St. Johns Wood, this iconic recording studio is best known for gracing the cover of The Beatles, Abby Road Album. They were recording here, when they stepped out to take the photo. Pink Floyd has also laid down tracks here, and after a visit, you'll have enough rock n' roll cred to say things like "laid down tracks". The wall outside is covered with fans messages to the band, and even for those who aren't fans, this little slice of pop culture history is totally free! But the best part... watching tourist crossing the street, back and forth trying to get the perfect picture without getting hit by a car.
If rock n' roll isn't your thing, here's a freebie tip, The Sherlock Holmes Museum is not far, and while the tickets aren't pricey, there is usually a line. But, the gift shop is free to enter and right next door to the popular fictional home at 221 B Baker Street. It's a cute little shop, and delightfully, the hall to the bathrooms and back area are furnished just as the Victoria Detective would have wanted.
4) Picnic in the Park:
When the sun does shine in this cloudy city, locals and tourists alike head to one of the many London parks. You can't go wrong with Hyde Park with the beautiful Kensington gardens (attached to Kensington Palace) or St. James Park which will lead you right to Buckingham Palace.
Don't forget the picnic part! I love going into grocery stores everywhere I travel, but in this city of over priced pub chains and great international cuisine, I love me a good old Tesco Ploughman's sandwich. There are little cafes and restaurants that offer take away, but pop into your local Mark's n' Sparks or Boots (an awesome drug store with all kinds of bargains) and pick up some packaged sandwiches and a bag of crisps. I'm actually quite picky when it comes to prepackaged food, but I crave these. With delightful options like Turkey and Stuffing ,or a great Curry Coronation Chicken you'll get to eat like a local and enjoy fine British sweets and crisps while your at it. (I never said it would be a healthy lunch, but never fear, they do great salads and pastas for take away too!)
5) Camden Locks and Market:
With London's rich history and tearooms galore, it's easy to forget that they have a great alternative scene as well. The current home of punk rock culture and hippies, London's Camden Market is a killer way to spend the day. Whether you spend time wandering through stalls of funky discount thrift shops, dabble in steam punk fashions, or grab some vegan treats, you'll love the cool vibe. Check out local artists hand made goods, and if you do grab a souvenir, you'll find some great one of a kind shirts (Curtis loves the graphic Ts). Admittedly, it is great for shopping, but just seeing the alleys of eclectic shops is enough to make it worthy of a place on the cheap list.
London will always have a place in my heart, and while it is very easy to spend here. With great shopping on Oxford street, top tourist attractions, and the mighty British pound staying strong, it doesn't look like this city is possible on a budget traveler's list. But, with history down every street, easy walk-ability (and affordable transit), and a never ending list of parks and markets, London is possible for all travel budgets.
I'll leave you with some great London advice from my grandma, 'Just make sure you're wearing clean underwear, in case you run into the Queen.'
By: Heather Nassler