How to make the most of London without breaking the bank
Having a great time in London really doesn’t have to mean selling one of your kidneys. Despite the horror stories you might have heard about how expensive everything is, exploring, soaking up some culture and having great fun is well within your reach. There are so many amazing things to do and see that really won’t break the bank – in fact, a great many things are completely free.
You just have to know where to look.
We love the exciting buzz of the city, but then on a warm summer’s day there is no better place to hang out in than one of the capitals many beautiful parks.
Take a boat out on the Serpentine or picnic in central Hyde Park. Or deer-spot from your bike in the more rural feeling Richmond park, where the breath-taking views are so stunning that they are protected by an act in parliament.
Live music concerts; open air theatre and sporting events take place in many parks and gardens throughout the year. Even without a specific reason to go, you’ll never regret your visit, even if you just fancy chilling out under a tree.
London is home to some of the world’s most interesting and historical museums and exhibitions. Since 2001, entry to state museums is free and nowhere has a better concentration of them than in London, covering everything from art to science.
Venues such as the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the more contemporary Design Museum really are the very best in their field – and you can spend days looking round them absolutely free, proving culture really doesn’t have to cost in the UK.
Theatres and shows
We know the theatre has a reputation for being expensive and the best shows often look as if they are sold out, but if you shop around there are definitely ways to avoid paying full wack.
- Always look around online first. It’s common to find up to 60% discounts on West End shows if you can be flexible about dates and times.
- We often use the TKTS booths in Leicester Square which offer half-price and discounted theatre tickets every day, and up to a week in advance.
- Go in a group, most theatres offer discounts for groups of 10 or more – so grab some mates and make a night of it in London’s West End.
- Go directly to a theatre’s box office on the day for standby tickets and returns, particularly if you have a penchant for a show that looks sold out.
- Theatres such as Shakespeare’s Globe and the National Theatre sell a range of cheap tickets for every performance.
Always make sure you buy from reputable sources such as STAR members (The Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers).
You really can buy almost anything you desire at the markets in London from amazing fresh cheap street food to art and antiques.
For discerning and adventurous foodies, Borough Market is the place to head, with Brixton Village as the less crowded alternative. Covent Garden market is very popular (and lovely to wander round and stop for a drink) where you can find jewellery, artwork and souvenirs in abundance – although it’s more of a tourist trap, with prices to match.
Camden Market (Amy Winehouse’s old neighbourhood) and Petticoat Lane (Spittalfields, dating back to the 16th Century) are where to head for alternative and vintage clothing and hand-crafted jewellery. Portobello Market is also very popular for clothes, food and collectables.
London has so many dining options you can eat your way around the world without ever leaving the city. And there are some low-priced gems, if you know where to find them.
For a more low-key evening, however, whether it’s Italian, Tunisian, French, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan or good old British fish ‘n’ chips you’re after, there are some great value places to eat that won’t require you to smash your piggy bank or book months ahead.
You don’t have to splash out on an expensive Gym membership to keep yourself in shape, in fact why would you when London offers you a number of ways to work out across the city free of charge.
From bootcamps to yoga classes, the options are varied and frequent. Check out these great suggestions from TimeOut for places to get fit with friends for less.
Events and Festivals
From annual events like music concerts, Carnivals, Parades and Festivals, to daily traditions like the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace – there are things going on every day in London that you can enjoy at no cost. Visit London showcases some of the many options: the list is long, far-reaching and varied to suit all tastes, however bizarre they might be … London toilet tour … naked bike rides!? Really!
There are literally hundreds of ways to explore the city and have the best time without having to spend too much of your European travel budget. For practical advice on preparing for and embarking on your professional OE to the UK, get our free guide now.