how to do london on a budget

according to forbes, london is the third most expensive city in the world just after moscow & tokyo. i'm not questioning this cause i live here & i'll vouge that sometimes i don't know how i've survived here financially so long with the sheer expense of things. what i'm saying is that before you completely cross off coming to visit london especially with the doom & gloom we hear about everyday with the 'credit crunch' & a weak dollar- it is possible to see the real london for free or really cheap for those of you on a budget.

so here's what you can see in london for free:

-all the major art galleries like the national gallery {my favorite}, the tate modern & the portrait gallery. *i've mentioned a bit about free galleries in a previous post of mine.
- big ben {you can go inside the houses of parliment in the summer but it costs £12 & booking is required}
- the outside of westminster abbey {worth it to go in although it costs}
- the outside of st paul's
- the outside of buckingham palace {you can only go in in the summer anyway}
- the changing of the guards
- covent garden {& the street performers}
- the major museums {like the british museum, victoria & albert, natural history museum}
- trafalgar square
- the outside of the globe theatre
- the outside of kensington palace
- carnaby, bond & oxford street
- abbey road {you can get a pic of the crosswalk & road sign}
- london bridge
- number 10 downing street where the prime minister lives {from a distance}
- leicester square
- the prime meridian line at the royal observatory in greenwich { 0 degrees longitude}
- the royal observatory & queen's house in greenwich
- the old royal naval college {painted hall & chapel--loads of movies filmed here}
-piccadilly circus
- the horse guards
- the old bailey {one of the most famous courthouses in the world--oscar wilde tried here & they still wear wigs!}
- the parks {my favorites are hyde park which has its own lake & a statue for peter pan & of course greenwich park}
- hampstead heath & blackheath {both have really cute window shopping & wide open spaces to relax}
- the markets {including portobello road, borough & greenwich}

the above list is most of what there is to see anyway in london. it is possible to do most of it by walking & not the underground which will save you money on travel. get an oyster card if you are here a few days, it will save you a lot & go to streetmap.co.uk to print out maps so you don't have to buy one.

if you are into walking you can do the 'london walks' for £7 ($14) which are amazing, a good deal & you get to see the back streets. my favorite {and oddly creepy} is their 'jack the ripper' tour that goes through the exact spots in whitechapel where all the murders took place.

don't do the bus top tour---you can see everything yourself for cheaper. the london eye is worth it only on a clear day and london doesn't have many clear days unfortunately. there's a great view of all of london from greenwich park & the observatory that i think is better than you'd see w/the eye.

theatre trips---a definite must here {its like going to nyc w/out seeing a broadway play}--go to the half price ticket booths.

music-- many of the church's including st. martin in the fields do free lunchtime concerts.

cheap ways/places to eat:

- tesco's & sainsbury's all do mini versions of their grocery stores in the city---buy a snack from here for lunches
- instead of subway---go to paul's {there's one in covent garden} that has great handmade, european style sandwiches.
- wagamama's is everywhere which serves a lot of healthy asian food that's cheap
- carluccio's is one of my favorites too--great quality & inexpensive italian food
- greenwich has loads of cheap eateries
- pubs have cheap & filling food
- find a fish & chip or kebab shop {its how the locals eat}
- the markets all have food stalls where you can fill up
- covent garden has great food too: wagamama's, carluccio's, cornwall's pasty shop, & ponti's are good

tips on where you stay:

avoid staying right in the center of london or anywhere near a park--it will be more.
- greenwich & canary wharf have nice hotels
- try to get breakfast included in the price {it will save you money elsewhere & not many places open up for breakfast--except greenwich does nice english breakfasts at the organic cafe}

tips on shopping:

shopping in london will cost you an absolute fortune. the markets are probably the best place to go to save a buck--greenwich again is my favorite as 80% of it is all handmade or artisan items. if you want to save huge amounts at the normal store---try visiting mid to late august & january which is when the sales are. john lewis is one of my favorite department stores & is cheaper than selfridges. harrod's---locals avoid it like the plague as its a tourist trap & you'll pay through the teeth. if you want high end shopping the locals love harvey nichols as well.


so as you can see it is possible to come & visit without having to sell any vital organs to visit. i do have one request though--if you do come, be sure to pop by greenwich to say hello & i'll treat you to a nice cup of tea!


Carolyn said...

Thanks for all the budget tips! I love London and am hoping I can visit sometime before I die.

Babs (Beetle) said...

You managed to bring back a lot of memories for me :O) I am a Londoner and spent all of my young life in London. I have spent a lot of time in every place you mentioned, except the London Eye. I walked through Covent Garden every day, shopped in John Lewis (The Strand) for clothes, frequented the National Gallery and... Thank you :O)

julia said...

Thanks for your insights. We just returned from London and had a blast. I went with three teens and we stayed in a serviced apartment so I was able to cook in and save tons on food. Whole foods is near Kensington and it was a fun place to shop. Thanks for the advice. Great blog. Please visit me...I'm going a little bonkers with my kids and travels this summer...see my top ten tips for traveling with teens

Lori Ann said...

I have to save this post so someday I can go to London. Oh, that we were blessed with a rich uncle so it wouldn't have to be on a budget, and happen someday!

Carly said...

that is funny. Oliver and I took the Jack the Ripper tour when we were in London in 2003. It kind of spooked me.

christine said...

it is totally spooky isn't it Carly!