In honor of the upcoming London Olympics, I’m reliving my past three trips to the city. While it can be fairly expensive to visit London, especially during big events like the Olympics and this year’s Jubilee and Royal Wedding, there are a few ways to cut costs. There are plenty of options for free and cheap things to do in London.
There are dozens of free museums in London, making it easy to soak up culture without breaking the bank. Among my favorites are the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern and the British Museum.
London’s public parks are like forests scattered throughout the city. Hampstead Heath is my favorite, but the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are also lovely.
Changing of the Guards
One of London’s most iconic experiences just happens to be free. I randomly came across the guards’ parade on my very first trip to London. You can see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace at 11 am daily.
Harry Potter at Kings Cross Station
You don’t need a ticket to Hogwarts to experience Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. Every day you will find tourists taking photos there.
Whether you were alive for Beatlemania or not, Abbey Road is a London landmark that everyone recognizes. Located in the St. John’s Wood neighborhood, the graffitied walls of the recording studio bring in fans of all ages and nationalities.
Markets are the best way to shop in London, with each one offering a specialty. At Camden Market, you will find lots of “alternative” clothing, the original Doc Marten boots, crafts and records. New Covent Garden is one of the largest wholesale fruit, vegetable and flower markets and Portobello Road is known for antiques. Borough and Spitalfields sell clothing and food.
Not only does every hostel offer free walking tours, but New London Tours also lead you around the city with their knowledgeable guides. For a small amount, you can also take tours of Camden, Soho and Mayfair with Urban Adventures.
While you can also try apartment rentals, CouchSurfing and budget hotels, I always stick to hostels, especially in a city with so many great ones. Palmers Lodge is my favorite, mostly because it feels like home, offers luxuries that most hostels don’t, and is in the cute neighborhood of Swiss Cottage.
When taking public transportation in London, you MUST buy an Oyster card. It costs around 3 pounds for the card and you can top it up as often as you like. It gets you into buses, the Tube and light rail.
Eating and Drinking
When possible, cook your own meals from local grocery stores like Selfridges, Woolworth’s and Marks and Spencer. When you do want to eat out, you can find coupons on Vouchercodes.co.uk for places like Pizza Express and Yo! Sushi. Pubs also offer both an authentic British experience and cheap meals.
Budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet make it easy to get from one side of the country to the other once you’ve seen everything you want in London. Flights can get you there faster than other modes of transportation, saving precious travel time.