Ahh London, one of my favourite cities in the world, it was Samuel Johnson who said that he who is tired of London is tired of life, it is somewhere I love to come but alas have put it off for the past few years because of a fear of cost. Being backpackers we are always on a budget and on the lookout for the cheapest and best value places to visit! We are also on a mission to prove that travel doesn’t have to cost a fortune, even traditionally expensive cities. We are talking about pre booking your London eye tickets to save money or even picking a different vantage point to really make London on a budget possible!
Transport in London is a little on the expensive side but in London you get a good service and wide coverage for your money. You can get a travel card for a week which will cost you around £34.10 (Zone 1-2) / £40.00 (Zone 1-3) and so on, this gives you unlimited travel on the Tube, Bus, DLR and Overground and is a great way to see London on a budget.
Staying in London can be expensive and will likely be your biggest outlay of the trip. Luckily with the vast number of options in and around the city there are some great deals you can get even for places like Park Grand London Kensington Hotel with their package and early bird deals. Another idea is to look at places like hostels if you are on a really tight budget or even staying a little further out of the city and taking the train in. Airbnb is also becoming more and more popular and we’ve found that in expensive cities such as Melbourne and Sydney it was a lot cheaper than even a hostel and gave us much more including staying with knowledgable locals. Another option to consider is couchsurfing, this isn’t for everyone but it does offer a great insight into local life.
London has so much to do and see but much of that will cost many £s but it’s possible to do London on a budget! Somethings are worth doing, others only really need to be seen!! Most of the places you need tickets for are worth booking before you visit such as your Madame Tussauds Tickets or booking a combination pass!
The London Eye
I have in fact been on the London Eye and it was a pretty amazing experience and all things considered not too expensive. If you must go on it then I would recommend picking up one of the combination passes which allows you entry into other attractions such as the Dungeons/ Madame Tussaud’s/ sea life if those are things you were planning on visiting too. For me seeing it from the banks of the Thames was enough this time but I do actually think it is one of those things that you should really do! Booking your London eye tickets ahead of time is also something you should consider doing as the queues can be very long in peak season.
Alternative to the London eye:
Head to the top of One New Change shopping centre instead for free and enjoy great views of the city and views of London on a budget! The London eye, or Millennium Wheel as it is also known is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe and was the tallest in the world upon it’s completion in 2000 and is one of Londons unmistakable landmarks. This is one of the great London travel hacks that make this city affordable!
Nearest Tube: Westminster/ Waterloo
Average Cost: £20-30
Houses of Parliament/ Big Ben
Big Ben is one of the most iconic buildings in the world, let alone the UK or London and walking across Westminster bridge and along the banks of the Thames to see this magnificent building is one of those things which just doesn’t get old. It is actually possible to go inside if you are a UK citizen and make arrangements with your MP beforehand, which is something that my dad did a few years ago.
Other than that is is all about admiring the view and taking in one of the most important buildings in Britain and a symbol of the country. The clock tower was built in 1858 and is the worlds third tallest free-standing clock tower. The name “Big Ben” is actually the nickname of the bell inside the clock and not the tower itself, which as of 2012 was re-named the Elizabeth Tower to celebrate Lizzy’s Diamond jubilee!
Nearest Tube: Westminster
Average Cost: FREE!
Westminster abbey is literally around the corner from the houses of parliament and is a building drenched in the history of London and the UK, but, it costs around £18 to get it, which isn’t London on a budget! We have visited many churches here and there and many of them in other countries either have a very low entrance fee or a donation. But it is of course worth taking a walk by after Big Ben and seeing this great building for yourself even just from the outside.
Nearest Tube: Westminster
Average Cost: £18/ FREE
St James Park and Buckingham Palace/ The Mall
Within walking distance of Westminster Abbey is St James park. This is actually where me and shorty got engaged back in 2007 so I may be a little bias here. But it is a lovely little park and is a great way to walk back from the Palace after taking the Mall on the way up and seeing a different view of the area. It’s also a great place to have a picnic, chill out and recharge the batteries before recommencing in some hardcore tourism!
Buckingham Palace is somewhere you can’t miss when you come to London to see it’s history and status. You can actually visit the inside of the palace and it costs around £31 and is one of the London attraction tickets you should book before visiting. As a child I came to London almost every year with my grandparents and have been inside the palace a few times. You can catch the changing of the guard from the gates for free and during the summer months this happens everyday (check online before for your dates) and starts at 11:00am, and that is something worth catching!
Nearest Tube: Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, St James Park.
Average Cost: £20/30/ FREE
Piccadilly Circus/ Leicester Square
Piccadilly Circus is like the Times Square of London and is really one of those places you can just go to and experience rather than spend money. Its nice to just sit and watch the world go by here, the crowds of diverse tourists and the flashing lights of the famous billboards make this a great stopping off point on our London on a budget. From here you can also walk down to bustling Leicester square and see where the stars gather for blockbuster premieres!
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Average Cost: FREE
Camden town is the vibrant and alternative beating heart of London where you can find all sorts of weird and wacky items, arts, crafts and diverse and authentic street food. If you want a souvenir or two you will also be able to pick them up on the market stalls around here much cheaper than in the main tourist centres. A visit to Camden is great to just wander around the endless maze of stalls and markets and is an experience in itself!
Nearest Tube: Camden Town
Average Cost: FREE
St Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s again one of those sights which you can easily see from the outside without paying the £16.50 entrance fee. The building is magnificent and is well worth a stop off whilst exploring the city and can be walked to either on your way to or from the Millennium bridge. The famous Cathedral designed by sir Christopher Wren is one of the most iconic sights of London with its dome and spires.
Nearest Tube: St Pauls
Average Cost: £16.50/ FREE
The Millennium Bridge is just a short walk towards the river from St. Pauls and has become one of the modern landmarks of the city and was even spotted in the recent film “Guardians Of the Galaxy” presumably because of its space age design. Nicknamed the “Wobbly Bridge” after it began swaying not long after opening this span offers some amazing views down the river of the City of London and also back across to St. Pauls.
Nearest Tube: Blackfriars/ Mansion House.
Average Cost: FREE
As with many things in London, Tower bridge is an iconic structure and is no less impressive in the flesh. Taking a walk across the bridge is a great way to see not only the details on this 120 year old bridge but also for some great views down the river too. One of the things I love to do is sit at the side of the river a while and wait for a while to see the bridge in action, opening up to let taller boats and ships through (You can see scheduled times on the official website). Walking over Tower Bridge is our top things to do in London on a budget!
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill
Average Cost: £9/ FREE
The fluted column, designed again by Sir Christopher Wren, was to commemorate the great fire of London and stands 202 ft from the spot where the Great Fire started on 2 September 1666. Constructed between 1671 and 1677, it is the tallest isolated stone column in the United Kingdom at 202 ft tall. What is cool about this is not only is it important historically, but you can visit the top for one of the best views of London, as well as one of the cheapest. .
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill
Average Cost: £4
Museums and Galleries
London is full of museums and galleries to visit, you could spend days going around each one of them, and good news for us is that the majority of them are free so perfect for this London on a budget guide! Most of the main museums are also located close by each other in South Kensington such as the V&A, Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. The British Museum is also a great place to start holding a vast collection of a whole range of objects and artefacts from Mummys to the Rosetta Stone! The National Gallery and the Tate Modern are also great places to start for art fans.
V&A, Natural History, Science Museum: Nearest Tube: South Kensington
British Museum: Nearest Tube: Holborn, Tottenham Court Road
The National Gallery: Nearest Tube: Charing Cross
Tate Modern: Nearest Tube: Southwark, London Blackfriars
Imperial War Museum: Nearest Tube: Lambeth North
Greenwich / Cutty Sark
Both Greenwich and the Cutty Sark are within walking distance of each other! Both the Cutty Sark and the Observatory have FREE attractions to visit but the main areas are all paid for. The Cutty Sark is one of the most famous ships in the world, being one of the last and fastest tea clippers built she saw the end of this design of ships as steam engines took over.
Greenwich observatory, which played a major role in the history of astronomy and navigation and is where Greenwich Mean Time begins is a great place to visit and see the Meridian Line. Up here there are also great views of the city too from the beautiful parklands.
Nearest Tube: Cutty Sark
Average Cost: £12/ £10/ FREE
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What are your top tips for visiting London on a budget?