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Blog How to do London on a budget
Big Ben South Bank London
Date: 10 September 2018

How to do London on a budget

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We love London. After all, it is one of the world’s most popular cities. Some say the British capital can be an expensive place to visit, but it doesn’t have to be!

London is one of the most fascinating places on Earth, with a captivating history, ground-breaking architecture and endless sights to discover.

The city is home to plenty of free museums, stunning viewpoints and vibrant markets for visitors to enjoy. Here we give you a few of our favourite ways to see London if you’re travelling on a budget, including some which are off the beaten path, ideal for those who’ve already visited before.

Somerset House

The courtyard of Somerset House in London

Somerset House’s grand courtyard is turned into an ice rink during the winter months

Perhaps one of the lesser-known sights of London, the beautiful Somerset House is open in both summer and winter.

The large courtyard and enormous Georgian buildings overlook the Thames from the balconies, and you can find a cosy but very popular gallery located in the basement.

The courtyard is very special. During the summer months you can enjoy the magical dancing fountains, while in the winter, the square transforms into an ice rink. It’s a popular place for Londoners to get into the holiday spirit.

Address: The Strand. Open Monday, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11am to 8pm.

Postman’s Park

Postman’s Park is a memorial for those who lost their lives to help others and was established in 1900 by George Frederic Watts.

This quaint park is located inside the Square Mile district and is regularly included in lists of ‘secret’ places to visit in London. It’s one of the more unique places to visit when in London on a budget.

The memorial wall was recently updated for the first time in 78 years and now includes Englishman Leigh Pitt who died in 2007 while rescuing a child from drowning.

Address: King Edward Street. Open all year round from 8am to 7pm or until dusk.

Ceremony of the Keys

The Tower of London

Experience the ‘Ceremony of the Keys’ when the gates of the Tower of London are closed each evening. Photo: Wikimedia – Bob Collowan/CC 4.0

Every evening for the past 700 years, the guards at the Tower of London have carried out the world-famous ‘Ceremony of the Keys’ ritual to close the gates for the night.

It has never been cancelled. Ever.

This ‘show’ is free, but to witness it you’ll need to book 12 months in advance.

Address: Tower of London. Every evening from 9:30pm to 10:05pm.

Temple Church

Temple Church in London

Visit Temple Church, one of the oldest buildings in London

If you’re a fan of Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’, you’ll instantly recognise this little church that dates back to the 1100s.

Temple Church was originally built as the English headquarters for the Knights Templar and is located between busy Fleet Street and the River Thames.

Address: Temple, London. The admission fee is 5 pounds as a tourist, but free for under 16s, and all ceremonies are free of charge.

Evensong at St. Pauls Cathedral

View of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral in London

The popular Evensong service is held at St. Paul’s Cathedral each evening

You don’t have to pay a fortune to listen to world-class music.

Evensong is the most popular service at London’s famous cathedral, St. Paul’s. Here, the grand structure is filled with the music of one of the most renowned choirs in the country.

Used as a lookout point during The Blitz bombings in the early 1940s, the burial site of Winston Churchill and the marriage venue of Lady Diana, the cathedral itself has a long history and is a beautiful place to visit. A must for those in London on a budget.

Address: Ludgate Hill, City of London. Monday to Saturday from 5pm to 5:45pm and Sunday from 3:15pm to 4pm.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Flowers at the Columbia Road Flower Market

Wander around a sea of flowers at the Columbia Road Flower Market. Photo: Aurelien Guichard/CC 2.0

Every Sunday, come rain or shine, a sea of flowers in all colours of the rainbow can be found at the famous flower market in the East End. It costs a few pounds to buy a bouquet, but you can wander around and take in the beauty of the flowers for free.

Address: Columbia Road. Open: Sundays from 8am to around 3pm.

Alfies Antiques Market

Alfies Antiques Market in Marylebone is a must for antique, vintage and modern furniture lovers. With around 100 vendors, there is an era for everyone.

Address: 13-25 Church Street. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm.

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace takes place daily at 11am

Yes, it’s a popular tourist attraction, but it’s still a special experience worth enjoying.

This iconic ceremony has taken place since 1660 and is performed by trained soldiers accompanied by a range of music. It is said to be an important reminder of the close relationship between the Armed Forces and their Head: The Queen.

From May to July, the guards switch shifts daily at 11am. The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place the rest of the year on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, but it’s always best to check the confirmed times on the Changing of the Guard website as the schedule can change, sometimes at short notice.

Address: City of Westminster. Daily at 11am.

Portobello Road Market

Spend the day strolling along Portobello Road in the Notting Hill district and explore the world’s largest antiques market that pops up every Saturday.

Address: Portobello Road. Open: Saturdays from 9am.

Museums

London is a city filled with one-of-a-kind museums and galleries. Many of the best-known and most popular museums are actually free of charge.

British Museum

Inside the British Museum

Spend the day exploring all the treasures of the British Museum. Photo: Alf Igel/CC 2.0

This one’s another top spot for those visit London on a budget.

The British Museum is so incredible that we’d be happy to pay for admission, so it’s a treat that most of the museum’s collections can be viewed free of charge.

Make sure to see the Elgin Marbles, which originally adorned the Pantheon in Athens.

Expect to spend an entire day here exploring art and treasures from almost every known civilization on Earth.

Address: Great Russell Street. Open daily from 10am to 8:30pm.

Grant Museum of Zoology

This little museum serves as a study centre for zoology students of the University College London but is also open to the public. There are all kinds of odd displays making the museum particularly exciting for children.

The Grant Museum of Zoology is also known for showing old films starring monsters or animals.

Address: 21 University Street. Open: Monday to Saturday from 1pm to 5pm.

Tate Modern

View of the Tate Modern from bridge

The Tate Modern is housed in what was once the Bankside Power Station. Photo: Eric Titcombe/CC 2.0

Over 10 years, the Tate Modern has successfully established itself as one of the world’s best museums of modern art.

The museum is housed in what was once the Bankside Power Station, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, and here you can admire a range of modern art from 1900 to the present, for free.

Address: Bankside. Open Sunday to Thursday from 10am to 6pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 10pm.

National Portrait Gallery

Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery in London

You can see the portraits of the royals of England at the National Portrait Gallery. Photo: David Holt/CC 2.0

As you might guess from the name, you can admire portraits of everyone from Henry VIII to the royals of today at the National Portrait Gallery, including the much-debated painting of the Duchess of Cambridge. Enjoy the views of the entire West End from the café on the top floor.

Address: 2 St Martin’s Place. Open daily from 10am to 6pm and Fridays until 9pm.

The Serpentine Galleries

In the heart of the beautiful green Kensington Gardens, you’ll find the Serpentine Galleries, which is a great place to visit if you’re coming to London on a budget.

The gallery’s collection includes works by artists ranging from Damien Hirst to Jeff Koons.

In the warmer months of the year, the museum’s Summer Pavilion opens and an outdoor cinema and other cultural events are organised.

Address: Kensington Gardens. See the Serpentine Galleries website for opening hours.

Other activities that won’t cost a penny:

There are plenty of other things to do in London that you won’t have to break the bank to enjoy, including stand-up comedy, getting some amazing photo opps and strolling around some fantastic markets.

Borough Market

Borough Market in London

The Borough Market is a well-known market packed with delectable foods

Believe it or not, this gigantic and famous food market has existed in some form or another since the 1200s. Today, the market is brimming with local products, fantastic food, tourists, flowers, chefs and food bloggers.

Address: 8 Southwark Street. Open: Thursday to Saturday.

Houses of Parliament

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament view from across the Thames

The area around the Houses of Parliament, including Big Ben, is a great place to explore

At the Palace of Westminster, where Big Ben is also located, you can visit both the House of Commons and House of Lords. Book a visit beforehand if you want to watch a parliament debate.

Address: Palace of Westminster

See the London Eye – from the ground

View of the London Eye at sunset

Snap a pic or two of the London Eye at dusk

It’ll cost you a pretty penny to ride this enormous Ferris wheel, so if you’re visiting London on a budget, we recommend heading to the London Eye after dark.

It’s a fascinating sight to see, especially at night, and it doesn’t cost a thing to walk around the South Bank to appreciate this impressive structure and take some great photos.

Address: Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road

Free stand-up comedy show

If you’re a fan of comedy clubs and stand-up, then make sure to check out Angel Comedy at the Camden Head pub where even household names like Eddie Izzard and Russell Howard have dropped by to test out new material.

There’s also Instant Laughs at The Grove restaurant which has free comedy from 7.30pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

 

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