How to do London on a budget
One of the world’s most visited cities, London has something for everyone. From history and culture, to amazing food and ground-breaking architecture, it’s a bucket-list destination.
The city has a reputation for being expensive, but a trip to London needn’t break the bank. There’s a wealth of free attractions, travel options and budget accommodation to keep costs down.
With this in mind, here are some top things to do in London, on a budget.
One of the lesser-known sights of London, the beautiful Somerset House is open year-round.
Situated on the banks of the Thames, this fabulous former Georgian riverside palace is a major cultural and arts hub. It plays host to a revolving door of artistic exhibitions, including sculpture, painting, photography, and live music.
The outdside space is used too – there’s always something going on in the courtyard. 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.
Admission to Somerset House is free, but there is a charge for some of the exhibitions.
Address: The Strand.
Postman’s Park is a tranquil park, in the Square Mile district of the city. It’s regularly included in lists of ‘secret’ places to visit in London.
It got its name due to its popularity as a lunchtime pitstop for workers from the nearby old General Post Office.
In 1900, the park became the location for sculptor George Frederic Watts’s Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice (a memorial to ordinary people who died saving the lives of others), in the form of ceramic memorial tablets.
Address: King Edward Street.
Tip: If you’re looking for an ‘off-the-beaten/track’ experience in the British capital, check out our list of fun and unusual things to do in London.
Ceremony of the Keys
Every evening for the past 700 years, the guards at the Tower of London have carried out the world-famous ‘Ceremony of the Keys’ that forms part of the tradition of ‘locking up’ of the Tower of London.
It has never been cancelled.
This ‘show’ is free, but to witness it you’ll need to book online well in advance.
Address: Tower of London.
If you’re a fan of Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’, you’ll recognise this stunning church, that dates back to the 1100s.
One of the oldest churches in London, Temple Church was originally built as the English headquarters for the Knights Templar. The effigies of nine knights lie on the floor inside. They are not memorials but rather a reminder that the Knights are ready to spring into action again when Christ rises again.
The church is located between Fleet Street and the River Thames, in an ‘oasis’ of ancient buildings, courtyards and gardens.
Admission is £5, but under 16’s go free.
Address: Temple, London.
Evensong at St. Pauls Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is a much loved London landmark, with a long history. It was used as a lookout point during the Blitz bombings in the early 1940s, was the wedding venue of Diana and Charles and is Winston Churchill’s final resting place.
If you want to see the building in all its glory, tickets cost £18 for adults, and £7.70 for children, but services are free. Chroral Evensong is the most popular service. Turn up for 5pm (Mon – Sat) and you can enjoy music from one of the most renowned choirs in the country.
Aside from Evensong, the cathedral has a programme of musical performances throughout the year – from organ recitals to grand performances of famous classical works. Many of them are free to attend.
A beautiful place to visit, St Paul’s is a must if you’re visiting London on a budget.
Address: Ludgate Hill, City of London.
Columbia Road Flower Market
Every Sunday, come rain or shine, a sea of flowers in every colour can be found at the famous Columbia Road Flower Market in London’s East End.
It costs a few pounds to buy a bouquet, but you can wander around and enjoy the aromatic scent of flowers and herbs for free.
Address: Columbia Road. Open: Sundays from 8am to 3pm.
Alfies Antiques Market
Alfies Antiques Market in Marylebone is a must for antique, vintage and modern furniture lovers. With around 100 vendors, there’s 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 iconic Changing of the Guard ceremony has taken place at Buckingham Palace since 1660. At it, the Old Guard (the soldiers currently on duty) are relieved by the New Guard which arrives from Wellington Barracks. The New Guard is accompanied by a Band.
The ceremony represents a formal handover of responsibilities and is an important reminder of the close relationship between the Armed Forces and their Head: King Charles.
In June and July, the guards switch shifts daily at 11am. The 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.
London is packed with one-of-a-kind museums and galleries. Many, including the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the Museum of London are free of charge.
This is another top spot if you’re visiting 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 exhibits can be viewed free of charge.
Be sure to see the Elgin Marbles, which once adorned the Pantheon in Athens.
Tip: Plan to spend an entire day here exploring art and treasures from every known civilization on Earth.
Address: Great Russell Street.
Grant Museum of Zoology
This quirky museum serves as a study centre for zoology students of the University College London, but it is also open to the public. There are all kinds of odd exhibits making the museum particularly exciting for children. Notable specimens include the world’s rarest skeleton, the quagga; dodo bones and extinct fish models.
Address: 21 University Street.
The Tate Modern is one of the world’s best museums of modern art.
Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and housed in what was once the Bankside Power Station, you can enjoy a wide range of modern art from 1900 to the present, for free.
The Serpentine Galleries
The Serpentine Galleries are two, free contemporary art gallery in London’s stunning Kensington Gardens.
These two galleries – known as the Serpentine Gallery and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery – are linked by a bridge over the Serpentine lake.
Exhibitions feature works spanning the 1970s through to today, with pieces from notable to lesser-known artists. The galleries also host a variety of special events and educational programmes – including talks, walks, conversations and screenings – throughout the year.
Address: Kensington Gardens. See the Serpentine Galleries website for opening hours.
Other activities that won’t cost you a penny:
There are plenty of other things to do in London that won’t break the bank …
Believe it or not, this world-famous food market has existed in one form or another since the 1200’s.
Today, there are more than 100 stalls, stands, restaurants, bars and shops packed into this historic space, selling exceptional food and drink.
Address: 8 Southwark Street.
Houses of Parliament
At the Palace of Westminster, where Big Ben is located, you can visit both the House of Commons and House of Lords.
You can watch debates and committee hearings in both venues, for free. Find out what’s happening here.
Address: Palace of Westminster
See the London Eye – from the ground
It’ll cost you a pretty penny to ride this enormous Ferris wheel, so if you’re visiting London on a budget, we recommend staying on terra firma.
It doesn’t cost a thing to walk around the South Bank and appreciate the impressive structure from the ground.
It’s a beautiful sight, especially at night, when it’s lit up.
Address: Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road
Free stand-up comedy show
If you’re coming to London on a girls’ weekend, why not check out the Angel Comedy at the Camden Head pub where household names like Eddie Izzard and Russell Howard regularly drop by to test out new material.