Enjoying London when on a budget

London can be pretty expensive, and is often considered as one of the most expensive city of the world. When you travel on a budget, this is not a good news ! One of the biggest expenses for a traveler is accommodation and a crappy accommodation in London will cost you one arm and one leg. So.. better save your money on other things and enjoy for free what the capital has to offer.

One of the cheapest thing you can do almost everywhere is to walk and wander around and discover the town and its famous sights. In addition, a lot of museums and galleries are free to access…. and you can eat lunch or relax in one of the numerous parks disseminated around the city.

Here is a list of free things I really enjoyed doing when I was in London last year, maybe it can gives you some ideas :

London on a budget

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is one of the most incredible example of English Gothic architecture at its finest ! It is also famous because every monarch has been crowded here. There is a fee to visit the church, but some parts are free, including the Cloisters and the College Garden. The cloisters were used by the monks for meditation and exercise, and were built between the 13th and the 15th century. It’s a very quiet place, often neglected by tourists who preferred to pay and see the church itself.

Victoria Tower Gardens

It can be quite tricky to enjoy Big Ben alongside tons of crazy tourists that want to take a picture of this iconic Londonian landmark. If you want to find a quiet spot to enjoy this area of London, you can walk along Houses of Parliament, then make you way to the Victoria Tower Gardens nearby. From there, you can have a view on the river and on the London Eye. It’s quite pretty, you can even enjoy a picnic over there as you can buy something to eat at the supermarket nearby.

London Eye

National Gallery

Trafalgar Square is a vibrant open space and A LOT of people are packed there. But it’s this vibrant aspect that makes it interesting. Around, you can find the National Gallery, an art museum where you can admire amazing paintings (from Leonardo da Vinci, to Monet).

Trafalgar Square

St James’s park

This park is the oldest of the capital’s eight Royal Parks and is situated at a walking distance from many others famous sights, such as Big Ben or Westminster abbey.

There is a lake in the middle of it, and therefore a lot of bird life, including pelicans and wild ducks. You can also find plenty of grey squirrels that will try to steal a bit of your food if you don’t pay attention. This is an ideal place to relax, and if you like flowers, they have nice beds all around the lake with very colourful specimens !

Kensington gardens

The Palace Gardens is an intimate, tranquil and secluded oasis, currently the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. An arched arbour of red-twigged lime, known as the Cradle Walk, surrounds the palace garden with arched viewpoints where you can admire the flowers. There are several benches were you can sit down in the shade.

I took so many pictures of this amazing places when I visited last year. I’ve even made a series about it : Pink summerRed summerGold and blue palette 

The Natural history museum

The museum is  a center for scientific research specialized in conservation and has many collections of historical value, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin. I had the chance to go there for a conference, and visit the museum “behind the scenes” and that was truly incredible ! The museum is free of access and if you go early (and choose the secret entrance) you will avoid the crowds :-)

DSC_0255

Camden Lock Village

I think this must the most peculiar place of London ! You can find amazing street Art, from tags scrawled on to walls to weird and colourful pieces… Everything is so vibrant over there !

I went there in early morning (and I think it’s the best time to enjoy it as no one is there). This is a hot spot when it comes to international food. On the lower level of Camden Lock Market you have food stalls from nearly every country in the world and I was tempted by so many including the Columbian Street Food, Falafel Time or Feed me primal. Since it was early, I sat down on one bench, had a coffee, and look at them preparing the food. It was a nice experience. It was deserted, and amazing.

King’s Cross St Pancras

If you are fan of Harry Potter and have a few minutes to spare before taking your train, have a look at the Harry Potter Shop and see the platform 9 3/4 :-)

Of course, there are many things to do for free when you are in London, and don’t limit yourself to these examples. The purpose of this entry was to illustrate that it’s really possible to enjoy London on a budget, not to make a list of everything available :-)

If you are interested, there is a list of free activities you can do in London : Cheap London and Time Out London.

Travel Monkey
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139 responses to “Enjoying London when on a budget

    • London is expensive and is probably the worse tourist trap in the UK. I have been there about 5 times, but each time I managed to get the most of it by doing a bit of research ;-)

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  1. Great tips!! London is sooo expensive, I think the most expensive part is accommodation, and I agree with you that because of that we need to save in other ways. The good thing is that like you said, there are many things we can do for free or almost free in the city, and this already helps a lot!
    By the way, your pictures are amazing, as always :D
    Happy to have you on #MondayEscapes

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    • Exactly, it’s always possible to travel on a budget even when we visit expensive cities :-) London is a destination you always want to revisit. It’s very vibrant and dynamic !

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  2. This is some really great tips. I found London pretty expensive as well, so this is very useful :)
    Wow, just 3 weeks until you move to UK, i understand you must be busy. Here it is only 2 weeks to we leave as well, so have the same problems updating on blogs these days as well! Also I was without lap-top, and now doing my best updating myself on latest posts :)

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    • Well, today is more 2 weeks than 3 weeks :D

      Are you done with packing ? Excited ? I’m very excited to go there, but I’m not done with the packing yet. It’s difficult to pack everything since you are still using some stuff on your everyday life ;-)

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  3. It’s a beautiful city and you have showcased it very beautifully, as well as cheaply. When I lived there many years ago I didn’t have 2 pennies to rub together but I still loved and enjoyed the place. :)

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  4. As a Londoner myself, you’ve offered up some very good tips here. Just walking along the Southbank is one of my favourite things to do and free. Also, another good one to add, is Time Out which is free, offers up good events that are happening around the capital. The V&A is also well worth a visit, as is strolling around Hyde Park, Regents Park and my favourite Battersea Park. :)

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  5. Even if it’s such an expensive city, you don’t need a lot of money to walk around and enjoy all the beauty <3 Gorgeous locations and pictures. I hope I'll get to see it soon! Thanks for the tips! x

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  6. Great tips! I would love to re-visit London someday, but as a tourist… I was there for working purposes and did not see much of London. Even then I thought everything was super expensive :(
    PS: love your headline image ;)

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    • That time, I was also there for working purposes, and I didn’t have a lot of time for me to explore London. Everything is super expensive, it’s a nightmare. But the street food was quite alright, especially in the Camden lock :-)

      Thanks !

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  7. I LOVE the National Gallery. It is hands down one of my favorite places. Great post although it makes me a little homesick for England!

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      • All of my family are still there. I’d love to go back but the flights are so expensive from Australia and with a toddler trapped on a plane for a day isn’t something I’d look forward to! We’re going to Sydney later on in the year and would love to revisit Tasmania (Hobart and Cradle Mountain) next year but we’ll see what happens :-) Where abouts are you moving to? Should be gorgeous weather in 3 weeks so you’ve timed your move right!

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  8. I dream of visiting London one day, and I will most likely be on a tight budget when I do, so I really appreciate you sharing this, thank you!

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  9. Some great ideas here Gin – one of the things I like about London is that you can always find pretty little gardens hidden way. There was a lovely community garden, Paddington Gardens just round the corner from our hotel in Baker Street, which I walked round on our recent trip. I’ve always loved St James’ Park it was a great favourite of our girls when they were small – we saw grey squirrels there (yes I know they’re rodents but the girls loved them!). Good luck with the move and don’t worry about not having much time to check out other blogs at present you do very well! I feel I never have enough time to read as many blogs as I’d like to! Have a lovely weekend :)

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    • I agree with you, there is always a nice garden is always just round the corner :-)

      I really loved St Jame’s, one of my favourite. The squirrels are quite agressive now.. they really want your food !!

      Thank you, so far, I’m doing well with the planning and the packing. And my car is sold !! yay

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      • Oh no I don’t remember the squirrels being like that in the past – that would be quite scary especially for small children :( Moving is always such a busy time and moving abroad takes a lot more planning! Since I know Leeds so well (I lived there for 12 years and went to school there) I’ll be very interested to hear how you get on! Good luck with it all and have a lovely weekend :)

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        • Moving is always a busy time indeed, I’m trying to see my friend one last time before going there, spending time with them and of course, doing all the paperwork (and starting to look for a new job). I’ll make some posts about Leeds, don’t worry ! ;-)

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  10. Beautiful photos and great posting of London – for my experience the hotels rooms are very small. Now whenever I in London will book with Travelodge which the rooms are standard rate and in the middle of London. Good value for monies.
    Have a stress-less move to England.

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  11. We are so lucky to have friends who live pretty centrally in London, I’m happy just wandering and eating! And I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent in the V&A.
    Yay, you’re moving to Yorkshire!

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    • Oh yes, you are really lucky !!! Because finding a clean and decent accommodation that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg is almost impossible.

      Yay, I love Yorkshire. So many beautiful things to see, it’s not too far away for the Peak District or the Lake District, which is good for me !! As I love outdoors :-)

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  12. Very glad you wrote about this post, Gin. I’m hoping to go to London at some point on a budget, so perfect. The sights I want to see are in your list, brilliant. The London eye looks exactly like the one in Melbourne (same developer or something)! But I will probably brave the crowds to get a closer view of Big Ben…can’t be that bad, right? I’ve wanted to see that all my life and want to bask in it’s grandeur up close and take a few hundred photos of it :D

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    • I can understand why you would love to see it, it’s such an iconic landmark. Unfortunately, everyone wants to see it and for me, it was unbearable. People were rude, pushing you, impossible to take a decent shot. So I just forget about it and went to the Victoria gardens :D

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      • Oh dear! Rude people pushing and shoving to see Big Ben :( But yes, it is an iconic landmark and one of the seven wonders of the world (I think it still is…). Maybe at night time it’s not so bad, and maybe in winter there are less crowds because of the weather. I’m sure it looks good even from a distance :D

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    • I think you can have fun and enjoy London for free. But when it comes to accommodation, I haven’t found a good option yet. I still have to try air bnb… but all the accommodations I’ve taken over there were quite awful (the Russian hostel with the tv blocked on the porn channel in the bedroom was the worst I think). Any tips for good accommodation over there ?

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  13. Memories, memories. I lived for one year in London near Sloane Square. Thanks for this awesome report and your beautiful photographs of my fav town in Europe. I think it’s time to visit good old London again. Thanks for sharing. Reinhold

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  14. Your blog is such a wealth of good travel information. I know if I ever make it to London it will definitely be on a budget, so I’ll be referring back to this post. Once again beautiful images. You should be employed by tourism departments in countries to promote their attractions! :-)

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  15. Love London and love all the great free things to do – the Natural History Museum and Science Museum are big favourites of ours. Accommodation is such a pain, we were pricing up one night in September, even the cheapie budget places were £200 plus so we’ve given up. Good luck with the move – lots of Yorkshire exploring must be on the cards!!

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    • That’s what I love about the UK, a lot of free things to do !! And it’s true that London is full of interesting places, from the NHM to the British museum… so many great places ! But yes… accommodation is so annoying. It’s so filthy and expensive.

      Thanks ! I can’t wait to be done with packing :-)

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    • I quite like taking pictures of details. Since I’m using a prime lens, shooting details is sometimes the only possibilities ;-) Because taking a landscape shot is not really an option in confined places ;-)

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  16. I spent a few days in London in 1985, when the American dollar was relatively strong, and that helped offset the high prices. By comparison, when I then spent six weeks in Barcelona, it was a great bargain.

    On a different note, every time I see St. Pancras I think of pancreas.

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  17. I love cloisters (as a visitant of course) outside the city can have a lot of noises but when you enter one is like be in a bubble containing the past.
    Camden lock villages looks quite energetic, is the kind of dynamic place I like to be. Thanks! it’s the first time I see a London so colorful and happy.

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    • I spent so many hours in the Camden Lock. It was really in the morning, and people were starting to prepare their street food. I bought a coffee, sat on a bench, and looked around. It was very nice !

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      • I’ve 3 weeks there but I still have not decided whether I should spend a few days in scotland or to cross over to Paris…still lots undecided!! Welcome any tips if you have any…I haven’t even booked any hostel cos i have not decided…😄

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        • Well, for me, without ANY hesitation, I would say SCOTLAND. I hate Paris. It’s dirty, it’s not as glamorous as depicted in travel guides, it’s expensive, Parisians are rude and .. argh I can’t stand them. I’ve been there maybe 5 or 6 times… and I’ve never learnt how to appreciate it.

          But other people will tell you the opposite and how much they love the town ;-) Everyone has its own taste. Mine goes for raw nature and fabulous landscape :-)

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          • Haha, actually scotland was my first choice cos I can think of so many places that I wanna see more than paris but i was just thinking the weather in scotland in nov may not be good and it’s cos of the proximity…i thought that the chance of me being in europe again is uncertain so thought of just a few days in paris to strike it off my list..haha..but then, I think it would be a hassle to change currency, try to get cheap tickets from london, hostel, etc etc..so I’m not sure whether I want to commit at this point of time..so yeah, I’m taking my time to consider…😄

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  18. I LOVE London even though I had only experienced it for 2 days :-( I would love to return to London but it’s so expensive compared to our currency. All the best with your move,,,looking forward to see your blog all everything-related to London, can’t wait!

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    • Oh well, I’m not moving to London (thankfully), I’m moving to Leeds, which is located in the North of England :-) I went to London last year, but I won’t post anything else on my blog :-) I’ll post about Scotland soon ! Since I’m going there for a road trip in the end of June

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  19. Yep London is definitely costly but we’re pretty generous too, we do let anyone enter the museums for free! I’ve not even done some of the things on here and I live 20 odd minutes on the train from King’s Cross!

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  20. Good selection with beautiful pictures!
    I especially like the Natural History Museum. I’ve also been there “behind the scenes”, getting data for my research and I will always remember the feeling when I walked the grand old halls and corridors before all the tourists arrived. It was a completely different experience!

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    • Yes, it was completely different, I agree. I visited different galleries before the opening time, and it was so much pleasant than hald an hour later :D When kids were screaming and running everywhere :D

      I also went downstairs, with all the freezers and I was amazed to see so many samples frozen down there. It was just incrededible !! Then I visited the molecular lab, the next gen sequencing facilities, the robot that does all the experiments for you… that was craaaazy. It must be nice to work there :-)

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  21. Last summer we spent a lot of time exploring the city of Denver and it’s always fun discovering and exploring things for free or very little cost. Great ideas and beautiful collection of photos.
    Best of wishes for a stress free move :-)

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    • It’s nice to be able to visit many places, so there is no other for us than to do it on a budget, and I’ve found it quite enjoyable :-)

      The most stressful/challenging thing is to be able to put everything in the car from Belgium to the UK :-)

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