Are you someone who can’t resist the urge to see as many things as possible in a short space of time?
Whenever I am in a new place, I yearn to see and visit as many places as I can for as little money as possible. After all, I don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity again.
Traveling can be expensive and London is no exception. But if you look in the right places, you’ll discover a side of London filled with cheap, and sometimes free, things to do.
If you’re anything like me, and visiting London for a short on a budget, then this guide will hopefully help.
Let’s do this!
1) Wander through Borough Market
To kick-start the day, I’d head to Borough Market. Open 10am – 5pm Monday – Saturday, Borough Market is London’s oldest market, dating back to 1014. With more than 100 stalls, this is the place to find artisanal produce from meats to cakes. You can try free samples before you buy. Look out for the truffle stall which is my favourite! You don’t have to buy anything, of course. But wandering around and soaking up the bustling atmosphere is a real London experience. It won’t cost you a penny to visit, and if you’re feeling peckish, there are hundreds of gourmet food stalls to satisfy your appetite.
2) More London, Tower Bridge & Towers of London
From Borough Market, take a short walk to More London where you can admire the iconic Tower Bridge and City Hall, the egg shaped Mayor’s office.
Often mistaken as London Bridge because of its majestic design, Tower Bridge finished construction in 1894 and gets its name from nearby Tower of London. Take it all in and Instagram it before crossing the river via the bridge where you’ll see the Tower of London, once a fortress/prison/armoury and now home to the Crown Jewels.
Of course, you can pay to enter both the Tower of London and Tower Bridge and find out more about both landmarks. However, the price can be steep and is a whole day trip in itself. For this guide, we’ll leave it but for now. But that’s 2 major landamarks you can say you’ve seen in the space of 30 minutes.
2. Cruise along The Thames with to Central
Our next destination is in Central London. But rather than taking the Tube, we’re taking a boat. Yes, we’re going on the Thames! Once you’re done uploading your Instagram your selfie with #TowerBridge, walk the extremely short distance to Tower Millenium Pier and purchase a ticket to board a City Cruise boat to Westminster Pier.
Cruising along the Thames is a great way to sightsee a large part of London in a short space of time not to mention a relaxing way to travel around the city and really get to feel the curve of the city. Along the way, you can cross off London landmarks such as HMS Belfast, The Walkie-Talkie (real name 20 Fenchurch Street), The Millenium Bridge, St Pauls’ Cathedral and much more off your ‘to see’ list. There’s also an onboard guide who’ll point out key attractions to you and talk you through its history.
3) The Southbank
Alight at Westminster pier, cross Westminster Bridge, and prepare to take in the sights and sound from London’s Southbank. From here, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament stands proudly before you, and the London Eye towers majestically over you.
By this point, you’re probably thinking about lunch and luckily The Southbank is a hive of activity, brimming with cafes, bars and restaurants, ready to refuel you for the afternoon ahead. If you’re lucky to be here in the summer when the Southbank is at it’s best, you’ll find street performers and buskers out in their numbers to entertain you while firm favourite popups, The Underbelly and Wonderground is a bastion of fun and entertainment.
4) Museums in South Kensington
Hop on the tube and make your way to well-heeled South Kensington where 3 of London’s best (and free museums) live. Come face to face to dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, admire the intricate decorative collection of art at the inside The V&A Museum, the world’s largest decorative and design museum, or satisfy your curious mind at the Science Museum.
There is so much to explore around inside these enormous world-class museums and you could easily spend the rest of your afternoon there. Big kudos if you manage to visit all three museums in one afternoon! It’s incredible that they are completely free. My personal favourite is the Natural History Museum. I’ve been a visitor ever since I was a child and it never ceases to amaze me with its vast collections and exhibits.
5) Theatreland and Chinatown
By now, the day is coming to a close and you’re probably thinking about calling it a day. But if you still have energy left in the tank, then you won’t regret spending the last part of your day in London’s theatreland and Chinatown.
From South Kensington tube station, hop back on the Tube and back to Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square and prepare for a feast of mouth-watering authentic Chinese dinner in London’s lively Chinatown. There are so many restaurants to choose from, and you can’t leave without trying the famous aromatic duck. I hear “4 Seasons” are quite the specialists.
Finally, what better way to end the day than a show in one of London’s famous West-End? I realise this might not come cheap, but with careful planning, it is still possible to find tickets at discounted prices. I use TodayTix for the best deals and to book ahead of time. But if you’re going on a whim, the best place to try your lucky for relatively cheap, last minute tickets is at TKTS in Leicester Square. Tickets sold here will be discounted as theatres try to sell the last few remaining tickets before. An American Paris is one of favourite as is The Lion King.
London is a massive place with so many things to do, to see, to experience, to eat. I’ve hardly mentioned the restaurants, the parks or the shopping! But this personal guide will hopefully help you cross off many must-see landmarks and areas in London without spending a fortune.
Have I missed anything? Would you change/add anything, or am I talking complete rubbish? Let me know in the comments below. And let me know you if you found this useful, and would like more guides!