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Things to Do in London for One Day On a Budget

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.

Borough Market (01)

Borough Market (02)

Borough Market (03)

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.

More London (01)
More London with City Hall & Tower Bridge up ahead
City Hall (01)
City Hall & Tower Bridge

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.

Tower Bridge (02)

Tower Bridge (01)

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The Tower of London:

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.

City Cruise (01)
HMS Belfast
Walkie Talkie (01)
The Walkie-Talkie: That weird looking building to the left
Millenium Bridge (02)
The Millenium Bridge
St Pauls' Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral

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.

Southbank (01)

Southbank (02)

Southbank (07)Southbank (06)

Southbank (04)Southbank (05)

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.

Science Museum (01)
The Science Museum
V&A Museum (01)
The V&A 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.

Chinatown (01)
Chinatown

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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!

Other reads: St George’s Day in Trafalgar Square; Swinger’s” A Tale of Fun and Tragedy; Top Hidden Gems in London.

Top Hidden Gems in London Part 3

In part three of my hidden gem London series, I uncover a neon art gallery with enough lights to rival Las Vegas, a peaceful Parish Church in the City, a slice of Japan in Holland Park, the quirkiest museum in London, and a flower market charming enough to melt even the toughest of hearts. Enjoy!

1) God’s Own Junkyard

If you think Piccadilly Circus is the  only place in London to dazzle visitors and Londoners alike with its bright city lights, think again.

God's Own Junkyard (06)

God's Own Junkyard (11)

Okay, so admittedly unlike Piccadilly Circus, God’s Own Junkyard is situated in the not so glamourous setting Walthamstow, North-East London  in a pretty grim looking salvage yard, but it’s no less impressive.

Open only at the weekends, God’s Own Junkyard showcases the dazzling collection and works of the late neon artist, Chris Bracey. It has the largest stock of neon vintage signs in Europe and is the oldest signmaker in London,  showcasing everything from seedy neon sex shop signs of Soho of the 60’s, to neon art that was once used on set in movies.

God's Own Junkyard (06)

Being in the not-so-glamourous setting of a Walthamstow scarp yeard, you’ll wonder what gem could possibly exist there. Even I was at a lost as to what gem could possibly exist here. But press on and you really do discover something well worth your time.

God's Own Junkyard (01)

Completely free to enter, it’s even got a ‘Rolling Stone cafe’ that serves cream teas and a selection of freshly baked cakes.

God's Own Junkyard (07)

You’ll be amazed that such a gem could exist in such a place. In fact, it’s so hidden from everyone that no matter the time of day you visit, it can sometimes feel like you have the whole place to yourself. It’s well worth getting out of zone 1 to see this.

God's Own Junkyard (03)

2) Viktor Wynd Museum

You might want to leave the kids home with this one. This creepy but utterly fascinating basement museum in Bethnal Green deserves its place on this list for its quirky nature.

Viktor Wynd Museum (11)

I’m going to say it now: it’s the quirkiest museum in London. Within its tiny space, The Viktor Wynd Museum is crammed from floor to ceiling with the collection of the most bizarre objects ever from possessed Victorian dolls to David Bowie’s lock a copy of the seedy ‘Naught Nun’.

Apparently, its aim is to present an incoherent vision of the world. Once you’ve paid your £5 entrance fee and descend down the narrowest of spiral staircases, it’s a bit like walking into a horror film.

Viktor Wynd Museum (04)

Viktor Wynd Museum (03)

It’s literally tiny and you can cover the museum in under a 1 minute. But you’ll want to spend time looking closely at everything inside and that will take a good hour of your time like ti did for me.

I challenge anyone to find another museum more quirky than this place. The £5 entrance also includes a nice of cup of tea to soothe your fractured nerves once you’ve emerged out from the museum.

Viktor Wynd Museum (06)

Viktor Wynd Museum (05)

This one is for adults only. For anyone’s who’s nerves might not be up for the macabre sights in the basement, the ground floor of the venue is also a quirky cocktail bar complete with very reasonably priced cocktails and a stuffed lionesses.There’s an another incentive to check this weird and wonderful place out.

Viktor Wynd Museum (07)

Viktor Wynd Museum (09)

3) St Dunstan in the East

St Dunstan (04)

The City of London is an impressive but busy place, and we all need to get away from it all from time to time. Luckily, there is a haven hidden among the soaring skyscrapers.

Only a few minutes walk away from Monument, this hidden pocket of zen is a bombed out English parish church built around 1100. Throughout its long history, it suffered in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and largely damaged in the London bombings during the Second World War. Any plans to rebuild it was scrapped following the bombings.

St Dunstan (01)

However, its remains have since been turned into a public garden and granted Grade II status. St Dunstan building features a churchyard with remains of its walls and memorials. Secluded from the bustle of the City just around the corner, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you were right next to the Walkie-Talkie building.

St Dunstan (03)

St Dunstan (02)

4) Kyoto Garden

Carrying on the theme of the zen gardens, the Kyoto Garden is a small Japanese Garden situated in the centre of Holland Park in Kensington.

Kyoto Garden (03)

It was designed by a Japanese artist and planted with colourful, plants, shrubs and water features. It construction donated by the chamber of commerce of Kyoto in 1991  and presented as a gift to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to celebrate the friendship long-lasting friendship between Japan and Great Britain. How lovely!

Kyoto Garden (01)

What I loved most about the garden was how the garden and woodland animals co-exist peacefully in the garden. Peacocks just going out their business without fear from us humans and squirrels get up close and personal too. It’s the perfect place for peace and contemplation.

Kyoto Garden (06)

Kyoto Garden (05)

5) Columbia Flower Market

Columbia Flower isn’t as hidden as some of the attractions on here but I feel it’s not talked or mentioned as perhaps it deserves than other markets in London. It’s a Sunday-only street market located on Columbia Road selling, you guessed it, flowers.

Columbia Flower Market (06)

It’s proper charming: Columbia Road itself is lined with boutique stores with a Victorian facade selling all kinds of goods from homeware to perfumes. If you’re looking for a unique gift, you can find it here. Vendors contest for your attention and with their cockney/East-End accents, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to haggle and negotiate on prices here such is the wheeling-and-dealing nature of East-End traders.

Columbia Flower Market (05)

Only about 15 minutes from Bethnal Green station on the Central Line, Columbia Market is free to wonder around. It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit, you will see flowers in bloom from roses to lilies.

Columbia Flower Market (08)

Columbia Flower Market (04)

The street market isn’t very long, but that’s ok, you can happily spend an hour or two wandering around the cute boutique shops and cafes, and admiring the flowers.

Columbia Flower Market (01)

Columbia Flower Market (09)

Officially one of my favourite places in London, I’ll be heading over again just to have another wander around. It’s a great place to go with your significant other.

Columbia Flower Market (10)

Have you visited any of these hidden gems? What do you think? Have I missed any? What hidden gems are there that I should visit? Let me know in the comments below!

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my Hidden Gems series if you haven’t already 🙂

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Top Hidden Gems in London Part 2

Carrying on from where I left off, here are my next five hidden gems waiting to be discovered in London.

Eltham Palace, Eltham

This has one helluva history but cutting the long story short, Eltham Palace started life as a royal medieval manor before being saved by the glamorous Coulthard family and converted into a stylish art deco home of the 1930’s.

Despite the renovations done over the years, many of its medieval pasts have been preserved. In fact, it has one of the best preserved medieval halls in England going back as far as the 15th century. There’s even a moat around the palace too.

Eltham Palace (08)

The moment you enter the building you’re transported back in time (just in time for cocktails in fact). The art deco reflects the cutting-edge design of the 1930’s and the artistic and intellectual interests of its owners, Stephen and Virginia Courtauld. It’s remained that way now and you get a feel for the glamorous lifestyle the 1930’s. You have a handy audio guide in different languages that talk you through the history of the building. It’s an impressive home with so many rooms to explore and secret passageways to discover.

Eltham Palace (18)

Eltham Palace (12)

Eltham Palace is huge, inside and outside, and even has an ornamental garden,  a picnic and play area. It even has a bunker to protect the owners from the London bombing during the great world war.

Eltham Palace (14)

Eltham Palace (26)

Eltham Palace (24)

It is a ticketed attraction which at the time of writing is £13.60 (without gift aid) but it is worth every penny and beautiful to visit in the summer. It may be far out in Eltham but with Severndroog Castle nearby, there’s enough in Eltham to justify a visit.

The Bowling Alley at Royal Naval College

I’ve visited the Old Royal Naval College a million times. It’s one of my favourites places in London. But when I was first told of this bowling in Greenwich I was a little perplexed. Where is this bowling alley you speak of?! How could I have missed it?! It just goes to show just how secret this place is.

Skittle Alley Greenwich (02)

The Skittle Alley is an underground Victorian Bowling Alley. Once an old infirmary, it was then converted into a bowling alley to relieve the boredom of naval pensioners in the times when the royal naval college was in active use by the navy.

Skittle Alley Greenwich (04)

Hidden beneath the grand building of the Old Royal Naval College, under St Peter and St Paul chapel opposite the Painted Halls, you can see and even impress your mates (or date) your game with the wooden cannonballs. It’s a proper challenge. Not only are they heavy but there are no holes likes you’d find at every bowling alley to hold and release the ball with your fingers. Man up – you’re going to have to bowl it under-arm!

Skittle Alley Greenwich (06)

It’s free to enter but sadly, opening times to the public is very limited, open only at certain hours. If I were you, I’d keep an eye on their website to find out when it does.

Skittle Alley Greenwich (03)

Dennis Severs House

By now, you can probably tell I’m a huge fan of history. In fact, it was my favourite subject at school. Carrying on with the history theme, Dennis Severs House is a time-capsule attraction in Spitalfields which I enjoyed  immensely. The moment you step through the threshold, you’ve warped back in time to the 17th and 18th century England.

Denis Severs (01)

I was amazed and still am as to how very immersive and how very real it felt, right down to the last detail from the creaking floorboards, the haphazardly arranged items, the hissing teapots, crackling fireplace, the unmade beds and the half-eaten food. It’s like the family who lived here and had just left a few moments ago.

Only a few minutes walk away from Liverpool Street station, there are five floors to explore from the basement all the way to the top to the master bedroom.

The only source of light is from candle lights which all casts dancing shadows along the walls everywhere you go, and the entire is conducted in deathly silence. It is a bit creepy inside and feels a little haunted. I found myself all alone in the attic at one point. I’m not on to scare easily, but I was then.

Denis Severs (03)

It’s an intimate portrait of an English family and life in Spitalfields going back more than 300 years. I noticed that even the facade of this street around Dennis Severs still looks out of place in these modern times.

Denis Severs (02)

Sadly, no photography is permitted inside. But it’s unlike any other place in London you’ll ever find and it’s the most immersive experience I’ve ever been through. The best days to visit are on Monday lunch time and all-day Sunday when entrance fees are at it’s cheapest at £10 and they only accept cash. There’s a small queue but on a Sunday, but I waited for no more than 15 minutes.

Denis Severs (04)

Thai Temple

Wat Buddhapadipa (let’s just call it the Thai Temple, eh?) is a traditional Thai Buddhist temple in Wimbledon South East London. Not far from the famous Wimbledon Tennis Association, it’s a home for the monks and nuns but welcomes everyone of every faith. It’s also the first of such temples to be built in the UK apparently. It’

There’s a zen flower garden and the Uposotha that houses the golden statue of Buddha. You’d think you are actually in Thailand. The best time to go is in the Thai new of Songkran which takes place over 2 days between 13-15 April. It will be busy but this truly is a slice of Thailand and London will feel a long way away.

Thai Temple in Wimbledon (01)

Barbican Conservatory

Not many people know, but behind the monolithic facade of the Barbican is an exotic oasis on the 3rd floor of the Barbican Centre.

Barbican Conservatory (01)

Covered by a glass roof, the Barbican Conservatory is one of the biggest in London and a home to tropical plants, trees and even marine life. There’s even a greenhouse humid climates are recreated and where plants typically found in the dessert grow including cactuses.

Barbican Conservatory (03)

Opened only on Sunday, you can even book yourself a luxurious afternoon tea inside this leafy sanctuary. There’s no better way for a Sunday stroll than in this hidden gem.

Barbican Conservatory (02)

Tell me, have you visited any of these hidden gems? How did you find it? Have I missed any? Let me know!

Follow me and my musings on my instagram and Twitter. I’m a lot more interesting on Instagram 😉

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Top Hidden Gems in London Part 1

Think you’ve seen all there is to see in London? Think again. Beyond the touristy guidebooks is another side of London laden with more hidden gems that even a genie might struggle to conjure up that many. So hidden, in fact, that even many Londoners won’t have heard some of them.

There are hundreds of them. Some quirky, some unique. But all amazing and all waiting to be discovered by you. I’ve been lucky to have stumbled across many and as someone who enjoys sharing awesome stuff with you all as much as Donald Trump likes to spit out complete and utter rubbish, here are my top hidden gems in London which you must absolutely see and explore. I’ll be revealing five at a time!

1) 2 Temple Place in Temple/Embankment

A tour around London’s legal establishment is a surprisingly fascinating trip in its own right with all the traditions and historical buildings. Perhaps I am bit biased in saying so given my legal background 😂 But did you know that right next door to the right honourable society of Middle Temple Inns of Court lies a hidden architectural gem that is 2 Temple Place?

Two Temple Place (05)

A bastion for culture and philanthropy, 2 Temple Place showcases publicly owned galleries and collection from around the UK, as well as hosting numerous events and exhibitions. Mere minutes walk away from Temple/Embankment station, this amazing neo-gothic mansion has all the grandeur of a state house but has the feel and intimacy of a private house party. The interior decor is just as amazing as the exhibition they hold with dark wood everywhere, intricate carvings and a fireplace. I was extremely lucky to be invited to an after-hours Egyptian event to back in 2015. It’s basically a mini British Museum without the massive crowds. Sadly, it’s only open to the public for only 4 months of the year between January – April. But it is free.

2) Severndroog Castle in Eltham

Way back in the early days of my blog, I said Severndroog Castle as one of London’s best-kept secret. More of a tower than a castle if truth be told, the best part is the top of the castle which offers an incredible 360-degree view of London. I am told that you can see as many as seven counties from this viewpoint. SEVEN?! Landmarks such as the majestic arches of Wembley Stadium 16 miles away are also visible. You can explore the rest of the castle which is spread over three floors where you’ll learn all there is know about the castle and how it got its strange name. It may not free but it’s a measly £3 entrance to see inside. There’s also a nice little coffee area with outdoor seating to freshen up.

3) The Masonic Room in the Andaz Hotel in Liverpool Street station, City of London

Perhaps one of London’s best-kept secrets, The Masonic Temple in the depths of the Andaz Hotel is an opulent room of Italian marbles. It’s like you’ve stumbled into an Illuminati hideout. The temple is mere seconds away from Liverpool Street station in the City of London. How I’ve not known about this till now is incredible! Nowadays, The Masonic Temple plays the perfect host to all kinds of events from cinema screening to weddings. I discovered it for the very first time after I was invited along to watch a screening of ‘Guillermo del Toro’s dark fantasy film ‘Pan’s Labrinth’. To see this hidden gem yourself, check their website to see what events are being held and book a ticket. It’s unlike any venue you’ve visited before.

Masonic Temple (03)

4) Point Hill in Greenwich

By now everyone will have heard of and seen the incredible views from the top of Greenwich Park. But not many will have heard of little known Point Hill nearby.

The tranquillity and lack of human presence is a clue as to how well the locals has kept this gem away from the crowd! In fact, it’s so secret that there is still a sign that shows you how London’s skyline looked from that viewpoint in 1983! The journey to the top may feel steeper than Everest, but for those who succeed, the view you’ll  be greeted with and the calm of it all makes it worthwhile. I had the entire place t myself from which I can admire the view without muscling around people for the best spot.

Alas, I can’t find my images from my visit but if you are ever in Greenwich and have time to kill, I suggest you visit this peaceful (and hidden!) gem to discover a new vantage point of London. It’s not far from Greenwich Park at all.

Point Hill (01)

5) BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple in Neasden

Also known as Neasden Temple, BAPS was built entirely using traditional methods and material as prescribed from the ancient Vedic manuscript. Take a moment to admire the intricate carvings and gleaming marble walls and stairs when you’re inside. Neasden Temple is said to be first Hindu temple in Britain and one of the largest Hindu temples in the world outside of India. As a place of religious worship, photography is not permitted inside, sadly. Also expect to pass through airport security style checks before you enter. Bags are not allowed inside either but luckily there is a storage room nearby guarded by the temple’s keepers. Neasden may not be the most attractive side of London, but this temple is worth visiting. General admission is free. However, if you wish to find out more about the Hinduism, there is an exhibition with an entrance fee inside. It’s cheap, though 🙂

Neasden Temple (02)

Neasden Temple (01)

Have you visited any of these hidden gems? Which is your favourite? Which would you like to visit the most if you’ve not been? I’d love to see your pictures too! Where would you recommend next?

Next week, I’ll reveal five more hidden gems to see in London 🙂

Follow me on social media on Instagram @kritt_stagram and on twitter @krittstweets. I may even give you a clue which hidden gems will be covered next!