It doesn’t matter if you’ve been visiting London for years, or just planning your first trip, it’s an incredibly complex and dense city and even the most educated tourists can find that one or two tips help them enjoy their stay even more. Having a good tourist guide is of particular importance for those who are first-time visitors to London, since not only is it a beautiful and enormous city, but it can be expensive as well, so good planning can save you lots of money during your stay.
With that in mind, there are a lot of affordable and even free things to do in London, and no matter what you’re doing you’ll want to make it as enjoyable as possible. One of the first things you’ll need to do is get rid of your baggage and other personal items that you don’t want to carry around the city with you, not only will it make seeing the sights easier, but many locations will not even permit baggage to be brought inside. There are a ton of great choices for luggage storage in London, so pick one nearby, book your reservation, and get ready to explore.
The Big Sights
You’ll undoubtedly want to see some of the biggest tourist attractions, many of which are world-famous and instantly recognizable, and even if you don’t know their names you’ll likely recognize them from film and television. First and foremost there is the Queen’s residence, Buckingham Palace, which has some of the most opulent and expansive architecture you’ll see in London.
There is also the famous Tower Of London and Tower Bridge, the historical crossing and prison. Additionally, there is the British House of Parliament, the seat of England’s parliamentary government. The same location is also the home of Big Ben, which has been undergoing some renovations and repairs in recent years but remains an impressive piece of historical architecture nonetheless. Two more primary tourist hotspots include Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square.
Several of these attractions are things that you can simply go and see, or admire from afar for free. Examples of this are Trafalgar Square and Big Ben. However, there are also attractions like the Palace which can be admired from afar but also offer tours during much of the year, as does the Tower of London and many other locations. These tours do have admission prices, but when tickets are bought in advance or as part of attraction pass packages, they can be obtained for substantial savings over buying them piecemeal.
If you like shopping for vintage goods, enjoying cheap food, and taking in some art and culture, Brick Lane may be for you. There are examples of the best and most affordable eats in the whole city, and if you visit on a Sunday you can experience the downright coolest outdoor markets in all of Europe. This is also the center of London’s street art, with works by Banksy, D*Face, and more on display, so make sure your phone is charged and your camera app has plenty of storage.
The London Eye is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, and for good reason. It’s a giant Ferris wheel that is 500 feet tall, and you can ride it for about £30, with roughly £5 off if you book online. It’s a half-hour ride that can give you the best view of the city, particularly at night when it is lit up spectacularly.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a reconstruction of the original, and while incredible in its own right, it becomes even more spectacular when hosting one of the Bard’s famous plays. Depending on the performance, tickets can be found for less than £10, making it a great experience for the budget-minded. On the other end of the spectrum of history is the current counter-culture hub of Camden, with trendy shops, cafes, busking artists, and much more. Camden Market has six distinct markets, so be sure you don’t get lost in the aisles.
The cheapest accommodations for thrifty travelers will be staying in a hostel, which can get you a bed in a dorm-style living area for as little as £13 per night when shared with others. They generally have free wifi included with the price, but always double-check. A private room will usually only cost about £50 per night, and if they ask for any more than £90 you should just consider a hotel.
Hotels will start at only £80 per night, depending on location and time of year. They should have all the standard hotel room amenities, such as wifi and TV, as well as a coffee maker and tea kettle. Another popular option for private accommodations is getting an Airbnb, which will usually be a nicer option with better amenities, with an entire home or apartment listing often going for the same rate as a local budget hotel room.
You can find just about any type of food you enjoy or would like to try while in London. While they are traditionally very “meat and potatoes”, you can also find excellent international foods in small shops, cafes, and stalls. If you stick with street food, cafes, and market stalls you can eat incredibly well, very cheaply.
Mid-range eateries will be your standard restaurants and pub dining establishments and will be places where you can still enjoy unbelievable English food without spending £100 on a meal. High-end restaurants will be significantly more expensive but will offer multiple courses, often starting at around £70 per guest.
Your London visit is sure to be an unforgettable experience that you’ll treasure for years to come, so we’ll leave you with a few more tips to help you get the most out of your travel time and budget. Oyster cards will cut your intra-city travel cost in half. Also, be sure you hit all the free museums and experiences like the ceremonial changing of the guards at Buckingham and Whitehall. Finally, give yourself plenty of time to do everything, the last thing you want on vacation is a time crunch.