Fun, Cheap Things To Do in London on a Budget
London is one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the world. It also happens to be one of the most expensive, so people’s immediate assumption is that having fun in London can be pricey.
Is it possible to find cheap things to do in London? The beauty of a city as large and as multicultural as London is that fun can be found anywhere, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth, or anything at all.
Most of us have heard of the most iconic London sights. The history that spans thousands of years is marked by breathtaking architecture, and the world-class museums and huge range of restaurants and shops could entertain anyone for days. You can experience it just by walking around, but to fully immerse yourself in what London has to offer, it sometimes pays to let someone else take the lead.
Even after having lived there, I still have a growing list of activities that I want to do whenever I visit the city. And with so many options, it’s difficult to know where to start. I want to show you the fun and unique side of London on a budget. These activities range from relaxing to sporty to downright spooky. These are my personal recommendations on how to make your time in London completely memorable on a budget.
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Exploring the city
Wherever I go, I like to first get my bearings by taking a walking tour. Exploring a city is more than just roaming around: it’s actually knowing the history of what surrounds you. Especially in a city as interesting as London. I recommend the London Old City Walking Tour. Or, if you have more energy, book the Royal London Half-Day Bike Tour to cover more distance in the same time — it already includes the bike rental fee.
To get to the other side of town, instead of going for the typical (albeit great) hop-on hop-off bus tour, why not try the hop-on hop-off sightseeing cruise, instead? It’s the same concept but even better sights and a boat cruise thrown in too. The ticket is valid for 24 hours so you can make the most of it to get to the other end of the River Thames.
If you want to go for a cheaper option but still see the sights, always opt for a bus over the Tube. Download the Citymapper app to get step-by-step instructions on how to get from A to B, and always try to get the front seat of the iconic red double-decker buses.
For the adrenaline-seekers
Why go inside the world’s most popular entertainment venue when you can go on top of it? The O2, aka the Millennium Dome, offers the chance to do just that. Even for those afraid of heights like myself, with the harness and incredible security measures taken, the Up at The O2 experience is one I would highly recommend. The views are stunning and it’s not something many people know about in London.
If this is a stretch for your budget, I highly recommend taking the Emirates Air Line Cable Car. It leaves from near the O2 and offers similar views of the spectacular surroundings at a fraction of the price.
In the evening, explore the dark side of London with the spooky Jack the Ripper Walking Tour. Walk through the real-life alleys that hosted the most notorious murderer in London.
The movie side of London
The number of movies that have been filmed in London is astounding. It is very common to walk around and think to yourself, I’ve seen this before. If you’re a movie buff, you will not be disappointed with a themed walking tour- it’s worth it to make sure you don’t miss anything and don’t have to keep stopping to look up locations and maps. Explore the sights of some of your favorite movies and TV shows while getting facts that you probably didn’t know before. You can start with the muggle-side of the wizarding world on the Harry Potter Walking Tour, then enter the mystery world of Sherlock Holmes on a guided tour.
The London haunts of the Crawley family can be found on the Downton Abbey walking tour, and there are also tours based on Mary Poppins and Doctor Who. If you’re a fan of spies and adventures, the Killing Eve tour or James Bond tour might be to your liking. It’s an incredible way of discovering new parts of a city while getting to immerse yourself in your favorite shows. Being surrounded by other people who have similar interests while standing in the spot where they were filmed is priceless. For those of us who are hopeless romantics, you can either take the romantic comedies tour or just follow in Bridget Jones’s footsteps.
Authentic, cheap things to do in London
Many of these activities will allow you to see London from a different light. For treasures from around the world, incredible architecture inside and out and fascinating stories of London’s past, head to the British Museum. Entry to almost all of London’s museums and galleries is completely free, perfect for a holiday full of cheap things to do in London.
If a pint and a chance to explore different local areas is more your thing, why not go on a pub crawl? Meet new people and get to know London through its famous pub culture. You could invent your own route, enjoying delicious but famously cheap pints at all of the Samuel Smith pubs (Sam Smith to locals) in London — there are over 40 to choose from.
After Big Ben and black cabs (which you’d be wise to avoid on a budget), London’s red double-decker buses are one of its most famous icons. Just take my favorite bus ride. Get to the Elephant and Castle tube station and look for bus 453 to Marylebone. It’ll pass by some amazing sights, from Big Ben and Downing Street to Horse Guards Parade and Piccadilly Circus. The 11 bus between East and West London also offers brilliant sightseeing opportunities, including Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Fleet Street, and St Paul’s Cathedral. You can ride the whole route, or for as long as you like, for the price of a regular bus fare (under £2). Try to get the front seat of the top floor for the best views.