Helpful tips to discover London on a budget

Cheap London

Cheap eats

Camden market is a great place to have a cheap lunch, dinner or snack. The market stalls offer take aways from all over the world (Asia, India, Italy, Turkey, even a Louisiana Chilli Shack!). Takeaways range from £1 (after 6 – 7pm) to £3.50 and this is a great place to people-watch!
(Nearest tubes: Camden Town, Chalk Farm)
 
The Churchill Arms is a nice old, traditional English pub with affordable prices and great drinks. They serve Thai food in the back, all dishes are £8.50. The atmosphere is great, but beware, this place is popular! You might have to wait for a table and you might be asked to leave the food section quickly after finishing your meal.
(Nearest tubes: Notting Hill, Kensington High Street)
 
Hummus Bros – Give chickpeas a chance. Mediterranean restaurant which claims to be the first eatery in the UK where hummus is used as a base for the main course. This restaurant, with five locations in London, offers hearty hummus and fresh flatbread sandwiches with a choice of topping (braised beef, roast vegetables or barbecue pork). Dip your pitta for £2.50 - £6. 

Theatre and cinema 

Films for £3! BFI Southbank screenings for just £3 on the door if you are under 25 years of age. 
(Nearest Tube: Waterloo)
 
Go back to the days when most cinemas varied their programmes and charged less at the Prince Charles Cinema. Take in a relaxing weekend matinee for £4, or an incredible £1.00 if you’re a member.
(Nearest Tube: Leicester Square)
 
When wanting to go to see one of London’s many musicals, don’t go and buy the tickets directly at the theatre. You can get them cheaper online at lastminute.com or by checking out deals in the various discount booths in Leicester Square.
 
For something different, check out pub theatres that have comedy nights and plays. They are usually under £10 and very entertaining. Some of the best ones include:

Museums and galleries

London has a great selection of museums and galleries, most of which are free. Unmissable museums include:
  • Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum – devoted to decorative arts. Exhibits are drawn from around the world, both modern and ancient.
  • Natural History Museum – home of the national collections of living and fossil plants, animals and minerals, with many specimens on display. 
  • Science Museum – traces the development of science and industry, and their influence on life. There is something for everyone with exhibits covering the entire history of western science, technology and medicine. Be sure to check out their Museum Late Nights held on the last Wednesday of the month (apart from December).
  • British Museum – One of the world's greatest museums of human history and culture. Its collections are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents.
  • Imperial War Musuem – the museum covers both World Wars and all military operations in which Britain and the Commonwealth have been involved since August 1914. See also Churchill's War Rooms and HMS Belfast.
  • National Gallery – houses one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world. 
  • Tate Britain – the national gallery of British art from 1500 to the present day. Tate Britain holds the greatest collection of British art in the world.
  • Tate Modern – displays the Tate collection of international modern art from 1900 to the present day, including major works by Dali, Picasso, Matisse, Gilbert & George and Susan Hiller to name a few.

Free fun

Rollerblading in Hyde Park: Roller bladers meet at 11am at the Hyde Park Corner entrance on Sundays, for a communal drive through town. It's a fun way to stay fit and meet new people – several hundred roller bladers meet every weekend.

Speakers' corner in Hyde Park: This bastion of British free public speech and free assembly can prove one of the most unique theatrical activities the city has to offer. Speakers' corner is the spititual home of the British democratic tradition of soapbox oratory. The coherence of the speakers varies greatly, but as a whole it makes for great street theatre. 

Guy Fawkes night at Alexandra Palace: On Bonfire night there is a funfair, stalls and lots of family activities all day. The fireworks display has established itself as the most popular in London; a dazzling display of pyrotechnics. Celebrate Bonfire night with a bang in the pictureseque setting of Alexandra Palace.

The Ceremony of the Keys: The Crown Jewels are locked up in the Tower of London. The Ceremony of the Keys has taken place on each and every night for at least 700 years. At 9.53pm each night the the Chief Yeoman Warder meets the military escort, made up of members of the Tower of London Guard. Together, the Chief Yeoman Warder and the Yeoman Warder Watchman secure the main gates of the Tower. Upon their return down Water Lane, the party is halted by the sentry and challenged to identify themselves. Following this, the party makes its way through the Bloody Tower Archway into the fortress, where they halt at the bottom of the Broadwalk Steps. On the top of the stairs, under the command of their officer, the Tower Guard present arms and the Chief Warder raises his hat. He then takes the keys to the Queen's House for safekeeping.

Open spaces

Go and enjoy one of the many beautiful open spaces London has to offer! Parks are beautifully maintained in London and usually a great place to spend some time reading, chatting, have a coffee/picnic, hang out with friends and play some ball games. Usually each park will have some playing fields for various sports and you can hire them for a small fee – usually £2 per hour. Tennis courts are also often to be found in parks. London’s most popular parks include: 

Stunning views 

London is a beautiful city especially when the sun is shining. The London Eye obviously offers great, but not inexpensive views over central London. So does the slightly cheaper St Paul’s Cathedral, although it still costs £14 – £18 for entry.

However – take a free look at London here:

  • Alexandra Palace is the highest point in London and offers beautiful views. Wood Green Tube Station, Alexandra Palace rail station or bus from Finsbury Park Tube Station.
  • Kenwood House – Hampstead Heath, number 210 bus from Finsbury Park Tube Station
  • Highgate High Street – Highgate Village, number 210 Bus from Finsbury Park Tube Station
  • The Tate Modern Gallery balcony – Southwark or Blackfriars Tube Station
 
 
 

 

Markets

Camden Lock Market, by the canal, was the original craft market, established in 1974, and now has a much wider spectrum of goods on sale. Both this and the ever popular Camden Stables Market and Camden (Buck Street) Market are all open, at least in parts, every day, making the area well worth a mid-week visit. It is at the weekend that the market scene jumps fully into life with all stalls and shops in the markets fully trading. There is always something happening in the centre of Camden Town. 

Borough Market is London’s oldest food market. It was established on the south bank of the Thames when the Romans built the first London Bridge. It has occupied its present site for 250 years. Borough has a long and distinguished history as a wholesale fruit and vegetable market – wholesale trade takes place every night except Saturday from 2am to 8am. Borough Market is also the country’s most important retail market for fine foods. It is a founding member of Emporion, the European Association of Markets. It is run as a charity by a board of trustees, all of whom live in the Borough.  

Brick Lane Market is a London market centred around Brick Lane. It is located at the northern end of Brick Lane and along Cheshire Street in East London. It operates every Sunday from around 4am to 2pm. Almost anything can be found on Brick Lane, from antique books to eight-track cartridge decks (for many years it hosted a stall selling nothing but rusty cog wheels). A large part of its charm is the possibility of such strange discoveries and it has always been popular with, and much photographed by, art students.  

Spitalfields Market is a vibrant indoor market in the City of London. You can find all sorts of weird and wonderful things at the market, from trendy clothes to retro handbags, contemporary artwork and funky items to furnish the home. Inside there is also an international organic food hall. There are many places to eat and drink all under the same roof, making it a great day out. Spitalfields Market is open all year round and atracts over 25,000 people a week. The market runs from Monday to Friday, 10am – 4pm and on Sundays, the busiest trading day, from 9am – 5pm.  

Portobello Road Market, the world’s most famous antique market. There's a choice of two underground stations: Ladbroke Grove (Hammersmith & City Line) or Notting Hill Gate, which is on the Central, Circle and District lines.  

Covent Garden Market has been in its current form since 1980 with a long history dating back to the 1600s. Today, the Apple Market in Covent Garden Market and the Jubilee Hall Market on the south side of the Piazza both sell an unusual and imaginative range of antiques, handicrafts, china, jewellery, clothing and gifts.

Columbia Road Flower Market – a sea of colours, really beautiful to see. Open each Sunday morning throughout the year from 8am to 2pm, unless the Sunday falls on Christmas Day in which case they’ll have to close. (Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street Station).

Extra saver tips

Collect stamps on the free loyalty cards from coffee shops such as Cafe Nero and Costa – Good Italian coffee and snacks, comfy sofas and much better quality beverages than Starbucks or Dunkins – with a loyalty card every 10th drink is absolutely free! Occasionally you might be able to opt for an 11th stamp as a special promotion and get reduced entry to exhibitions or bars. 

Form groups to go to Madame Tussauds, the London Dungeon, the London Eye and other typical tourist places and profit from the student group rates! 

Save further by buying your tickets online beforehand and print them yourselves. The same works for amusement parks such as Legoland and Thorpe Park or Alton Towers further north.

Get great discounts with a NUS Extra card (National Union of Students) in places such as cinemas, Topshop, McDonalds, Superdrug, or online via Amazon and Ticketmaster. You can order a card online, they cost £12 and you are required to upload a picture. You will be able to collect your card within 10 days at London Met’s Students' Union in the Tower Building courtyard.