There were two conversations that I’ve had over the past few weeks that intertwined more than I realised at the time. One was with a travel blogging friend and in it I found myself admitting that I actually enjoyed researching posts more than writing them right now. That discovering great things to share with my friends online was actually more fun than it was a few years ago.
The second conversation was with Expedia Canada, who loved our Berlin on a Budget post from earlier this year and was interested in knowing if I’d be up for the challenge of replicating it for another great city – London.
Well, I do love a challenge.
This post that you’re reading right now is the result of those two conversations.
I love to research, so over the past few days I set out to uncover as many things to do in London that will cost you no more than £15, and hopefully won’t break your budget.
I also deeply enjoy trying to combine off-the-path experiences together with a few must-see attractions in London, and I think with this post I’ve done exactly that.
But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, right?
Below you’ll find two lists that should hopefully prove one-way-or-another if I’ve been able to uncover enough to keep you busy during your holiday. The first is a list of "What to see…", and the second is "What to do…".
What To See in London
The first part of my mission was to uncover a mixture of expected and unexpected things worth seeing. I wanted to find not only the best budget attractions in London, but also a couple off-the-path things to do that might already be on your bucket list.
Through research and by asking the right locals for their tips I’ve chosen:
The UNESCO-listed Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich
FREE | The Tower of London might be the most popular of London’s UNESCO treasures, but for me the most attractive to see on a sunlight day is the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.
It’s here that I first saw that Titanic exhibition for the first time before I’d entered my early teens, and ever since then the white Classical and Baroque-inspired architecture of Sir Christopher Wren’s Maritime Greenwich have remained in my mind as some of the most special I’ve ever seen.
The whole area is perfect for a sunny day out and it’s full of wide green spaces in which to enjoy a picnic with both family and friends.
London’s Forgotten Roman Wall
FREE | It’s quite commonly known that the London we see today was at one time known by its Roman name, Londinium. What’s not so commonly known is that the walls that once protected the small town that surrounded the river crossing are still visible today, if you know where to look.
The Changing of the Guards
FREE | For many visitors to London the Changing of the Guards encapsulates much of the identity of what "Britain" is, so it’ll come as no surprise that this is one of the most highly attended free events in London.
Watching the shift change between the soldiers is free to do, though only between the months of April to July. The event begins at 11:30 AM, but to guarantee yourself a good view I’d recommend arriving at 11 AM, if not quarter to the hour to avoid disappointment (especially during the summer months).
See the sunset from the South Bank
FREE | Walking along the south bank of the River Thames is often on people’s Bucket Lists thanks to the high number of great things worth seeing, such as the National Theatre, the British Film Institute, and the South Bank Centre itself; but not everyone mentions that it’s a great place to walk as the sun goes down.
It certainly won’t match seeing the sunset from a higher panorama, but seeing London from this level and perspective is wonderful once the light begins to change from daytime to the blue hour, and finally to the sunset.
London’s most central skatepark
FREE | Also on the South Bank and beneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall of the South Bank Centre itself is one of London’s best-known skate parks and territories for practising graffiti artists.
If you’re keen to catch some of the best local and international skaters, spend a little time here either during the day, or after 5PM when school kids and the "cooler" businessmen tend to arrive.
The Saatchi Gallery Art Collection
FREE | Of all the cities in the world, not many can boast the same amount of free entry art galleries that London has. For the part-time travelling art critic you have greats such as the Tate Modern and National Gallery to spend many hours in, but if you’re looking for something smaller, yet just as exciting for the eye then I’d highly recommend the Saatchi Gallery.
Owned by the advertising behemoth, Charles Saatchi, the art collection at this gallery contains a number of international and British artists who have either made their name already, or are about to be catapulted into stardom; making this free entrance gallery a must-see.
Industrial London at St. Pancras Station
FREE | The Industrial Revolution didn’t just change Britain’s economy, it changed the face of the country – and there’s no better example of the fruit of all those changes than the facade of the St Pancras Railway Station.
The red brick and curious design of the building’s outside shell was at the time of construction quite remarkable and different to most buildings of the day, and still looks just as good today as it must have done on the day construction was completed.
An Alternative to Buckingham Palace
FREE | Everyone either takes a tour of Buckingham Palace or takes a picture outside of it the gates in front. I include myself in that number – but there are many more palaces in London that are more than worth your time and come with much shorter queues.
One smaller, yet just as interesting palace in London is Fulham Palace which was the home to the Bishopric of London for over 1300 years, although the building you see today is "only" 700 years old.
For more information of access and tours visit the Fulham Palace website
The divided Palace of Westminster
FREE | Not everyone is really aware that what people today call the Houses of Parliament isn’t in fact the actual name of the building in which parliament resides.
The name of the building is actually the Palace of Westminster and it’s still listed as a Royal residence even though none of the reigning monarchs of the past 500 years has lived there. Parliament is "renting" the space in a way.
Visiting the palace halls and the houses within it can be done by tourists, but the most fortunate are UK residents who are able to visit the entirety of the palace and tower that houses Big Ben entirely for free simply by writing to their local MP to arrange a convenient visiting day.
The free to enter Westminster Cathedral
FREE | Another great place to see in Westminster is the beautiful interior of Westminster Abbey, however, it’s incredibly expensive to visit with tickets priced at more than £20.
For a cheaper religious experience in the area I recommend Westminster Cathedral, a highly interesting and unique building that has its design inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and St. Marks in Venice.
London’s greatest book collection at the British Library
FREE | The books upon the shelves within the British Library in London are amongst some of the most important in the world and are sort after regularly by researchers and scholars for their academic work, but there’s more to see that dusty spines here.
Throughout the year there are exhibitions on all sorts of themes, plus a number of free exhibits that shouldn’t be missed such as the Magna Carta, drawings by Di Vinci, and original handwritten lyrics by the late Beatle, John Lennon.
Spot the deer of Bushy Park
FREE | Whilst house sitting and watching over the beautiful dog and cat that occupied the house we were informed by the homeowners that there was a lovely walk only fifteen minutes away that we mustn’t miss before our time was up.
Oh, how right they were.
The wide open green space of Bushy Park near Hampton Court Palace may have a road that cars gentle roll through, but it’s the hundred deer walking around between the trees that make it so special.
Wonder the gardens of Hampton Court Palace
FREE | Just around the corner from Bushy Park is the old home and Royal palace of Hampton Court Palace, which is most certainly one of the most beautiful buildings in London.
Seeing the interior of the palace does come with an entrance fee, but walking around the extensive gardens is free to all. It’s fairly quiet during the week, but much busier on the weekend; so if you’re planning on attending choose the best day possible to visit and have a picnic in the grounds.
See London’s "Newest" Neighbourhood
FREE | So "newest" might be a slight exaggeration, but the neighbourhood of Stratford has seen a huge number of changes over the past ten years thanks to the building of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the London 2012 Olympics.
Although the athletic event may have finished a number of years ago, there are still thousands of people travelling to the park every week to make use of the many attractions in the area.
From nature parks to shops, restaurants, and a number of other great family-orientated activities; Stratford is well worth visiting for more than just a spot of fresh air.
Spend a week at the British Museum
FREE | Come to think of it, maybe even a week spent at the British Museum wouldn’t be enough to really see everything there is to do at this huge, and entirely brilliant museum.
If I had to pick one place that would be worth the paying an admission for should they choose to start charging it would be this one.
Camden Town’s most famous market
FREE | Another place that’s high on many visitors’ Bucket Lists is the neighbourhood and market of Camden Town.
Unfortunately the popularity of Camden Market does make it exceptionally busy and a little more tourist-aimed than it used to be about twenty years ago, but it’s still really worth visiting as the place still holds some of the unique charm that made it as popular as it has become.
Brick Lane’s culture and EPIC street art
FREE | Brick Lane is fast becoming the place to be and has seen a huge increase of attention over the past ten years – and for good reason.
The multicultural, design-loving, vintage-filled, hipster heaven has everything you could possibly wish for if you’re into the latest trends or alternative culture.
The multiculturalism of the area brings with it a number of great Asian restaurants that won’t break the bank, but the best part for Franca and myself is the high quantity of street art that fills almost every wall.
Along the main street of Brick Lane you’ll find some great street art pieces, but if you’re not familiar with the area or want to know more about artists behind the paint, then joining a walking tour of the area is highly recommended.
What To Do in London
So by now I hope that I’ve discovered enough things to fill up the entirety of your holiday, but if just seeing things isn’t enough for you and you’d like to get involved in doing something in London, hopefully the following 35 activities will occupy your leftover time – all for less than £15.
Eat a breakfast cocktail
Up to £5 | Opened in 2014, the Cereal Killer Cafe caused a stir amongst both locals and international visitors for their unique enterprise.
Selling only breakfast-time products, the cafe allows you to pick a cereal from their dozens of imported choices from around the world, plus your choice of milk (alternatives available too), and an extra topping (fruit, sprinkles, etc). There are Lucky Charms and even Pop Tarts to choose from too.
The most interesting aspect of Cereal Killer is their "Cereal Cocktails" selection. Each cocktail is made of three to four different cereal flavours to create a unique blend of flavours, all priced between £4 and £5.
Catch a London show for less than £15
Less than £15 | In researching for this post I found that tickets to some of London’s biggest shows can retail for more than £100 per person – especially if the lead actor is Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet where the tickets I found were £150!.
However, with some detective work, you can find that a number of shows have discounted tickets on sale, but only at certain times of the day during certain times of the year. It’s not easy, but for some of the biggest shows it’s the only way to get in.
One route that is easy is to try a smaller show where the prices are much lower, but the quality of acting is just as good – if not better!.
This year you can see productions such 1984, Macbeth, and modern classic such as War Horse for less than £15 by purchasing your tickets beforehand through websites like lastminute.com’s "tickets Under £15" page.
Hear London’s up-and-coming classical artists
FREE | This is one discovery that I made a few years ago but have still yet to try, but the reviews I’ve heard have always been as sweet as the sounds that fill the church.
Several times a week the church of St. Martin-in-the-fields hosts a number of free entry classical music performances that regularly feature some the best-emerging musicians and singers from London’s musical colleges.
The lunchtime performance is a popular affair so be sure to arrive well in advance to guarantee yourself space in the audience.
For more details on timing be sure to check the events schedule on their website.
Buy a book from London’s most unique bookshop
FREE / £3-4 | London today is just as important to the publishing world as it has ever been, and every year publishers and bookshops continue to stick their noses up at the "Books are dying" myth by selling more, and more books every year.
Bookshops, in particular, are seeing a real celebration in London and many of them continue to operate independently, with Hatchards standing out as the oldest, and newer bookshops such as Daunt Books making their mark for their interesting interiors.
By far the most unique bookshop in London is Word on the Water, a floating bookshop on a boat that is highly loved amongst both locals and an increasing international fan base.
With paperbacks selling at £3 and hardbacks at £4, it’s not surprising – they’re probably the cheapest in the city!
Try an alternative bus tour of London
Less than £10 | Taking an open top bus around London is an exciting thing. You see many of the best attractions in the city, and with many buses today you can "Hop On, Hop Off" where you see fit, and learn a little history via the recorded message along the route.
For those who are travelling to London on a budget, there’s a much cheaper way of seeing the city that will cost you *less than £10.
By using the public transport along this alternative bus route of London you can see the exact same landmarks and interesting places, but with the added experience of taking the local route along the red buses instead.
See a film at one of London’s oldest cinemas
Around £11 | Going to the cinema in London can be an expensive thing to do, especially within the very centre of the city. Once you’ve added together the price of the ticket, and maybe a drink or something to eat you could easy end up spending more than £20 before you’ve seen the first scene – and that’s just one person!
For families the price can even exceed £100, especially for family groups of four or more.
Instead, I’d recommend watching a film at the recently re-opened Regent Street Cinema where tickets are around £11 (depending on the film) for new releases.
Amongst one of the oldest cinemas in the UK, the Regent shows old films too that suit the classic décor which are generally very fairly priced.
Be sure to visit their website beforehand to see their film programme and prices.
Enjoy a ‘Classic Cuppa’ at the Museum of Tea
FREE / Less than £5 | At 216 The Strand you’ll find Twinings Tea Shop and Museum which is one of London’s oldest remaining original tea houses, and the first tea shop from where Twinings first sold their tea in 1706.
If you wonder through to the back of the shop you’ll see their very own museum of tea and a tea-tasting area where you can try a number of tea combinations, normally free of charge.
However, if you’re unlucky and miss out on a free "cuppa", a cup of tea here won’t break your budget.
Discover unseen London with an incredibly unique tour
£10 | Possibly the most unique tours of the city you’ll find are those run by Unseen Tours.
What’s so unique about them? Their tours are given entirely by people who have either been homeless in London or are currently living in temporary accommodation within the city.
Through their unfortunate situations the guides have a unique viewpoint of the city that you won’t ever read about in guide books or hear from tradition tour guides – and many of the places you’ll go are so fantastic that you’ll wonder how they could ever go unseen.
Unseen offer a tour in several neighbourhoods in London, but the best reviewed by other travel bloggers at the moment is the guided tour of Shoreditch which both Franca and myself are incredibly eager to try out.
Get political at Speaker’s Corner
FREE | In the corner of Hyde Park is a landmark that over the past one hundred years has been the cornerstone and starting point for many great rallies and movements that have brought a number of changes to the country.
Speakers gather daily to speak on a range of different subject – mostly politically – and there are always people stopping by on their walk through the park to hear the opinion or the orator.
Over the years many great people have spoken at the corner, and there have been many great and interesting people in the crowd too, with Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin amongst the most notable.
Explore London’s best markets
FREE | London’s markets have been immortalised through film, TV, and thousands of books before them both over the years, such is the importance they have on the city.
Visiting them has become a top thing to do in London, but, unfortunately, many of the cities markets have closed over the past half century and have been replaced by either new apartments or shiny supermarkets.
Of all the markets in the city, one of the best to see as a tourist is Borough Market.
There’s no doubt that today it caters more for tourists than it does for locals, but there’s no doubt that it does not only look great, it also still features a number of great local and imported goods.
For a better picture, take a look at our photo essay Borough Market.
Watch the free Open Air Theatre
FREE | Outside of the City Hall of London is a sunken and tiered seated area called The Scoop which hosts a number of free theatrical pieces to watch during the hotter, summer months of the year.
The performances usually start at 6 PM and all information about them can be found on the official website.
Test your inner child at Hamleys Toy Store
FREE | This internationally-known toy store is the world’s oldest and houses more than 50,000 toys across seven floors and it’s an absolute heaven for both children and adults who just don’t feel like growing up.
It’s not easy to leave Hamleys without a little toy or two – especially if you have kids! – but it’s a lot of fun to walk around whilst playing with this year’s hits, and a number of toys from your own childhood that never seem to go out of date.
Keep being childish at the Science Museum
FREE | Another great place for both young children and children who never seem to grow up (I’m thinking of myself), the Science Museum in London is an exception day out for everyone and not just families.
First and foremost the museum is there as an educational place where several of man’s best scientific advancements are kept, but what people remember most about it are the number of interactive elements to the museum. It’s more like a playground.
By using a number of fun games and activities the museum helps to educate people through doing, and not just through static displays like you might be used to in other museums.
For more information about opening times or how to get there, visit their website.
Rediscover hidden history at the Churchill War Rooms
£16.35 | Okay, so this is exactly under my £15 limit, but I enjoyed the underground and long-forgotten war rooms so much that I couldn’t help but add it in.
The back story of the Churchill War Rooms is that during the Second World War it was unsafe for members of the cabinet office to be above ground during air raids, so a safe haven was required from where to conduct the war.
Prime Minister Churchill would command his forces from this bunker up until the end of the war and when it did the rooms were sealed and forgotten about.
Fast forward more than fifty years and the rooms have been re-discovered in such a fantastic condition that they’ve been re-opened to the public.
As a history buff I’d highly recommend a visit.
Trace the "Monopoly Board" of London route
FREE | Everyone loves Monopoly – or at least until it turns out that Franca has been taking money out of the bank whilst no one is watching…
If you’ve ever played the board game and wondered to yourself if it was possible to walk the same route, well you can!
Though many people use the route today to do interesting things like Monopoly Board Pub Crawls, you can instead walk along soberly via this convenient Google Map of the Monopoly board route.
Join the audience of your favourite British TV shows
FREE | Are you a fan of British TV? Find yourself watching more British comedy shows that you thought you would?
That’s because we’re hilarious!
Leaving my poor humour aside, on your visit to London you can join the audience of many great TV shows by applying for tickets online via a number of different agencies; or alternatively you can apply via official sites like the BBC’s list of shows with audiences.
Wonder through London’s most interesting graveyard
£6-12 | Not everyone will be bold enough to visit a graveyard during their holidays, but not every graveyard is interesting as Highgate Cemetery.
Karl Marx, musician Bert Jansch, and author Douglas Adams are amongst the many famous people buried here, but it’s not just the list of interesting people entombed within the cemetery that brings in the tourists each day.
Within both the West and East Cemetery there are a number of curious architectural types that are themed on Egyptian styles which really don’t belong, yet make it incredibly interesting.
Due to the number of people who visit Highgate Cemetery each day, guided tours were brought in as a precaution to avoid damage to the area. Tours are £12 for adults and £6 for children between the ages of 8 and 17. Children under 8 are not admitted to the cemetery.
Join the increasing crowds for women’s football
£5 | Since the London 2012 Olympics women’s football in the UK has seen an incredible growth in both support in the stands and success on the field, and it’s brilliant to see.
If you’re keen to see the best of British football then attending a game of the Arsenal Ladies Football Club will cost you as little £5 a ticket when purchased online. Tickets on the day and at the ground are £6 a ticket.
For more details and to buy your ticket, visit the Official Arsenal Ladies FC Website.
Hear the world’s greatest speakers at the LSE
FREE | Each week the London School of Economics and Political Science welcomes a number of the world’s finest minds to give talks on a number of interesting subjects, and attendance to most of their arranged talks are completely free.
Notable speakers over the past couple of years have been Prime Minister David Cameron, Angelina Jolie-Pitt , and First Minister of London Nicola Sturgeon.
Listen and buy the latest of London’s sounds
FREE | London today still continues to create some of the best popular sounds and new bands as it has done for several decades, and one great place to discover the latest sounds is at one of the many independent record stores in the city.
One of the best places to not only buy the latest sounds, but to also see some of the musicians live is Rough Trade East, located right new to the same Brick Lane from my street art recommendation above.
Be responsible on a classic British pub crawl
FREE | Whilst neither Franca or myself encourage irresponsible drinking, we know many people enjoy meeting people and drinking on a night out, something that some people regard as a "British tradition".
You can join a free pub crawl on Meetup.com and organise to meet both locals and expats whilst exploring some of London’s best classic pubs, and also a number of the best clubs.
Laugh at a free comedy night
FREE | There are a number of great comedy clubs in the UK and many of the best ones are right in London.
If your budget for London doesn’t stretch far enough to enter some of the late night comedy shows then be sure to take a look at Angel Comedy who run a free comedy night every day of the week.
Return to Shakespeare’s London at the Globe Theatre
£5 | Right next door to the Tate Modern is a modern replica of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre, and it looks fantastic.
If you’ve ever watched Shakespeare in Love and wished to watch great plays such as Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet upon the same stage, then this is your chance.
Tickets for shows are normally between £17 and £43 for seats, but for the budget conscious there are standing tickets available for only £5 per person.
There are normally two or three performances each day, with three different stories performed each week.
For more details, see the full Globe Theatre seating plan and prices.
Learn about the Battle of Britain at the Imperial War Museum
FREE | If you’re keen to learn more about wartime Britain then be sure to visit the Imperial War Museum where you’ll find a number of great education exhibits that detail the past few hundred years of wartime.
The most interesting aspect of the museum is the large quantity of preserved tanks, planes, cars, and other important machinery.
Enjoy a round of crazy golf – for adults!
Under £15 | I discovered this unique crazy golf experience prior to our last trip to London, but we were unable to attend due to our limited time in the city.
Swingers is a unique indoor crazy golf experience aimed at entertaining adults thanks to the nightclub atmosphere set up inside.
Customers can enjoy their drinks and the nightclub tunes whilst missing shot after tricky shot as the night goes on.
Unfortunately, Swingers is closed right now but will soon be reopening in a new, and (hopefully) larger location.
Join a free walking tour of London
FREE | No matter where we’re gathering travel tips for, finding the best free walking tour is amongst the first things we’ll search for.
Our personal recommendation would be to take a Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour of London, even though we’ve not tried it ourselves.
We’ve joined their tours in Edinburgh, Berlin, and Amsterdam and have enjoyed each one of them.
Detect a little fandom at the Sherlock Holmes Museum
Up to £15 | If you’re a fan of both the recent Sherlock Holmes films and popular TV series, then prepare yourself for a little fandom-inspired visit to the museum at 221b Baker Street.
Some people may be surprised to learn that the property does, in fact, exist in London and that there is a museum to visit there, but it’s true – kinda.
The actual location of the original 221b Baker Street was originally a little further down the street, but over the years buildings have come and gone, and so with it the numbers of them changed.
The museum where 221b is today is an interesting place and has been entirely mocked up to look like exactly how the house is portrayed in the books and recent film recordings.
At £15 for adults and £10 for children, it’s not the cheapest attraction in this list, but for the die-hard fans it’s probably a must-see.
See the best shots at the Photographers’ Gallery
FREE | Dedicated entirely to the medium of digital and film, the Photographers’ Gallery is a small gallery near Oxford Circus that has spent the past forty years collecting and curating a fantastic exhibition of the world’s best photos.
If you’ve been taking photos of London during your trip and you’re eager to give your trigger finger a rest, be sure to check out their free entry exhibition.
Find London’s ONLY nomadic street food market
FREE | Since our time spent travelling in Asia we’ve really missed the street markets and high quantity of delicious foods that line the whole route.
One collective who are aiming to recreate those markets in their own unique way is the team at Street Feast who have created a market of internationally-inspired foods that travels around London.
On different days the location can be in many different locations, so it’s always best to check their website for details on where the nomadic market could be.
Fill your plate at tibits vegetarian restaurant
Up to £15 | If you’re vegan like we are and crave finding great veggie food, then be sure to check out tibits, a vegetarian restaurant in London that has a mostly vegan menu.
Eating vegan or vegetarian isn’t the cheapest thing to do in the city, but thankfully with tibits you only pay for how much you plate weighs, and not on what meals you order.
The simple system works by taking a plate, filling it up with food from the buffet (unlike any buffet you’ll ever see), and putting your plate on the scales at the till. Your plate is weighed and you pay for every 100g you have picked.
It’s fun, and delicious too.
ADVICE – Budget accommodation options
Whilst discussing this post with a friend of mine the point was made that the most expensive part of travelling to London isn’t the things you choose to do but the price of staying there.
Over the past few years we’ve stayed cheaply in the city in a variety of different ways, some of which we’ll recommend to you now:
Cheap Places To Stay
- Hostel: Generator Hostel London
- Budget Hostel: Meininger Hotel London Hyde Park
- Budget Hotel: Ibis Styles Croydon
- Moderate Priced: citizenM London Bankside
If you’re looking for cheap accommodation in London that costs less than most hotel options, then be sure to take a look at airbnb which boasts that it has more than a thousand affordable holiday rooms and apartments to rent via its website.
We used Couchsurfing during one of our last visits to London and it was a great experience.
The website enables you to meet and stay with a local to better understand how a local really lives in the city.
Locals and expats always have the best knowledge of what’s interesting and cheapest to do, so be sure to explore staying with someone. Plus, it’ll only cost you the price of friendship.
…and that’s it.
I’ll be honest and say that I happily uncovered more things to do in London than I actually thought I would, and that’s even after leaving out a number or overly obvious things to see like St. Pauls Cathedral and the London Eye.
It’s truly amazing the number of free and budget-friendly activities there are in the city and I get the feeling that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s truly possible to see and do in London on a budget.
As ever, if you have a suggestion of more things to do then I’d love to read them in the comments below.
And lastly, if you think I’ve done well with my challenge of researching and writing this post then I’d certainly appreciate a share on Pinterest or Facebook!
What would you like to do from the above?