Saturday 23 June 2018


A Local's Guide to London on a Budget

London is often perceived as an expensive city by tourists and locals alike. But having lived in the English capital for 8 years almost to the day (oh my god, where has the time gone?!) I can tell you that while on the surface some things may seems unreasonably expensive (and one thing that REALLY is are the rent and house prices, yikes), there are plenty of ways to enjoy all the great art, culture, food and drink London has to offer on a budget too. Whether you love to stroll through a museum, enjoy a quirky pop-up, are a die-hard foodie or you're a bit stagey, you'll find something in this guide by a local filled with top tips and experiences on how to enjoy London on a budget!

An event for every day and (nearly) every occasion

Not a day goes by without a free or inexpensive festivity, reading or other special event happening in the capital. Whether it's a local food market, a literary quiz at Blackwell's, free theatre performances in Trafalgar Square, a bookish event at my two fav book shops Foyles Charing Cross Road and Waterstones Piccadilly, or a historical talk at one of the many museums we're lucky enough to have right on our doorstep. Whatever your hobbies or interests, there will be something cool and different for you to check out. One of my absolute favs is West End Live, an annual two-day event in Trafalgar Square where the major theatre shows perform a few sneak peek performances for free. It's stagey, camp and oodles of fun.

There is so much going on, that sometimes it can be hard to find the gems among the daily pop ups and flash mobs. Places like Time Out London, Londonist and London On The Inside are great resources to stay up-to-date with the wealth of events that are happening without having to spend endless hours googling for "hip hop karaoke" or "naked bike ride" (both very real things and maybe don't Google the second one from your work computer...). Sign up for their newsletters and they'll sort you out.

Foodies unite!

There are a lot of ways to not pay full price at the majority of restaurants and bars in London, from special offers shared in the establishments' newsletters to collecting points in their respective apps for free drinks, sides or even mains. A new kid on the block is Time Out More, the new discount card from Time Out London. They've joined forces with a host of restaurants and bars, not only on London but across the entirety of the UK, to offer special discounts and freebies when using the card.

It's super easy to use: once you sign up you can browse their website for the list of offers (you can even sort by what's near you at any given time), select the offer you want and you have 10 minutes to redeem it. To make things even easier you can also save offers so when you go back into your account when at the establishment all you need to do is hit the 'redeem' button.

Through the website I found out that Coco Di Mama was located just a few minutes walk from my office and by using the card I got to pick a free pastry with my hot drink, sweet! I went for a charcoal croissant which may sound millennial hipstery but man it Instagrams well and was delish to boot. I've teamed up with Time Out More to offer you guys 20% off the card for an entire year if you book by 30 June 2018 using discount code TIMEOUTLOCALS. So order your card now if you too like your pastries blackened (or you just enjoy getting freebies at tons of scrumptious places). Thanks, team!

Museum & art gallery strolling for the win

Most people – event tourists – know the Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and Science Museum, all based on the same street in South Kensington. Other main stream ones include the British Museum in Holborn, the Tate Modern on the South Bank and the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. They often have special exhibits on that can get a bit more pricey (though they're worth it), but if you can't afford it you'll be able to spends many hours exploring the fantastic free exhibits.

Outside of the most well-known museum and art galleries there are dozens more hidden gems scattered throughout the city, and there are three free ones in particular I absolutely adore and I highly recommend for anyone to make time for in their schedule; The Wallace Collection, National Portrait Gallery and House of MinaLima.

The Wallace Collection is the stunning former Seymour Family town home turned museum. There is a wealth of great art on display here for the history buffs, but the reason I enjoy this one so much is mostly because of its elaborate and vibrant decor. Each room has its own dedicated colour and is absolutely lush; definite house goals right there.

National Portrait Gallery is next door to its big brother the National Gallery. As it says on the tin, this one focuses on portraits throughout the ages from classics to Pop Art (I love myself some Andy Warhol) and I particularly enjoy their annual BP Portrait Awards (this year's exhibit runs until 23 September and is, once again, completely free).

Just a short walk from the National Portrait Gallery is the fabulous House of MinaLima, a wizarding delight for Harry Potter fans young and old. MinaLima is the design duo behind the movie magic and their art work is absolutely stunning. The ground floor is a shop, and the several floors above it is a exhibition space of some of their Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts work (though exhibits do change). I've written about this talented duo many times before so why don't you check out this post? Or this one? Or what about this one

A stagey night out at the theatre

If we've ever exchanged as much as two words in real life or online you know I love myself a good musical (and a play too, every once in a while). In fact, I've already written a WHOLE post on getting awesome cheap West End tickets through day seats (rush tickets for you Americans), student tickets, age-restricted schemes and so much more. The blog post may be a few years old at this stage (ha, see what I did there?!) but the info within is still accurate and includes some great insights that I still use to this day. So rather than reiterating the whole post, check it out here and score yourself some amazingly cheap theatre tickets today!

These boots are made for walking...

The tube may be awfully convenient at times but it also gets overcrowded, hot and there are sneaky stairs when you change from one line to the other at most stations. So I always recommend people try to walk as much as possible in London instead. Not only can it save you time and money to explore by foot, but you're also much more likely to come across hidden gems such as street art, tucked away alleyways and indie cafes and shops. And for a proper walking tour of the city there are a few areas in particular I recommend; the South Bank, Greenwich and London's green spaces.

Whenever friends and family from overseas are visiting, I make it a priority for them to have a wander along the Thames and, if pressed for time, purely along the South Bank. This way they can see the majority of the city's attractions in one 2-3 hour walk. You'll pass the London Eye, the Big Ben (and parliament buildings), National Theatre, Globe Theatre, Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern, The Scoop (City Hall), London Borough Market and Tower Bridge, and you can see both St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London just across the water. If you have a bit more time hit up the North Bank too for Somerset House, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall Palace, Covent Garden (pictured at the start of this post), Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus (the latter three are super busy and touristy though, so the earlier in the day you go the better your chances for a quieter walk).

Greenwich is slightly further out and does require a quick train or DLR trip but once there there is plenty to explore on the cheap. From stunning ceiling art in the Painted Hall (one of the Old Royal Naval Colleges that's completely free to visit) to the awe-inspiring Cutty Sark ship in the harbour (not free to go inside but you can just admire it from the outside instead). And from Greenwich Park with the Royal Observatory at its heart through to a beautiful view of the city alongside the Thames. With cobble-stoned streets and cute pubs and shops, it almost feels as if you're in the country side rather than in the big city, and this blissful outing is just a few public transport stops away from the touristy heart of London.

Finally, the best places to of course explore by foot are London's many, many, MANY green spaces. It may be a multi-million city packed with people, offices, shops and restaurants, but you can find tranquility within its lush parks and – if you're lucky – even have an animal encounter or two with the squirrels roaming around most parks and wild parakeets in West London. I personally love to explore Green Park and St. James Park with Buckingham Palace flanking its side, but of course Hyde Park is also unmissable and for a particularly panoramic view of London check out Primrose Hill in Regent's Park. It's a bit of a climb but most definitely worth the hike once you're at the top (see below).

And for another smashin' view over the city, book some tickets to the Sky Garden (also completely free). Tickets go live two weeks before each slot, so keep an eye on their website to book yours for your preferred date.

And these are my top tips for enjoying London without breaking the bank! Even if you're on a budget, as you can see there is plenty to enjoy at a discount or even completely for free, as long as you know where to look. If you have any recommendations to add, do leave them in the comments below!

* This feature ha been written in partnership with Time Out England, but all reviews and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.

🎵 Listening to: We The Kings – Check Yes Juliet


  1. Love this post! I'm actually planning a trip to London soon and this has been so helpful :) Definitely going to work some of these into my schedule.

    1. So great to hear this post has been helpful to you, Amy! Have an amazing time in London and do let me know if you have any questions at all to make the most from your visit :)


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