London is known for being one of the most vibrant, interesting and, ultimately, most expensive cities in the world, and The Bloke and I are lucky enough in that we get to visit several times a year.
There are certainly no shortage of things to experience, but many of the more popular attractions can be quite costly. Last weekend, as our budget was tight, I decided to plan an adventure around the city that consisted of free or inexpensive things to see and do. It turned out to be one of the best trips we’ve ever had!
Note: The key to saving money is to plan specifically in advance what you would like to do and see – buying tickets for things or aimlessly wandering around until you find something will usually result in spending money that you hadn’t budgeted for. It may also be a good idea to pack a lunch in advance to save money on food during your trip.
1. Breakfast at The Cereal Killer Cafe
I’d seen a number of articles across social media about this place and was dying to go along and check it out! With over 120 different types of cereal from all over the world, combined with 30 different varieties of milk and 20 toppings, The Cereal Killer Cafe was the perfect place to go and have breakfast (although it can be enjoyed for lunch and dinner too!). There are now two cafes, one on Brick Lane and the other on Chalk farm Road in Camden, and The Bloke and I visited the Brick Lane establishment. I had the ‘s’more than words’ (Golden Grahams, marshmallows and chocolate milk), followed by a pop tart, just because I could.
Total spent: £5.50
2. Street Art in Shoreditch
I’ve developed a fascination with street art and graffiti over recent years, so we walked around the streets in Shoreditch to find some of the more famous pieces. We weren’t disappointed – I managed to find some Banksy, Gregos and ROA on my travels! Note: There are free walking tours that are given around this area, but I often prefer to find out where things are myself and create my own – this means that I can spend as much time as I like in a particular place.
Total spent: £0.00
3. St Dunstan-in-the-East
Located on St Dunstan’s Hill, between London Bridge and the Tower of London (just around the corner from Monument tube station) is St Dunstan-in-the-East church. It was largely destroyed during The Blitz in the Second World War and all that remains is the tower, steeple (designed by Sir Christopher Wren) and north and south walls. It was turned into a public garden in 1971 and is truly one of the most unknown and beautiful places to visit in the city. Stunning.
Total spent: £0.00
4. Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden
Neal’s Yard is a small alley, situated between Short’s Gardens and Monmouth Street in Covent Garden. There are a number of small stores and cafes, but what I loved about it was quiet and calm atmosphere and the colour and beauty of the architecture. I was also surprised to see a blue plaque for Monty Python, and discovered that in 1976 Palin and Gilliam bought these offices as studios and editing suite for Python films and other projects.
Total spent: £0.00
5. The Thames
With so many of the bigger tourist attractions along the Thames, it’s a fun (and completely free) way to do lots of sightseeing without spending any money at all. The Bloke and I have done this many times and we always manage to find something new, including lots of little parks that are situated alongside the river. For those who are keen photographers, it is the perfect place to get some fantastic shots too!
Total spent: £0.00
6. A Museum, Gallery or Library
London has lots of free museums and art galleries, with payment required only for specific exhibitions. We’ve been to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, The National Gallery, The British Library and The National Portrait Gallery to name a few, and have been able to see some incredibly famous works of art, artifacts, manuscripts and journals. Note: while entrance to these are free, we always give a donation, although this is optional.
Total spent: £0.00 (but we always give a minimum of £5.00)
7. Hunt for English Heritage Blue Plaques
I love doing this, and there are always one or two new ones that I deliberately go and find each time I visit. Last weekend I found Margot Fonteyn’s residence, and I have a huge trip planned at the end of July which will involve discovering lots of them. You can find a list of all of the locations of blue plaques here.
Total spent: £0.00
8. The Great Fire of London Monument
Many tourists are unaware of this monument in the city, a Doric column designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke which commemorates The Great Fire of London. It is situated at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, just 62 metres from where the fire began on Pudding Lane in 1666 and is made of stone, with a guilded urn of fire at the top. There is also a viewing tower at the top which offer panoramic views of the city, although this is currently closed to the public while essential maintenance work is taking place. Situated next to The Monument Building, I loved the contrast between the old and new architecture.
Total spent: £0.00
9. Platform 9 and 3/4
For any Potter-head, this is an absolute must. In homage to the famous platform in the Harry Potter series, a trolley and bird cage can be found embedded into the wall near Platform 9 of King’s Cross station. When The Bloke and I visited, there was an enormous queue of tourists waiting to get their photographs taken (which can then be purchased from the Harry Potter store next to it), but I found that with good timing I was able to take my own picture of it for free!
Total spent: £0.00 (although I had to use lots of willpower to avoid spending all of my money in the store afterwards!)
10. Create Your Own Walking Tour
Many of the large tourist attractions, particularly the Royal establishments, are all found within Zone 1 on the Tube map, and with careful planning and comfortable shoes it is possible to see many of them within a day, and I know this because I have done it. You don’t have to go inside the building to appreciate the splendor of the architecture itself!
Total spent: £0.00
What about you guys? Have you got any useful hints and tips to save money when visiting London?
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All images are my own
well specifically I’d aim people at the south bank for their Thames stroll including the view up to St Paul’s from the Millenium Bridge. If the tide has turned browsing for pottery on the Thames beaches, one of which is accessible near Gabriel’s wharf by the National Theatre for instance is fun. Even though you need to book a date, the Sky Gardens in 20 Fenchurch street (the Walkie talkie builiding) are free and on a clear day the views spectacular. Eating the free samples in Borough market (best days Thurs thru Sunday) is a foodie must.
Ooh thanks Geoffle! We wanted to go to the Sky Gardens but didn’t have time!
Plus the South bank is sunnier in the afternoon than the North bank…so it can be a nice to walk along in the sun!! 😀
Ooh I love it round there!
This is great. I’m thinking of visiting London later in the year and will definitely take in some of these sights.
Definitely do the street art, Cereal Killer Cafe and St Dunstan – totally worth it!
Great post! Heading there soon so will definitely be ticking some of these off my list!
Thank you! What sort of things do you think you’ll be doing?
I’m heading over for a festival in Milton Keynes for one day during my trip but no plans yet for my other two days. Definitely going to head down to Shoreditch to see the graffiti though and also try make my way down by the Thames!
That was one of my favourite places!
Thank you very much for sharing these good tips Suzie!
Thanks my lovely!
When I moved first to London, from a little Croatia , I felt poor. I couldn’t believe a beer was 5 GBP, in my country you drink 10 beers for that price 😀
My European friends are always gobsmacked at the cost of things over here… It’s so much more expensive for every day things, and that’s even before alcohol and cigarettes!
Sigh…one of these days….a European vacation! Sounds like lovely places to visit!
It was amazing Terri! We sometimes forget how lucky we are to go and see these sorts of things…
Here are a couple of things I enjoyed last time I was there: the Tate Modern Museum (free), St Pauls Cathedral (free), Speakers Corner in Hyde Park (free), the Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory at Greenwich (0 longitude)(free) and Cutty Sark (ship)(this one was fairly expensive for what you got), Victoria and Albert Museum (free).
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How refreshing that you and The Bloke made a momentous trip while spending almost nothing. Too many others brag about how much they’ve spent – on nothing!
Haha! Absolutely! I didn’t tell him where we were going so I really enjoyed the look on his face when we arrived at various places…
Well said 🙂 It is so doable to enjoy many cities without spending very little or nothing. Love the idea of a packed lunch, as picnics are fun!
Me too! I love buying little bits and pieces from loads of different places for lunch
I really wanted a picture at the train station but the queue was massive so didn’t bother. With not having much time we paid for the bus tour to see a lot of the sights. I’m hoping to go back before the bash next year to spend more time wandering around and seeing stuff. Will certainly look out for the stuff you mentioned apart from the cereal killer cafe as i dont like milk so dont eat cereal lol x
Haha! There was an enormous queue when we were there but I couldn’t be bothered standing in it, so I waited until the tourists were swapping over, pushed some really eager Chinese parents out of the way and took a picture…
On Sundays, along the fence of Hyde Park on Bayswater Road, artists set up and display and sell their creations. There are up and coming artists and maybe even established ones and it’s like walking along a free outdoor art gallery. You don’t have to buy anything!
That’s great – thank you!
I want a Cereal Killer cafe…oh, and the other things sound great too….where’s my bowl and spoon?
Haha! It was the most random and brilliant breakfast I’ve ever had!!
Will definitely go to St Dunstan!!
It’s gorgeous… And free!!!
What a wonderful post 🙂 I’ve been down to London quite a few times, but there’s a few of these places that I’ve not yet visited, thank you for sharing 🙂
Ooh I’m glad you like it! Where are you planning on visiting?
great tips! you can go to the Sky garden too:)
Thank you! That is next on my list!
Sky garden it free too – well worth a visit!
A few people have said about The Sky Garden – I’ll add it to my list for the next time that we go!
This is what i love about our city! There’s so much to see without having to spend a penny. Sky Garden is one of my favourite freebies
So many people have mentioned the Sky Garden! Definitely going to go next time we vsit!
Fab post– made me so excited for our trip to London this July. I am DYING to go to Platform 9 3/4 but the hubs says he doesn’t want to wait in the giant line. We are going to see The Cursed Child, though, so I guess I can’t complain too much! 😉 Definitely going to check out the Cereal Cafe, and the street art, and really, really try to convince Hubs to go to King’s Cross.
There’s trick to platform 9 3/4 – wait at the side for people to change over and get a pic of it then without having to queue!
These are SUCH excellent frugal suggestions!
Great list Suzie…did you know there’s a Cereal Killer Cafe in the Bull Ring now?
Yeah I haven’t been to it yet but I’ve walked past it – the one on Brick lane is really run down and old in a funky way, but the one in the Bullring is much more commercial…
Wow for St Dunstan-in-the-East! I have never been there but it looks gorgeous!
If you ever find yourself on the opposite side of London, there is an amazing (and free) garden in Hampstead Heath called the pergola and hill garden. I added some photos to yelp so I could share it with my friends: https://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/the-pergola-and-hill-garden-london
Kenwood house is also lovely with amazing art (and free again!)
I really need to check these out – thanks!
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On my next trip to London, I’m definitely going to Platform 9 3/4!!!:)
Here’s a tip – don’t queue, just wait until there’s a break between people and get a pic then!
Wow, who said London was expensive?
Haha! Yeah… I used to have to save up to go before until I discovered all of this sort of stuff!
I do my own walking tour and LOVE the Southbank! I can spend hours walking up and down there. I’d love to visit the Globe when funds are sufficient. Top tip on visiting the Tower of London – I went at about 4pm and there was no queue. 🙂
Ooooooh good idea! We arrived before it opened and it was rammed!
Great list Suzie! I always love how much money you can save on transport in London, if you check your route first. A lot of people don’t realise how close together a lot of the ‘sights’ are, and how short the walk between tube stops are. Plus, you get to see so many things you wouldn’t usually see.
Absolutely! I love plotting out an area to tour round instead of just getting all the tube stops
I loved looking for the hidden ears and noses! I’m so upset I’ve never made it to St Dunstan- as a historian its been on my list for years and it’s just never worked. It is a MUST on my next trip! This is a fantastic list 😊
It was one of my favourite places – you definitely should go!
What are blue plaques?
They are blue signs on places where famous people used to live – normally it includes who they are, what they did and how long they lived there for…
Awe, that’s really cool!
I’ve been to Neals Yard before but haven’t done any of the other things on your list. Not a big fan of London it scares me but this could help change my mind. Lots of good ideas.
It’s really great to seek out the less touristy things – I get a bit overwhelmed by the crowds otherwise…
Walk – you’ll always find something 😀
Ooh definitely! I love finding random and interesting stuff when walking round
I need the street art and the cereal bar in my life this year.
Hahah! It’s definitely worth seeing at least once…
Heading there this summer again and pinned this for reference!
Thanks Carol – hope it’s useful!
We went to Harrod’s department store. It was great fun to look around at the luxurious items and we didn’t spend any money. It did cost something to go to the loo, however! But it was worth it, because if we hadn’t we would have needed to buy new clothes. In a hurry. And that is never a good idea on a budget. LOL! Love your photos and suggestions, Suzie. I want to go back to London – I loved it.
Thanks lovely! I went once to Harrods and the staff were really snobby and rude so we won’t be going back again. London, however, is one of my favourite places in the world…
London is one of my favorite cities. Can’t get enough of British history and culture. (Watching “Victoria” now on PBS). Thanks for these great ideas.
I think we take it for granted over here… We’re so lucky to have such an incredible history and architecture in London
Pinning this for sure, we will be visiting London this fall if all things going according to plan! ❤
Ooh fabulous! Can’t wait to read all about it!
Great information Suzie. I love visiting London and adore street art. Would love to explore Shoreditch more. Haven’t been for a while China Town is fun too if you are a Chinese food enthusiast like me!
Ooh Shoreditch is one of my favourite places!
Pinned for the future as these were great. Love walking around a city so having a plan works for me. So jealous about the Bloggers Bash – at some point I might have to plan vacation around it just to meet everyone.
Next year! That would be so great to see you!
Great suggestions! I’d highly recommend the ‘Novelty Automation Museum’ near Chancery Lane – hidden away, but most entertaining! £8 each for tokens.
And ‘the hidden walks of London’ book – hours of fascinating information, especially enjoyed the Whitechapel/Spitalfields Walk.
Ooh I haven’t don’t either of those!
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