Fifty pounds is a lot of money, and I’m not arguing about that with you. But if you’re a tourist in London, 50 pounds go away easier than a box of chocolate on my pantry. Let me show you how I spent most of my days in London on my last trip there. Having fun, exploring the city, saving money and not crying when looking at my bank statement. London is expensive. Period. London on a budget is a complex and almost impossible task.
We all know that; we all bitched about that. Some of us even spent a few hours wondering why the hell people like to live in London that much. In particular, people who live in Berlin, Europe’s cheap paradise.
Having fun in London costs a lot. If you’ve ever been there, I bet you asked, at least once, where did your money go. You just stepped out of the ATM with a hand full of notes with the Queen’s face on it, and…poof! All gone in a matter of hours. Am I right?
The problem with London is that the currency exchange game between our currency and pounds are never a winnable battle for our pockets. The last time I went there, in November 2015, pounds were at least 50% more than Euros. Revolut saved my ass.
A friend got exchange rates from 1,40€ to 1,60€ depending on the bank. Thankfully I saved a few bucks on that but still, I had to keep it wherever I could.
I’ll break down one of my five days in London, and I’ll mix some cool stuff from previous trips to London. Prepare to read a complete list with places where I ate, attractions that I went to, things I did and so on. I’ll even tell you the secret of an excellent accommodation budget-friendly. And if you did London on a budget, please feel free to add your suggestions in the comment section.
Things to see in London on a Budget
Changing of the Guards
For many tourists, the Changing of the Guards boxes pretty much what they believe to be the identity of what “Britain”. And because of that, it is no surprise that this is one of the most crowded free events in the city. Be prepared for massive amounts of people.
Watching the shift change between the soldiers is 100% compatible with our “London on a budget” goal. But it is only for April, May, June and July. Everything starts at 11:30 am, but I’d recommend arriving at 11 am or earlier to save yourself a good view.
Camden Town and Camden market
Another fantastic place in London. Camden Town is where Amy Winehouse used to live, is where some of the most incredible places for rock shows are and is where you can spend hours just walking around. And it is for sure on many visitors’ to-do lists.
Camden Market is full of little shops that sell everything from goth clothes to ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. It is super busy, sometimes overpriced, but a must-go attraction. Sadly the massive popularity of Camden Market killed some of the originality you could find 15 years ago or more.
To go to Camden Town and Camden Market is free, but eating or drinking around there can be expensive. The liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour has prices that start at 4,45 pounds. The portions are significant, and there’s more than enough for two people. The name is Chin Chin Labs, and it is worth going and sharing one ice cream with your friend.
Brick Lane: Good vibe, street art and culture
Brick Lane is one of my favourite spots in the city. It is becoming the place to be and has seen an enormous boost of attention over the past years.
This design-loving, multicultural, vintage-filled, artsy heaven has everything you could ask the gods. Even if you hate hipsters, you’ll be able to enjoy them.
With a vast number of excellent and budget-friendly Asian restaurants, Brick Lane is not just a great place to visit but a fantastic option for lunch.
Walking along the main street, you’ll spot some incredible street art pieces. And if you’re new to the area or want to know more about artists, you can join some of the walking tours happening there.
Brick Lane has the latest trends and the incredible vibe you’ve been asking for.
What To Do in London on a Budget
Take the Emirates Airline
Close to the O2 arena in London, you can find the Emirates Airline. Cable cars with six seats filled with windows that cross the River Thames give you an iconic view of the city. London’s landscape never looked that better.
I’ve never had the chance to go to the London Eye so I can not compare the views, but the cable cars are for sure cheaper.
With tickets going as low as £3.40, this experience is a must for all Instagrammers and photographers. Choose a clear day and come back to see the city at night. I took this line in both directions in November, and it was the highlight of my day.
Exploring London’s best markets
London’s markets have been immortalized through TV, films and thousands of books. They are excellent for people like us who are always looking for fantastic photo spots, culture, and local knowledge.
Of all the markets in the city, one of the best to see as a tourist is Borough Market. And by far my top recommendation for everybody addicted to a good place for photos.
Borough Market is where you wanna have your lunch. The colours, the people, the locals’ stories are just part of the show, but the food is the main star—Scottish eggs, pies, ham, chocolate, cheese, meat, etc.
Undoubtedly, today it caters more to tourists than it does for locals, ok? But still, you can find family business and tradition.
The other market I’d advise you to look at is the Smithfield Market. Even though the opening hours are crazy (it starts at 2 am and the best visiting time is at 6 or 7 am), this place is great even when it’s closed.
The architecture, angles and colours are worth the visit. Besides, it is free.
The Almighty Science Museum
Another free option that is a must! Suitable for both young kids and us, the Science Museum is a unique attraction for everybody.
This museum is an educational place where several of humankind’s best scientific advancements are at our disposal. But what everybody I know chooses to remember are the number of interactive stations and items. It’s just like a playground.
Get educated while you have fun. What can be better than that? All that without spending a dime, of course. For more information about opening times or how to get there, visit their website.
Where to eat in London on a budget
Vietnamese food in Shoreditch
Mien Tay is one of the best Vietnamese places I have ever tried. Located in Londoner street with the most fantastic name ever, Kingsland Rd, this place is a must.
I went there for dinner and ate so much that I couldn’t walk. With huge bowls of Pho starting as low as £7.50, you can have a decent meal with drinks for less than ten bucks.
The legen – wait for it – dary Fish&Chips from Britain
Bailey’s is where you need to cure your hunger for traditional fish and chips. With promotions like “Cod and Chips, only £5.65 any day of the week 12 to 5 pm.” and a strange sense of pride like “We are proud to be rated currently in the top thirty of more than 18,000 restaurants in London by Tripadvisor” this place is a must.
Grab a seat facing the street, order a side dish of mushy peas – how Brits call mashed peas – and get your hands ready for some oil.
Where to stay in London on a budget
Since almost all my recent trips to London, I stayed with friends; I can only recommend one place with “London on a budged” written all over. This fantastic two-bedroom apartment is near Kings Road.
It is around 100 pounds per night but fits up to 6 people, has a fully equipped kitchen with not just 1 but 2 microwaves (don’t ask), washing machine, flat-screen tv and a great bar just 2 minutes away. The bar name is Slug, and the cider is around 3,50. Unfortunately, I have no photos or memories from the night I went out to drink there.
This apartment is super cute, 5 minutes walk from the tube station, and the entrance door is super cute.
If this apartment is fully booked, search for another one on booking.com to help this blog. I’m telling you that because if it weren’t for this company, I would be giving you places like Bailey’s to eat. They are mega caring and helped me with London tips on Twitter.
Overall, London on a Budget with less than 50 pounds
So, it is time to talk money. I’ll list here the paid options you can fit in one day, but keep in mind that you have so many free options that perhaps your 50 pounds budget per day will be just too much money.
- Cable car with oyster card: £3.40
- Vietnamese dinner in Shoreditch: £10
- Liquid Nitrogen Ice-cream with one friend: £2.5
- Night at the super lovely flat with five friends: less than £17
- Fish&Chips: £5,40
- Public Transport: £6.40 per day for zones 1-2
All that, and you still have around £3 for a beer on the way home. The best way to enjoy London!