This post may contain affiliate links, including Amazon Associates. This means that I will make a small commission from any purchases you make, at no extra cost to you.
When looking at UK cities to travel to on the cheap London doesn’t jump out as the obvious option. According to TimeOut in June 2020, it is the 19th most expensive city in the world so you can be forgiven for assuming you can’t do London on a shoestring! Yes, if you are after visiting some bars in London, your budget might need to be stretched somewhat. But a simple day out can easily be done on the cheap. Although notoriously pricey, London is in fact BURSTING with free experiences. Follow my guide to see how you can enjoy London on a shoestring!
Looking to spend a day in London?? Get the most out of your visit by following my itinerary for a a day trip to London!
How to Travel in London on a Shoestring
My usual chosen mode of transport in cities is to walk, but depending on the time you have in London and where you want to visit, it likely won’t be practical to just walk around. London is HUGE and must-see spots are often spread out. The Underground (tube) is super easy to navigate and certain the best way to travel in London. If you use the use an Oyster card / the same bank card when using public transport you won’t be charged over £8.40 a day.
Cheap Hotels in Central London
If you are planning to stay longer than a day, you may struggle to find some cheaper accommodation, but booking.com has some great recommendations for budget hotels in London. Alternatively you could look at a hostel in London to try and adhere to your shoestring budget.
Things to Do In London on a Shoestring
Browse Camden Market
Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern Line)
Camden Town is home to over 1000 shops and is ranked the 4th most popular attraction in London. It’s market, found by the lock, is overhauled with independent stalls selling handmade crafts, clothing, bric-a-brac and street food. There are a lot of veggie and vegan food options as well as coffee stops. Even if you aren’t looking to buy anything, I would still recommend coming for a wander round here as it’s a great location an ideal stop in the London on a budget tour.
Check out the Bank of England HQ, Monument to the Great Fire of London and Pudding Lane
Nearest tube station: Bank (Central, Northern & Waterloo lines) and Monument (District & Circle lines)
All these points of interest are found within close proximity of each other so you may as well check them out all at once. Pudding Lane is where the Great Fire of London started and the 61m tall Monument is placed 61m away from here to commemorate the 5 day catastrophe. If you did want to climb the 311 steps to the top of the monument there’s a £5 entry but there’s the option for a discounted combined ticket with Tower Bridge so keep that in mind for your day in London on a budget. The Bank of England headquarters are on Threadneedle Street. It’s the eighth oldest bank in the world dating back to 1694.
The Sky Garden
Nearest tube stations – Bank (Central, Northern & Waterloo lines) and Monument (District & Circle lines).
Just a stones throw from the Bank of England is 20 Fenchurch Street (otherwise known as the Walkie Talkie). The Sky Garden occupies floors 36-38 and is the city’s highest public garden. You have to pre book your slot before you go, but it is completely free to visit. I would say this is the best London on a shoestring activity! There’s a cafe up here where you can grab a drink and something to eat and you can head outside to the roof terrace to admire the city panorama.
Window Shop on Carnaby Street
Nearest tube station – Oxford Circus (Centra, Victoria and Bakerloo lines).
Next on my list of London on a shoestring activities is Carnaby Street. This is a totally pedestrianised hub of fashion and retail shops found in Soho, Westminster. There are also numerous independent stores along here andhe colourful buildings and popularity of the area make for a great, vibrant atmosphere. At the bottom it meets Great Marlborough Street where you can find the world famous, luxury department store Liberty. Close by to Carnaby Street are the world renowned Regent Street, Bond Street and Oxford Street.
Explore Notting Hill & the Portobello Road Market
Nearest tube station: Notting Hill Gate (District, Circle & Central Lines).
Notting Hill is best known for it’s cosmopolitan neighbour hood and is a well known fashionable and affluent area. So whilst the house prices don’t reflect London on a budget, simply admiring the area and it’s beautiful coloured houses is totally free. Portobello Road runs pretty much the entire length of Notting Hill and is home to one of London’s most notable street markets every Saturday. The hundreds of sellers at the market deal mainly in second hand clothing and antiques.
Visit the Museums on Exhibition Road
Nearest tube station: South Kensington (Piccadilly, District and Circle lines)
Whilst it is unlikely you will have the time and the desire to look around all three of these huge museum, you can’t possibly miss them off when exploring London on a shoestring. The Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum are all totally free to visit (although you can leave a donation if you’d like!) If you can try to avoid the museums at weekends and in the school holidays.
Lust After the Real Estate in Chelsea
Nearest tube station: Sloane Square (District & Circle Lines)
Whilst there isn’t a great deal of attractions around this area I just love to wander round and admire the beautiful houses. This affluent area of West London has an average house price of around £2.4 million – a figure I thought would be higher – the moist desirable areas being Knightsbridge and Sloane Square. Kings Road is the main high street running through Chelsea.
Nearest tube station: Westminster (District, Circle & Jubilee lines)
Big Ben is currently undergoing essential works (correct in 2020) and is to remain silent until completion in 2021. Exceptions have been made for New Years and Remembrance Day. Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside Elizabeth’s Tower. The 96m tall building was completed in 1859 and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The Palace of Westminster, has been home to parliament since the 16th centre. The building was built as it is now between 1840 and 1876, but underwent extensive reconstruction after bombing in World War 2. This is also a UNESCO world heritage site. If you look across the Thames from Westminster Bridge you can see the Millennium Wheel, better known as the London Eye.
10 Downing Street
Around a 10 minute walk from Westminster Bridge, just off Whitehall, is the home of the British Prime Minister. For obvious reasons you can’t walk down the street and up to the front door of number 10 but you can peer through the railings at the end of the street. Further along Whitehall you will find The Cenotaph, a war memorial that features on broadcasts on Remembrance Day.
Check Out Some Art
London on a shoestring wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of the art museums London has to offer. The Tate Modern (nearest tube station: Southwark on Jubilee line) is the national gallery of international art, found in the building of the old Bankside Power Station. Entry is FREE for the collection displays and installations, but there is a charge for temporary exhibitions.
The National Gallery found in Trafalgar Square is home to over 2300 paintings. Entry here is also FREE. Whilst you are here don’t forget to check out the 52m tall Nelson’s column, guarded by the 4 lions.
Shoreditch High Street and Brick Lane
Nearest tube station: Shoreditch High Street (overground), it is best to get the bus if you are coming from the city centre.
There are plenty of independent clothe and art stores, coffee shops and salons in this ‘edgy’ area of East London. If you time it right you can get a rainbow bagel from Beigel Shop on Brick Lane! These would set you back £1 each of definitely qualify for the London on a shoestring list! Shoreditch is known for being a trend setting area of East London and there is a lot of street art and graffiti to see here. If you like you can book a tour to learn more about it, although these are paid for.
Relax at One of the Many Parks
Nearest tube stations:
Green Park – Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly & Victoria lines)
St James’ Park – St James Park (Circle &District lines)
Hyde Park – Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge (Piccadilly line), Marble Arch and Lancaster Gate (Central line)
Greenwich Park – North Greenwich (Jubilee Line)
Kensington Gardens opposite the Royal Albert Hall and home to the Prince Albert Memorial – Queensway (central line)
See if the Queen’s In at Buckingham Palace
Nearest tube station: Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly & Victoria lines)
No London on a budget list would be complete without stopping by the Queen’s home! Peer through gates and see if you can see the ‘Royal Standard’ is flying – if so the Queen is in! a You can watch the changing of the guard here for free – check the schedule to see when its happening! You can reach Buckingham Palace by foot by taking a walk through Green Park, or by walking up The Mall which stretches from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace.
Look Around Covent Garden
Nearest tube station: Covent Garden (Piccadilly line) and Leicester Square (Piccadilly & Northern lines)
Covent Garden is found within the district of Westminster and is a really vibrant area with bars, restaurants and shops, making for an excellent atmosphere. Covent Garden covered market contains over 40 shops, pubs and restaurants in it’s complex. The atmosphere and vibe here is great so its the ideal area just to wander around without spending a penny – perfect for London on a shoestring! This is also a great place to come for a drink in the evening if you fancy treating yourself at one of these bars in London.
Piccadilly Circus at Night
Nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly & Bakerloo lines)
Piccadilly Circus is best known for its video displays and neon signs mounted onto the buildings meaning the area looks great at night.
Nearest tube station: London Bridge (Northern & Jubilee lines)
The site of Borough Market has been occupied since the 12th century making it the largest and oldest food market in London.
Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern & Central lines)
Over 8 million works can be found at the museum making it one of the largest and most comprehensive collections in existence. Entry is also free so definitely worth considering on your list of activities for a day in London on a budget.
London is definitely somewhere you can splash your cash but there is so much you can occupy yourself with if you would rather do London on a shoestring – spending just money on transport, food and drinks. Don’t forget to check out my one day itinerary for a jam packed day exploring London!
Check out my other UK destination posts:
- 10 Reasons to Visit Scotland in 2023Scotland often gets overlooked but there’s so much beauty and so many hidden gems here. Here’s my top 10 reasons to visit Scotland this year.
- 10 Waterfalls in Scotland to Visit in 2023 [+ map!]Scotland is without doubt home to some of the most stunning beauty in the UK. Here are some of the best waterfalls in Scotland.
- 10 BEST things to do in Swansea Bay in 2023Swansea Bay, Mumbles and Gower are full of hidden gems in South Wales. Here’s some of the best things to in Swansea Bay.
- Robin Hoods Bay North Yorkshire – The Ultimate 2023 Robin Hoods Bay GuideRHB is a beautiful village in the North York Moors National Park. This Robin Hoods Bay guide will help you make the most of your trip.
- 25 BEST Things to do on the Isle of Skye [Scotland] in 2023 (+ map)The Isle of Skye is one of the most magical places in the world, here are some of the BEST things to do on the Isle of Skye in 2023.