So you are visiting London – great! There are literally hundreds of blogs and articles with common tourist attractions, but here are some of our favorite things to do in the city that we keep coming back to on our days off.
Attractions on a Budget
Have you been to London before? If not, of course check out the main attractions – Big Ben, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, etc. If you feel like walking these sights, I would recommend starting at Big Ben and walking along South Bank to Millenium Bridge, crossing over to take in a great view of St. Paul’s, continuing along to Tower of London, and crossing back over Tower Bridge. This will put you right around Borough Market if you are hungry for lunch, so it’s a great way to get a layout of the city on your first morning. It’s about a 3 or 4 mile walk, but you can hop on the tube at any point if you get tired.
The Sky Garden is a free public garden on the top of one of our bizarre buildings, the Walkie Talkie. There is a coffee shop/cocktail bar up top that serves great pastries, but you can also walk around without buying anything. A booking is recommended (which you can do from the website). If it’s full, you can usually just turn up before 10am and get in with no problem. I would not recommend eating at the restaurants there; you are definitely paying for the view.
Parks with nice views
If you like free views, also check out Primrose Hill (part of Regent’s Park) or Greenwich Observatory (this one is a bit far from central) – both have decently sized hills that are beautiful for picnicking on a nice day.
There are also museum lates the last week of the month, where the museum is open late for adults, allowing you to wander the exhibits in the evening, with a glass of wine in hand. The Science Museum is the best one I’ve attended, with loads of additional activities to explore.
Many London markets are famous – and deservedly so! Some of the most popular London markets are:
- Borough Market – food
- Columbia Road – flowers, Sundays only
- Brick Lane – vintage, best on Sundays
- Portobello Road – antiques, open every day but Sunday
- Camden Market – a bit of everything
Other than Columbia Road, my personal favorite is Broadway Market (Saturdays) – it’s definitely more of a locals market than a tourist destination, and is located in a really charming area of East London, amidst parks and Regent’s Canal.
Eating on a Budget
I’m not a big foodie – I would rather spend restaurant money on travel than one meal. In my search for cheap food, I’ve come across quite a few places that are amazing without completely breaking the bank.
Cheap East London Eats
- Dinerama – the tacos are to die for but you can’t go wrong with anything, really.
- Other places nearby also serve street food, like Pump Shoreditch (BYOB!) or Urban Food Fest (Saturdays in the summer)
- I hadn’t lived until I had a bagel from Beigel Bake on Brick Lane (the white storefront one, not yellow) They are open 24 hours and really cheap.
- Our favorite weekend activity is to grab some snacks at our local Tesco and head to our nearest park to picnic. It’s a great way to relax in the sunshine without spending all of our money to sit in a pub garden (although also another must-do activity)
- For a really hip, pizza brewery meal, I would recommend Crate Brewery & Pizzeria. It is right on Regent’s Canal and it always packed, so don’t come if you are too hungry, because you will probably have wait about an hour to get your food.
- One of the best restaurant meals I’ve had in London is Dishoom. There are several locations in London, and there is usually a queue because they don’t take reservations.
- Lastly to enjoy a weekend brunch, try The Pavillion in Victoria Park. It looks like a typical park cafe, but is actually an incredible bakery with picnic tables right on the pond. Great way to spend a lazy weekend!
Hopefully you can use some of these ideas to get you started on enjoying London like a local.