Beyond the city’s 5-star hotels, designer boutiques and members-only bars, there are plenty of affordable activities to fill your days without emptying your wallet. And if you thought opera tickets, champagne and afternoon tea were off limits to those on a modest budget, read on for tips on where to spend your money wisely.
1. Ride an Urban Cable Car
One of the coolest ways to get from A to B in London is via the Emirates Air Line, an urban cable car that crosses the river Thames between Royal Victoria and North Greenwich. The gentle 1km-long journey allows plenty of time to spot local landmarks including Canary Wharf, the O2 Arena and the Olympic Stadium from 90 meters up.
Cost: £3.50 adults, £1.70 children 5 to 15 (if paying with an Oyster card); £4.40 adults/£2.30 children (if paying by cash/card); children under 5 travel free with a fare paying adult. More »
2. Enjoy a Night at the Opera
While the best seats at the Royal Opera House cost £175, you can score tickets to select performances from £5. High up in the amphitheatre, the Upper Slips seats are the cheapest option. The view may be somewhat restricted from these cushioned benches but you’ll still be able to see the stage and hear the sopranos hit the high notes.
Cost: From £5 More »
3. Treat Yourself to Afternoon Tea
The best value afternoon tea in town is served at the Fan Museum in Greenwich. For just £8 you can indulge in scones topped with cream and jam, a selection of cakes and tea or coffee, all served in the beautiful orangery. The light-flooded building is decorated with detailed murals and overlooks a secret Japanese-style garden.
Cost: £8 More »
4. See the Tower of London for £1
A trip to the Tower of London usually costs £25 but you can nab a ticket to see the ancient Ceremony of the Keys tradition in the grounds of the palace for just £1. This nightly ritual is the traditional locking up of the tower by the Chief Yeoman Warder. Around 40-50 visitors are permitted to watch the ceremony each night at exactly 9:52 p.m. Tickets must be booked online in advance. Photography is not permitted during the event.
Cost: £1 More »
5. Take a Boat Trip on the Thames
Shoot the breeze on the deck of one of London’s Thames Clippers, a fleet of river boats that offer speedy connections between west (Putney) and east (Woolwich) London. Services run from 6 a.m. on weekdays as the boats ferry commuters to work. Avoid the morning rush and take a leisurely sail along the Thames to take in top riverside sights including Big Ben, the London Eye, St Paul’s cathedral and the Tower of London.
Cost: £7.20 adults, £3.60 children 5 to 15; children under 5 travel free with a fare paying adult.
6. Watch a Football Match
Premiership football tickets are pricey and hard to come by in London so consider championing one of the city’s non-league sides instead where you’ll see players work their magic on the pitch from the front line. Teams like Dulwich Hamlet FC and Clapton FC offer an affordable football fix with tickets for £10 or less.
Cost: Clapton FC £6 adults, £1 children under 16; Dulwich Hamlet £10 adults, £4 children 13 to 19, children under 13 free
7. Dine on French Cuisine
Close to Piccadilly Circus, Brasserie Zedel is a grand Parisian-style bistro with a buzzy atmosphere and a budget-friendly menu. The fixed priced two-course deal is a steal at £9.75 and is available from 11:30 a.m. until midnight.
8. Tee Off in a London Park
Battersea Park is often overlooked in favor of parks on the north side of the river but this pretty south London spot is home to a boating lake, a pagoda, an art gallery and a fun pitch and putt course. Practice your swing and refuel with a wood-fired pizza at the clubhouse.
Cost: £9 adults, £7 children under 15 More »
9. Sip Bubbly at Europe’s Longest Champagne Bar
With its 98-meter-long bar and red leather booths lit by Art Deco lamps, Searcys Champagne Bar at St Pancras Station evokes the golden age of travel. Order a glass of the house champagne and enjoy a spot of people-watching; the bar overlooks the Eurostar train terminal.
Cost: From £9.50 More »
10. Tour an East End Music Hall
The oldest surviving music hall in the world, Wilton’s in east London is now an atmospheric arts venue. Join a guided history tour to find out all about its interesting history, from its original incarnation as an alehouse that served wealthy merchants to the period in which is served as a Methodist church. Finish with a drink in the intimate Mahogany Bar.