London had always struck me as the kind of the city where you could spend a small fortune seeing all the sights – until I actually visited it that is! I managed to cram in a plethora of fascinating attractions on a shoestring budget and had a few memorable London nights on the cheap.
The main advice for anyone wanting to sightsee in the English capital for next to nothing is to do so on foot whenever possible. Trust me, it’s not as big or as daunting as it may appear on the map and it’s rather quite enjoyable to walk around the city center rather than go on unnecessary and expensive forms of public transport, like the London Underground. Taking the Tube is great if the weather takes a turn for the worse or if you want to get from one side of London to another, but you can easily get by without it until it’s absolutely necessary.
I made a point of putting a full day aside to pound the streets of central London and wasn’t disappointed. Before long, I’d stumbled across the pomp and splendour of the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. What next? Leicester Square? Check. Piccadilly Circus? Check. Soho, Covent Garden and the West End? Check, check and check. All of these places gave me the opportunity to indulge my passion for photography and, best of all, I hadn’t needed to remove my wallet from back pocket for a good four or five hours as I embarked on my own personal tour of the city. It would’ve cost the best part of £30 to go on one of the gimmicky open-top bus rides around the same London sites I’d visited.
Possibly the most rewarding £3 I spent in London came when I decided to take up the challenge of hauling myself up the 311 steps to the top of the Monument to sample an exquisite skyline view of the city. To put ‘London prices’ into some sort of perspective, you can easily pay close to £4 for a pint of beer or £5 for a glass of wine, so £3 proved to be an absolute bargain. A short walk away from the Monument on the opposite side of the River Thames is the Tate Modern, the jewel in the crown of London’s free museums and exhibitions. Some of the pieces I saw as I trudged around this huge building were wonderful. Some were wacky and others were just plain weird, but I guess that’s the beauty of contemporary art. I certainly found it more engaging than the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, which again cost nothing to walk around.
For a double dose of free museums right next door to each other I can wholeheartedly recommend heading to west London. The Science Museum and National History Museum have a whole host of interactive displays to keep people of all ages content. I felt like a big kid again, for a few hours at least. Hyde Park is also in close proximity and is a great spot for a picnic or to rest your weary legs.
London can be done on a budget. I proved it.