London can end up a little on the expensive side when you’re trying to travel on a budget! If you’ve ever visited the Big Smoke, then I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about. Bus fares, eating out, going out for drinks; it can all add up. Luckily, London also happens to be a treasure trove for unusual things to do that don’t break the bank- if you know where to look! Here are some ideas to get you started:
See London from above
Seeing a place from a bird’s eye perspective really gives you a feel for the place and London has some pretty cool lookout points. I would suggest heading to the top of the Monument to the Great Fire of London (located by Monument tube station). For under £5 you can spot all the London classics: St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, Tower Bridge, the London Eye and more. The 360-degree view is totally worth the 311 steps it takes to climb the tower!
Visit the oldest shop in London
The oldest shop in London is most probably ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Having survived both the Great Fire of London and the blitz, this shop merits its title. Built in the 16th century, the sloped roof and wonky walls really have stood the test of time.
Nearby, on Lincoln’s Inn Fields you can check out the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, which is home to a 17th century collection of anatomical specimens; and you can also visit Sir John Soane’s Museum, which is an 18th century house museum that showcases paintings, drawings and antiquities that Soane himself assembled. Both of these are free to visit.
Wander around Notting Hill
Aside from being the name of the iconic Hugh Grant film, Notting Hill is arguably the prettiest district in London. You can’t visit without spotting at least a half dozen vintage cars and rows of pastel houses. Make sure you bring your camera for oodles of Insta-worthy photos.
Notting Hill also happens to be the site of Portobello Road Market: a must-see for vintage and collectors alike. Come here for the best deals on vintage clothing, antique maps and more! Bonus tip: if you visit Notting Hill in late spring, you’ll be able to see the Wisteria in full bloom!
Browse the Columbia Road Flower Market
Arguably the prettiest market in London, Columbia Road Flower Market also happens to be one of the most inexpensive. The Flower market is held on Sundays from 8 in the morning to mid-afternoon (depending on flower stocks). You can go there early for the best pick, or visit later for the best deals! Visiting a couple of weekends ago, I managed to pick up two orchids for £5. A little bit of a bargain if I do say so myself!
Take part in Late Night Museum Visits
If you don’t fancy heading to the pub come Friday night, why not head to a late night museum opening instead? Every final Friday of the Month, the Natural History Museum extends its hours. Other museums participating include the Victoria and Albert every Friday night, and the Science Museum on the last Wednesday of every month.
A couple of weeks ago, I paid a visit to the late Night Natural History Museum. Parts of the museum that are normally closed off to the public were open for you to get a ‘behind the scenes peek’. One such area was the archives and library; on display were rarely seen drawings from Captain Scott’s tragically fated Antarctica expedition.
If you’re still not convinced, think: wandering around your favourite dinosaur collection with a glass of wine in hand! Plus, there’s the added bonus of having scientists and researchers who work for the museum’s collections being on site to answer all of your questions.
Are there any other unusual things to do in London you’d add to this list?
Yes, the views from the Monument are great, but for completely free and awesome views head to the Sky garden!:) You only need to book it in advance.
Still not made it to the Sky Garden- am definitely going to book tickets now! Thanks for the suggestion!
Oh my, that late night opening at the Natural History Museum looks pretty awesome 😛 Great tip!
Yes! I definitely recommend a visit if you’re around. The best part was being able to go into areas which are normally closed to the public (i.e. one of the archive libraries) 🙂
Great tips! Also walking around and drinking in the sights, though, may not be unusual, but will get you to places that you won’t otherwise go to if you’re in a car or joining tour groups 🙂
Yes; walking around a city is definitely the best way to explore it!
London is very expensive, even for European standards, so having penny pinching options is a must. Will add the Monument to my list of good inexpensive places and also the Sky garden as Tanja suggested in the comments.
I totally agree! As a student in the city, I’m always on the lookout for budget ideas! Booking the Sky Garden as I type this… 🙂
I would definitely add a visit to Skygarden + the hilltop views (e.g. Primrose, Parliament, Greenwich. And even the view of St Paul’s through the binocullars in Richmond Park). All free and fab! 🙂
The Hilltop Views are definitely some of the best! I recently visited Richmond for the first time and it’s just stunning in the fall!
Ugh, I wish I’d read this about the museum night tours before I booked my tickets! These are actually unique tips though, so kudos for that. I’ve reading up on things to do on my trip next month and you’ve given me several things to add that I haven’t seen on other sites. Thanks 🙂
London is a great place for people to get their feet wet as a first time international traveler from the US. These are really cool spots that are off the beaten path! I’ve been to London a few times and have had a chance to see all the usual suspects and love hearing about the off the beaten path places like these. I’m adding them to the list of things to see the next time I find myself across the pond!
We always travel with the kids and part of making the journey educational for them is reading before we go. There are so many wonderful choices for kids on London and I’ve made a list for parents and educators. Learning about the place before you go can make the whole adventure more meaningful and memorable. Getting to see the city from the monument to the great fire means even more when you have read about that event!