The Ultimate Guide to London on a Budget (2023)
Visiting London on a budget is easier than you may think. While London can be expensive, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your visit without spending a fortune. As England’s capital, it is one of the world’s most diverse and colourful cities, offering visitors a wealth of cultural, historical, entertainment, shopping, dining and nightlife options.
There are many ways to make the most of your money while visiting, from the transport you choose to your accommodation. In this ultimate guide to London on a budget, we’ll show you how it’s possible to experience all the capital offers without blowing your budget.
Where to stay in London on a budget
Staying in London is often one of the most expensive parts of visiting the city, but there are plenty of budget-friendly options.
Staying at Clink
Hostels offer budget-friendly private and dormitory-style rooms at a fraction of the cost of a hotel. Our Clink261 hostel is located in the heart of London, offering affordable and convenient accommodation for backpackers, solo travellers, and budget-conscious travellers.
Clink261 is located in a modern building and offers a traditional hostel experience with comfy sofas and regular film nights and is only five minutes walk from King’s Cross Underground.
Our hostel is known for its friendly and social atmosphere, making it an ideal choice for solo travellers looking to meet other like-minded people. We also offer a range of facilities, including Wi-Fi, open-plan dining areas, shared kitchens, and lounges. You can even save money by cooking your own meals and socialising with other guests. Staying in our hostel is a cost-effective way to experience London while meeting new people and making unforgettable memories.
How much could you save?
Note that the prices below are averages and may vary, but they will give you a good idea of how our rates compare to 3 star hotels in King’s Cross, the area where we are at Clink261. So stay with us and you’ll save some money to spend on your London adventure!
| Female only
How to travel cheaply in London
There are plenty of cheap ways to travel around London, from catching a bus, renting a bike or walking.
One of the best and most cost-effective ways to see London is by walking. It’s a great way to discover many hidden gems and attractions you would otherwise miss if you were on the Tube or bus.
Walking lets you explore the capital at your own pace as you immerse yourself in the local culture while seeing the city from a different perspective. There are plenty of lovely walks in London, such as the South Bank Walk that takes you along the river Thames and past iconic landmarks like the Tate Modern gallery, the National Theatre and the London Eye.
Regent’s Canal Walk takes you from Little Venice to Hackney Wick, passing through scenic parks and historical buildings. There are also free London Walking Tours led by knowledgeable guides, including the Sandemans New Europe Tour and the Original London Free Tour.
Renting a bike
Cycling is a great way to explore London and its surroundings. There are several bike rental options in the city, making it very easy and convenient to explore the city on two wheels.
Some popular cycling routes in London include the Tamsin Trail to Richmond Park, known for its rolling hills and scenic views and from Islington to green fields, perfect for those seeking a peaceful ride in nature. The Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace route takes you through charming neighbourhoods and parks.
Try the Angel to Victoria Park route via the Regent’s Canal for a scenic ride along the water. The Westminster to Wandsworth route offers a mix of city and river views, while the Olympic Park route takes you through East London’s urban landscape.
Taking the bus
Taking the bus is a convenient and affordable way to travel long distances in London. The extensive network of bus routes can take you to most parts of the city.
The number 11 bus offers an affordable way to sightsee, operating from Liverpool Street to Fulham Broadway. It passes several famous landmarks such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Bank of England, the Tower of London, and the Tate Modern. The bus ride also provides a unique perspective of the city, allowing you to see the bustling streets and neighbourhoods. Plus, with a valid Oyster Card or contactless payment, you can easily hop on and off the bus, making it a convenient option for exploring London.
Image courtesy: Londonbusesbyadam.zenfolio.com
The Oyster Card is a rechargeable smart card used for paying for public transportation in London. It offers a convenient and cost-effective way to pay for trips, with cheaper fares than paying with cash. You can top up the card with credit and use it for multiple journeys until nothing remains on the balance.
You can purchase an Oyster Card online by visiting the Transport for London website. The 16-25 Card is a discount card for young people aged 16-25. When used in conjunction with an Oyster Card, it provides even greater discounts on travel fares. To find out more budget-friendly travel tips, check out our guide to the cheapest way to travel in London.
Things to do in London on a budget
London offers a wide range of cheap or free activities, including visiting famous landmarks and interesting museums, exploring the city’s vibrant markets, sampling local food and shopping for unique gifts. Take a break in one of London’s lovely parks and enjoy the outdoors.
To experience London’s most iconic landmarks, take a free walking tour of the city or hop on bus number 11 and check out the many famous landmarks on its route.
Walking tours, on the other hand, offer a more intimate way to see the city and its famous landmarks, with knowledgeable guides providing interesting stories and facts. Some of the most famous London landmarks include Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and the British Museum. These iconic sights are must-sees for any visitor to the city and offer a glimpse into its rich history and culture.
Image courtesy: Thetrainline.com
London is where you’ll find many great museums that are free to visit. Some of the best-known free museums in London include The British Museum, which houses an extensive collection of artefacts from across the globe, and The National Gallery, which is home to a collection of 2,300 paintings from the 13th century to 1900.
For a more off-the-beaten-path experience, consider visiting lesser-known but still excellent museums like the Royal Air Force Museum, which offers a fascinating look at the history of aviation and military aviation in particular. There’s also the Museum of London, which covers the history of the city from prehistoric times to the present day, and the Wallace Collection, which showcases an impressive array of art, furniture, and weapons.
London is known for being one of the top cities with the greenest spaces and is often mentioned in lists of cities with the most parks. With its many lush parks and gardens, London provides ample opportunities for visitors to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some peace and quiet in the great outdoors.
Some of the city’s most famous parks include Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, and Greenwich Park, which offer ample opportunities for picnicking, strolling, and admiring scenic views. Less well-known lovely parks include Crystal Palace Park, which features extensive gardens and the ruins of a Victorian-era palace. Battersea Park in South London offers a serene escape from the busy city, with a lake, boating facilities and gardens.
Image courtesy: Secretldn.com
London is home to many exciting and eclectic markets, offering a glimpse into the city’s diverse cultures and a chance to find unique, one-of-a-kind items. Some of the most famous markets in London include Portobello Road Market, known for its antique stalls and vintage finds, and Camden Market, a hub for alternative fashion and quirky goods.
Other notable markets include Borough Market, which is a foodie’s paradise, offering a wide range of delicious street food and artisanal goods, and Brick Lane Market, which is known for its vibrant atmosphere and unique offerings. Whether you’re looking for vintage clothing, rare books, unique crafts, or delicious food, London’s markets have something to offer everyone.
For more markets, check our list of the best London markets!
Top 5 unmissable free things to do in London
London is packed with fantastic free things to see and do. Here are the top 5 unmissable free things to do in the capital:
1. Take a free London walking tour
A free walking tour in London is a great way to explore the city and learn about its history, culture, and famous landmarks. Guided by knowledgeable tour guides, these tours offer a unique perspective on the city and are a budget-friendly way to see the sights.
2. Watch the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace
The Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace is a must-see for visitors to London. The ceremony takes place every day and involves the old guard exchanging duties with the new guard, accompanied by music and marching. It is a colourful and historic tradition that is free to watch.
Image courtesy: Nawas.com
3. Watch London from above
Experience the breathtaking views of London from above by visiting Primrose Hill. This iconic hill offers panoramic views of the city skyline and is a popular spot for picnicking and taking in the sights. It’s a must-visit for those looking for a unique perspective on the city.
4. Take a picture at Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross
If you are a Harry Potter fan then you must head to Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station in London to take a photo. This famous platform, made famous by the schoolboy wizard, has an iconic wall with a trolley halfway through it, making for a perfect photo opportunity.
Image courtesy: Thirdeyetraveller.com
5. Cross the Abbey Road zebra crossing like the Beatles
Relive a piece of music history by crossing the Abbey Road zebra crossing, made famous by The Beatles on their album cover. This iconic pedestrian crossing in the St. John’s Wood neighbourhood of London is a popular spot for tourists and music fans alike.
Image courtesy: Historicengland.co.uk
Eating in London on a budget
There are plenty of options when it comes to eating in London on a budget, whatever your taste or the time of day.
Farmstand serves a variety of breakfast items, including freshly baked pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and porridge. Gail’s Bakery is a popular bakery chain in London that offers freshly baked bread, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches. Kozzy Cafe is cosy and friendly, serving affordable breakfast options, including traditional English breakfasts, omelettes, and avocado toast. A delicious and affordable way to start the day for those looking for a tasty breakfast on a budget in London.
Image courtesy: Patato.co
London is filled with budget-friendly brunch options for those looking for a tasty and affordable meal. Check out Lowlander Grand Café, MOMMI, and The Good Egg where you’ll find a range of delicious and affordable lunch options, perfect for a relaxing brunch on the go or a lazy weekend catch-up with friends.
Lowlander Grand Café is a cosy and inviting cafe that has a delicious and filling brunch menu that includes eggs benedict, avocado toast, and granola. MOMMI is a popular brunch spot that serves a variety of Asian-inspired brunch dishes, including pork belly bao buns and kimchi fried rice. The Good Egg is another fun and trendy restaurant that offers a variety of brunch options, including granola bowls, bagels and shakshuka.
You’ll find plenty of budget-friendly options for a delicious and affordable lunch or dinner in London.
Sushi Heads offers a range of fresh and delicious sushi rolls and bento boxes at affordable prices.
Silk Road is a popular restaurant that specialises in Central Asian cuisine and serves dishes such as kebabs, hand-pulled noodles and dumplings. Itsu is a chain of Japanese restaurants that offers healthy and delicious options, including salads, soups, and sushi.
Pizza Union Spitalfields is a popular pizza restaurant that serves delicious and budget-friendly pizza, with a focus on using fresh, high-quality ingredients.
Golden Chippy is a traditional fish and chip shop that serves classic, delicious fish and chips at budget-friendly prices. These restaurants offer a range of options for those looking for a cheap and tasty lunch or dinner in London.
Image courtesy: Happycow.net
London is renowned for its traditional afternoon tea and there are many budget-friendly options for those looking for a taste of this classic experience. The Wolseley, Tea and Tittle Tattle, and The Wallace each offer a range of options for a delightful London afternoon tea experience.
The Wolseley is a grand and elegant cafe that offers a traditional afternoon tea, complete with finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries. Tea and Tittle Tattle is a charming and cosy tea room that serves a variety of teas, as well as light bites such as scones and sandwiches. The Wallace is a stylish and sophisticated restaurant that offers a range of afternoon tea options, including traditional cream teas and Champagne afternoon tea.
Going out in London on a budget
London offers many budget-friendly options for nightlife, including bars, pubs, clubs, and music venues. There are also free events and festivals, street performances, and outdoor cinemas to enjoy.
Pubs and bars
If you are looking for places to enjoy a great night out and a few drinks, London won’t disappoint. Some of the most popular cheap pubs and cheap cocktail bars in the capital include Little Nan’s, Duke of Argyll, The William Webb Ellis, and Three Sheets.
Little Nan’s is a quirky and charming bar that serves a range of drinks, including wine and cocktails in teapots and teacups. Duke of Argyll is a traditional pub with a range of beers and ciders, as well as pub classics like fish and chips. The William Webb Ellis is a cosy and inviting sports bar that serves a range of beers and ciders, perfect with burgers and fries. Finally, Three Sheets is a modern trendy bar that serves a range of cocktails, beers, and wines, alongside a range of small plates and snacks.
Live music venues
London has a fantastic live music scene with many free live music venues that appeal to millennials, including in-store performances at Rough Trade East, Daylight Music at Union Chapel, Old Blue Last, and Southbank Centre.
Rough Trade East is an independent record store that features in-store performances by up-and-coming musicians, as well as a range of vinyl records and merchandise. Daylight Music at Union Chapel is a monthly music event that features live performances by emerging artists in the beautiful and historic Union Chapel.
Old Blue Last is a trendy bar that features live music and DJ sets, as well as a range of beers, wines, and cocktails. Southbank Centre is a large cultural venue that features a variety of live music events, including classical music, jazz, and world music, as well as art exhibitions and theatre performances.
Image courtesy: Blog.roughtrade.com
London is a hub for comedy lovers and offers many free and cheap comedy clubs, whether you’re a fan of stand-up, improv, or sketch comedy. The Top Secret Comedy Club is a cosy and intimate venue that features live stand-up comedy. They serve up a range of beers and wines too. Oh So Funny is a monthly comedy night that takes place in various locations across London, featuring a rotating lineup of up-and-coming comedians.
To Sum up
London is a fantastic place to visit, but it can be expensive. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to experience the city on a budget. Opt to stay at budget-friendly accommodations like Clink261 Budget Hostel to save money and meet great people.
Walk, hire a bike or use public transport rather than take expensive taxis. You can also visit free attractions like museums and parks and eat at cheaper restaurants and cafes. London has a bustling nightlife with plenty of affordable options including free live music and comedy venues. Even if you are on a budget, you don’t have to compromise on what you see and do and experience in this incredible city.