London is a notoriously expensive city. When Luke and I headed down for a long weekend earlier this week, we were a little bit worried about overspending. We wanted to explore new sites and experience a new side to London that we haven’t before, but we didn’t want to break the bank doing it.
We managed to stick to a pretty close budget and still enjoy some amazing parts of London. Here’s how we did it.
Eating while I travel is always pretty high on my priority list, but I figured I would focus my food spending on dinner and beers, so we kept breakfast simple and cheap. We bought a box of oatmeal with us and each morning made oatmeal and coffee where we were staying so that we started the day on basically zero (a box of oatmeal is less than £1 from Aldi).
We started the day with a free view of the city at the Sky Garden. You have to book online before you arrive. Be sure to bring some form of ID with you and the ticket downloaded onto your phone.
The view from the 35th floor, which to this New Yorker doesn’t sound high at all, is awesome. It’s definitely one of the tallest buildings around and you have clear views over the thames, down to the London Eye, out over Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. We could see the Shard and the Gherkin buildings. The only sad thing was that it was really windy and rainy the day we went up, so we weren’t allowed out onto the outdoor terrace. On a better weather day you’d be able to see even more.
We opted to again, skimp on lunch so that we could enjoy delights later in the afternoon. We have been to London before and have found that our favorite way to splurge is on great dinners and at cool little bars (beers are absurdly expensive compared to Sheffield). We usually grabbed a lunch meal-deal from somewhere like Tesco or Boots. At Tesco you can get a sandwich, snack and drink for £3. It’s £3.75 from Boots (but the sandwiches are WAY better).
There are also loads of restaurants doing cheap lunch offers. We saw a few doing 2-course meals and a drink for £10 and they looked lovely.
The British Museum
I have never been so awed by a museum. The British Museum is so big, so packed with pillaged goods from around the world, it’s nearly impossible to see it all in one day, never mind a single afternoon. Admission to the museum is free.
The first thing we saw was the Rosetta Stone. People were crowded around it, taking photos, reading the plaques, trying to get a glimpse of this insane piece of history that the British stole from the French who stole it from Egypt.
There was a piece of the original Sphynx, entryways to pyramids and lots and lots of mummies. We explored Mesopotamia and Assyria and then headed downstairs to the African art which was incredible.
After a few hours of walking we were absolutely exhausted. I was sitting down at every bench we walked past. Why are museum floors always so hard?
When we finally headed outside, it was raining. It was time to find a good pub. We walked to Tottenham Road and wandered past a few that looks nice. Then we found exactly the kind of hidden gem we were hoping to, The Draft House. Rotating beers on draft and an ale of the day for a mere £2.75. It was busy with the after work crowd, the beers were tasty and we got to try some from London that we’d never heard of before. Winning All Around.
After a few drinks we headed to Brixton Market to meet a friend for dinner. She took us there when we came down last and we fell in love. A market with an obscene amount of restaurants. All serving delicious food, none of which are too expensive.
We eventually settled on a crepe restaurant with some outdoor seating under toasty heat lamps. It was called Senzala. I ordered a buckwheat crepe (galette) with goats cheese, tomatoes, basil and olives. Luke had a meaty feast that tasted amazing as well. We drank Brixton Brewery beers and talked well into the night. At the end of it all, it only cost £15 each.
After Dinner Drinks
We weren’t ready for our night to end. We headed for one last drink at a nearby bar, The Craft Beer Co. We sampled another new to us beer and eventually said goodbye to our friend until next time in London.
We did a lot of walking, only taking the tube to get into the center of the city and once to meet our friend. We used the bus to get back after dinner. Overall we spent about £6 on transport for the day.
Lunch = £3
Drinks = £5.50
Dinner = £15
Drinks = £4
Transport = £6
Total spent for the day = £33.50
Obviously you can swap and change as much around as you’d like – skip the drinks and splurge on lunch. Skip both of those all together and bring your total down to £25 for the day. Just know that London can be done on the cheap and still be enjoyed to the fullest.
Have I missed anything? What other ways can you spend less in London?