“London tops list of most expensive cities.” “London named world’s most expensive city to live and work.” “London overtakes Hong Kong as world’s most expensive city.”
We’ve all read headlines like these and while it is certainly true, London IS an expensive city (sometimes it can feel like breathing London’s air costs money!) there are lots of ways you can have a less expensive experience!
One of the main things people worry about before they come to London is how much things will cost, but with the right knowledge and the right information there are many ways to make your money go further, and with the British Pound currently at record low levels, now is the time to get the most out of London.
One thing London is very proud of is how many of our museums and art galleries are free. That means they cost absolutely nothing at all. It is possible to spend a day in the British Museum and not spend a penny. You can spend hours lost in the world of modern art at the Tate Modern and not have to put your hand in your pocket. In fact, all of London’s ‘big’ museums: the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert and the National Gallery are all completely free. Many of the smaller and more interesting London museums are also free. See the bizarre architecture and collection of Sir John Soanes in his house, grimace at the pickled animals of the Hunterian Museum or take in the wild world of zoology at the Horniman Museum – these (and many, many others) are all completely free.
While there are many premium London restaurants, there are also many, MANY reasonably priced restaurants too. A trip into Soho can allow you to eat cuisine from all over the world at prices which won’t make your bank manager weep. For nightlife, there is a lot of free or very cheap entertainment on offer, from free live music and comedy shows to nightclubs which offer free entry if you get there before a certain time. Leicester Square is a famous tourist area and its bars and restaurants are more expensive and not so good. However, if you take any of the side streets away from Leicester Square and go deeper into Soho, you will find many places that are much cheaper: family-run restaurants with loyal customers, traditional pubs that haven’t changed in decades and smaller nightclubs which Londoners enjoy and which tourists don’t know about.
Undoubtedly, some of London’s most famous attractions are expensive and some of them are definitely overpriced; you could even call them a waste of money. Why spend £25 to spend forty five minutes moving very slowly on the London Eye when for a fraction of that price you can climb to the top of St Paul’s cathedral for excellent views and an exciting and hair-raising journey to get there? Or even better, take yourself to the highest point of London – Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath – and see the views for absolutely nothing? (And take a picnic too – weather permitting, of course!).
If a building belongs to the Queen or is part of the Royal Collection then you will pay a premium but there are plenty of ways to experience royal London without needing the Queen’s bank account. The daily Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is free, for example. For the price of admission to Buckingham Palace and the chance to spend two hours in the Queens’ home, you could take a train to Hampton Court and spend the whole day in two royal palaces, one from the 16th century and one from the 18th, for the same price. There’s always an alternative to the more expensive options if you know where to look for them.
There are lots of companies in London who offer free guided walks which are a great way to see the city and all that it offers. Some of these can be downloaded for yourself online, most of them have a guide who will fill you with facts and figures. Even walking tours that you have to pay for are a very cheap option for an interesting experience and are a great way to get to know London.
So, a trip to London might work out much cheaper than you think it could be and as mentioned earlier, with the British Pound currently in freefall, your money really will go much further. But let’s not forget, if you really can’t afford that trip inside the Tower of London or that cruise down the River Thames, you can still convince your friends you really visited thanks to the power of Google Images and Photoshop!
Written by Lee Arnott
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