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London on a budget

Free experiences, plus cheap eats, cocktails and shopping.

From museums and galleries to comedy nights and incredible views, there are loads of free things to do in London. To help you get started, we've picked out a few of our favourites.

And, when it's time to refuel, we've rounded up our top cheap eats. From Thai food to afternoon tea, pizzas and burgers to Indian street food, you can fill up for less than you think.

Then it's onto our favourite happy hour cocktail spots and wallet-friendly shops. You'll need some souvenirs, after all…

Free things to do in London

There's a surprising amount of things to do in London without spending a single penny. From art galleries and incredible museums to comedy, music and breath-taking views, check out our favourite freebies.

For more inspiration, take a look at our top ten list of London tourist attractions.

Museums and galleries

London's home to some of the world's leading museums and galleries, and most of them are free. Head to South Kensington for the V&A, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

If it's art you're after, check out the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The iconic Tate Modern is well worth a visit too – for the architecture as much as the art.

Ancient ceremonies

If there's one thing London does well, it's pomp and ceremony. Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace takes place at 11am four days a week and is free to watch. Arrive early to bag a spot on the Mall to see the red-coated, black-busbied soldiers and band march by.

The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London is another dramatic, uniquely English affair. For £5, you can step through the gates after dark and follow the 700-year-old ceremony that sees the Tower locked up for the night. Book well ahead as tickets go fast.

Go for a walk

Central London is pretty compact, so walking is a great (and free) way to see the city.

One of our favourite routes is from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge, following the river. In under three miles, you'll pass Big Ben, the London Eye, the Tate Modern, St Paul's Cathedral, Shakespeare's Globe, Borough Market and of course the Tower of London.

For an aimless amble, head to Bank. The ancient streets of the old walled City turn up tiny churches, hidden gardens and cosy pubs at unexpected turns. Check out the street names for a clue to the area's past occupations: Milk Street, Wood Street, Ironmonger Lane and Poultry, to name just a few.

Enjoy the view

The Sky Garden on the 43rd floor of the Fenchurch Building (better known as the Walkie-Talkie) offers panoramic views across the city and is free to visit. You'll need to book a time slot three weeks in advance though. Get in there quick on Monday morning before they're all snapped up.

Greenwich Park also has great views – if you can handle the walk up the hill. While you're there, stroll through the grounds of the beautiful Old Royal Naval College and check out the National Maritime Museum. Entry's free but book online to make sure you get in.

Bag a free seat

Up for a laugh? Angel Comedy Club hosts free stand-up gigs every night. Arrive early to get your seat, then enjoy a mystery set-list featuring up-and-coming comics and a familiar face or two.

For more free fun, check out The Scoop, a 1,000-seat amphitheatre near Tower Bridge. It hosts everything from free film screenings to giant massaoke singalongs throughout the summer.

For something a little more soothing, head to St Paul's Cathedral or Westminster Abbey for choral evensong. It's a beautiful (and free) way to see the city's most famous churches.

Music and theatre on the cheap

If you can spare a few pounds, there are also some cheap ways check out London's cultural scene.

Catch incredible classical music for under £8 with a promenade ticket to the BBC Proms, pay just £5 for a standing 'Yard' ticket at Shakespeare's Globe or join the National Theatre's Friday Rush to pick up £10 tickets for top shows.

Eating on a budget

It's easy to get drawn into tourist traps when you're in a new city and hunger strikes. Dodge the over-priced snacks and disappointing dinners though, with our run-down of the best affordable restaurants in London.

Or, if you fancy upping the ante, take a look at our more in-depth guide to where to eat in London.

The Ivy Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge Road, SE1 2AA

If you want to push the boat out without breaking the budget, a visit to one of The Ivy's spin-off restaurants is a must.

Alongside friendly, attentive service and beautiful surroundings, the Tower Bridge branch also has a memorable view.

At under £18, the two-course lunch menu is a steal, while the cream tea and afternoon tea outshine some of the city's fanciest spots, at a fraction of the price.


Marie's Café

90 Lower Marsh, SE1 7AB

'Greasy spoon' café by day, Marie's transforms into a Thai restaurant come dinner time.

The portions are healthy and the flavours spot-on, even if the service is a little on the speedy side.

It has to be though, to keep the queue of hungry punters moving. The best bit is, it's BYO. So hit Tesco or Sainsbury's on Waterloo Road to grab a bottle of wine or a few beers en route.


Fat Hippo

5-9 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3EJ

If you like your burgers too big to bite into, Fat Hippo is one of the best places to eat in London on a budget.

Their inventive – and fully loaded – beef, chicken and plant-based burgers are piled high with everything from smoked bacon and waffle fries to vegan cheese and chipotle 'slaw.

To get the most burger for your buck, stop by Monday to Friday before 4pm for a Fast Hippo deal from £8, with free hand-cut fries. Otherwise, hit Hippo Hour from 5-6pm for two courses for £16.


Pizza Union

246-250 Pentonville Road, N1 9JY

While there are branches across the city, this one's a perfect pit-stop if you're on your way to Eurostar check-in.

12-inch pizzas start at just £4.95 and everything's baked to order in tasty Roman style. Our go-to is the Calabria, with its spicy kick of 'nduja sausage paired with creamy mascarpone.

You can't book so it fills up at lunch and dinnertime, but it's well worth joining the fast-moving queue.


Delhi Grill Indian Canteen

21 Chapel Market, N1 9EZ

Tasty Indian street food: tick. Buzzy, friendly vibe: tick. Cool interior plastered with Bollywood posters: tick.

If you're after an Indian with a difference, Delhi Grill's the one to beat. And with dishes starting around the £5 mark, it's brilliant if you're on a budget, too.

For a light bite, plump for the pani puri. The light, crisp parcels are served with a gently spiced coriander infusion which all melts together in your mouth. Yum.


Cheap cocktails in London

Whether you're into a lip-smacking G&T or a frozen margarita, London's packed with affordable cocktails, if you know where to look and when to go. Our top tip: hunt down a happy hour.

If a pint down the pub is more up your street, check out our guide to the best pubs in London.

Pizza Union

25 Sandy's Row, E1 7HW

Another shout-out for this fast-paced pizza favourite – this time for the kitsch cocktails at its trendy Spitalfields joint. For just £4.50, you can sip a frozen margarita or raspberry mojito alongside your meal.

You might be 4,000 miles from Miami, but why not bring some pool party vibes to your London night out? Just beware the brain freeze.



31 Duke Street, W1U 1LG

This pocket-sized hangout just off Oxford Street is the perfect spot for a pick-me-up after a busy day of shopping.

Happy hour happens every day, so stop by between 4pm and 6pm to slurp a signature cocktail for just £7.50 – enjoyed in the cosy bar or on the sunny pavement terrace.


Simmons Bar

7 Greek St, W1D 4DF

If you're in the mood for drinks and dancing with a hefty side of cheesy tunes, hot foot it to one of Simmons' quirky bars for five full hours of happy, six days a week.

From 3pm to 8pm, Sunday to Friday, you can snap up two cocktails for £10. And at the Greek Street branch, you can even pop downstairs for a spot of karaoke.


Two One Four

214 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ

Tucked away under an Italian restaurant on uber-cool Bermondsey Street, this hidden gem has one of London's more generous happy hours.

Every day from 5pm to 6pm, you can get your hands on a double G&T for just £6 or a cocktail for as little £7. Make ours an Ethereal – a delicate blend of tequila, rose vermouth and elderflower.


London shopping (on a budget)

Short on cash but big on style? You've come to the right place. London may be known for its high-end shopping, but it's also got a strong second-hand and bargain game.

So bring a spare suitcase and let's hit the shops…

For London shopping tips for every budget, check out our guide to where to shop in London.

High street names

If you know where to look, there are plenty of options for cheap shopping in London.

The likes of Primark, H&M and New Look all offer affordable fashion, while savvy shoppers in search of hidden treasure should head to TK Maxx.

Charity shops

Love vintage? Skip the expensive boutiques and check out London's charity shops to change lives while you refresh your wardrobe.

Our favourites include Boutique by Shelter, Retromania by Fara and the label-heavy British Red Cross in Chelsea and Cancer Research UK in Marylebone.

Outlet shops

With savings of up to 70% on big brands, London's outlet stores are well worth a look.

Icon Outlet in North Greenwich has over 60 shops including Adidas, Calvin Klein, Guess, Nike and Ted Baker.

London Designer Outlet in Wembley has a similar line-up, plus outlet stores for high street favourites like Marks & Spencer and Clarks.


London's markets are great for a rummage if you're after cut-price clothes and souvenirs.

Camden Market is the place to go for new and pre-loved fashion and accessories. If you love antiques and bric-a-brac, hits the shops and stalls of colourful Portobello Road.

Frequently asked questions

Yes. There are lots of free and cheap things to do in London, if you plan ahead. Our top London budget tip is to walk rather than use public transport.

Lots of London's museums and galleries are free too, and you can save on loads of paid attractions with National Rail's 2 for 1 deal.

For a free, quintessentially English experience, check out Changing the Guard. For a panoramic view, book a free ticket to the Sky Garden.

For free laughs, check out Angel Comedy Club. For £5 tickets head to Shakespeare's Globe or join the National Theatre's Friday Rush for their £10 seats.

When it comes to cheap eats, London delivers, too. From afternoon tea to tasty Thai dishes, burgers and pizzas to Indian street food, you'll find delicious, affordable food right across the city.

Most of the big museums are free, including the V&A, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the British Museum.

If it's art you're after, check out the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square or the iconic Tate Modern on the South Bank.

All appreciate donations though, if you can afford it. Or buy a ticket to a special exhibition to help keep the permanent collections open to all.

Expect to pay about £6-7 at happy hour and anything from around £12 at other times in a standard London bar.

Simmons Bar (which has 25 venues across the city) has a five-hour happy hour, Sunday to Friday, where you can get two cocktails for £10.

The team at Two One Four near London Bridge pours double G&Ts for just £6 and cocktails starting at £7 during their happy hour – every day from 5pm to 6pm.

At the other end of the spectrum, you'll find super-swanky spots like the Connaught Bar charging a cool £2,200 for their Silver Jubilee Rob Roy. You'd best sip that slowly.

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