It’s no secret that London is expensive and with the exchange rate (£1.00 equals about $1.56 right now) it gets even worse. After spending a month in Spain, we got used to having dinner, drinks and dessert at nice restaurants all for about €45 total. That’s not exactly the case in London, and it’s not just food, fun costs more here too. As you might expect, some of the biggest tourist attractions have the highest costs. What you won’t find on this list is the Tower of London (about $38.27 per person at the gate), The London Eye (just over $30 per person for a 30 minute rotation) and Buckingham Palace (about $32 per person for just the state rooms at the palace). But all of that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun on a budget. Here’s our list of the best things you can do in London for less than $25 for two people.
Take a self-guided walking tour: Whenever you can, skip the underground or the cab fare and walk to your destination. By the power of your own two feet you can easily admire many of the iconic buildings and attractions. Take a stroll by the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and whatever else you may wish to see.
Visit the free museums: Many of London’s museums, both small and large, offer free entry to their permanent exhibits. Our favorites were the Museum of London where you can see everything from the history of London fashion, transportation and beyond. We also enjoyed learning about dinosaurs and volcanoes at the Natural History Museum. Be careful of bank holidays and weekends when lines tend to be longer. You can check out a list of some of the best of London’s free museums here.
Drink a pint with a view: The balcony of our London apartment faced The Shard. After waking up to it every morning, we decided we should take in the view from the top. While I don’t recommend eating at Aqua Shard on the 31st floor (that will definitely break your $25 budget) it is worth visiting the bar to get a pint and take in the view. Keep in mind, the dress code is smart casual.
Wander the markets: London is home to some of the best open-air shopping. Places like Borough Market and Camden Market are definitely worth checking out. You can easily spend an entire day wandering around and tasting some of the impressive foods vendors have to offer. On any given day there are also a number of pop-up book shops that come and go. The books are very affordable and you can find some really unique pieces here.
Share fish and chips with a friend: Not only is a serving of fish and chips incredibly affordable, it’s ridiculously delicious. Whether you sit down at a restaurant, or eat it out of greasy newsprint on the street, it’s the perfect cheap and easy meal while you’re out exploring.
Watch the changing of the guard: Cliché? Yes — but still worth doing. We showed up just before the ceremony began and were corralled behind a barrier in a perfect spot to see the incoming march. The entire thing takes about 45 minutes but you don’t have to stay the whole time. Be prepared for large crowds and show up early if you want a good spot. You can find more information on times and dates here.
Have a picnic in a royal park: After watching the changing of the guard, walk to one of the royal parks for a picnic. Our favorites were Hyde Park and Regent’s Park. Both offer some incredible green space for you to relax and have lunch. The gardens at both are also worth exploring; beautiful trees, flowers and fountains make for the perfect free afternoon.
Indulge in a mini Curly Whirly cake: Coming in at about $21.87, this is the perfect way to celebrate your vacation. Jared’s birthday just so happened to be while we were in London and I just so happened to wait until the day of the occasion to think about buying a cake. Luckily, Konditor and Cook always have these beautiful and delicious Curly Whirly cakes on hand for people like me. It was the perfect end to a wonderful birthday. We couldn’t stop talking about how good it was. Seriously, you have to try it.
Enjoy a pedal boat on the Serpentine: At £10 per person for 30 mins – you can get away with this for under $25 for one adult and one child (£4) but for two adults it will run you a bit more (about $31.26). It’s such a beautiful place setting in Hyde Park though, it’s totally worth it. Hop in the boat, pedal around and enjoy the afternoon.
Have you been to London? What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!