5 Ways To Make London Affordable
London is often called the New York City of the U.K. and for good reason, it definitely gives NYC a run for its money when it comes to being the most expensive city in the world. While London is an expensive destination, it is home to world class museums, historical sites, theater, and more recently, world class cuisine of every kind. We spent 7 lovely days wandering around the unique city, and while we thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas markets along the river, the extensive Christmas decorations, the charming pop-up ice rinks and the massive fireworks display on New Years, we must warn you that this city is a mad house during the holidays. Lines for attractions will be five times as long and prices for accommodation, as we learned the hard way, will quadruple. London has been one of our most expensive destinations thus far, but we still discovered a few simples ways to enjoy the city without completely breaking the bank.
1. Opt for Street Markets Over Restaurants/Pubs
There are several large markets in London, our favorite being Borough Market located near London Bridge. This market has both artisanal foods/crafts as well as fresh street food. They have everything you could ever want in the outdoor food stalls, ranging from Duck Confit and Raclette to Indian style dosas and Chinese dumplings. We indulged in the duck confit wrap (£8) a bowl of fresh paella (£7) and some homemade fudge (£3). There is also another great market near King Cross and during the holidays there is an amazing Christmas market on the south bank under the London eye with Street food, mulled (hot) wine and sweet treats.
2. Get Cultured at Museums
London has some of the best museums in the world, and guess what? Most of them are FREE! There is typically a “recommended donation” upon entry, but just give what you can. We enjoyed the National Gallery one morning, with classic works from Leonardo Da Vici, Monet, Picasso and many more and then skipped on over to the Tate in the afternoon for a taste of more modern art and film. The Natural History Museum was also beautifully curated with exhibits about the formation of the earth as well as an amazing timeline of human evolution, it is located next to the Science museum so you can hit both back to back (during the holidays this area is all lit up and has an ice skating rink to boot). The National portrait gallery is another one worth checking out if you have time!
3. Hop on The Tube
London’s underground rail system is highly efficient and there are stations near every major attraction. While the trips can add up if you are taking the rail often, it is very straightforward to navigate and generally costs between £1-£2.5 depending on how far you go. If you aren’t sure what the most efficient route to get to your destination, just plug it in to google maps, switch the means of transport from “car” to “rail” and it will tell you exactly which underground line to take and what stop to get on/off at.
4. Snag a Reduced Meal At M&S
These grocery stores are all over the place and to our delight, they had fresh pre made meal options like hummus and falafel bowls or spinach and tuna salads. We soon learned that around 6pm most of the fresh food gets reduced in price, so we enjoyed a healthy meal and drink for under £5 multiple times.
5. Make Your Drinks Count
No matter where you go, generally alcohol remains relatively expensive and it can quickly burn holes in your pockets if you are traveling for an extended period of time. We didn’t drink often, but when we did we made it count either at really unique places with a fun atmosphere or with good friends. One of our favorite drink and tapas experiences was in London at a wine bar called Gordon’s. At first we thought it was closed, but the entrance is around the side and you get to sip and munch in a candlelit wine cellar.