As William Shenstone once said, ‘nothing is certain in London but expense.’ He was right on the money.
London, your prices are a complete joke. But unlike most jokes, they’re not funny.
Some say that you can only have fun in London if you have lots of cash. We’re here to prove them wrong. Read on for Spotahome's list of some of the most fancy things to do in London, and find out how to do them for (almost) free.
1. Make your own bus tour
What would a big city be without a Hop-on, Hop-off bus? A much better place.
Only joking. Bus tours are a great way to explore a city, but they cost at least £30 per go. What else could you buy with £30? Tickets to any of these cool day trip destinations from London.
Try some of London's best bus routes. They're cheap alternatives to more expensive tours.
- Most famous areas: Routes 11 and 15
- Movie locations: Route 24
- Tour of the pubs: Route 9
- Elegant London: Route 74
- Along the river: Route RV1
- First route in London: Route 205
- Old, cobbled streets: Route 100
Save money, travel on public transport, pretend to be a real Londoner.
2. See the city from the sky
Everyone’s heard of The Shard. It has 95 floors, so a jaw-dropping view is guaranteed. Expect to pay between £18 and £30. That’s a bit of a waste if it’s cloudy.
Why not try an alternative viewpoint?
Built between 1671 and 1677, The Monument is one of the oldest man-made viewing platforms in London. It was built on the exact spot where the Great Fire of London started in 1666.
How tall? 62 metres
How much? It only costs £3 to climb to the top. But there are 311 steps. Ouch.
The Walkie Talkie, Sky Garden
Love it or hate it, the Walkie Talkie building provides a super view of London.
How tall? 160 metres
How much? It’s free. Just book in advance.
Fun fact: The Walkie Talkie has a distinctive, top-heavy shape. This caused a few problems at the beginning - its concave glass reflected the sun's rays and melted a few cars below. A shield has now been put into place, but some people still call it a 'fryscraper.'
The Heron Tower
No one really knows about this one, but The Heron Tower is the 3rd tallest building in The UK. It’s a commercial skyscraper, but there are 2 restaurants/bars that you can visit at the top.
How tall? 230 metres
How much? It’s completely up to you. Entrance to the top is free, but the food and drinks are on the expensive side. That's a small price to pay for such a view.
Emirates Cable Car
Fly above the River Thames on the Emirates Air Line. It’s a more special way to admire views of the city below.
Come back during summer for ‘Night Flights.’ The journey is longer than its usual 10 minutes, and they’ll play an audio commentary at the same time.
How tall? 90 metres
How much? £4.50 with cash, £3.50 with Oyster Card
3. Educate yourself
London is home to hundreds of museums. 300, to be precise. All of them are great, and most of them are free. Thank you London.
As Timeout says, 'it’s one of the world’s – let alone London's – most magnificent museums. The V&A hosts a gargantuan collection of art and design pieces from all over the world.
Keep your eyes peeled for its world class exhibitions. Previous displays include Pink Floyd and David Bowie.
This was the first museum to be open to the public in the World. Ever.
Despite its name, The British Museum is actually dedicated to global, human history, not just British. It has a total of 8 million objects - see if you can count them all!
Head here to see how small us humans really are. You’ll get a real sense of this when you stand under ‘Hope,’ the 25-metre-long Blue Whale skeleton who waits for you in the entrance.
4. Enjoy some food
England has a terrible reputation for its food, but London is actually a great place to eat. According to Business Insider, it’s the world’s 7th city for Michelin stars, with a grand total of 79.
If you have money to burn, go to La Gavroche. It’s one of the most expensive restaurants in the world, with a tasting menu that starts at £130. Wow.
But you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy a decent meal. Head to a training restaurant. You've guessed it - it's where trainee chefs practice. Help them out by sampling their food. Why not enjoy a unique experience and spend very little at the same time?
Students from Westminster College practice their skills here at Vincent rooms. Jamie Oliver trained here - there’s a chance your food might be prepared by a future celebrity chef!
This is a training restaurant for Hackney Community College students. Open Kitchen is great value for money, and they offer courses for those who want to learn a bit more about how it works behind the scenes.
It’s a co-operative restaurant, run by about 20 rotating chefs who bring their own menus to the table. We can’t decide which is more exciting between the experience, the prices, and the food.
Cosy, comfy carbohydrates. The potato project is trendy without being expensive. If you haven’t tried a jacket potato before - your life will be changed. Here you’ll spend less than £5. Bon appétit.
5. Go to the theatre
The theatre is one of the most exciting, yet most expensive things to do in a big city. There are ways of going to the theatre for less, though.
Where better to see a play than at a theatre created by Shakespeare himself?
If you’re happy to stand, you can buy Yard tickets to The Globe Theatre for just £5.
You can find cheap tickets for most performances, but you have to be on the ball.
Here are your options:
Friday Rush: You can buy £20 tickets to most shows from 1pm on Fridays. It’s called the Friday rush, a subtle hint to remind you that you have to be quick.
Travelex tickets. Check out the list of discounted tickets, thanks to The National Theatre’s collaboration with Travelex.
Standing tickets. You can sometimes buy standing tickets for just £5. Wear comfortable shoes and make sure the play doesn't last too long.
6. Go for a drink
What are your thoughts on drinking 18th century liqueur?
For mixologist Salvatore Calabrese, older is better. At the Playboy Club, you can expect to pay several thousand for a cocktail. They’re probably the most expensive in the world.
If €5,500 is too much for a beverage, try the following options:
Most bars in London have a happy hour. It makes Londoners very happy.
What makes them even more happy, is that Happy Hour actually takes place across several hours. Usually, between 4pm-8 or 9pm. Amazing.
Do a little research to find the best bars with the best deals.
And if you don’t have time to get to a bar before 9pm?
Don’t worry. If you have battery and space on your phone, some bars will let you ‘like’ their page or download their app in exchange for a drink.
Download Drinki. Any bar that collaborates will give you your first drink for free, no strings attached.
7. Look great for less
If you’re looking for cheap clothes, but don’t want to go to Topshop, Zara or H&M, you can try a 2nd hand market or an outlet store. Being stylish has never been more affordable.
Often referred to as London’s best designer outlet, Aquascutum is a great place to buy luxury clothing on the cheap.
This shopping centre actually hosts highstreet brands rather than designer. If you really wanted those Adidas trainers but couldn’t afford them at the time, you should head here to see if you can grab them for half the price.
Do you know any fancy things to do in London on a student’s budget? Tell us in the comments!
Moving to London for a while? Spotahome has some of London's hottest properties.
Liked this article? You might also like:
Music in London: famous sites you have to visit
10 Best Secret Places in London
Quiet Places to Study in London
The Best British Movies set in London: Zombies, Brad Pitt & Goats