London, England

Cheap things to do in London:

3 Day Budget Guide

Our 3 Day Budget Guide to London will show you the must see things, how to get around, and where to stay. Fortunately for us we met a friend from London during our time in Thailand. She was willing to show us around to a couple things we wouldn’t have thought to see ourselves and even let us stay at her flat in the hip neighborhood of Islington.

Below is our Budget Guide to London with suggested routes of how to make the most of your time. We suggest wearing comfortable walking shoes and bringing a packed lunch and plenty of water.

Oh - and don’t forget your rain jacket! England is famously known as the country that can experience four seasons in a day; we got caught in the rain and the hail!

Day 1: Iconic London

What comes to mind when you think of London? Perhaps the famous red double decker bus, black cabs, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, or the London Eye. The first day of our 3 Day Budget Guide to London will take you to some of the most iconic places in the capital of the U.K.

London Tower | Tower Bridge

The Tower of London is one of the top tourist destinations, however tickets online are £24.70/adult which is quite pricey. Though it's just a tourist destination now, it was once the key fortress for defending the city of London, and the country of England as a whole. It's been besieged several times throughout it's history, controlling it is said to have been important to controlling the country.

Budget Guide to London Free Things to Do - See London Tower
London Tower
Tower Bridge (not London Bridge)
Tower Bridge (not London Bridge)

Right next to London Tower is the Tower Bridge (hence the name). If you're like us and not keen on paying the expensive entrance fee to the tower, one of the great free things to do in London is walk across the Tower Bridge to get a better view of the Tower of London. When most people think of London Bridge, they are imagining the Tower Bridge (shown above). As were walking over it we heard a girl say "Oh, I thought this was London Bridge." Nope. The real London Bridge (pictured below) which is quite underwhelming.

London Eye

The London Eye is another one of the famous things to do in London. It’s interesting enough to see and it makes for a pretty photo next to the Westminster Palace.

However, we wouldn’t recommend going up if you're looking for a good view of London. It’s a bit pricey at £27.00/person for an online ticket and £30.00/person in person.

We decided to skip out on this since it's definitely not one of the cheap things to do in London, however, viewing it from the Thames is cool nonetheless.

Budget Guide London Cheap things to do

We decided to skip out on this since it's definitely not one of the cheap things to do in London, however, viewing it from the Thames is cool nonetheless.

Westminster Palace & Big Ben

The Palace of Westminster (pictured below) is used for the Parliament of the United Kingdom, similar to the Capital Building in the U.S. Located right next to Westminster is the iconic clock tower, Big Ben. Unfortunately both Big Ben and Westminster Abbey were undergoing some renovations when we visited in 2019.

The first picture below shows Westminster Abbey partially covered up during the 2019 renovations. The second picture below is Big Ben/Westminster Abbey in 2016 when I (Josh) visited London when both were open.

Westminster Abbey in 2019
Westminster Abbey in 2019
Westminster Abbey & Big Ben in 2016
Westminster Abbey & Big Ben in 2016

Buckingham Palace

Ah yes, Buckingham Palace. The famous royal residence of the Queen of England. The palace itself is rather grand and spectacular, but be prepared for a crowd especially if you go during the changing of the guards. We unknowingly went during some sort of celebration, perhaps the changing of the guards, because the marching band was playing and the whole round about was closed down.

Once we crossed the street and made it in front of the palace we were unable to get out until the whole procession ended. Nonetheless, it was still interesting to see and is another one of the cool free things to do in London.

Buckingham Palace 1 - 600 original
Buckingham Palace 2 - 600 original

Walk along the Thames & Explore Islington

Islington is known for being a posh and upscale neighborhood just outside the city center. In our opinion, walking along the peaceful network of canals is one of the best free things to do in London. Islington is about a 30 minute bus or tube ride away from central London, where you'll find the famous Thames river. There are several iconic London tourist sites along the Thames like London Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and Big Ben, and of course the underwhelming London Bridge.

Budget Guide to London Free Things to Do
Islington Canals
London Bridge (it's not very pretty)
London Bridge (it's not very pretty)

Day 2: Self Guided Harry Potter Tour

The second day of our Budget Guide to London will take you on a tour to some famous filming locations around London. Not many people know that doing a Harry Potter tour is one of the cheap/free things to do in London.

Most people pay for a guided tour around the city to all the sites. But, if you don't mind getting yourself around then you can see all of them on your own...for free! Below we've created a list of Harry Potter film locations in London so you can do your own self guided tour.

St. Pancras & Platform 9 3/4

St. Pancras &

Platform 9 3/4

St Pancras is an incredibly beautiful building on the outside. In fact, you might recognize it from the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron take off in a flying car. Right next to St Pancras is the famous Kings Cross station where you’ll find Platform 9 3/4. But, be prepared for a long line if you want a photo in front of the trolly.

Free Things to do in London Harry Potter Tour - St Pancras Kings Cross
St. Pancras Station
Free Things to do in London Harry Potter Tour - Platform 9 3/4
King's Cross Platform 9 3/4
Free Things to do in London Harry Potter Tour - Platform 9 3/4
Long Queue at Platform 9 3/4

Claremont Square & Australia House

Another lesser known Harry Potter location in London is Claremont Square which is home to 12 Grimmauld Place. This is the location for the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, and Sirius Black's home. You'll have to enjoy the view from the outside because these are all residential homes so it's not possible to go inside.

The next stop on our Harry Potter tour of London is Australia House, also known as Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Similar to Claremont Square, it's not possible to tour the inside of this location since it's actually the Australian Embassy.

Free Things to do in London Harry Potter Tour - Claremont Square
Claremont Square a.k.a. Sirius Black's House
Free Things to do in London Harry Potter Tour - Australia House
Australia House a.k.a. Gringotts

Millennium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge, which opened in July 2000, appears in the film Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

However, in this movie it's known as the Brockdale Bridge and is attacked by a swarm of death eaters killing several muggles.

According to the book, Cornelius Fudge refused Voldemort's order to step down as head of the Ministry of Magic. As a result, the Dark Lord sent death eaters were sent to destroy the bridge in this scene here.

Harry Potter London - Millenium Bridge

According to the book, Cornelius Fudge refused Voldemort's order to step down as head of the Ministry of Magic. As a result, the Dark Lord sent death eaters were sent to destroy the bridge in this scene here.

Leadenhall Market & Borough Market

Home to tons of bars, restaurants, and shops, Leadenhall market is a bustling place during the day. However, this place is also one of two locations in London that make up the filming locations for Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron.

Borough Market is the other bustling outdoor market used to make up Diagon Alley. Though this one is home to more food stalls and vendors than traditional restaurants and bars. We highly suggest walking around and tasting some of the delicious foods offered from the local shops and stands.

Harry Potter London - Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Harry Potter London - Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Harry Potter London - Borough Market
Borough Market
Harry Potter London - Borough Market
Borough Market

Day 3: London Arts and Parks

If you aren't that into Harry Potter, or just want to see some of the less touristic things then the last day to our Budget Guide to London is for you. A few of these places are free, like the parks and Abbey Road, however if you want to see one of the performance shows then you're going to have to pay a little bit. With that being said, if you're fine without buying any food or drink at the venues the ticket prices are pretty reasonable.

Abbey Road Crossing

Another one of the few free things to do in London is visit Abbey Road Crossing. If you’re a Beatles fan then I’m sure you’re planning how to get your perfect picture reenacting the famous Abbey Road album cover shot. Though I should warn you, it’s a bit underwhelming to see in person.

This place looks like a regular old cross walk, but you’ll know you've arrived when you see groups of people on either side of the street with cameras waiting (or not waiting) for pauses in traffic to take photos. The famous Abbey Road Studios is also right near the cross walk, however, it's not open to the public.

Abbey Road - 600 original
Budget Guide London Cheap things to do - Abbey Road

You’ll have to be pretty quick if you want to jump out and grab a picture in the cross walk but don’t be surprised if other people also join in on your photo shoot. Please keep in mind this is a busy road with lots of cars.

Traffic can be quite busy so please be careful of cars and mindful of other drivers. There’s always going to be those people standing in the middle of the road holding up traffic for a photo, but they will get honked at!

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is located in west London and features beautiful walking paths, flowers, ponds, swans, and fountains. Not to mention Kensington Palace is also within the park. To be honest the palace is a bit underwhelming, but we enjoyed the walk through the park. Not only is it a beautiful place to eat some lunch, there’s no entrance fee which makes it another one of the great free things to do in London.

Hyde Park 1 - 600 original
Hyde Park 3 - 600 original

Vaults Theatre

The Vaults Theatre is a really cool place to either go see a show or just walk through the colorful entrance way. The entrance tunnel is covered in graffiti art and has a couple small bars nestled in a few crevices. The main feature of this place is a small music venue where we went to see a jazz band perform. Tickets are roughly £17/adult and it was one of the highlights of our time in London. However, just walking through the spray painted tunnel is free!

Vaults 1 - 600 4x5
Budget Guide London Cheap things to do - Vaults Theatre
Vaults 2 - 600 4x5

Tate Modern

The world famous Tate Modern is home to countless contemporary art exhibits. This museum is absolutely enormous featuring multiple floors of themed art exhibits. There is no entrance fee which makes it one of the top free things to do in London if you want to see some crazy cool exhibits like the huge stack of radios below.

Budget Guide to London Free Things to Do - Tate Modern
Budget Guide to London Free Things to Do - Tate Modern
Budget Guide to London Free Things to Do - Tate Modern

Royal Opera House

If you're into arts and theatre then we highly recommend catching a show at London's Royal Opera House. We had an amazing time here with our friend Holly seeing a ballet performance.

Normally going to an Opera isn't my first choice, but the grand design of this building and the incredibly talented orchestra really blew me away.

If this doesn't sound appealing then it's probably not going to be worth your money because this place is a bit pricey. Tickets are roughly £20/adult which isn't bad, but the food and drink prices are insane (think £12 for a sandwich).

Royal Opera House - 600 original

If this doesn't sound appealing then it's probably not going to be worth your money because this place is a bit pricey. Tickets are roughly £20/adult which isn't bad, but the food and drink prices are insane (think £12 for a sandwich).

Whitehall Gardens

After opting out of the London Eye, we kept strolling along the Thames river until we stumbled upon these gardens. Though they're not quite as grand as Hyde Park, they do make for a nice place to relax for a bit.

There's plenty of benches, patches of grass to lie down, and even a few ping pong tables. We love the parks in London, they're well maintained and very relaxing.

If you're looking to save some cash, hanging out at a park is definitely one of the best free things to do in London.

Budget Guide London Free things to do - Whitehall Gardens

If you're looking to save some cash, hanging out at a park is definitely one of the best free things to do in London.

How to get around London on a Budget

The cheapest and (usually) the fastest way to get around London is by taking the public bus system or the London Underground (a.k.a. the Tube). In order to get going you’ll need to go into a Tube station or local convenience store to buy an Oyster Card. This is your reusable/refillable card for all public transport in London.

You can refill the cards at any Tube station and it works for both the bus and the underground (same thing as the tube). Each bus ride is a flat rate of ~£1.50/ride, but the Tube rides will vary based on which zones you travel to. However, the daily travel limit is capped at £7.00, so you won’t go over this limit for the buses/tube.

How to get around London on a budget
Typical Tube Station
How to get around London on a budget
Famous London Double Decker Bus

Where to stay in London on a Budget

From our experience, we like to use Hostel World to check out potential hostels, then check other booking websites like Booking.com to make our reservations. Sometimes we also message hostels directly to get a better price. We also like to use Airbnb to book accommodations if its a better deal than hostels. Clicking on either of the icons will give you a deal with either of the sites, but are affiliate links so we earn a small commission.

Dorms: £9.00+ ($11.00+USD)

Private: £10.00+ ($12.15+USD)

Amenities: Free Wifi, Free Breakfast, 24 Hr Reception, Cafe/Bar, Laundry Facilities, Self-Catering Facilities

Photo Courtesy: Hostelworld.com
Photo Courtesy: Hostelworld.com

Dorms: £15.00+ ($18.25+USD)

Private: £21.67+ ($26.30+USD)

Amenities: Free Wifi, 24 Hr Reception, Cafe/Bar, Laundry Facilities, Tours/Travel Desk, Luggage Storage

Photo Courtesy: Hostelworld.com

Dorms: £23.50+ ($28.50+USD)

Private: £35.00+ ($42.50+USD)

Amenities: Free Wifi, Free Breakfast, Postal Service, Tea/Coffee Making Facilities, Laundry Facilities

Photo Courtesy: Hostelworld.com
Photo Courtesy: Hostelworld.com

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By |2019-11-06T09:14:32-05:00May 11th, 2019|Budget Travel, England, Europe, Travel Guides|0 Comments

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