London still features on almost every urban traveller’s to-do list. There is no shortage of touristy things to see, do, eat, and enjoy: Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, Marble Arch, double-decker buses, Westminster Abbey, the endless museums, London Bridge, The Tower of London , Buckingham Palace… the list goes on and on. The local travel experts over at Roomsurfer.com put together this guide so you can travel like a true Londoner on a shoestring.
Public transport in London is excellent. Many other major metropolitan cities, like Madrid have even modelled their underground system around it. Using transport during off-peak hours (after 9:30 am) saves money and purchasing a travel card is highly suggested (it costs £7.30 for a one-day off-peak ticket. Alternatively you have the option to use an Oyster card that you can top-up with cash but be sure you know how to use them, or you could end up with some expensive and unexpected charges.
Tip: For some reason, Londoners have a reputation for being unfriendly, especially when on the go, but there’s a sort of unspoken code of conduct among frequent public transport users and if you can crack it you’ll find they’re actually lovely people after all.
The most important rule of all? Never, ever stand still on the left hand side of the escalator. Not even when you have a big suitcase – read: especially, not if you have a big suitcase. You will not make friends.
What to See and Do:
Although they may sound like a tourist trap, the museums and galleries in London are world renowned and house some of the most prized masterpieces. Free entry into exhibitions attracts locals and travellers alike. Head to the Tate Modern for its impressive architecture, the Science and Natural History Museums, or the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. It’s entirely possible to spend an entire day in each so plan your time wisely and decide which exhibitions you want to see in advance.
When in London, a trip to a classic West End musical cannot be missed. If you’re not particular about which show you see, wait until the day to buy tickets to make sure you get the best deal. Lots of stalls around Leicester Square sell them at a heavily reduced prices. You won’t get the best seats, but you’ll still have as much fun. And a matinee is usually cheaper than in the evening.
The standard outdoor tourist attractions such as Buckingham Palace and its surrounding parks are also worth seeing. Try and get there earlier in the day to avoid chaos.
And if you want a good view but don’t want to splash out for a spin on the somewhat expensive London Eye, you can climb the Monument for just a couple of pounds instead – a more modest view, but better value and great exercise!
For free, all-day, outdoor entertainment head to open areas like Covent Garden, the South Bank and Greenwich Market. You’ll find arts and crafts stalls, street markets, entertainers, musicians and a relaxed atmosphere.
On the other hand, definitely stay clear of heaving tourist traps like Piccadilly Circus. There’s really nothing there but crowds and crowds of confused people.
Eat Like a Local:
Don’t want to spend your money on overpriced food from crowded cafes? On sunny days there’s nothing more British than a picnic in the park. Grab a picnic blanket, some sandwiches or sausage rolls, crisps, fresh fruit, cake and a bottle of lemonade and head for one of London’s many green spaces. As well as tourists, you’ll be bound to find families, groups of students, couples and office workers enjoying their lunch break.
A favourite picnic spot is Greenwich Park, but wherever you are in London you’re never too far from some open space. You’ll be able to get everything you need pre-prepared from a local supermarket, but for even better value and unbeatable lunchtime satisfaction, why not prepare some snacks at home and bring them with you?
Eating out and dining in London can be expensive and those who know their way around get the best deals. Ask around locally for recommendations and don’t go for the first thing you see. Cheap eats, greasy spoons, pub grub and decent curry dishes at a fair price are plentiful.
The nightlife in London is varied. There is a place for everything and everyone, no matter how underground or mainstream your taste. Several magazines and newspapers like Time Out or The Metro are available for free in London – you can normally find them around main train stations. They’re used by everyone including real Londoners and are great for finding out about up and coming events in the capital, featuring events suiting every cup of tea.
If you fancy rock, check out the punk and underground clubs in Camden Town. Young professionals sip cocktails along Canary Wharf. The hip and cool down their beers and dance around Hoxton and East London. The well-heeled crowd generally goes out in Clapham in South London.