London can be a dangerous place for your bank account to visit, but it also can be a fairly inexpensive as well if you do it right. It’s 2016 so good and delicious food can be found on the cheap pretty much everywhere. Flights are supercheap if you book ahead and fly with a budget air line and even non-hostel accommodation can be affordable if you look in zone 3 and beyond. Activities can extremely expensive to absolutely free. I’ve put together a list of free things here and today I’m focusing on how you can save around £170 by choosing alternative and cheaper versions of London’s most famous and overpriced attractions. Talk is cheap, so let’s begin.
Swap the Shard for the Skygarden
I loved the Shard, but I can image you’d rather spend your £30 on Oxford Street or Westfield, so why not visit the Sky Garden. I don’t particularly like the place -you can read here why- but hey, it’s free of charge and that’s all that counts right? Make sure to book ahead, come on time and bring your ID – but leave your picnic for an actual garden or park.
Swap the London Eye for The Emirates Air Line
If there’s one thing I would want to scrub out of guidebooks, it’s the London Eye. If you want to see London from the top on a moving thing then head to the cable car or The Emirates Air Line sponsored by Emirates Airline. You can even use your Oyster and it will cost just under £9. And since no one really uses it it’s unlikely you’ll have to queue up.
Swap the hop off hop on bus for Bus 11 or 24
A hop on hop off tour sounds fun, but you might end up getting distracted by the other tourists, so why not hop on bus number 11 or 24, take your own tour and save £25. These lines drive past the famous landmarks like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Bank of England. And the best thing is that they don’t come with that annoying loud family, instead you will enjoy some typical London characters on the bus. One quick thing; buses don’t accept cash, so you gotta reach for an Oyster or contact-less payment card for which a single bus journey is £1.50.
Swap fancy Afternoon Tea for M&S Afternoon Tea
You can’t go to London and not have a classic Afternoon Tea, but what really puts me off is the price (and finding someone who wants to go with you for that price), sure you pay for the experience and you can combine it with a lunch and dinner, but still often the places could be too posh and quiet or a too hip place that will charge you £45 just for breathing their air, so it can be a bit of downer. Well that’s where Marks & Spencer Cafe on Oxford Street comes in handy. They offers them for £6.95. It’s all about scones and clotted cream and M&S knows how to do them. No frills, that makes a difference as the Dutch would say.
Swap the view from St. Paul for the view from Westminster Cathedral
The view from St. Pauls is amazing, but the £16.50 admission might hold you back. Why not visit the Westminster Cathedral – not to be confused for Westminster Abbey – instead? Yes, I know it doesn’t have a Whisper Gallery, but is three times cheaper, they both look impressive from the inside and outside and have a tower you can climb to enjoy looking down like an emperor. Which one would you choose? £16.50 or £5. The landlord, God will love you either way.
Swap The Tower of London for The Monument
I’ve always wanted to go Tower of London as it’s one of my favourite buildings in the city, but from what I’ve heard it’s not focused on about the architecture but more on the fake replica jewels which you’ll have to queue to behold. So instead, I will keep enjoying it from the afar until one day someone will buy it off and put it on Air BnB or something like that. But you know another tower in London that’s much cheaper and much higher; the Monument is an overlooked attraction that happens to also be an old tower that you’ll likely have come across in a history book.
Swap the London Aquarium for the Horniman Aquarium
Do you have the urge to queue up and go to the overcrowded and overpriced London Aquarium? This must only appeal to tourists because I literally don’t know anyone London based who has been. But if you want to see some fish for the cheap head down to south London to the aquarium at Horniman Museum for just £4.40, it’s obviously not a big as the the London one, but they have fish, frogs and jellyfish. Plus the museum and garden are worth a visit (and free!), it’s a kitschy museum in the south of London that holds a a collection of dried insects, a lot of stuffed animals, musical instruments from all around the world.
Swap Harry Potter Filmtour for a Harry Potter walking tour
It is magical, but a visit to the Harry Potter Studio will cost you a wand and a half! Well, £35 + a trains ticket. Alternatively you can take yourself on a magical tour of some of the sites which inspired the series. You’ll get to know which street inspired JK for Diagon Alley, you can take a photo at Kings Cross and there is even an official merchandise shop where you can spend all of the money you saved on above and below. I did one with Muggle Tour and enjoyed it almost as much as I did at the Harry Potter Studio.
Swap Madame Tussauds for real stars
I have never gotten the hang of paying to get into Madame Tussauds and take badly lit photos of wax people, why not skip that and go to a premiere on Leicester Square and spot some A-class and D-listed meat in the flesh for free, well you might need to get there early to get face to face with your celeb obsession. You can also go to a TV show recording, TV shows like Graham Norton (chock full of celebrity candy) and Whatever Talent Show is on at the moment need live studio audiences and you can be part of it! Here is how you can get a ticket.