How to Visit London Without Breaking the Bank
The famously pricey city has plenty to offer the budget-minded visitor.
Hoping to tick all the 'to-dos' off your London bucket list? Make the most of your trip with our local guide, which tells you what to skip and what you can't miss—with an eye on deals—leaving you with the best bits of the capital.
1. See it from on high
London looks good with a view. But instead of paying $58 to queue up and stare at it from the viewing platform at The Shard, why not admire it with a cocktail in hand? Spend that money on drinks at Oblix instead. The bar is 32 flights up, so you can savor the view in a far less crowded environment. Alternatively, book a table at Hutong for dim sum and Peking duck from above, or head to Duck and Waffle for the namesake dish for breakfast.
2. Savor a gin and tonic
A British classic, you can't come to London and not swig the local juice. If you're gonna do gin, do it right. Drink hyper-local at East London Liquor Company in Bethnal Green, where they distill their own spirits on site. The space itself is beautiful, with copper stills in sight through the glass behind the bar. Another great spot is Portobello Star—the home of Portobello Gin. Talk to the bartenders, get your garnish right, and enjoy.
3. Visit the sights on two wheels instead of four
Skip the open top bus—London's traffic will slow you down—and hop on a Boris bike instead. Armed with a map, you can enjoy roaming around town, seeing the capital's sights at your leisure. Cycle across the bridges for some great picture opportunities, take it more leisurely through the plentiful green open spaces, or simply get off and push through some of the city's most famous streets and squares.
4. Start your day with tea and crumpets
Is there anything more British than tea and crumpets? Skip the buffet breakfast at your hotel and head to Good and Proper Tea, who have new branch on Leather Lane. Along with the perhaps the best brews you'll ever have (they use the most complex of contraptions to make a giant selection of worldly leaf teas), they also make the most wholesome, hearty square sourdough crumpets. Go for the marmite and cheese combo.
5. Eat well for less
London has no shortage of fine dining options, but if you visit them at lunch you can tick them off your bucket list and have some Stirling left in your wallet. Many of the finest places offer far more affordable lunch menus: it's $58 for three courses at Dinner by Heston; $56 for three courses at Simon Rogan's Fera at Claridge's; and $81 for three courses, wine, and coffee at Le Gavroche.
6. Shop 'til you drop
Just like New Yorkers curse Times Square, Londoners avoid Oxford Street like the plague. Sure, it's got a lot of stores but don't overlook Lamb's Conduit Street in Holborn for some great menswear, homewares, and luxury bath products. Also consider Kings Road in Chelsea for womenswear, and Redchurch Street in Shoreditch for designer threads and indie home decor.
7. Hide from the rain in an old world pub
If your visit to London falls on one of its grey, rainy days, don't worry. Seek out the oldest, most quintessential-looking pub you can find, and kick back with a pint of English cider and a book. There are plenty, but to start, try The Elephant and Castle just off of Kensington High St., the Salisbury in Covent Garden, or the Prince Alfred near Maida Vale.
8. Eat bangers and mash
Bangers and mash might be a bit of a British cliche, but there's no doubt it's tasty. Locals get their sausages from the best of the best, The Ginger Pig, a butcher that dates back 20 years and now has seven (with more on the horizon) sites in London. Get yours and don't look back.
9. Make the most of the markets
London has no shortage of great markets, especially those that specialize in food. If you have the patience to tackle the crowd, try Borough Market on a Saturday, otherwise head East to Broadway Market, or South to Druid Street Market in Bermondsey. On Sunday, don't miss the halls of international street food along Brick Lane.