London on a budget: food, fun & feel good
We believe some of the best things in life are free (or very cheap) when it comes to travel and experiencing a new destination. If you know where to look, what to book and a few budgeting tricks, being prepared with some key tips can afford you the chance to find free things to do, and soak up local culture at extremely affordable prices.
London is a notoriously tricky city to save in whilst you’re travelling, which is why you’ll need our budget-friendly guide with quick tips to find free stuff: after all, the best things in life are free (or pretty cheap).
For more money saving travel tips, read part 1 of our London on a budget guide here.
Looking for somewhere to rest your weary head after making your way through this list? Browse through these London hostels, each full of their own charm and character.
1. Get your fill of street eats
Eating on a budget in this UK capital doesn’t have to mean baked beans and hobnob biscuits every day, although they are both quintessentially English foods to be tried.
A happily growing troupe of food traders are setting up shop in markets dotted around London, and they are transforming the fine dining scene, which now sometimes involves boxes, paper wrapping, and no longer carries a hefty price tag:
Berwick Street Market
Stop off at serious Vietnamese foodies Banhmi11 for clear phở soup broths and noodle salads, find firm favourites Pizza Pilgrims, producing fine stone-baked delights from the back of their 3-wheeler van, or unwrap a knockout Mexican burrito from Freebird Burritos. There’s a lot of choice, so arrive with an empty stomach.
Starting as a small collective of street food vendors cooking up a storm near Kings Cross station, you can now find these guys dotted everywhere. Visit the walkway north of Kings Cross between Tuesday and Friday for bright Bhangra burgers, sticky ribs, sweet bites and even schnitzel and sauerkraut.
Brixton’s undercover markets are really the place to see the growth of a lively street food culture which has burgeoned in the past few years, with music accompanying your meal on Thursday and Friday nights: Beijing-style boiled dumplings, Middle Eastern eateries and Thai like you’ve never tasted before are all part of this explosive culinary experience.
Eat My Pies
Finally, to sample British at its best, pick a pie: scotch eggs, pork and apple, custard tarts and many in between. Find them on Thursdays and Fridays at White Cross Market, and Saturdays at Broadway market in Hackney.
2. Day at the museum
Sightseeing on a budget is a no-brainer in London, since many of the city’s cultural centres are free to explore. The British Museum is a stronghold of artefacts and masterpieces from all over the world; the Natural History Museum holds a fascinating trove of prehistoric finds; surround yourself with discoveries at the Science Museum or pop to the V&A for a dose of art and design. And none of them cost a penny.
3. Long of hair and short of cash?
Usually in London, getting the chop is like taking out a mortgage. A clever way to revamp your style and get that feel good factor for free, or very cheap, is to seek out a salon with trainees. It’s not as scary as it sounds: think of yourself less as a willing victim and more as a lucrative model.
4. Gigs don’t cost a thing
There are infinite opportunities to listen to buskers on the London Underground with only an optional donation, but be warned, it can be a little hit or miss: if you don’t want to hedge your bets on whether that singer by the stairs at Covent Garden is the next Beyonce or a shrieking X-Factor reject, take a look at this list of up-and-coming free gigs by Time Out.
5. Laughing your way past the bank
Forget paying loads of money to laugh – laughing is a human right. If you’re after a great night of stand-up comedy without worrying about your bank balance afterwards, head to the Camden Head in Angel for Angel Comedy, get hysterical over pushed boundaries with Weirdos Comedy and get involved with free, off-the-cuff and exhilarating performances from Brooklyn-born Lewis Schaffer in Soho.
And when the day is over, the price friendly fun has only just begun. Have a look at some of our London hostels for quality, budget places to stay.
Got something to add to our list from your London travels? We’d love to hear from you – drop us a comment in the box below.