In terms of world cities, it doesn’t get more cosmopolitan than London. It is the world’s most visited city and is home to dozens of famous landmarks, museums, and heritage sites. However, you don’t have to be financially rich in order to enjoy this culturally rich metropolis. By carefully planning your itinerary, you too can enjoy London for less.
Once you’ve booked your flight to London (via StudentUniverse, of course) and you’ve landed in the Big Smoke, there’s no shortage of free things to do around town! Your best bet is to visit some museums. Many of London’s most popular museums are free, such as the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate Modern. Pick a subject that interests you – whether it be history, art, fashion, literature, science, or something else entirely – and visit a museum or gallery that features it; you’ll be surprised how quickly time can go by in them. Don’t forget to bring your International Student Identity Card (ISIC) if you visit paying museums; as a student, you may qualify for some admission discounts.
London is a big city, but transportation doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. It goes without saying that the cheapest way to get around town is to walk; a good strategy is to focus on a specific neighborhood of London each day that you’re there, so that you’ll never have to walk for miles to get to each sight. If you absolutely must trek across the city to see that house where they filmed 101 Dalmatians, take advantage of London’s parks. Green spaces such as Hyde Park and Regent’s Park are centrally located and offer quiet spots to sit, catch your breath, and indulge in some people-watching. Alternatively, invest in an Oyster card, which works for all forms of public transit in London; it’s cheaper than buying tickets individually, and the London Underground is the fastest way to travel distances you can’t cover on foot.
Eating and shopping your way through London is another great way to spend a few days. If you happen to be near Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus, check out the Berwick Street Market, where you can find some of the cheapest and freshest produce London has to offer. Street markets offer a glimpse into local life and are often brimming with bargains; other great London markets are located in the neighbourhoods of Brixton, Camden Town, and Notting Hill. You can also keep your food and drink budget low by buying everything at supermarkets like Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose; they sell everything you can think of, including alcohol. (In the UK, the legal drinking age is 18.) Once you’ve armed yourself with a cheap sandwich and a bottle of something thirst-quenching, head for the high street; London’s most famous shopping promenades, like Oxford Street, are great places to window-shop. Keep an eye out for branches of the bargain clothing store Primark.
Looking for entertainment? This is London, you won’t have to look far. During the day, many churches offer free lunchtime concerts that are definitely worth a listen. At night, London abounds with cheap bars and clubs to tempt your every fancy. The areas of Brick Lane and Brixton are your best bets for finding free bars with no cover before dancing the night away at the Notting Hill Arts Club, which is usually free before 9:00 PM. If you’re staying at a hostel, it might be a good idea to join some of your fellow travellers (and partygoers) in a London pub crawl, an inexpensive but memorable experience. Order a pint of something cold and toast your time in one of the world’s greatest cities.