As one of the most expensive cities in the world, London can be tricky to navigate on a budget - particularly in today's climate. The uncertainties surrounding Covid have pushed many of us to cut back on our spending, but this doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what the city has to offer as it reopens its venues and attractions after lockdown.
Here’s our list of recommendations for London’s best budget-friendly activities, so that you can still have an unforgettable summer without breaking the bank!
London is currently subject to some coronavirus restrictions, so we encourage you to plan your outings in advance and visit company websites to keep up with all the latest rules before you stop by.
Each of the activities we’ve listed adhere to the current government guidelines, but there may be some systems in place to help prioritise visitor safety.
London has one of the most advanced travel systems in the world, but let’s not limit ourselves to tubes and buses - commuting doesn’t have to be boring. Here are some fun and budget-friendly travel alternatives to enjoy this summer.
Taking a boat along the River Thames is a wonderful way to appreciate some of London’s best landmarks, but river cruises can often be overpriced and crowded with tourists.
That’s where Uber Boat comes in. For as little as £4.60, you can enjoy a far more exciting alternative to your regular bus or tube travel.
Powered by Thames Clippers, the recently launched Uber Boat service travels from Woolwich Arsenal right through to Putney, so there’s a multitude of piers to hop off at and go exploring.
To save up to 23% off the standard fare, you can purchase your tickets online, via the Uber Boat app, or by using your contactless or TFL travelcard. We recommend that you plan your journey ahead of time by checking out the Uber Boat Timetable on https://www.thamesclippers.com/plan-your-journey/timetable
Onboard the Uber Boat, you’ll benefit from an indoor cafe, comfy leather seating, an outdoor deck and fantastic views over the River.
Location: 27 Western Gateway, London E16 1FA
The Emirates Cable Car was initially launched to help commuters cross over the River into Greenwich, but it's since become a fun and exciting way for Londoners to enjoy fantastic views over the East End.
Seating up to 10 passengers each, the pod-like structures hover across the Thames for approximately 10 minutes and offer panoramic views over Greenwich Peninsula and Canary Wharf.
The cable cars not only give commuters a brilliant Instagram backdrop, but they even make for quite a romantic scene at sunset or dusk!
When visiting the Emirates Air Line, keep in mind that it’s a cash-free system, so you’ll need to pay using either a contactless card or TFL travelcard.
Dotted all over London are the ever so famous Santander bikes (more commonly known as Boris bikes), which cost just £2 to access for 24 hours.
Once you’ve paid £2 for your first ride, every other ride that day is free - as long as you're taking each bike back to a docking station within 30 minutes and replacing it with a new one.
The Santander Cycles app will show you exactly where your nearest docking stations are so that you can carefully plan all of your journeys - and avoid being charged an extra £2 for every ride that exceeds 30 minutes!
With over 700 docking stations and 10,000 bikes scattered across the city, it’s an excellent way to travel and explore some of London’s more unbeaten paths.
Here are some picturesque bike routes to get you started:
Location: Battersea Park, Dulwich Park
This option differs slightly from the rest. Firstly because it doesn’t get you from point A to point B - you’ll be limited to the perimeter of the park you choose to rent your bikes in, and secondly, because it costs slightly more at £12 per person. But we think it’s still worth mentioning because of the unique cycles on offer!
London Recumbents are a child-friendly bike rental service operating in Battersea Park and Dulwich Park. They each give you the option to travel around their parks on either a solo bike, trike, recumbent, tandem or child carrier trike.
The service is excellent for families and offers a unique way to explore two of London’s most beautiful parks. It’s not very often that the opportunity to ride a trike or tandem arises, so why not take it up this summer?
Too Good to Go is an app that allows you to buy restaurant, cafe and supermarket food that would’ve otherwise gone to waste, at a vastly discounted price. For foodies with limited funds, this app not only gets you high-quality meals at bargain prices, but by purchasing through it, you’re also doing your bit to help tackle food waste!
The discounted food usually comes in the form of a ‘magic bag’ - a mystery selection of items depending on what your selected restaurant has leftover that day. You won’t always know what you’re getting, so you can think of it as a nice surprise each time!
Simply download the Too Good to Go app and find restaurants according to whatever location you’re in at any time. For Londoners, this app is particularly good because there are so many cafes and restaurants to choose from!
OLIO is another great app for those trying to cut back on food spending after lockdown. The OLIO app reduces food waste by allowing its users to share any surplus food they have at home, with locals.
With OLIO, you can use your location to filter through options in whatever area you’re in, but again, these apps are particularly good to use when in London, as there’s usually many more options in and around the city.
Once you see something you like, you can simply direct message the advertising user to arrange when and where you can pick up your food freebie!
As one of the most top-rated yet affordable Italian restaurants in London right now, E Pellici is well worth a visit this summer.
The restaurant has been serving its East London locals for over a century and boasts a small but impressive menu serving great British and Italian classics.
Signature dishes include their Classic Breakfast (a favourite amongst locals) as well as a selection of meat dishes, pastas, sides and desserts. At E Pellicci, you can expect to pay roughly £10 for a generously portioned main course.
Tucked away on Vauxhall Grove, you’ll find Bonnington Cafe - a quirky vegan and vegetarian restaurant run cooperatively by a number of different chefs from all over the world. Because it's maintained by a group of cooks, the menu is different on any given day and typically includes cuisines from Japan, Italy, France, America and more.
It’s an excellent option for non-fussy eaters who are keen to explore new foods from around the world. The cafe has a straightforward pricing structure, with starters and desserts at just £3.50-£4.00, and mains at £9.
Pizza Union is popular amongst Londoners for the simple fact that it’s fresh, fast, tasty and affordable. Its menu offers a large selection of pizzas and toppings, from the more classic Margherita and Pepperoni pizzas, to the more acquired Tropicalis and Calabrias. Every ‘superfast’ 12-inch pizza comes in at under £7!
Tucked away on Hanbury Street in Shoreditch, you’ll find DF Tacos - an impressive Mexican restaurant offering an affordable range of tacos, buns, burritos and more. The average main course at DF Tacos will set you back roughly £8 - an absolute steal considering its often busy location and generous portion sizes! This restaurant is an excellent option for those who want to dine on a budget without missing out on great tasting food.
Location: North Greenwich, o2 Arena
Popular amongst influencers and Instagram lovers alike, this interactive selfie funhouse in North Greenwich offers unique photo backdrops to help you stand out against the crowd.
To gain access to the exhibit, you’ll need to book your tickets in advance on www.selfiefactory.co.uk - then, you can choose from three different ticket packages, the cheapest priced at £13.99 for 60-minute access to a range of different photo-friendly ‘selfie rooms’.
These include a pink London underground tube train, a rainbow room, flower cove and pink supermarket - with trolleys, to name just a few!
Location: Hackney/Waterloo, Croydon
Board Game Cafes are seldom talked about, which is a shame as there are some great ones in and around London.
With over 800 board games and counting, Draughts is an excellent place to enjoy a game for just £6 per person, along with the option to order food and drinks from a diverse vegan and veggie-friendly menu.
There’s a wide variety of games on offer, from much-loved classics like Monopoly and Scrabble, to the lesser-known but equally as fun ‘Logo Billionaire’ and ‘Truth Bombs’. There are even options for solo games - so you don’t necessarily have to bring a friend along with you!
Draughts currently have two locations: Hackney (its flagship location) or Waterloo.
Another great option is The Ludoquist, a ‘Board Game Cafe Bar’ located in Central Croydon and priced at just £5 per person for access to over 1,400 games. Similar to Draughts, The Ludoquist also offers a varied food menu with snacks, mains, desserts and cocktails, all reasonably priced and best enjoyed when accompanied by a game with friends.
For each cafe, you’ll have to book a slot online via their respective websites before visiting.
Location: The Tate Modern, Bankside
When it first graced the Tate Modern, ‘Infinity Mirror Rooms’ by Yayoi Kusama immediately rose to fame online and became one of the most talked about and Instagrammed immersive art exhibitions in the world.
The museum offers its visitors the chance to explore not one, but two of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror rooms, transporting them to her vision of endless reflections. The Infinity Mirrored Room ‘filled with the brilliance of life’ is thought to imitate endless space, whilst the second room, Chandelier of Grief, creates the illusion of a universe with no limits in the form of rotating crystal chandeliers.
Priced at just £5 for under 25's, £10 for everyone else and free for members, the exhibition is not only beautifully unique, but also budget-friendly.
The only con to largely popularised art is that tickets tend to get booked up in advance, particularly post-lockdown, so we would highly recommend keeping tabs on availability to book the earliest available spot!
The exhibition will be running until June 2022.
Location: Shoreditch, 97 - 113 Curtain Road, EC2A 3BS
Winner of the Traveller’s Choice Award in 2020, Ballie Ballerson stands out as one of the most unique cocktail bars in London - and that’s entirely down to its world-famous ball pits.
With over a million balls spanning two giant pits, it’s the perfect place for adults to unleash their inner child and take advantage of an incredible pizza and cocktail menu to recharge their energies!
General admission into Ballie Ballerson costs just £5 per person on Sunday-Thursday, £10 on Fridays and £15 on Saturdays. For the sparkly lights, RnB music and quirky entertainment on offer, we think that’s a pretty good deal!
Location: Dray Walk, Old Truman’s Brewery
Junkyard Golf is set within a dark scrapyard marked with UV graffiti and quirky displays of junk, and is brought to life with party music blaring from its speakers.
Great for those with a competitive streak, the club has four different courses on offer - Bruce, Pablo, Gary and Bozo – inspired by blockbuster movies, the carnival, and the jungle. You can browse through each course and book your slots via the Junkyard Golf Club website.
Junkyard Golf is perfect for groups, and with access to an extensive drinks menu to keep you in the party mood, it’ll offer you the chance to properly bond with friends post-lockdown.
Prices start at £11 per game at off-peak times, and go up to £13 during peak hours.
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