Top 23 Things to Do in London for under £30

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Any list of the most expensive holiday destinations in the world invariably includes London. But backpackers and budget travellers can still enjoy the city on a shoestring.

Here are our picks for visiting London on the cheap – the top 23 things to do in London for under £30!

Flights to London

1. Visit Platform 9 ¾

Harry Potter fans should make a beeline for King’s Cross Station.

Of course, it isn’t real, but the fake platform is still a sight to behold.

Platform 9 ¾, King's Cross Station. Photo by José Rodríguez
Platform 9 ¾, King’s Cross Station. Photo by José Rodríguez

2. Witness the Changing of the Guard

The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace takes place every couple of days (exact dates here) at 11:30am and it costs nothing to watch.

Crowds build up fast, so get there no later than 11am – the earlier the better!

Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace. Photo by Rennett Stowe
Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace. Photo by Rennett Stowe

3. London Monument

The London Monument was erected to mark the spot where the Great Fire of London started.

This well loved attraction costs £4 for admission – climb the spiral stairwell to the top for views over the city and Thames. You’ll even get a certificate for your efforts!

London Monument. Photo by Olivier Nade
London Monument. Photo by Olivier Nade

4. Hunt Down a Red Phone Box

And get photographed inside the quintessential London phone booth.

Classic London Red Telephone Box. Photo by Gareth
Classic London Red Telephone Box. Photo by Gareth

5. Take a Free Walking Tour

An alternative to big commercial tours are grassroots city walking tours.

The guides aren’t paid for their time, so be sure to tip them at the end of the day.

Take a free walking tour past the Houses of Parliament. Photo by Pedro Ignacio Guridi
Take a free walking tour past the Houses of Parliament. Photo by Pedro Ignacio Guridi

6. Make Like the Beatles

Pay a visit to the iconic Abbey Road Crossing and have your own Beatles picture taken.

Submit your shot to the wall of fame afterwards.

The iconic Abbey Road Crosswalk.
The iconic Abbey Road Crosswalk. Photo by Ben

7. Hang out in Harrods

Spend some time exploring Harrods, the department store to end all department stores.

With hundreds of departments and dozens of restaurants over multiple floors, it’s your chance to see how the other half live.

Harrods in Knightsbridge. Photo by Herry Lawford
Harrods in Knightsbridge. Photo by Herry Lawford

8. Traffic Light Tree

This gigantic Christmas tree is a true engineering feat, sculpted from dozens of traffic lights and metal branches.

You’ll find it next to the Billingsgate fish market in Canary Wharf (and obviously, it’s best viewed at night).

Traffic Light Tree, Canary Wharf. Photo by sandxr
Traffic Light Tree, Canary Wharf. Photo by sandxr

9. Indulge Your Inner Child at Hamleys

Hamleys on Regent St is Britain’s most famous and best loved toy store, just chocka with games, dolls, gadgets and all sorts, from old school to the latest and hottest. Fun for all ages guaranteed.

Hamleys, Regent Street. Photo by Brian
Hamleys, Regent Street. Photo by Brian

10. Puppet Shows on a Barge 

Theatre company Movingstage holds performances on a boat at Little Venice.

Shows range from classic to contemporary, marionettes to shadow puppetry, in a suitably intimate theatre. Tickets £12.

Puppet shows on a barge with Movingstage, Little Venice. Photo by Christopher Chan
Puppet shows on a barge with Movingstage, Little Venice. Photo by Christopher Chan

11. Make the Most of Museums

London museums and galleries are a great bargain as many are free to enter, including the Natural History Museum, National Gallery, British Museum, Tate and Museum of London (full list here). Culture has never been so accessible.

London also has some gruesome museums for those with strong stomachs. The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons (free,  £3 donation suggested) features dissected body parts – human and animal – while the  Old Operating Theatre museum (£5.90) offers insights into how surgeons of old operated without anaesthetics or modern instruments.

Egyptian history at the British Museum. Photo by reji
Egyptian history at the British Museum. Photo by reji

 

12. Picnic in a park

Another thing London has no shortage of is parks. Rub shoulders with squirrels in Kensington Gardens, row in the lake at Hyde Park, play ‘spot the palace’ in St James Park or head out to fringe areas like Primrose Hill or Richmond Park for great city views.

Kensington Gardens. Photo by Juan Carlos Peaguda
Kensington Gardens. Photo by Juan Carlos Peaguda

13. Drinks with a view

Head to a bar like Vertigo 42 or Skylon for a cocktail, and enjoy stunning views over London to boot.

Drinks at Vertigo 42. Photo by B
Drinks at Vertigo 42. Photo by B

14. Market Days

You can’t visit London without paying a visit to Camden Market and Portobello Market – with knickknacks galore to keep bargain hunters happy.

Camden Lock Market. Photo by Ashley Lourey
Camden Lock Market. Photo by Ashley Lourey

15. Channel Your Inner Tudor

Dress up in ruffs and corsets, and learn about Tudor cooking at the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge.

Don’t forget to snap a picture with the  cardboard cut-outs of Henry VIII and Elizabeth!

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge. Photo by William Warby
Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. Photo by William Warby

16. London Dungeon

Take a 90-minute journey through London’s chequered past (£25.95).

Special effects bring Sweeney Todd, Jack the Ripper and many more to life through interactive and live shows.

London Dungeon. Photo by Rafael Torres
London Dungeon. Photo by Rafael Torres

 

17. Literary Pub Crawl

Visit the taverns that inspired Virginia Woolf, TS Eliot, George Orwell, Charles Dickens, and more. Over three hours you’ll hit about a dozen pubs.  £24.

Marquis of Granby, Fitzrovia. Photo by Ewan Munro
Marquis of Granby, Fitzrovia. Photo by Ewan Munro

18. Ride the ‘Boris Bikes’

Nicknamed for the London mayor, bikes from Barclays Cycle Hire cost just £2 for 24 hours or £10 for a week.

Within that time period  you can make as many journeys minutes as you like for free as long as they are under 30 minutes – perfect for short jaunts around the city.

Barclays Cycle Hire 'Boris Bikes'. Photo by juggzy malone
Barclays Cycle Hire ‘Boris Bikes’. Photo by juggzy malone

 

19. Get Coffee in a Public Toilet

Attendant Cafe is a lovingly converted Victorian loo, where the original porcelain urinals have been turned into a coffee bench.

Attendant Cafe, Foley St, London. Photo by Jonathan Ooi
Attendant Cafe, Foley St, London. Photo by Jonathan Ooi

20. Cross the Thames in a Cable Car

Running between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks, the Emirates Air Line is London’s only cable car offering 360 degree views along the way.

With an Oyster card, a 10-minute one way trip is just £3.40.

Emirates Air Line. Photo by James Petts
Emirates Air Line. Photo by James Petts

21. Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery is home to the graves of many luminaries.

Here, you’ll find the final resting places of author Douglas Adams and socialist Karl Marx, among others.

Karl Marx grave in Highgate Cemetery. Photo by Adam Nieman
Karl Marx grave in Highgate Cemetery. Photo by Adam Nieman

22. Afternoon Tea

There is any number of places around London where you can partake in this English tradition.  How can you go wrong with scones, cake and sandwiches?

Generally, the more upscale the hotel, the pricier the high tea.

Not sure where to go? The appropriately named afternoontea.co.uk is a great place to start.

Afternoon Tea, London. Photo by Sophia Baik
Afternoon Tea, London. Photo by Sophia Baik

23. Ceremony of the Keys

It’s free to watch the nightly lock-up of the Tower of London but you’ll need to request tickets well in advance.

Entry is at 9.30pm and the ceremony finishes at 10.05pm.

Tower of London. Photo by Raymond McCrae
Tower of London. Photo by Raymond McCrae

Featured image by Jamie McCaffrey

Top 23 Things to Do in London for under £30 was last modified: August 1st, 2017 by Esther Goh
Author: Esther Goh (56 posts)

Writer and digital specialist hooked on travel and food. Calls Auckland home but desperately misses Mexican and Italian cuisine. Esther blogs at NZ Muse.