Oh, London...where do I even begin? I studied abroad and lived in this dynamic city for four months at the beginning of this year, but for some reason I'm just getting around to write about it! London is definitely one of those cities at the top of every traveler's list. How could you not want to see all the iconic sites and experience that British charm? There is so much to do and explore in this incredible city, and I barely scratched the surface during my time there.
As a student, it was definitely hard at times living in such an expensive city while also trying to check off as many items on my 'London Bucket List'. But believe it or not, there are plenty of low cost and even free things to do around the city. So instead of listing all the obvious tourist attractions, here is a budget-friendly list of things to do in London for all my study abroad students and broke af travelers out there!
1. Eat fish n' chips
I mean you kind of have to if you're going to step foot in London, right? You'll find this classic dish in every pub or British restaurant, but for no-frills, traditional fish n' chips try Masters Superfish (191 Waterloo Rd, London SE1 8UX). It's a little hole-in-the-wall and you can dine-in or get take-out. Their take-out fish n' chips is only £5 and it's a pretty hefty portion! As a broke study abroad student, I definitely frequented this place often when I was in the neighborhood.
2. Explore Carnaby Street
Carnaby Street is a popular, trendy shopping area in Soho. Whenever I was in the area, I loved walking through Carnaby just for fun. You'll find plenty of unique boutiques and restaurants up and down the street. Be sure to stop by Liberty (Regent St, Carnaby, London W1B 5AH), an iconic department store in London!
3. Visit the markets
One of my favorite things to do in London in my free time was visiting all the market places. You can find anything from vintage clothing, art, little trinkets, and other odd bits and pieces. You'll also find plenty of food vendors in the area too. Some of my favorite markets include Old Spitalfields, Columbia Road Flower Market, Portobello Road Market, and Brick Lane. These are just a few that I frequented often, but there are so many more!
4. Have a picnic in the park
Pick a park, any park! For a city as big as London, there are plenty of beautiful green spaces to get away from the hustle and bustle. On a sunny afternoon, I loved walking through Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens. Be sure to also visit Battersea Park for the Peace Pagoda and Greenwich Park for the best views!
5. Take a cute "doortrait" in Chelsea
Of course you've got to get a photo with a red telephone booth, but you can't miss an opportunity to take a pic with one of London's many photogenic door facades. Explore the posh Chelsea neighborhood and find a cute door to take some Instagram-worthy pics.
6. Stand at the Prime Meridian line
Located at the Royal Observatory (Blackheath Ave, London SE10 8XJ) in Greenwich, the prime meridian line is where the eastern and western hemispheres meet at 0 degrees longitude. While there is an admission fee for the Royal Observatory, if you go through a little gate around the corner, you can get a photo standing on the prime meridian line free of charge!
7. See a piece of India in Wembley
Most people associate Wembley with the football stadium, but did you know there's an authentic Hindu Temple not far away? With all its intricate, detailed carvings, Shri Vallabh Nidhi (Ealing Rd, London HA0 4TA) is a beautiful piece of architecture worth checking out. It's as close to India as you'll get in the UK!
8. Have a proper English breakfast
Complete with bacon, egg, toast, baked beans, sausage, hash, and other cooked items, it's a must-have after a rough night out. The perfect hangover cure!
9. Visit the Sky Garden
The Sky Garden (20 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M) is London's highest public garden on the top of a skyscraper. The entire space is a large glass dome, which offers a stunning 360º view of the city. And best of all, it's free! However, you must reserve a spot; tickets are available three weeks in advance. For more information, visit their website.
10. Window shop at Harrod's
The moment I stepped into Harrod's, I was awestruck. A grand, maze-like building housing a collection of all things designer and luxurious. It's easy to get lost in there! And even if you can't afford a thing, it's fun to wander around, especially through their chocolate room. If anything, just go in there to take advantage of their free wi-fi 😉.
11. People watch in Covent Garden
I love the open air space in Covent Garden. There's plenty of shopping and eating to be done in the area, but my favorite thing to do was to people watch. There are also plenty of talented street musicians who perform in the area.
12. Take a graffiti tour through Shoreditch
13. Become a wizard
"Now all you've got to do is walk straight at the wall between platforms 9 and 10. Best do it at a bit of a run if you're nervous." - Molly Weasley
Live out all your Harry Potter fantasies on Platform 9 3/4! It's a silly tourist thing, but still a fun experience and a must if you're a Potter fan!
14. Visit the museums
Can you believe that all of London'd best museums are FREE?! There is so much history, art, and entertaining exhibits to see in each museum, you could definitely spend a whole day museum-hopping and still not see all of it! Some of my favorites include the Victoria & Albert, Natural History Museum, and National Gallery.
Other free museums include British Museum, Tate Modern, Science Museum, Museum of London, National Maritime Museum, Imperial War Museum, and National Army Museum.
15. Wander through a colorful alley
A secret garden in the middle London, it's easy to miss if you're not paying attention. Tucked away near bustling Covent Garden, Neal's Yard (Covent Garden, London WC2H 9DP) has a gorgeous courtyard with unique shops and restaurants.