A weekend in London can be exciting as you get to see fantastic sites, try the tastiest food and go to all sorts of fun events.
Spending a weekend in London could be expensive and exhausting, though. Restaurant meals or drinks in the pub are likely to make a dent in your wallet. You might also find your body tensing up from being in packed trains and madly busy tube stations.
I’ve done weekend trips to London many times both when I lived up north in Newcastle and now when I come over to England from the Netherlands. I remember having been so tired and light in the pocket each time I left the city. Throughout the years, I’ve learned to mitigate the “damage”, so a trip to London doesn’t exhaust me or dig a hole in my savings.
Here are some ideas to make your weekend away in London more affordable and enjoyable.
Get off the Tube
London Underground, or the Tube, is super cool. The system runs so intricately that navigating its spider web seems like a fun science project. I remember having visited London before smartphones and contactless debit cards. The tidy tube map became a treasure map, and the Oyster card was the magic key that opened doors. The Tube was also the most practical way to get crossed the massive city of London.
It has downsides, though. The trains can be as crowded as a tin of sardines. All you can do is to stand upright and stop your best not to move in any direction, or else you are likely to shoulder, elbow or step (on the foot of) the next person. That is if you can get on the train at all.
Then there are all the unpleasant things of pickpockets, temporarily closed lines, and being underground. Eventually, the excitement subdues, and the fatigue wins. It’s time you got off the Tube.
Try to include walks into your visit. I know London is massive, but if you find yourself in the right area and you have two options: walking for thirty minutes or taking an underground train for two stops, you should opt for the first. Walking is good for your health and your mentality. Walking is also free. And you get to see the city for its everyday houses and shops, unlike when you hop from one attraction to another.
Areas like Shoreditch, Hampstead, Hackney, Richmond, or Kensington are all exciting neighbourhoods for a stroll. Of course, if you want walking tours, there are plenty around. You can walk along the Thames, inside one of the city’s parks or around its many historical sites.
Pick some free activities
You can spend a lot of money for a show or a night out in London, and have the time of your life. It doesn’t mean you won’t have fun doing something free. Visiting free venues also take the pressure of your budget as we all know how much more expensive things are in London, compared with other parts of England or other touristic cities in Europe like Rome, Berlin or Prague.
Here are some free museums and galleries you can check out
- British Museum
- Natural History Museum
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- National Gallery
- Tate Modern
You can also spend the afternoon in one of its beautiful parks, like Hyde Park, Richmond Park, Kensington Gardens, and have a picnic.
Or be spontaneous and check out a random festival. Fun things happen in London all the time, so it’s very likely you will be able to find a free event, from a music show to standup comedy performance during the weekend you visit. Just ask Google before you go.
Eat in a food market
In London, you can find delicious and authentic food from all over the world. I used to go down to London to treat myself to a meal in a Vietnamese restaurant. That was enough of a reason to take two over-night buses and sleep on the floor of my friend’s house. The food was always well worth the hardship.
Restaurants are expensive in London, though. Of course, the price varies significantly, but you shouldn’t just have meals in restaurants for the whole weekend. Be kind to your wallet and head to an outdoor market.
London has some great food markets like no others. Borough Market is London’s oldest market and probably the most well-known one. It truly deserves its popularity. The market is packed with gourmet goodies, everything from organic fruit and vegetables, cakes, bread, olive oil, fish, meat and beer. Other popular food markets are Maltby Market, Brixton Village Market, Broadway Market and Netil Market.
So when you are in London, get off the tube now and then, go for a walk, grab some food in a market stall then head to a free museum. I promise you will feel better.