Cheap Things To Do in London

Rest assured, not everything in London is overpriced. Use this savvy guide to getting the best out of London on a budget.

Fancy brushing up a skill or adding a new string to your bow? Education doesn’t have to be costly. Havering College for example, has a five week Spanish course for beginners for just £50, and a six week course in History of Art at Bishopsgate Institute is just £48. The best place to search for classes is Hot Courses.

If you want to get to grips with using a Mac, the Apple Store on Regent Street offer free workshops which range from computer basics to using the latest operating systems. Students might find the workshops at the British Library useful, which cover research skills, intellectual property and even finding your way around the library.

See more current classes and workshops in London here >>>

Film and theatre
As well as being the capital’s most comfortable cinema, The Prince Charles just off Leicester Square boasts the lowest ticket prices (usually up to £8). It focuses on arthouse cinema, and you have to wait a few months for releases, but it’s worth it. Generally it’s cheaper to go to the cinema early in the week, or during the day if possible, as Friday and Saturday nights are the most popular times. Look out for outdoor film screenings in the summer, but best to stick to free ones in case there’s an August hail storm.

Smaller theatres have cheaper seats than major ones, such as Tricycle in Kilburn which goes up to a maximum of £15, alternatively if you’re happy to sit at the back you’re likely to pay less. Some larger theatres have their own special promotions, particularly last minute deals, it’s worth checking their websites. The Royal Court Theatre for instance charges just £10 for shows on a Monday, and if you don’t mind standing you can catch performances for only 10p.
Eating and drinking
Eating out can be pricey, but there are cheap and cheerful eateries around town like Indian Chowki, Japanese Koya and Jewish-inspired Mishkin’s. Notice something in common? They’re all located in Soho, which in the last couple of years has become quite the haunt for cheap dining (check out our blog on Soho’s best cheap eats here). Outside of zone 1 try French budget eatery Little Bay and Iranian restaurant Sufi.

Many fine dining restaurants have great deals for set lunches; Odette’s offers two courses for £17, while Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social is just £22.

For the cheapest booze in town, find a Samuel Smith’s pub near you, there are dozens all over the city. You’ll have to contend with their own-brand beer, wine and lesser-known soft drinks (there is no Coca Cola here, but that’s hardly a bad thing). If you’re hankering for a cocktail, the Latin-influenced drinks at Cubana start from around £6. Look out for happy hours such as the 2 for 1 champagne at Flûte Bar & Lounge on Tuesday evenings.

All the main museums (">Tate Modern, Tate Britain, British Museum,National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Science Museum and V&A) are free, as well as quirkier options like the Wellcome Collection and Horniman Museum. As well as these large permanent collections, entrance to art galleries is always free – as long as you don’t splurge on an artwork.

Many historically important buildings offer free private tours as long as you book in advance, like the Houses of Parliament. Otherwise wait for Open House, usually in September, when hundreds of buildings not normally accessible to the public are open free of charge. Imagine being able to view London from the top of the Gherkin, or wander around the Bank of England.
Many live music venues put on free and cheap gigs, particularly during the week. If you like rock, indie and blues Camden is a hotbed of activity, with many pub and live music venues putting on good upcoming bands. Try the Blues Kitchen, Dingwalls, The Black Heart, The Dublin Castle and The Monarch. Proud Camden and The Lock Tavern have a mixture of indie and electronic music, as well as free entry.

Free concerts take place at the Southbank, at lunchtimes or in the early evening. Classical, folk and jazz are the most common genres, with some gigs taking place in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall or the Queen Elizabeth Hall. In the summer months operas and ballets are relayed from the Royal Opera House onto a screen at Trafalgar Square; it’s a good job they’re free as it’s perilous attempting to plan anything for the outdoors.

If you’re into clubbing and don’t mind turning up late, you can save yourself money on the door price at Fabric by arriving after 3 am on a Friday, and 4 am on a Saturday, when entry costs £7 and £10 respectively. Generally speaking the larger clubs tend to charge a fair bit on the door, but you can often save a little by booking tickets in advance. Smaller clubs like Plastic People, Corsica Studios, The CAMP and XOYO sometimes have free entry or charge from a fiver upwards depending on the event.

Getting around
Obviously walking won’t cost you a thing, and you’ll get to see more of the city as well as learn your way around faster than if you took the tube. But if you’ve got a fair distance to go, Boris Bikes are free for half an hour (once you’ve paid the access fee, which is £1 for 24 hours or £5 for a week). Children up to the age of 10 travel for free on public transport.


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