London isn’t known as a place where ‘affordable’ lives comfortably, but if you are a local or have access to someone who is – a whole new world of affordable luxury is opened up to you. If not you’ll need our London travel tips to guide you.
Commonly thought of as one of the most expensive cities in the world, London is home to some of the most iconic landmarks. From Big Ben to the Tower of London, you can’t move for historic reminders of an ancient city.
And for history buffs it truly is a treat, as so many of the buildings and streets have a rich past hidden behind a beautiful facade. So how do you enjoy this epic city in comfort without breaking the bank? Here are the top London travel tips you need to know before you go.
Affordable luxury London travel tips
1. Pick the best airport
As with so many city airports, the distances and locations can vary wildly and you may find yourself at one in a completely different area to where you thought you’d be.
Aside from the much smaller London City, which serves limited international destinations. The only airport connected to the London Underground network is London Heathrow. From here it takes around 40 minutes to get into central London on the Piccadilly Line, although tube trains are frequent. Alternatively if you’re in a hurry, the Heathrow Express will whizz you into Paddington in just 15 minutes. London Gatwick is connected to the city by overground rail, and you have a few options in terms of fast – 30 minutes, or slower (cheaper) trains into town.
Stansted is 47 minutes by Stansted Express and Luton is 50 minutes by shuttle bus and train into central London.
2. Culture vulture for free
Almost all of London’s museums are completely free to enter, so take advantage and visit away.
Additionally a few of the main museums are walking distance from each other so you can visit the Natural History, Science and Victoria and Albert Museum’s easily in a morning or afternoon trip to South Kensington.
You will also find that many art galleries – including the Tate Modern – are free to enter too. Although you can make a donation, and certain events within the gallery or museum will have a price tag.
3. Hit the West End
You can’t come to London and miss out on some of the spectacular shows on offer in the city.
From Mamma Mia to Les Miserables you are spoilt for choice with wonderfully whimsical theatre shows, all within walking distance of each other.
And it doesn’t have to be uber expensive either, as you can pick up last-minute tickets at the official TKTS Booth in Leicester Square on the same day you want to see a show and cheaper than if you book in advance.
4. Head to the sky
Dependent on what time of the year you are visiting London, you could be blessed with perfect English weather. If so, head to one of London’s many rooftop gardens to have a cocktail and peruse the stunning views of the city.
The Radio Rooftop Bar at the top of the ME Hotel on The Strand has some of the best panoramas around and will afford you the perfect sunset views of the city.
The Culpeper, in Spitalfields is an unusual choice as it’s also a herb garden – making for an atmospheric evening, and views of the famous Gherkin, otherwise known as St Mary’s Axe.
For true luxury, head to Sky Garden on the top of the Walkie Talkie building, at 20 Fenchurch Street, for views with the wow factor. Access to the gardens is free, although there are is limited space so you may want to phone ahead before you visit.
These spots will also give you views including the Shard, the UK’s tallest building, rather than paying a more hefty £25.95 for views from the Shard.
5. Live like a Londoner
And stay in an Airbnb for a true local’s experience. Pick a neighbourhood like Shepherds Bush, or Finsbury Park and enjoy some of the city’s quirky pubs and local markets.
Make sure you stay near a tube stop for the easiest access to travel across the capital, and be mindful that some of the stations can be almost an hour from central London – Hounslow for example – so check with your host before booking.
6. Eat like a local
England may not be famed worldwide for its culinary prowess, but when in London you should eat some local delicacies.
Head to Billingsgate Fish Market for the tastiest fish in the city, or wander around Borough or Maltby Street Markets to eat to your heart’s content while enjoying stunning views of Southwark Cathedral.
Make sure you have cash, and go hungry!
7. Get an Oyster card
An Oyster card is the way Londoners travel around the city, at a discounted rates on single, return and one day tickets. Use it to travel by bus, train, tube, public transport river boats or even cable car aboard the Emirates Air Line – you can either add a daily, weekly, monthly or annual season card or simply top up with a nominal amount of cash as and when you need to.
It’s worth noting that if you have a contactless payment debit or credit card you can use that on most forms of transport too, in place of the Oyster card.
8. Shopaholics rejoice
London is full of places to spend your hard-earned cash, but most presume Oxford Street is the best place to do it. Not so, as actually being a little intrepid affords you some real treats.
High Street Kensington is a far more manageable and less busy way to get your high street fix. It has most of the major chains, and plenty of places to take a pit-stop too, with Kensington Church Street a great place to wander for a coffee.
Or head to Notting Hill to enjoy beautiful boutiques – either on Westbourne Grove, or on famous Portobello Road. Just avoid it on August bank holiday weekend if you want to shop, as it’s Notting Hill Carnival time, when shopping is replaced by dancing and jerk chicken.
9. Green, green grass of home
London may be a built up and densely populated city but it’s also home to some of the most beautiful green spaces in the country. From Holland Park and its stunning Japanese Kyoto Gardens to Hyde Park – there is a green space in practically every neighbourhood.
Make like a Londoner, grab a bike hire and a picnic and enjoy one of the many gardens.