Sunday, 18 January 2009

Things to do in London when you’re broke…


Last weekend I departed London for my second-to-last term at university in Bristol, and while I love both cities hugely, I think London will always have my heart.
However, she can be a cruel mistress, and generally I find if I’m not careful I’ve spent far too much money on her!
Here are some of my tips for having a day out when you’re broke.
Things you can do for a song…

.Walk! London is a pretty big city, and it’s so easy to hop on a tube, but if you’ve got a map and some shoes that aren’t too ridiculous you’ll find that in the centre it’s really quite easy to walk from one place to another and save yourself the cost of a travelcard. One of my favourite places to walk is down the Southbank area, there’s loads of interesting things to do along there, and you get beautiful views of the more picturesque Northbank. Try last for inspiration.

.Go to the Park. There are so many beautiful green spaces in London – Greenwich Park, Regents Park, Hyde Park and Notting Hill are a few of the more famous ones, but for something a little more interesting, how about a picnic in one of the Victorian Garden Cemeteries? I did some volunteer work last summer in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park so in February and March take a look at the snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils flowering and think of me planting them all!

.Go to Evensong. I am a staunch atheist, and I find the idea of going to church a little chancy (what if I spontaneously combust on entering?!) but I remember staying late on a school trip to St Paul’s Cathedral to listen to their Evensong and it was absolutely beautiful. The choir’s singing in the magnificent surroundings of St Paul’s is definitely something I’d recommend.

.Go to the Museums. One of the best things about London is that almost all of the museums are free. And there’s so much to see! I can get a bit overwhelmed sometimes, particularly if it’s a busy one like the National Gallery or the British Museum, but generally you can find plenty that aren’t so busy, and as it’s free it doesn’t matter if you only spend an hour or two there.

.Search online for free events, because there are always things going on. Last April I went to West End Live in Leicester Square, and saw the cast of loads of top west end shows perform for free. My friend Reda and I had loads of fun making finger puppets, learning to write our names in Chinese and trying out all the activities set up for kids!

.Go fantasy shopping. Step 1. Go to one of the major department stores – it has to be a big one that you absolutely cannot afford - Selfridges, Liberty’s, Harrods and Harvey Nicolls will all do perfectly. Step 2. Go passed the departmenty bits with Topshop and Warehouse and places you can afford straight to the ridiculously expensive bits. Step 3. Gaze. That is all. (When you’re done go to the Food court and see if you can score some free tasters!)

.Eat! No, really! This can be one of the most expensive things to do but there are plenty of ways to enjoy eating out in London without fearing the bill:
- Eat early. Many restaurants have a prix fix lunch menu which goes on until about 5 or 6pm. If you make lunch your main meal of the day, or eat an early dinner you can have two or three courses for a few pounds.
- Take a packed lunch and eat it somewhere with a beautiful view. It’s pretty cold at the moment, so warm your hands on a thermos of soup!
- Visit toptable or studentbeans for a range of discounts, or sign up to restaurants like wagamammas, gourmet burger kitchen and zizzi’s mailing lists to get emailed discounts.

.See a Musical. If you’re not too bothered what you see visit one of those booth places for cut price last minute tickets, check out for deals or if you’re younger than I join club c145. I was a member as a teenager and saw the good, the bad and the just plain weird of what west end and smaller theatres had to offer for £5 a pop.

.Haggle. Go to Portobello Road for slightly commercialised but still fun vintage finds (nearest tube new cross gate), borough market (by London Bridge) for great food, or Camden Lock (tube to Camden Town) for hipsters and emos ;)
.Be your own artist. Forget the art galleries for a bit (they don’t let you take photos in there anyway – I tried explaining I thought their current exhibition was rubbish and I was just taking silly photos of my friends but they would have none of it), ignore the major monuments you’re expected to photograph and do your own photoshoot. Find an interesting statue and make your friends pose like it, or crowded around a road sign with a silly name, an interesting shop window, a great piece of graffiti, whatever!
Have you got any ideas for me when I'm next home?


Anonymous said...

You don't need to be on toptable's or studentbean's mailing list to find specials at Zizzi restaurant locations, just google Zizzi specials or Zizzi offers and you will be flooded with vouchers and the likes.

Broke in London said...

Great site and ideas for cheap things to do in London. That's what we specialise in. Follow us on Twitter