Looking to explore London but not looking to break the bank?! London can be quite an expensive city to explore. Especially for fellow Americans when the exchange rate is looking rather lopsided. Cashing in your US dollars for pounds can literally bring you to tears if you weren’t ready for the exchange rate. So if you want to enjoy your trip to London and still have a saving account after, read on for some of my favorite free and inexpensive activities in London.
Say Hi to Big Ben
Doesn’t cost you a dime to view the famous clock tower located in central London. And it sure is a fan favorite. Big Ben’s home is on the north end side of the House of Parliament. And Big Ben is actually just it’s nickname…Real name… The Great Bell, however I think we all can agree Big Ben sounds much better.
Fun Fact: The bell is fixed into place and struck by hammers for the outside instead of swinging and being struck from the inside.
Pro Tip: My favorite view of Big Ben is as you walk across the Westminster bridge. Standing on the bridge with Big Ben in the background makes for some great pics. Just try to visit at off peak hours to get those stellar pics! (Photo Above: dreary, cold, and rainy February night)
One of my favorite things about London is the abundance of well maintained and manicured parks. You could spend an entire day exploring, picnicking, and people watching in a London park. And best part is they’re free for everyone to enjoy! I’ve picked my favorite to share with you.
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Hyde Park is one of the largest Royal Parks and is located in the heart of London. Kensington Gardens was once considered part of Hyde park and is located next to Hyde Park. It’s also home to the beautiful Kensington Palace and one of my favorite places for tea. More on that later!
Hyde Park is not only a fav park for tourists, it’s also a park where London residents spend their day escaping the busy city life. You’ll see locals relaxing with friends, feeding the resident ducks, or simply out enjoying a jog. It’s a fantastic place to have a little picnic and soak up the London charm. And if you feel like dropping some cash you can rent a park deck chair for an hour up to a day!
Other Activities: Boating, horseback riding, tennis, swimming, playground playing, cycling, smelling the roses, and my favorite playing with other people’s puppies!
Pro Tip: Check out Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland if your headed out to London in the winter months. Running for 6 weeks in mid November through December it’s a popular event in central London. Visitors can ice skate, ride the Ferris wheel, ooh and aah over the acrobatic shows, and say hello to Santa. More information here and a video from last years event.
Once you’ve spent some time in Hyde Park head on over to Kensington Gardens and set your sites on Kensington Palace. Kensington Palace is rather beautiful and there is so much history here. The very first residence of the palace moved in in 1689! Today it’s the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Will and Kate). Take in the history, admire the ground, and take a tour. Some areas of the palace are actually open to the public. Check out getting tickets here.
Pro Tip: On your visit to Kensington Park make sure you make time to sit down and relax at The Orangery. Call ahead and make a reservation. This place can be rather popular in the summer months. Afternoon tea can be very expensive in London and The Orangery offers a regal atmosphere with amazing pricing! It’s a must do on your visit.
Changing of the Guard
Buckingham Palace is one of those places that tourists just flock to. And things even get crazier for the Changing of The Guard. It’s a mad house and a totally awesome time if you prepare yourself for the crazy crowd. I mean your on vacay… just enjoy it!
You’ll want to make sure to check the schedule and get to the palace early. You can either face the palace or the Victoria Memorial either way you’ll see part of the changing. Here is a video that talks about the purpose, history, and significance of the ceremony. The changing lasts about 45 minutes and includes guards, drill precision and bands playing music.
Pro Tip: Children are allowed to sit on the curb outside the palace which gives them a great view and you can stand behind them. Or if you happen to look like a little kid you can sit as well. (You may laugh but my friend and I actually passed as children and viewed everything from the best seats in the house!)
- Need an inexpensive, fun, and central place to stay? Wombat’s Hostel
- Pret A Manger for your inexpensive and pre-made picnic needs.
- For a glass of wine and a lot of history… Gordon’s Wine Bar.
- South Bank Walking Guide
- Camden Market for those eclectic souvenirs
- Medieval Bombed Church turned Garden
- Other areas in London to watch The Changing of the Guard
Cheerio my fellow travel lovers…Adventure Awaits!