Summer in London is absolutely beautiful, but if you’re not careful, it can cost you quite a pretty penny! As a former student and frequent visitor to the City of Cities, I keep a constant eye out for deals and inexpensive fun to be had while I’m there. If you’re planning a trip across the pond this summer, here are a few tips to make sure you have a fabulous time without blowing your bank account.
As a student, if you have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), there are deals to be found all over London and through out Europe. Also, if you’re a AAA member, check with your local office to see what kinds of deals they are offering on flights, hotels and tours.
London has a ton of greenery and park area, so take advantage. It is one of the greenest cities on earth with 148 parks and gardens, 122 commons and greens, and 8 Royal Parks. And these parks aren’t just garden squares either; to give an idea of how much area this actually covers, just Hyde Park alone, at 350 acres, is larger than the entire country of Monaco. You can easily make a day out of visiting the parks of London, and there are guided tours through many of them, if you are interested in a a more structured walk-about. Even when I don’t set out just to see the parks, I find that whatever site I am visiting in the city, there is usually a park nearby that serves as a great time-out area to recharge and enjoy the outdoors.
Give yourself your own five cent tour
Use the London Transport system or your own two feet to get around the city. I prefer to walk the city, taking a solid four or five hours to walk all through London’s hottest spots, past Harrods, the Mall, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and beyond! But the beauty of London is that there is no right or wrong way to go about exploring it, and there is never a shortage of things to see. If you’re new to the sites, you might want to pick up a map or a guidebook to get a sense for what sights you’d like to see most, and then map out your trail. If you’re at a loss.
Instead of shopping on High Street, visit some of London’s markets
Peruse Camden Passage, Petticoat Lane Market, and Portobello Road, just a few of the many markets around the city. Camden, located along Upper Street in Islington, is a prime spot to find some great antiques and holds their open market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There are permanent shops along the street that are also open during the week and several trendy places to grab a bite! Petticoat Lane, in the East End, is one of London’s oldest markets, and known for its fantastic bargains on fabrics and textiles. With well-over one thousand stalls, any bargain hunter will be in their glory here! Portobello Road in Notting Hill is arguably the most famous market in London. It began as an antiques market, but now holds stalls with much more than just antiques. If there is something you cannot find at Portobello, you would be hard pressed to find it anywhere! If you’re interested in learning about more of London’s fabulous markets, check out http://www.talkingcities.co.uk/london_pages/shopping_markets.htm for further details and an outline of locations.
Pack a lunch from Tesco or Marks and Spencer and take the train outside of town for a day and avoid high city prices
My personal favorite is to visit the historical shore town of Dover. Go back in time with a visit to Dover Castle, where, for only ten pounds per person (five for children and twenty-five for a family group) you get access to the medieval castle and secret wartime tunnels from WWII. Set high upon a hilltop, Dover Castle and its grounds are a fantastic place to look out across the Strait of Dover to mainland Europe. From the small downtown area, you can stroll through the village and get a look at the famous “white cliffs.” Only an hour and a half outside of London, Dover is a great getaway and an inexpensive side trip! Other great locations to visit outside of London are Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare; Hampton Court Palace, one of the finest palaces in the world; or Bath, which features ancient Roman baths (make sure to get tea at the Pump Room if you go here, it’s amazing!) I suggest checking out a book from the library or surfing the net before you depart for London and scope out the endless possibilities for day trips.
So stop fretting about how much your trip is going to cost you and start getting excited to do everything you’ve been wanting to in (and out!) of London.