VisitingÂ London on your UK vacation is a great idea. With all the many attractions, history, and culture it features, youâ€™ll never want to leave! Fortunately, there are some cost-saving ways you can experience some of the best activities offered by this world class city, without breaking the bank.
Valuable experiences for visiting London
1. See the sights on a bus tour
When we say bus, we mean a regular London bus with a regular bus fare. Head upstairs and try and nab the front seats, then youâ€™re in prime position for some bargain sightseeing.
Route number 24 takes in some top central sights. Board at Westminster Abbey, wave to the British government as you pass Downing Street, get a pigeonâ€™s eye view of Trafalgar Square, then hop off in the West End for a half-price show (see below), or explore the characterful streets of Soho. You can hop back on the 24 as it continues on to Camden, famous for its music scene, or stay on to the end of the route at Hampstead. There you can spot celebrities walking their dogs in pretty Hampstead Heath, and get a fantastic view over London from the top of the hill.
The Number 9 is another great bus route, particularly as the bus is normally an old-style Routemaster â€“ Londonâ€™s iconic double-decker red bus with an open staircase at the back. Begin your ride at Somerset House, take in Trafalgar Square (get off here if you want to see the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery â€“ both free entry), continue through Knightsbridge, where you can window shop at Harrods, then pass the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace, the London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Near the end of its route, the bus stops at Holland Park, where you can admire the Japanese garden and resident peacocks!
Bonus Tip: Make sure you order a Visitor Oyster Card before you arrive in Britain to save money and time. You can start using it as soon as you arrive!
2. Catch a West End show
Going to see a show in Londonâ€™s West End is a memorable experience. Revel in the whole ritual from pre-theatre dinner (most West End restaurants offer this value menu), to immersing into the bustle and anticipation of seeing some of the worldâ€™s best theatre productions. For a genuine Shakespearean experience,Â head over to The Globe where you can get standing tickets for just Â£5 (US$8) for all performances.
Bonus tip: For excellent on-the-day deals and half-price bargains, head to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. If youâ€™re in London during January and February, make the most of the Get Into London Theatre scheme, which has more than 65 top shows selling tickets for Â£10-40 (US$15-60); booking starts in December.
3. Spend the day at Wimbledon
Yes, thereâ€™s a bargain way to soak up the atmosphere when the spotlight falls at world-famous Wimbledon in June/July every year. Grounds Admission tickets to the Championships can be as little as Â£15 (US$23), gaining you access to all but the main courts for an entire day. Be prepared to queue for the tickets; but then it wouldnâ€™t be Britain otherwise, would it?!
Bonus Tip: The Grounds Admission ticket drops for entry after 5pm (prices differ depending on the date â€“ itâ€™s cheaper to go during the second week of the tournament and on Sundays).
4. Shop top brands with 20% off
Get a free VIP pass giving up to 20% off in Londonâ€™s top shopping centres â€“ Westfield London or Westfield Stratford City â€“ when you buy any item from the VisitBritain shop. The shopping centres have a mixture of all the well-known chain stores and designer outlets, as well as fun, non-shopping activities like bowling. Who doesnâ€™t love a bargain and some bowling?!
Bonus Tip: To save on entry fees to top attractions and public transport while travelling in Britain, get value-for-money passes and saver tickets from the VisitBritain shop, and then youâ€™ll get the free 20% off shopping VIP pass.
5. Afternoon tea for a bargain price
Afternoon tea is the perfect combination of â€œBritishnessâ€ and deliciousness, towering with delights both sweet and savoury â€“ sandwiches, scones, cakes, all of course, served with a steaming hot pot of tea.
Afternoon tea can be taken in all sorts of places throughout Britain â€“ tea rooms, hotels, and even museums. Londonâ€™s Fan Museum consistently wins praise for its â€œbest valueâ€ afternoon tea, priced at only Â£7 (US$10), and is served in the genteel Orangery.
Manchesterâ€™s fun and funky Northern Quarter is home to plenty of cute cafes to take tea at. Teacup Kitchen is a favourite, and their afternoon tea comes at a good value of Â£16 (US$24) for 3 tiers of home-baked goodies that will fill you up for the rest of the day. If itâ€™s just the scones youâ€™re after, you can opt for the Â£6.80 (US$10.50) cream tea.
Over in Cardiff, Wales, Waterloo Tea, set in an Edwardian park, serves a delightful homemade 3-tiered tea for Â£13.50 (US$20.50) a head.
Bonus Tip: Check out afternoontea.co.uk for special offers and deals. Itâ€™s a comprehensive resource for where to find afternoon tea all over Britain.