Summer in London… on a budget!

London has been my home city for more than 11 years. Finally, this summer has become my last living in this big smoke and there’s still so much I haven’t done! Without many pennies in my pocket, this is my bucket list to do before I leave at the end of September, (which may hopefully give you some ideas if you’re visiting the city too!)

Buckingham Palace
A classic London site to see! Somebody’s home…

London is an expensive place and as I’m saving for the next step in life (more on that to come another day!), my bucket list has gone back to what I do best – budget travel… but this time in my own city! Visiting London doesn’t have to cost as much as you might think. I’ve sought out some of the top things to do either for free or for very little cash, avoiding the busy tourist trail as much as possible. Here are my top 20  along with lots of handy links for anyone who’s thinking of visiting in the near future!

1. Eat Latin American Street food, Brixton

I’ve been delighted to discover the Latin influence in Brixton – especially with the food! Not only can I wander and listen to the sounds of Spanish tickling my ears, but I can also eat authentic versions of the foods I tried when I was travelling. Lots of stalls selling affordable almuerzos!

Arepa - latin american food - in Brixton, London
My favourite so far is this arepa from Brixton village!

2. See pelicans in the park

There are pelicans living in St. James’ Park?! I paid them a visit on a sunny day along with a homemade picnic. If you’re visiting London, a day spent in the royal parks is a great wander.

Pelicans living in St James' park, London
A pair of Pelicans in the centre of London

3. Free theatre!

I never knew before now that it;s possible to see a show for free in London. The Scoop is a 1000 person sunken amphitheatre with open air shows that you can just turn up to and watch for free! There is a musical at the end of the summer I’m going to check out.

4. Free music

Talking of free live stuff – a little research has unveiled a wealth of free live music. The top on my list to seek out are:

  • The Junction, in between Brixton and Camberwell (My local, so I’m a little biased, but this friendly bar does live jazz every day of the week!)
  • Free Lunchtime concerts at St Martin in the Fields
  • The Forge, Camden (Free Cuban Jam! And lots of other cheap live music too)
Musician in El Salvador
Live music was everywhere in Santa Tecla, El Salvador

5. Kyoto Gardens, Holland Park

When I am abroad, I love checking out the nature within the cities and this is now a focus of my bucket list in London. There is a Japanese garden in Holland park. I’m going!

Orchid Singapore botanical garden
The botanical garden in Singapore is one inspiration for seeking out more nature and gardens in London

6. Free Lectures

London is brimming with knowledge and there are a number of places giving it away for free (or very little!). This list gives all the venues with free lectures, Gresham College and LSE are two of the biggest. The China Exchange looks like it gets a fascinating line up of people to talk for less than a tenner too, including top actors, business people and artists.

Royal Observatory, London
Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London.

7. Rooftop Drinks

This has become a favourite thing of mine to seek out since I visited the rooftop bars of Saigon, Vietnam. Peckham, London has been highly recommended to me as a place with several rooftop options. It’s a new area for me me to explore too.

Cocktails in HCMC or Saigon Vietnam. Can I find similar here in London?
Rooftop cocktails in Saigon. Hoping to find more of these here in London!

8. Outdoor Cinema

I loved the outdoor cinema in Perth, Australia, but I’ve never been in London. They aren’t free, but it doesn’t cost much to watch an old movie under the stars. Top of my list to try are Somerset House, and the Luna Cinema at Dulwich Park.

Rooftop Cinema, Perth, Australia
Rooftop cinema on the top floor of a carpark in Perth

9. Wander the best London Markets

Exploring markets while travelling can be one of the best ways to quickly get to the heart of a place, side by side with local life and offering great opportunities to try the local food. I want to experience this in London too. Top of my list to visit are Borough Market, Alfie’s Antique Market, and I just can’t leave without seeing the colours of Colombia Road flower market.

Otovalo market, Quito, Ecuador
Shopping at a market in Otavalo, Ecuador is a little different to here…

11. Walking Tour of London

I was sceptical that I’d like walking tours originally, but the free one in Medellin, Colombia absolutely blew me away. Since, I have often used them at the start of a trip as a way to quickly find my bearings around a new city, while learning some key stuff about the history and local culture of a place. My London bucket list now includes the Street Art free walking tour and I’m tempted with a cheesy Jack the Ripper tour too!

12. Sky Garden

This is billed as London’s highest public garden and apparently has views all over the city. It’s free! You have to book in advance and it is popular so could be tricky to get in, but sounds like it is well worth that time spent online!

13. The Photographer’s Gallery

There is a sign on Oxford Street for the Photographer’s Gallery, which I’ve walked past many times. As I love photography, when I see the sign I always think I must go there sometime, but I’m still yet to go! It’s free entry before midday and a key entry on the bucket list.

Photographer, Berlin
Had a lot of fun taking photos in Berlin recently!

14. Watch old movies

The BFI on the Southbank has an archive of over 2000 old movies available to watch for free in their Mediatheque. Archive film and home movies, documentaries, television to name a few.It sounds like an archive version of YouTube in the comfort of a booth! Instead of moping around on one of the inevitable rainy summer days in London, you will find me here.

15. Take photos of Deer in Richmond Park

Richmond park has about 630 deer living in the grounds. It’s a big place, so they can be tricky to find! But I’d love to try and take some pictures before I leave.

16. Walk with dinosaurs, Crystal Palace Park

I’m still a child at heart so I will love spending the day playing Jurassic Park in Crystal Palace!

17. Sunset on Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill has arguably the best view over London. It is a great place to take a bottle, sit and watch the city go to sleep as the sun says goodbye to another day here.

Sunset in London
A city sunset

18. Tate Modern

So many times I have just walked past on a wander down the Southbank. We’re so lucky to have it, I want to make the most of having it on my doorstep. It’s free art!

19. Science Museum

At the request of my better half, I simply must visit this childhood favourite before I go. Free entry!

20. Postman’s Park

I read about this little bit of calm in the heart of the busy city when I first came here, but still haven’t visited. It contains memorials of those who have died performing heroic acts. Sounds like a great place to sit, reflect and maybe eat my lunch one day.


So, my last month is going to be a busy one!! However, I’m always open to more ideas…

Is there anything I’ve missed? What do you think I should be doing with my last summer as a Londoner?


This post is proud to be part of the Wanderful Wednesday Link-up! 


  1. Thank you- this is so useful. I was recently in Birmingham and was at a loss as to what I could see/do for the very little money I had. One of the first things I did, was buy the weekly bus pass( may not be a good idea after reading your post, I feel). I went to the Cadbury factory and found the admission fee was 17 pounds per person and came back just buying some chocolate from outside.:)
    I am going to save your list as a word document for quick reference when I go to London next.
    Thanks again,

    1. Wow – thanks for your comment. So glad it is useful. It can be really hard to know what to do when you are new to a city! My favourite way to see London is by foot – walking around, you get much more of a sense of the place, can see a lot in a day and avoid the stuffy tube! Some of these tips require a little planning, but others you could spontaneously do on a visit for sure. Hope you have fun 🙂

  2. There’s nothing like leaving a place to make you feel like you must appreciate it as much as possible! I know the feeling, since I’m leaving Germany in a month and a half. This is a great list, and the Sky Garden sounds really fun!

    1. That is so true! It’s amazing how much I have taken for granted. Do you have things you want to do in Germany? (I’d love tips for my bucket list there! 😉 ) Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your next step…

  3. I can imagine how you still haven’t seen everything London has to offer after 11 years! I haven’t been there yet cause I’m thinking that I need at least two weeks to see everything I want to see 😀 Good luck on crossing everything off your list!

    1. Thank you 🙂 There is so much to do here – you’ll have a great time! I don’t know how people visit just for the weekend. If you want any more tips – get in touch. Very happy to answer any questions when you do get your trip! 🙂

  4. Great suggestions, I love rooftop bars in London! Those free lectures sound interesting too. The more I travel abroad the more I find London is surprisingly one of the most ‘free’ cities for tourists. #wanderfulwednesday

    1. Hello – thanks for stopping by. What rooftop bars have you been to in London? I’ll try and check them out 🙂 It’s so great that London offers so much for free! With only really a little planning and preparation too.

  5. This is such a great list! I rarely have a big budget to spend when traveling, so I’m always looking for free and cheap ideas! You’ve found so many great options here! The Latin Street Food, photographer’s gallery, Sky Garden and rooftop drinks look so up my alley! Thanks for sharing and linking up 😀

    1. They all sound so great don’t they – I have a fun few weeks ahead!! Hope you get to try them out one day too. It’s great to link up! #wanderfulwednesday

  6. This is such a great list! I love the Kyoto Gardens, they are incredible and such a lovely hidden gem in the middle of the city. I love The Photographer’s Gallery too and another one of my favourites is The Royal Geographical Society, just by the Science Museum. They always have amazing exhibitions and it’s always quiet too! Thanks for linking up 🙂

    1. Ooo – thank you – I’ll try and check that out too! Can’t believe I didn’t know about the Kyoto gardens before now! Thanks for stopping by – it’s great to link up again. Been away from blogging for a while but had to make #wanderfulwednesday my first stop back 🙂

  7. I’ve been to London a few times and always come away thinking it’s so expensive and I didn’t do much because of the high cost. Like we wanted to go see the Crown Jewels but the entry was just crazy expensive so we skipped it. So nice to find free, lowcost enjoyable things to do in a city that has a bad rep for being costly. Great suggestions! I had no ideas you could see pelicans! #wanderfulwednesday

    1. I know – the Pelicans were a lovely surprise!! 🙂 it’s easy to spend £100 in half a day here so to find free and low cost stuff is essential not to break the bank. The changing of the keys at Tower of London is free if you want some tradition – but you have to book 6 months in advance so it didn’t make my to do list! Thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

  8. Great ideas here! I really must go to the Sky Garden. I love that there’s lots of free things to do in London. I did a post on it too and one of my favourites is watching the Changing of the Guard, not at Buckingham Palace but at Horseguards’ Parade. I love the markets too – there are so many different ones like you say from flowers to food to antiques. I hope you enjoy the rest of your London summer!

    1. Thanks so much – I might check that out too as I’ve never seen the changing of the guard! I’ll come and have a look at your post for more ideas – feel free to add it here too 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *