posted on: 19 October, 2020
We show the best ways to enjoy a family trip to London on a budget. London is one of the greatest cities of the world and there is no limit on how much you can spend. But you don’t have to splash the cash to have a great time. And that is what you and your family will have, a wonderful time visiting the capital. London is a fantastic city and there are loads of free attractions and free things to do.
This can be a tricky task and often makes the self-planner choose a different location. Especially if the currency exchange rate is also not in your favour. However it doesn’t have to be that way. We know our city and accommodation doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to be great. Stylish low budget chains such as Premier Inn, Hub, Ibis Styles or Travelodge offer great deals in excellent locations. Additionally, apart hotels and serviced apartments are a real alternative to the classic hotel stay. Saying this who doesn’t like to be pampered in a beautiful hotel? Many of these offer Family rooms, superb food and the highest hygiene standards out there. And they don’t have to cost a fortune. Especially in the current climate there are loads of bargains out there!
With an excellent tube network travelling around the city is easy, fast, and uncomplicated. You don’t have to stay next to Piccadilly Circus to experience London to the full. Take Stratford for example. Set right next to the Olympic Stadium in the East, it is not only an up and coming area to stay in but also less than 10min by tube to central London. Hotels costs a fraction from what they do in central London.
Or stay in beautiful Islington, a vibrant area near King’s Cross where real Londoners like to live and go out. Transport connections are also great and you get a real feel what living in London nowadays is like if you aren’t a Russian billionaire. International chains like Hilton and Crowne Plaza offer fantastic deals especially over the weekends here. And it’s a great area to dine out with the kids too. Restaurants offer excellent value for money combined with real good produce. I think you might have guessed it by now, but we love Islington.
But there are other areas to look at to for a family stay on a budget such as Shoreditch. Your teens will love the trendy East End. Or stay on the fringes of Kensington. Super central and a bit quieter yet very close to all major attractions with loads of restaurants (not cheap!) and shops. Have a look at our area guide here.
In relation to the Covid-19 crisis and its hygiene rules and due to the fact, that Airbnb is not regulated we recommend refraining from renting your accommodation through them. Book a family room in a nice and clean hotel instead.
Take Croydon, a sprawling city within Greater London. There are direct trains into London Victoria, London Bridge, King’s Cross and London Blackfriars every 5-10min and it only takes around 20min to the heart of the city. The hotel landscape is corporate with lots of international chains offer their rooms to mainly business clients during the week and tourists – at fantastic low rates – over the weekend. Prices start from as little as £29 per person per night. Check out our special offer. And there’s also loads to do and to see in Croydon. Street art, a very good dining scene, a great shopping street, a boulder rock climbing centre, a skate park and the UK’s biggest trampoline centre. Jump up with joy, it’s a great place!
Avoid travelling in May and June when the city is usually packed. Travel outside the high season and see the how the prices drop. April and September are great months to visit. And December in London is just magical when the whole centre is lit up by thousand of bright neon lights!
Now that the accommodation is sorted it’s time to look at some things to do and to see. These often-hidden costs can turn a family budget trip to London into a financial nightmare when the credit card bill arrives two weeks later.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning and some expert advice, you can avoid cancelling Christmas this year. And most important enjoy your family trip to London on a budget.
Almost all museums are free to enter. So, visiting one of London’s finest museums isn’t just a great thing to do on a rainy day.
British Museum. You can easily spend 3 full days wandering the long aisles and different levels of the British Museum. It showcases thousands of artefacts from ancient Egypt to imperial Britain.
Natural History Museum. Meet T Rex and his mates in this spectacular museum exhibiting a huge number of pieces from all ages of natural history.
Tate Modern. It’s all about modern art in this former power station on Bankside. A showpiece of architecture the gallery also hosts one the greatest viewing spots overlooking the Thames.
National Gallery. Set on Trafalgar Square the National Gallery hosts thousands of grand, old masterpieces from the most famous artists of all time. Picasso, Van Gogh, Turner, you name!
Wallace Collection. This less well-known superb gallery in the West End host the collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture, arms, and armour of the Seymour family who used to live here.
Imperial War Museum. Close to Waterloo Station this museum tells you about Britain’s war past. It’s highly educational yet never boring and suitable for all ages.
Have a look at the full list here.
And if you do want to visit a paid for attraction, one of best ways to enjoy it on a family trip to London on a budget, is to book the tickets in advance and off peak.
Explore Highgate Cemetery. The cemetery is set in ancient woodland in north London. Plenty of famous people are laid to rest here. The free West side is full of overgrown tombs and little paths creating a very special atmosphere.
Changing of the Guards is one of the most popular free events to see, but you can also see the Changing of the Keys at the Tower of London for free. A little known yet great experience.
Visit a service at Westminster Abbey, this way you visit the abbey for free. Check out the services times and make sure you arrive early.
Harry Potter fans! Get your free walking tour guide from us, just drop us a line with your details and sign up for our newsletter. See Platform 3/4, Diagonal Alley, the Ministry of Magic, and many more famous locations from the awesome novels.
London is home to many awesome green spaces and parks. Take a stroll or have a pick nick in London’s Hyde Park or Regent’s Park. The sheer size amazes every visitor. But also look for the less central ones such as the beautiful Primrose Hill, cool London Fields, grand Hampstead Heath, or Olympic park in Stratford. And for one of the most amazing views of London, head to Greenwich Park. Your sore feet will love you for a well-deserved break.
London is the number one theatre land in the world. Ok, there’s the Broadway in New York, but still. Plenty of musicals, plays and shows guarantee top class entertainment. And this usually has its price. But many theatres offer matinees of their shows in the afternoon where tickets cost around 50% less! So, it’s always worth checking the actual website of the theatre to see when these shows are on. And watch out for touts. Sadly there are a lot them online these days. So only buy from the officially registered venues or approved resellers. You don’t want to overspend but also don’t want to see the kids burst out in tears because you bought a fake ticket. We are happy to advise you which ones are legit or get them for you.
These boots are made for walking. London is all about walking. It’s the best way to see and feel the city. Here are some of our favourite walks through the capital.
London’s Southbank is a hub for street artists and buskers, especially over the weekend. Take a stroll along the river and see some great performances for free.
Walk the Regent’s Canal from Camden to Little Venice. It’s a wonderful walk past houseboats, the London Zoo and the gardens of some impressive London mansions.
Explore the East. Take a walk through the Olympic Park in Stratford. Head to the creative, artist hub of Hackney Wick with its many galleries, small café’s, and restaurants. A real hidden gem here is the Crate Brewery, where they serve London’s second best pizza! Where to get the best one is a secret, sorry…
Street Art Shoreditch. Do a little research and keep your eyes open on a self-guided street art tour through Shoreditch. Top international artists and local newcomers put their amazing art works on walls and houses all over Shoreditch. Do also visit the amazing Leake Street Tunnel near Waterloo. A simple way to enjoy London on a budget trip with the whole family.
Unlike Paris or Berlin, London isn’t really a place for flea market lovers anymore. But there are still some awesome markets for you to check out. Suitable and great fun for all ages.
Portobello Market. A classic. The day to visit is Saturday when all the different markets are in full swing. From antiques to crafts over to food and veg, all sprawled along Portobello. A buzzing atmosphere in iconic Notting Hill.
Brick Lane. One of the most iconic streets of London is a vibrant mixture of curry houses, vintage shops, food outlets and trendy bars. A must go for every visitor and on the way to your next free attraction.
Columbia Road Flower Market. Set in London’s trendiest area Shoreditch it’s all about flowers every Sunday. This small, cobbled Victorian street is packed with traders and visitors alike. Watch this spectacle from the comfort of one of the many small cafés.
Camden Market. Unique and quirky combined with great food describes it best. Set around the lock and within the converted stables Camden market is one of the world’s most famous markets. It’s great fun for all ages and on every day. https://www.camdenmarket.com/
The tube is a great way to move around a bit further. Get an Oyster Card and travel on the tube, buses and trams relatively inexpensive. There is also a kids discount for children 11-15 and under 11 travel free. But do look at a map before you set off. Central London is very walk able, and you can easily walk from one attraction to another. Sometimes it is even quicker to walk from A to B. It’s more fun anyway and you get to see the city. And why would want to be crammed in a packed tube carriage?!
Take a river cruise but swap the tourist liners in favour of the Thames Clipper. Don’t be confused by Uber being their latest sponsors. These belong to the official network and are great and inexpensive alternative.
Please avoid Uber taxis as it is not regulated. Play it safe as one of the best ways to enjoy a family trip to London on a budget is not to get ripped off by a dodgy cabbie. Book a Minicab instead if you want to travel further or need an airport transfer. The traditional London Black Cabs are very expensive, so if you ask at your hotel reception, they will book you Minicab. With them you get a set price for the journey. Please note they must be booked as they are not allowed to pick up passengers from street.
Another budget breaker for many is eating out. So, if you don’t want to live on sandwiches and takeaways during your stay, head to the many street food markets London has on offer. The quality of food is great, and you tuck in local specialities as well as world cuisine. It’s one of the best ways to enjoy a family trip to London on a budget. Most of them are only open until 4/5pm, so unfortunately they aren’t a dinner option.
Prices tend to be around £5-£7 per dish only. That gives you great value for money and they are literally spread all over the city. We can recommend these ones:
Lower Marsh Market (Mon – Fri), near Waterloo Station and the London Eye
Brick Lane Food Market (Sun), between Liverpool Street Station and Shoreditch High Street
Maltby Street Market (Sat – Sun), near London Bridge Station
Berwick Street Market (Mon – Sat), in the heart of Soho
Boxpark Shoreditch (Mon – Sat), next to Shoreditch High Street Station
Camden Market (Mon – Sun), within the Stable market in Camden Town
But do keep your eyes open. There are a lot of pop up markets all over London.
We left out the famous Borough Market near London Bridge on purpose. It is by all means amazing, but it is quite expensive.
When it comes to restaurants in the evenings it is hard find cheap places in central London. There is little way around it. Pubs are a great alternative here but again a lot of them operate a strict children’s policy. Even if accompanied by an adult, your kids might not be allowed in in the evenings. Here you must play it by ear. Check with us, or your hotel reception, on where to eat out near your accommodation. If they don’t know, we do. And having saved quite a bit with these tips there should be room for at least a farewell dinner. Make it memorable.
Now you have learned on how not to break the bank when visiting London with your family and still have a great time.
See you in London!
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