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With fascinating museums, historic landmarks and endless entertainment 24 hours a day, seven days a week, London is a crazy city where absolutely anything is possible.
But despite the never-ending list at your fingertips, London can be an expensive city for tourists who aren’t aware of the hundreds of affordable activities and attractions this city has to offer. So we’ve created this insider’s list of the best things to do in London that don’t cost an arm and a leg. You just have to know where to look!
Whether you’re planning a day out with the kids or looking for a free activity that can save you a few pennies, we’ve got it all. Here are the best things to do in London under £30.
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London is chock full of exciting hotspots with something available for all ages. But with so much to choose from, how do you decide? We’ve narrowed the list down to these top three fun things to do in London:
The London Eye is pretty much a rite of passage when you’re visiting the Big Smoke. But while it is one of the more expensive things to do in London (and the most costly on this list), it doesn’t have to break the bank if you plan it properly.
Book online in advance to take advantage of the online saver discount and if you’re travelling with little ones, you may be happy to hear that kids under the age of three go free. Our tickets also include a 4D experience and a fast track pass so you’ll skip the queues!
Safely enclosed in a glass cubicle that rotates 360 degrees above the city, you’ll get some epic views of London’s famous landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace.
At 135 metres at the highest point, the London Eye is one of the tallest observation wheels in the world and has claimed the title of number one tourist attraction in London for over ten years!
Tower Bridge is one of London’s most iconic landmarks, spanning 60 metres across the River Thames. But this landmark is not only good to look at, although you can do that for free, you can also explore inside its walls!
Walking along high-level glass-floored walkways 42 metres above the Thames, you’ll enjoy some incredible views of the city from one of the most famous bridges in the world.
Inside you’ll learn the history of Tower Bridge as you visit the Victorian engine rooms and if you time your visit right, you could see the bridge lifting up! During the year it first opened, Tower Bridge lifted an average of 17 times a day, but these days it opens roughly three times a day to let in passing ships.
Check the website for updated bridge lift times the day before your visit. Kids under five years old go free!
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London is a city of ghost stories and gruesome history. Can you last 75 minutes of spine-chilling ghost stories on board the last remaining Necrobus, a ghost bus tour that turns sightseeing sinister?
The Necropolis Bus Company started in the 19th century as a private funeral bus service used to transport the deceased and their pallbearers and mourners to their final resting place.
On board this midnight black Necrobus, you’ll get a behind the scenes look at some of the city’s most historic landmarks with blood-curdling tales told through technical trickery and on-board actors.
Drive by some of the West End’s oldest and most historic buildings, see many a haunted palace, and pass suspiciously unmarked burial grounds. Learn some spooky facts about Westminster Abbey, Fleet Street, the Tower of London and London Bridge. The question is… can you handle it?
With picturesque public parks and gardens, glittering skyscrapers and endless cocktail bars, unique restaurants, and old-world movie houses, London is the perfect place for a romantic date. Here are the top three romantic things to do in London:
Kew Gardens is an excellent choice for a romantic daytime date.
Stroll hand in hand through 326 acres of fragrant gardens, explore high above the treetops on an aerial walkway and take a selfie inside the Hive, made up of 1,000 LED lights and 170,000 aluminium parts. Did you know that this extraordinary artificial beehive mimics the visual and sound effects of an actual beehive?
There is so much to see at Kew Gardens you’ll need more than a day to see it all. Two guided walking tours are available daily, or you can roam the gardens at your own pace.
Discover the collection of over 14,000 trees at the Arboretum, see the tall sculpted hedges near the Palm House, explore three art galleries, and admire the interior of Kew Palace at London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Once you’ve had your fill of exploring the scenic gardens, take a seat at one of the cafes for a romantic afternoon tea spread. Bliss!
Dine with a difference at London’s Planet Hollywood, a fitting date idea for film buffs. Themed around the glamour of Hollywood, this dinner date takes the pressure off by swapping fine dining for something more easy-going.
Located near Covent Garden, it’s a great spot for a pre or post-theatre meal. You’ll feel like movie stars as you sit down to a two-course meal surrounded by movie memorabilia while film trailers and music videos play around you on 18 different TV screens.
The Red Carpet Menu caters for Hollywood classics such as salads, burgers, and Mac & Cheese, but leave room for the famous strawberry cheesecake! If you’re celebrating a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary, don’t forget to let the restaurant know beforehand.
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No, we don’t mean Netflix.
London’s choices for romantic movie moments are endless, but Portobello Road’s Electric Cinema has to take the cake. The oldest working cinema in the United Kingdom, this retro movie house in Notting Hill offers a row of king-sized sofas and even red velvet beds to those who book early enough – ideal for a cosy movie date.
If the idea of watching a movie in bed isn’t your thing – but we couldn’t imagine why – the rest of the movie theatre also offers some really comfy wingback armchairs complete with footstools, tables, and cashmere blankets. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s also a fantastic cocktail menu! London dates don’t get much better than this…
With hundreds of family-friendly attractions and superb family discounts, you can explore London as a family fairly cheaply. Here are the best things to do in London with kids:
Just minutes away from central London, Hackney City Farm offers a fantastic family fun day out. It may be small but the farm has a wide range of animals, from chickens, rabbits, and goats to sheep, pigs and donkeys. The aim of the farm is to provide visitors, young and old, with the opportunity to get close to and learn about a range of different farmyard animals.
With a focus on being environmentally friendly, you can plant vegetables on the farm and learn how you can lessen your impact on the environment. Hang out at the cafe where you can enjoy a cup of tea and browse the shop for farm-fresh eggs and honey produced on the farm.
Entrance is free but as the farm runs as a charity, donations are welcome. You can also sponsor an animal from £50!
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London is a great place for museums because most of them are free. The Science Museum has special areas designed specifically for younger children where they can learn through touch, sight, and sound.
If you’re visiting with toddlers, the Garden is a great place to start. It’s an interactive gallery focused around water, light, sound, and building techniques.
The Pattern Pod is a multi-sensory area for children under eight where they can play with patterns on water and touch-screens. Both the Garden and the Pattern Pod are very popular so aim for late morning or late afternoon when it’s quieter.
Entrance is free but donations are welcome. You can pay extra for other interactive galleries like the Red Arrows flying simulator for kids from two to five.
Located next door to Kensington Palace, Princess Diana’s former home, the Diana Memorial Playground is a great place for kids to let off steam. Opened in June 2000 to commemorate the life of the Princess, this play park in Kensington Gardens is one of London’s most popular family attractions.
Inspired by the story of Peter Pan, the playground caters for kids up to 12 years old with an enormous wooden pirate ship, sensory trail, tepees, and a man-made beach. The playground is open all year round except Christmas Day but you may need to queue during the busier summer months – over a million children play here each year!
Entrance to the playground is free, and unaccompanied adults or children are not permitted.
The real adventure begins when the sun goes down and the lights go on in London. There are so many exciting things to do in London at night. Looking for a few suggestions? Here are our top picks:
Take a step back in time to London’s seedy and sordid past and learn about the city’s historic events, from the Great Fire of London to the fateful times of the Black Plague.
Uncover 1000 years of history through all of your senses as you see, hear, smell and feel your way through the dark London Dungeons with nine interactive performances led by 20 live actors – be careful, they may even rope you in to play a part!
Along the way, you’ll meet a few unsavoury characters, both real and fictional, from Guy Fawkes to Sweeney Todd. Brave the Tyrant boat ride down the Thames, escape the Executioner’s sword at the City Gates and fight your way through the torture chambers. Keep your eyes and ears peeled as Jack the Ripper could be around the next corner!
The tour ends with you being sentenced for your crimes and sent to Newgate Prison Ride to Doom. If you come out of all of that unscathed, you can enjoy a free drink in the Dungeon Tavern to end off the night.
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London is a city to be seen at night. When the skyscrapers and buildings are all lit up against the night sky, the view is simply magnificent. For the best view of the city after dark, hop on board an open-top bus for a fun guided tour of the city centre.
On this 90-minute bus tour, you’ll pass famous landmarks such as Big Ben and Harrods. See, the London Eye as it bedazzles in neon blue, see Tower Bridge as its towers shine brightly above the Thames, and watch the fountains dancing at Trafalgar Square. St. Paul’s Cathedral is particularly beautiful at night when the dome glimmers over the London skyline.
Learn about the infamous legend of London’s Jack the Ripper on a spooky walking tour through the city after dark. While you can find many free tours, this one stands out from the rest as your guide will use state of the art handheld projectors to transform the atmosphere into Victorian times, recreating foggy streets lit by torchlight.
You’ll uncover fascinating facts and conspiracies around the identity of Jack the Ripper and see the dark side of the city on this eerie 105-minute night tour. Follow in the footsteps of this notorious killer and investigate some of his most heinous crimes.
London can be an expensive city if you’re not careful, but there are many free activities and attractions if you know where to find them. Here are our favourite free things to do in London:
Any first-time visitor to London should definitely plan a visit to Buckingham Palace. Going inside is completely up to you or you can plan to be here just in time for the Changing of the Guard which is completely free.
Another alternative if you’re really looking for some great photos is to swap the typical Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard at Horse Guards Parade which is also free.
There are fewer crowds here as well as no railings so you can snap a great picture! The change is scheduled at 11h00 Monday to Saturday, and 10h00 on Sunday. The change takes about 30 minutes.
The Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden offering 360-degree views of the city skyline. But it’s not just the views that make this attraction so popular with both tourists and Londoners themselves, but the green landscaped gardens that lie inside from ferns to.
Get the lift to the top of 20 Fenchurch Street and visit the cafe for tea and scones. It’s one of London’s most exclusive public spaces – getting tickets can be tricky, especially over weekends – and includes observation decks and an open-air terrace. The Sky Garden is free to enter for an hour but you’ll need to prebook online in advance. Tickets are only available a week in advance.
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London’s a great spot for those looking to make use of a free event, concert or show. Did you know that you can watch a lunchtime concert for free at the Royal Academy of Music? You don’t need to book or pay – you just need to show up.
Don’t miss the Tuesday and Thursday concert series where you can watch a show performed by chamber groups and solo artists completely free of charge. The concerts are held at 13h05 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
We’re sure you’ll agree now that there are some pretty epic things to do in London, whether you’re travelling with kids or as a couple. Each activity is unique in its own way and certainly worth it, but if we had to choose we’d say that the best thing to do in London is a Jack the Ripper Tour as it’s a great way to experience the history of London’s sordid past.
So if you’re looking for a fun way to spend the day in the Big Smoke, remember that not everything has to cost you. There are many affordable activities and attractions well under £30. We hope you’ve found our list of the best things to do in London helpful.
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Born in Los Angeles, Aaron Hovanesian is one of the original staff writers for Hotel Jules. Having backpacked the world as a young man, Aaron now prefers to travel the world in luxury, proudly staying in the world's most amazing hotels and properties. When Aaron is not traveling he lives in Western Colorado he can be found brewing his own beer (probably an IPA) or spending time with his two amazing golden retrievers.