I’m reposting something that I wrote for Ms Career Girl almost a year ago when I was just planning to go here. I can’t believe I’m in London! I have truly fallen in love with this city. I still need to do so much in this list! Have you been?
By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show. – Samuel Johnson
May 2014 – While planning a trip to London for the end of the year, I came across an article that basically says the rest of the world seems to be getting the same idea – London has surpassed Paris and Berlin as the most popular tourist destination of 2013.Who can blame anyone for wanting to set foot on the glorious land of the royals!
Everyone wants to immerse in the affluence and variety of London’s cultural offerings. Whether you’re out for tourist attractions or looking to be a true blue Londoner for a day, this city has an overflow of activities to inspire and astound you. One thing is for sure – I’m psyched! As many others have said throughout history, there’s nowhere in the world quite like London.
I’m going to have to admit that I’m not a big spender when I travel, but I’ve made a full list of things to do and places to check out on a budget. If you have London calling out your name like it is with mine, here’s a check list of affordable must-do’s when in the city!
Witness a Tradition.
The traditional locking up of the Tower of London called the Ceremony of the Keys is an ancient ceremony that has lived at least 700 years which happened every night at 21:30. If you have a long trip planned, you can process and application to see the popular ceremony for free! You can also take in some royal culture and see the Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace for free. The process involves a new guard exchanging duty with the old guard, and takes place at 11:30 each morning from May to July, and on alternate dates throughout the rest of the year.
Overdose on Culture.
Despite the notorious reputation this city holds for being expensive, London is a premium budget traveller’s spot, especially if you’re as much a culture and history buff as me. Top museums are free to explore. Check out the Natural History Museum for astounding artifacts, the British Museum for awe-inspiring culture and historical art, walk away smarter from the Science Museum or visit the V&A for the best of art and design all free of charge. I have a full week’s worth of culture planned ahead worth less than a cup of fine tea!
Drink like a Londoner.
I’ve been told that London night outs are more with people who are the type to sit around and enjoy pint after pint over a wonderful conversation… and then get on the tube to create a ruckus. Makes sense as London has some of the best watering holes in the world, with the neighborhood pub ingrained into their culture. This is where beer comes in wide varieties of stouts, ales,and lagers to choose from. If you are beer ignorant (like me), choose to take a sip of London Pride by Fullers, a local brew which has been offered in Old London town since the mid 1800s. It’s history and a buzz. You can’t not dork out on that.
London is a mecca for music. Britain is home to some of the world’s biggest music legends and best music events, which I must admit, can really bring out the fan girl in me. Get a real musical experience as you rewind through music history and see the best of the world’s up and coming. In the dome of The O2 in London, you get an interactive experience that lets you groove through the last 60 years of British music, complete with exceptional mementos from Britain’s biggest music stars. Catch some British live music in the legendary Cavern Club and Hard Day’s Night Hotel, both known for its Beatles affiliation. If you are looking for a freebie, Southbank Centre has lots of free music and other events.
Unwind in the Park.
The charm in parks cannot be embodied more in any other place. London is home to 8 Royal Parks, which is free for public use all year round. Take some fish and chips and some beers out to Regent’s Park with some friends, or see the stunning and regal landmarks of Kensington Gardens. If you come around the short yet wonderful sunny season, you’ll catch true blue Londoners soaking up the sun in picnics. Now if you come out there on a colder month, hot wine in a cold park bench is an intimate and lovely way to spend your time with friends or a love one at Hyde Park or St James’s Park.
Explore Historical Architecture.
Sure, sure. It’s all so touristy. But so what! The Westminster Abbey is a magnificent church at the back of the Houses of Parliament and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk the same steps that many famous historical icons have taken throughout centuries. You can also see the Tower of London which remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in London for its tales of historical drama, infamous Beefeaters, the Crown Jewels and the Royal Armouries.
Watch a West End Musical.
West End Theatre is considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world, and with acclaims like that there is no way anyone visiting London should miss it. Home of classics and top billing plays, expect the best of the best in any show you catch!
Eat Your Heart Out.
Get a multicultural gastronomic experience in London without breaking the bank. With its rich history that involves a deep connection to different colonies all over the world, a hunt for every cuisine known to man is not impossible to accomplish. Borough Market is a local favorite, where you can find delis and restaurants open all week and a weekend farmer’s market offering the freshest produce. Berwick Street Market features a variety of lunchtime food stalls that includes everything from Vietnamese Bahn Mi to Jerusalem Felafel. Take away a hot lunch for £5-8 per head.
Find a Bargain.
What career girl can resist shopping? The novelty of London street markets cannot be denied, not just because of the finds but also because of its overall vibe. Check out the artsy vibe of Camden Market which features original works from independent designers and the best of goth and funky fashion. Hold your sanity while walking down Camden High Street and its line of shoe stores. For something quirky, Petticoat Lane Market also known as Middlesex Street is a must see. The place features petticoat and lace shops dating over 400 years since it was established by the French Huguenots. If you’re looking for arts and crafts and antiques, head over to Greenwich Market, open from Thursday to Sunday. Be warned, this is not a cheap shopping trip. However, the atmosphere alone can inspire you to keep window shopping for hours! Who knows you might discover a rare and absolute must buy!
Enjoy the commute.
A cheap alternative to open-topped sightseeing tour buses is to use your Oyster Card and get on the number 11 bus route, which starts at Liverpool Street in the north east and goes all the way to Fulham Broadway in the south west of London. This route is peppered with landmarks such as the St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and the King’s Road. Another option, although quite an expensive affair, is to ride the cabs in London, which just from the looks of them might be one of fanciest and stylish cab rides you’ll ever get on.
Feb 2015 – Fast forward to current day, I am barely scraping the surface of things to do here in London. This city has so much more to offer and I can’t wait to explore more. Living in it for the last couple of months have been such an experience. Have you been? What do you recommend I definitely must not miss? Let me know below!