Friday, 8 January 2016

Best of London on a Budget

About a month ago, I visited my birth country, England an got the chance to explore many of the historical monuments an icons within London. For those of you who have never been to London and just don't know where to start, I've written up a little guide featuring some of my favourite places to visit ranging from free to pricey. Being a student myself means I'm travelling on a budget which is why I wanted to share lots of free activities to do with a few sneaky pricier ones.

There are so many things to do in London and all the sights are pretty remarkable. Getting around London is quite easy as well and you'll quickly pick up how the Tube and bus system works. All you need is a London Oyster card which you can simply top with with money and tap when you hop on a bus on train.

Here are some of the touristy things you should do/see while in London:

Free | Visit Buckingham Palace and watching the changing of the guard
The changing of the guard is one of London's most watched and iconic attractions. The ceremony occurs at about 11:30 but only on certain days of the month so it's best to check the Buckingham Palace website if you're planning to go and see it. It's also suggested to arrive about an hour before the ceremony to get the best seat of the house.

Free | Visit the British Museum
Open daily from 10am to 5pm, the British Museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture featuring over 8 million different works. Perfect for everyone and a great start to learning about development of how London came to be.

Free | Visit Trafalgar Square
Visit Nelson's columns, iconic stone lions and the Forth Plinth. There's always something going on by the fountains whether it be street performers, cultural events, a Christmas tree (or lots of birds!).

Free | Take a stroll down Oxford Street
I've put it as free unless you choose to buy something! Oxford street is Europe's busiest shopping street with an average of three-hundred shops! There are shops ranging from Primark to Selfridges. The street runs from Marble Arch all the way to Oxford Circus. It's also beautiful during the festive season with lights and decorations all put up.

Free | Take a stroll through Kensington Gardens to Hyde Park
This was actually my favourite thing to do in London in the morning. Take a peaceful stroll through the gardens where you can see plenty of white swans, Kensington Palace and Lady Diana's Memorial. It's a beautiful place whether it be during the winter or summer season.

Free | Take a stroll through St. James' Park
Another beautiful Park with stunning views of Buckingham Palace, The London Eye and The Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben). There are more swans to see, both black and white as well as lots of birds and squirrels. A squirrel actually came up to me to see if I had any food as people feed them!

Free | Visit Harrods
Another famous department store and actually the biggest in Europe. Again I've put as free unless you choose to spend! It's definitely worth a visit, even if you don't choose to buy anything. The architecture is beautiful especially when it's lit during the evening. The Food Halls well renown and the Stationery Hall and Christmas Hall are my personal favourites along side.

Free | Take a walk around Westminster Abbey
Unfortunately since we're on a budget, we're not going to be able to go inside the building and pay for a tour. Fortunately the architecture is astoundingly detailed and the history of the place is seeping through the walls. Westminster Abbey is a beautiful gothic styled church that has held 16 royal weddings since 1100!

Free | Take a stroll around Westminster Palace
If you come to London, one of the things you have to see is the Elizabeth Tower a.k.a the Big Ben! The Tower is one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom alongside. Again neo-gothic architecture, the details of the building are astounding and a definite must from a far and up close too.

Free | Visit Convent Garden
Convent Garden, home of the Royal Opera House and a popular tourist destination with lots of shopping, restaurants and things to see! There are also lots of little markets with hand made items such a soap, candles and little bits and bobs. There are also lots of nice cafes and street performers to watch keeping you constantly entertained.

Free | Visit the Natural History Museum
A perfect way to kill a couple of hours while learning about the history of earth and mankind. It has five main collections ranging from; zoology, botany, entomology, paleontology and mineralogy. There is also a Diplodocus cast that has been on display at the museum for the last one-hundred years!

Free | Stroll around Piccadilly Circus
With big digital screens that light up the road junction, it's a great starting point for those new to London. It's also a close walk to China Town if you're interested. It reminded me of a very London styled Time Square.

Cheap | Hire a £2 bike and ride it around the Royal Gardens 
There are plenty Cycle hire schemes around London that are perfect for short journeys and a great way to fit in some cardio while you're on holiday. Once you've hired a bike, you can return it to any docking station. There are over 10 000 bikes to hire around London. The bikes are £2 to hire for 30 minutes and go up about a pound for every hour after that.

Cheap | Take a Thames River Cruise from Westminster to Greenwich 
The cruise takes you from Westminster to Waterloo and Greenwich passing the London Eye giving you audio commentary along the way. An exciting way to learn some of the history of London while enjoy the amazing view. A great way to capture some interesting photos from a different perspective.

Cheap | Visit the Tower of London
Again, I've put this as cheap as there are free tours which are entertaining and a definite must do and more grand tours which on the pricer side. The Tower of London is a definite must see as it's such an iconic part with an prominent role in London's history.

Pricey | Visit St. Pauls Cathedral
St. Pauls Cathedral is open Monday to Saturday for all sightseers. The price for adults is £15.50 which gives you self guided multimedia tour. You can also climb up all 528 steps to the Whispering Gallery, Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery giving you spectacular views of London. (I was so sore the next day but it was so worth it!)

Pricey | Visit the Royal Albert Hall
I've categorised this as pricey as the best way to appreciate the architecture is to go inside. You can do so by watching a show or taking a grand tour which are both around the £15 mark. Fortunately the outside is still pretty worthwhile to see with Italianate styled architecture which of course is completely free.

Pricey | Take a ride on the London Eye
The London Eye tickets are £19.97 for an Adult. The experience is pretty surreal though and goes for about half an hour. I timed it so when I was up there the sun was beginning to set and the city lights were beginning to turn on making it absolutely breath taking. It is actually Europe's tallest ferris wheel. If you're not keen on the price or the wait, I'd recommend still having a walk around that area during the evening when the lights are turned on.

Pricey | Take a tour of Westminster Abbey
If you've seen the outside of Westminster Abbey fall absolutely in love, it wouldn't be a complete waste of money to take a tour inside. The price for a single adult is £18 and it is usually opened from 9:30am to 3:30pm but it's best to check the website if you're planning a visit.

Pricey | Visit Windsor Castle
Not exactly in London but very close and easy to get to. A beautifully kept castle, rich in history with lots to see and learn. To visit Windsor Castle, you can catch a fast train from Paddington to Slough, then Slough to Windsor. It's also best to check the website to see what is available that day as the Queen is occasionally there and places may be shut off.

I hope my little guide helped some of you, London is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world. There is always something to see and is extremely cultured. Even though it's an expensive city, there are definitely ways for you still enjoy and get the most out of it. 

Here's a little montage of clips I put together from my recent visit to the UK featuring mostly London.

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