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Things to do on a budget in London for students

London is a great place to be a student! It was recently ranked as the No. 1 city in the world for students in the Best Student Cities 2024 by QS rankings. Students from all over the world come here for top quality education and to have an amazing experience. At English Path, we understand that being a student can be expensive, and you might be worried about exploring the city on a tight budget. That's why we're here to help! We've put together a guide to show you all the fun and interesting things to do in London on a budget. So, let's take control of your budget and start exploring! 

Free things to do on a budget in London

Did you know that there are a lot of free activities you can enjoy in London without spending any money?  Let's explore some of these great options so that you can have a great time in London and create unforgettable memories. 

1. Have a picnic at London's royal parks 

One of the best things to do on a budget in London is to relax and unwind at parks. You can have a picnic and spend some time in the many Royal Parks such as Hyde Park, Green Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park, St James's Park, Bushy Park, Regent's Park, and Kensington Gardens. You can take a walk through the lovely gardens and check out the unique statues and monuments. It's a great way to spend a lazy afternoon or just the peace and quiet nature after a busy day! 

2. Visit world-class museums in London 

If you are an art enthusiast, there are over 20 museums in London that you can visit for free, including the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum. But if you want to visit other museums with famous exhibits, you might have to pay a small nominal entry fee. Spending a day at a museum in London is a great way to learn about the UK's unique past as well as explore different displays and galleries. 

3. Explore the lively markets of London 

When in London, you must check out the amazing markets around the city. You can go to Camden Market, which is a great spot to purchase some vintage clothing and try street food, while at Portobello Road Market, you can buy one-of-a-kind items for yourself and your loved ones that you won't find anywhere else. Lastly, don't miss out on visiting Borough Market to try some of the most amazing and uniquely delicious dishes. These markets are also fun places to explore and find souvenirs to take home with you. 

4. Experience the Changing of the Guard ceremony 

Make sure you visit Buckingham Palace and watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony. This is a free event where the current Queen's Guard protecting the palace is replaced by a fresh group of soldiers, all dressed in striking scarlet red uniforms and tall bearskin hats. It's a must-see experience in London that happens every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 10:45am outside Buckingham Palace. The whole event lasts around 45 minutes, with the actual 'handover' happening at 11am. Just keep in mind that since it's a popular event, it can get pretty busy at times. 

5. Visit platform 9 and 3 quarters at King’s Cross station 

If you're a Potterhead, then you take the Tube to King's Cross station and visit Platform 9 ¾. On 1st September each year, a large group of fans gather at the station to hear the announcement of the Hogwarts Express, just like in the movies! This happens at 11 am sharp when the departures board also shows that a train is scheduled for Hogsmeade. It's a great spot to take some photos to show your friends back home! 

6. Enjoy a panoramic view of London from the Sky Garden 

Visit Sky Garden, London's highest public garden, 155 metres (508ft) above the city for free! It is the perfect place to enjoy the spectacular view of the capital, especially at sunset, especially at sunset. You can take a stroll through the lush indoor garden and then head to the terrace for an amazing view of the iconic London skyline. The garden is open every day throughout the year, but the tickets are available only on a weekly basis. It is recommended that you reserve a spot by booking tickets at least three weeks in advance. 

Inexpensive things to do in London

London is a big city with many fun things to do. Now that you’ve explored some activities you can do in the city for free, let’s explore some budget-friendly activities you can try. 

1. Take London sightseeing tours 

You can take the London Bus tour with your friends to explore the majestic and historic landmarks around the city.  It's a great way to take in panoramic views of the city and even visit famous places like St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London to learn about the city's history. Other popular tours you can take are the Shakespeare's Globe guided tours, The Beatles London walking tours, London by night open top bus tour, Jack the Ripper walking tour, and more. These tours are a great way to experience the best of what London has to offer. 

2. Grab West End theatre rush tickets 

You can watch a show in London in the West End by purchasing some rush tickets. These are last-minute tickets that you can get at a discounted price for a West End theatre show. Rush tickets are usually available on the day of the show. You can buy them by visiting the theatre's box office or booking them online. They're a great way to enjoy theatre on a budget. 

3. Take a day trip to Greenwich 

Greenwich is a charming place to visit in London with great attractions. One of the coolest things you can do there is visit the Prime Meridian of the World - Longitude 0º. It's the line from where every single place on Earth is measured in terms of its distance. You can stand on top of it and take a hike through Greenwich Park to the Royal Observatory. It's a great way to travel through space and time! You can also check out the Royal Observatory and stand on both sides of the world! 

4. Grab lunch at an ethnic restaurant or pub 

Try visiting an ethnic restaurant or a pub in your neighbourhood to have a tasty lunch without spending too much. In areas like Chinatown or Brick Lane, you can find many affordable eateries that offer food from different parts of the world. You can also enjoy delicious British pub food without breaking the bank by looking for pubs that offer meal deals and lunch specials. 

5. Take a walk around Notting Hill and visit Portobello Road 

One of the best things you can do in London is to explore Notting Hill. It is a colourful district located in West London. It's a great way to spend your time without spending any money, as you can take photos of the lovely houses and check out the bookstores around the area. If you happen to be there on a weekend, don't miss out on the Portobello Market for some delicious food, live music, and vintage shopping! 

Getting around the city

When planning to explore London on a budget, it's important to know the different ways you can move around the city. This will help you plan your day better and allocate your budget accordingly. There are many inexpensive things to do in London, but getting around can sometimes be expensive, so it's good to be prepared. Let's explore some budget-friendly and safe options for moving around the city. 

  • Public transportation: You can explore London using the affordable Tube (subway), buses and tram. 
  • Cycle: You can use your own bike or rent one from Santander Cycle (also known in London as Boris bikes after Boris Johnson who was the Mayor of London at the time) for £1.65- 2 a day. 
  • Motorcycle: Just like a cycle, you can find places to rent a bike or scooter if you have a valid license approved by the authorities. 
  • Walk: Take advantage of free walking tours to discover London's iconic landmarks on foot. 

When studying in London, invest in travel cards like the Oyster card and Railcard to save money on transportation. With an Oyster card, save up to 30% on Bus & Tram Passes and with a Railcard, you can get 34% off pay-as-you-go off-peak fares and daily caps for Tube, Elizabeth line, London Overground, and most National Rail services in London. 

Join English Path for an unforgettable experience in London

As a part of our social programme in London, you can learn the English language and discover the many things to do in the city. From trips to historic landmarks and museums to recreational and fun activities, we organise various trips around London as well as to other places a short ride away for an exciting experience. Explore our wide range of courses today to start your language-learning journey with English Path. 

Frequently asked questions about things to do on a budget in London

Q1. What are some inexpensive things to do in London?

A1. As a student in London, you can walk through the Royal Parks, visit museums, go on sightseeing tours, and indulge in funfair games and ping-pong at bars. There are many great restaurants in China Town where you can enjoy a wide variety of delicious cuisines. 

Q2. Where should I visit in London with friends?

A2. There are many places in London that you can explore with your friends. Some of the famous places you can visit are: 

  • The London Eye 
  • Kew Gardens 
  • The O2 Arena 
  • Harrods 
  • Windsor Castle 
  • Trafalgar Square 
  • The National Gallery of London 
  • The Tower of London 
  • Columbia Road Flower Market 
  • Primrose Hill with a panoramic view of London 

Q3. What's London's most visited attraction?

A3. In 2023, the British Museum was the most visited tourist attraction in London, with over 5.8 million visitors. This was a 42% increase in footfall from the previous year.  

Q4. Which food street is famous in London?

A4. Broadway Market is one of the most famous streets for food in London. It is known for its vibrant atmosphere and high-quality food options. It's a favourite among foodies and hipsters alike and a classic spot to visit in London's East End. 

Q5. Which is the most famous shopping street in London?

A5. If you want a great shopping experience in London, head to Westfield shopping centre in Stratford or Shepherd's Bush. They are some of the most popular shopping streets in the city, with over hundreds of stores to choose from. You'll find everything from high-end designer outlets to more affordable high-street shops and famous landmark stores.