As one of the largest and most densely populated cities in Europe, London is a truly iconic destination to live, work and study in. London is a bustling city with a world-renowned cultural scene and a rich history, so you will never be shy of interesting things to do there.
It is a common perception that London is an expensive city to live in, and this can be true in many ways. We understand that as a student studying in London, you might not want to splurge on the major tourist attractions that can oftentimes be costly. However, we want to assure you that there are plenty of things to do in England’s capital that are either free or cheap enough that they won’t break the bank!
The city is awash with many great activities and sights to see. There is truly something for everyone – from world-class art galleries and museums to beautiful parks and gardens – this article will explore our top picks for cheap things to do in London.
As a guide, we’ve narrowed down some of the best activities and have grouped them into the following categories to help you navigate the city: art, museums, parks, nightlife, and eats.
It can be argued that London is the art capital of the United Kingdom, so if you’re a fan of art, or just feel like soaking up some of the artistic cultures the city has to offer, you’ll be pleased to learn that there is a selection of great art galleries and museums that are free for the public. Below are some of our favourites to visit:
The Tate is an iconic London museum located in the City of Westminster in London (a very central area and tourist hotspot). If you are interested in art history, you are bound to enjoy this museum. The Tate Britain is part of a network of Tate galleries in England.
The Tate Britain is unique in that it houses and displays one of Britain’s largest collections of historical artworks spanning from the early renaissance period through to the present day. You can expect to see work by the likes of J. M. W. Turner and Edward Burne-Jones, and the best part is that the gallery is completely free to visit!
The Tate Britain currently requires you to pre-book a time slot for your visit – to ensure social distance is maintained – so be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment on the day!
Similarly, Tate Modern is part of the Tate network but exclusively showcases contemporary art. This gallery is also free, although some temporary exhibitions are ticketed (student discounts can be applied) and is a delight to explore as it is home to many wonderfully curated collections.
This beautiful gallery in south London was the world’s first gallery to be built specifically for the public and is home to over 600 paintings by artists like Rembrandt, Canaletto, and Gainsborough. It is free for students with a valid student ID and is located in a particularly trendy area of South London where there are lots of cafes and bars – so you can make a full day of it!
If you are interested in visiting museums with impressive collections and archives, you will be pleased to learn that many of London’s museums are free to visit. Here are some of our top picks:
If you’re a film buff at all, then the Cinema Museum might pique your interest. This quirky museum displays the history of cinema and film through historical artefacts relating to the production and film consumption experience. It’s a fun day out and is a flat rate of £7 for admission.
This family-friendly museum is one of London’s true national treasures. Its impressive collection of natural history archives and artefacts make it an extremely informative, but also interactive and fun day out. The best thing about it is that it is completely free to the public! While the Natural History Museum offers walk-in slots, as with the Tate, it is best to pre-book your tickets to avoid disappointment on the day.
London is home to some of the most beautiful public parks and gardens in Europe. On a nice summer’s day, Londoners flock to many of the city’s parks to enjoy picnics with friends. There are many options to choose from, so we have selected some of our favourites below.
Regents Park is another great park to visit if you’re looking for cheap things to do in London. It spans 410 acres of land and is the largest outdoor sporting area in the city. It is also renowned for Primrose Hill, which is the park’s beautiful rose garden that also offers one of the best views of London from the top.
This former hunting park is actually the city’s oldest Royal Park and is famous for its incredible views of London and the Thames. Greenwich Park is also home to the Royal Observatory which is an attraction in itself as it dates back to 1675 and allowed scientists to make sense of and map the stars. While access to Greenwich Park is free, admission to the observatory is around £10 for students.
This park is perhaps a favourite among Londoners as it is only 4 miles from central London, but the atmosphere often feels like you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of the city. Hampstead Heath is well-known for its wildlife, and especially wildflower garden, but perhaps most famously its historic swimming ponds. So, if you’re looking for something fun to do outdoors in London, Hampstead Heath is a great option for a day out on a budget!
As mentioned, London is a cultural epicentre and as such, it is unsurprising that it is known for its iconic nightlife. London offers a plethora of choices when it comes to bars, clubs, and the likes, but this section will outline some of the best cheap nights out in London.
One of the best ways to enjoy London’s bar scene on a budget is to go during happy hour. Happy hour in London usually runs from around 5 pm – 7 pm and most bars during this time sell cheaper drinks and 2-4-1 cocktails. Some popular happy hour spots include Batch in Peckham, Dirty Martini (half price martinis), Swift in Shoreditch, and Thirst in Soho.
Arguably some of the best comedy clubs and nights in London are also some of the cheapest. For example, the highly-rated Top Secret Comedy Club in Camden sells tickets for as little as £1, and the Plough in Hackney hosts some great comedy nights for just £5. The Angel Comedy Club in Camden is also famous for its free events, so there are many cheap comedy nights to be had in London.
Similarly, if you like going to gigs and hearing live music, you’ll be pleased to learn that some venues in London make a point of offering free or very inexpensive gigs to the public.
Hootananny in Brixton is a great example of a venue that puts on free gigs as a way of allowing everyone to experience art and expression, regardless of income. You can expect a mixture of reggae, ska, and folk music from Hootananny, and it makes for a fun, cheap night out in London.
London is a great city to be a foodie in as there is an incredibly diverse and multicultural mixture of people who live and work there. As such, the city is awash with amazing restaurants and cafes to try, and new ones constantly popping up. But what about if you’re eating on a budget?
Chinatown is undoubtedly the pocket of the city to visit if you’re looking for completely authentic, yet affordable Chinese food. This is a bustling part of the city and a great spot to visit.
Brixton Village Market is a great place to go if you’re looking for a varied choice of cheap, delicious food options. This street food market offers an eclectic selection of more than 20 different food stalls – many of which sell entire meals for under £10. Brixton Village Market is open 7 days a week – an absolute must for foodies.
Due to the city’s multicultural and diverse nature, most restaurants and cafes have at least one veggie/vegan option on the menu. However, there is a range of entirely vegetarian or vegan establishments available to try in London – many of which won’t completely break the bank either. For example, 222 Veggie Vegan in West Kensington is a great affordable option as it offers a healthy all you can eat buffet for around £11.50.