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View from Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament, the River Thames, Westminster and Westminster Bridge, with the London Eye in the distance, London, England.
View from Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament, the River Thames, Westminster and Westminster Bridge, with the London Eye in the distance, London, England.

Tops tips for a perfect and affordable London staycation

Home » Travel » Tops tips for a perfect and affordable London staycation

While you may be dreaming of sun-filled skies and cocktails on the beach, current travel restrictions mean a staycation is probably still your best bet if you’re looking for a holiday this year.

From coast to city the UK has plenty of exciting holiday destinations waiting to be explored. And if you’re looking for a trip that combines culture and history nowhere beats our capital city.

While some might be quick to dismiss London as a holiday destination, for being both too busy and expensive, there are many ways to enjoy a visit to this vibrant city without breaking the bank.

Here are some tips for a perfect and affordable London staycation:

Spoiled for choice:
The big question when visiting London is not what can I do, but what can I do in the time available? There is so much to do in the capital it isn’t possible to squeeze everything into a short break. The London Underground’s Oyster and Travel Card system makes it both reasonable and easy to explore all corners of the city. But it’s still worth planning ahead, to make sure you can make the most of your time and factor in travel time between attractions as well as time for taking in the atmosphere as well as the sights. You might be surprised at how close some of the major attractions are to each other and find it is more interesting and even quicker to explore on foot.

A girl standing by a golden letter box in front of Westminster Abbey with a red bus behind. ©VisitBritain/Nicole Hines
Westminster Abbey ©VisitBritain/Nicole Hines

Do your research:
An open-top sight-seeing bus can be great on a summer’s day, especially because it gives a running commentary of where you are. But if you’re willing to do some research on the sights before you go, London’s red buses will get you there for a fraction of the cost.

Free self-guided tours
Still for some, nothing beats the knowledge of a sight-seeing guide. To experience this for free, the GPSMYCITY app has 20 self-guided tours ranging from the traditional sites such as Bridges of London to a Harry Potter walking tour which takes on filming sites such as Westminster Underground Station, Great Scotland Yard, and Piccadilly Circus. This is a fantastic way to get a true feel for the city while learning more about its history. 

Unique experiences
Keep an eye out for interesting sights and experiences that you wouldn’t be able to experience elsewhere, such as the Inventive Productions cocktail experience in  London ­which combines delicious drinks with an immersive theatrical production. This year you can expect to find a lot more outdoor experiences on offer. Walthamstow Wetlands is Europe’s largest urban wetland nature reserve and this summer it is hosting Moomintrail a unique family experience based on Tove Jansson’s The Moomins. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance.


Amazing museums
Spend some time exploring London’s best museums which are due to re-open along with current government plans on 17 May 2021. You could easily spend a full day at the Natural History Museum where you can get up close to the first T.rex skeleton to be discovered and the British Museum where you will find a wealth of treasures including an exhibition of findings from the Sutton Hoo ship burial. You can book your free tickets in advance, with donations welcome.

The Diplodocus exhibit Credit: Trustees of the Natural History Museum
The Diplodocus exhibit Credit: Trustees of the Natural History Museum

Wonderful parks
If the sun is shining and you want to spend more time outdoors, instead of heading to a restaurant for lunch, grab a takeaway and enjoy a picnic in one of London’s major parks. If you visit Hyde Park, be sure to stop for a ride across the Serpentine Lake! 

Hidden treasures
If you’re looking to experience what London is really like – try to avoid the typical tourist traps favouring things that are a little off the beaten track. For example, instead of spending the entire time in central London – why not branch further afield? The Hill Garden and Pergola at Hampstead Heath is a beautiful, landscaped garden and raised walkway 20-minutes walk from Golders Green station on the Northern Line. Once the site of extravagant parties in the early 20th century, this previously private-owned garden is now a dramatic example of faded grandeur and a tranquil hidden treasure of the city free for all to use.

Hampstead Pergola, London, England. ©VisitBritain/Rebecca Read
Hampstead Pergola, London, England. ©VisitBritain/Rebecca Read

Global food choices
London is true foodie’s paradise, with hundreds of different restaurants and cuisines to choose from. For the best experience (and authentic food), opt for small, local, independent businesses. Not only is the food a lot nicer, but they also tend to be a little cheaper too.

Last minute tickets
London is famous for its array of theatres and live productions, and with venues allowed to re-open next month in line with government guidance we can expect a return to West End glamour soon. While you may be tempted to book far in advance, you can sometimes get cheaper tickets by contacting the box office directly on the day of the production.

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Written by
Carmel Thomason
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Avatar photo Written by Carmel Thomason