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Fancy A Long Weekend In The Capital? Enjoy London On A Budget

19 January 2022

London is a fabulous city – there’s no denying it.

It’s a stylish blend of old and new, a place where skyscrapers tower over the ruins of Ancient Roman walls, and you’re never more than a few steps from a pub.

It’s bustling, it’s lively and it’s fantastically multicultural, but it’s also very expensive.

Spending even a couple of days in London without going into the red is no mean feat. Eating and drinking can cost an arm and a leg and finding a place to stay that’s central enough to see the sights can feel near enough impossible.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. There are some amazing free and budget-friendly things to do in London, so spending a weekend here doesn’t have to cost the earth.

We’ve put together a weekend itinerary to help you see more of London without spending more.

Where to stay

If you’re looking for cheap but central accommodation, you can’t go wrong with a hostel. It might not be the most glamorous option, but if you’re looking for a bargain, it’s a great choice.

We recommend booking a bed at The Steam Engine. It’s a pub-come-hostel just around the corner from Waterloo Station – easy walking distance from the Southbank, and well connected to the rest of the city by public transport.

A bed in a dorm room costs just £15 per night, and the pub has a 24-hour bar if you fancy a big night.

Check in as soon as you arrive in London so you can ditch your bags before you head out – your bed will come with a locker, so you know it’ll all be safe!

Friday night: Dinner, drinks, and dancing

It’s Friday night and you’re in one of the liveliest cities in the world, which can only mean one thing: it’s time to hit the town!

To save money, we recommend starting early to make the most of happy hours and cheap drinks deals – any excuse, right?

Head for drinks at one of Soho’s coolest bars, Thirst. Aim to arrive in time for their trademark Stupid Hour, where drinks are at cheaper prices.

Stupid Hour runs from opening at four o’clock until six when Happy Hour takes over – still bargain prices, just not quite so much of a steal.

Cocktails at regular prices here are £10, but Stupid Hour brings them down to £6.25 and Happy Hour drinks are £8.40. Get here early enough to grab a few bargains and you’ll be set for the night!

Once you’re feeling peckish, wander around the corner to Bocca di Lupo, a gorgeous Italian restaurant that serves up regional Italian dishes at affordable prices.

Order before six o’clock to make the most of the Lombardian Workers Lunch – a starter, a main, and a salad for just £15.

The menu changes every day to make sure everything is made with the freshest ingredients, and the restaurant is regularly featured in the Michelin Guide. Seriously, you have to eat here.

Once you’re well and truly stuffed, head back through Soho for a night at Ronnie Scott’s, the iconic jazz bar.

Tickets for the main event can be pretty pricey, but Londoners know you can bag a spot upstairs for a fraction of the price. Book ahead to pay £10 or pay £15 on the door.

If you’re too late to get in (music for upstairs starts at seven o’clock), buy a £12 ticket for the Late Late Show instead. Doors open at 11 pm and you won’t be kicked out until three o’clock in the morning – it’s like a regular club, but cooler.

The lights stay low, and the energy in the room is buzzing in anticipation of the show. Dancing is encouraged!” says Yas Hyder of Ronnie Scott’s.

Drinks are a bit more expensive here, so we recommend sticking to beer. Once your legs are aching and you’re ready to stumble home to bed, hop on a bus or take the night tube to your hostel to sleep it off.

Saturday strolls

Once you’re up and about (hopefully without too much of a sore head), wander over to Marie’s Cafe behind Waterloo Station for a stunning breakfast.

This popular joint serves up both Thai food and full English breakfasts – somehow, they manage to do both really well, and you’ll be spoilt by their hearty portions and affordable prices.

Next, it’s time to blow any remaining cobwebs away with a walk-up Primrose Hill. Take the Northern Line from Waterloo up to Chalk Farm, ready to get those legs pumping.

You’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views across the London skyline once you reach the top. Sit down and have a rest, then explore more of Regent’s Park.

Once you start feeling peckish, make your way back towards Camden and wander the street-food stalls. Vendors will offer you mouthfuls of food to try for free, so take a few samples to see what appeals before you buy a full plate.

Now that you’ve filled yourself up, it’s time for a stroll around the markets of Camden. It’s still one of the coolest areas of London and is a great place to just mooch about.

Wander the streets and head to the markets to see if you can snag any cheap vintage clothes or trendy homewares.

As evening approaches, make your way to King’s Cross – take a photo of yourself at Platform 9¾ while you’re here! – for a tasty spot of dinner at Dishoom.

As a popular Indian restaurant, you’ll indulge in delicious food at pretty good prices – the house black daal is a particular favourite and is just £7.50.

Round off the night with a trip to The Lexington, a great pub on Pentonville Road.

Settle in for a few drinks at the bar or head upstairs to enjoy whatever event is on – gigs and club nights take place here nearly every day, and tickets aren’t usually more than £8 or so.

Easy like Sunday morning

Check out of your hostel and leave your bags behind reception, then start the day by zipping over the river for brekkie.

The Breadline Cafe is a bit of a hidden gem that serves up a hearty full English that should keep you going for another busy day.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s popular with locals for good reason – big portions, tasty food, low prices. What more could you want?

Next up, it’s time to discover some of London’s more notable tourist spots.

Take yourself on a walking tour of Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden. All these historic places are within one mile of each other, so it’s easy to get around on foot.

The area is also home to some of London’s best museums. Decide whether you’re in the mood for art or history and spend a few hours exploring either the National Gallery or the British Museum. Entry to both is completely free.

When you’ve had your fill of culture, we think a pub Sunday roast is the way to go before the journey home.

We recommend The Marquis Cornwallis in Bloomsbury, where you can get a plate of roast chicken for just £15 or a nut roast for £14.

Wash it down with a pint or a glass of wine, then head back to the hostel to pick up your bags.

When will you be back?

Weekends in London don’t have to be rare and expensive trips.

If you know what you’re doing, it’s easy enough to enjoy a fun-filled weekend without spending so much that you’re feeling guilty by the end.

But now you know how it’s done, you can visit more often, and you’ll soon get the knack of seeking out cool places to experience without the heavy price tag.

Time to start planning your next trip!