My husband and I booked two housesits in London from April 22nd to May 21st so far. Just wondering if anyone had any good suggestions on low-cost or free things to do, and tips for saving money?I know most museums are free and that’s awesome. Regardless of where we are, we generally eat most meals at home, but any suggestions on relatively cheap restaurants is also appreciated as we will go out occasionally.
We aren’t necessarily on a strict budget but we tend not to do a lot of typical higher priced touristy things because the cost usually doesn’t seem worth it, and we are fine skipping. Just walking around exploring different areas, taking pictures, is usually our favorite activity most places.
We usually do international sits in lower cost countries so I know we will be spending more on food,etc…and just want to be mindful. But being from an expensive region in the US, I imagine the price of many things may not be too much more than what we would pay there. One HO sent me a picture of the food menu at their local coffee shop ,and I noticed after calculating the exchange rate, pretty much everything was about the same price it would be in a similar establishment in NJ.
For the first two weeks we will be pretty central to most main attractions–in Notting Hill–and since we are big walkers, probably won’t be using public transport all that much. So we’ll likely just use a contactless credit card as needed–provided we don’t run into any issues using them-- rather than load up credit we may or may not use on Oyster cards . The second sit is in Chiswick and it seems like there is a lot to see and do around there, and we will have likely hit most of the main spots in Central London during our first two weeks.
For a start , being keen walkers will be a great bonus for you in London as there’s so much to see above ground ! Provided the weather is dry you could always grab great quality ‘picnic’ food at the various supermarkets which are now dotted everywhere in London : Waitrose , Sainsbury’s and Tesco are the major ones but if you are lucky to come across a Lidl or Aldi they are good quality and extremely reasonable
Oddly my best friend who visits me in the UK from Florida in a regular basis says food is cheaper here !
As you mentioned all the major museums are free of charge unless you want to see a specific exhibition. London provides enormous amounts of free events , especially along the Southbank area of the Thames
I lived in Chiswick for many years , I’d recommend to head towards the Grove Park area and visit Chiswick House and gardens then carry on to the Thames towpath where you can walk to Kew Gardens , Old Isleworth and Richmond upon Thames all beautiful spots . In Chiswick also check out Strand on the Green which is also riverside and dotted with picturesque pubs which all serve food with a view
For up to date free events I would take a look at the Time Out website
While in Notting Hill you might want to check out Portobello Road which has a buzzy atmosphere and street markets on weekends
You have chosen two very enviable areas in London so you will be overwhelmed with things to do and see
After 35 years in London I am now by the sea but London is an amazing city , you’ll love it !
Thank you so much for your detailed response @Podencolover …such good information here! That is interesting about your friend with the food prices…nice to know the trip might not be as pricey as I might have expected. I also realize that ‘expensive’ can be a very subjective judgment – there are many places I have visited that people said were expensive but I didn’t find them to be.
We are really looking forward to the trip…I really didn’t know too much about the different neighborhoods prior to applying, but I was familiar with Notting Hill and knew it was a pretty central location.
Hi there. I will also be in that area at that time. I wanted to go for the Coronation. Most large cities have companies that do free walking tours. You are expected to provide a tip at the end. I have often done these when I first arrive so as to get a ‘lay of the land’ for the city and it lets me know where I might like to return for more in depth touring. They are usually very good quality. Just google it.
Hello @KC1102 You will be spoilt for choice for things to do in both of those locations and as @Podencolover mentioned you could do a picnic in one of the many great Parks such as Hyde Park or Regent’s Park. I know it’s a bit of a way from where you are staying but Greenwich Park has an amazing viewpoint. Just outside the Royal Observatory you will find the viewpoint in front of the statue of General Wolfe, it is stunning by daytime but also at dusk is amazing too where the shimmering lights of the city start to illuminate the vista and it takes on a whole new level of beauty!
Also whilst you are in Notting Hill and especially if you are looking after dogs on your house sit, you could take them to the Pawsitive Cafe (with the owner’s permission of course), the food there is nice, we popped in there a few weeks back and the dogs all seemed to be having fun too, they even have a ball pit for them to play in.
Hi @KC1102 what a great time to be sitting in London … although anytime is a good time I’m sure you’ve been doing your research, well here’s some more which might whet your “frugal” explorers appetite for discovery
Secret London is a fab website and has an excellent blog ‘200 free things to do in London’. We are gradually working our way down the list during each visit. We try and get sits in different areas each time and do the sites and activities near those to reduce transport costs and travel times. Free Things To Do In London: 200 Fantastic Ones This Year
Thanks @MaggieUU . That is a great idea to get acquainted with the city. I saw one site offering a number with different ‘themes.’ One was an East London graffiti tour…that seemed really interesting, especially since we love taking pictures.
Thanks for those suggestiong @Samox24 . The doggie cafe seems like a great idea–the HO said their dog is really friendly, loves going out with them and gets along well with other dogs. So I will check with them about that
@KC1102 - eatwith.com is a great website for finding ‘pop-up’ restaurants. Not cheap, but great, interesting meals at not too expensive prices. Also get to meet locals over leisurely meals. It works all over the world, but London usually has lots of listings.
If you have a credit card that doesn’t charge an exchange fee, use it for transit - not sure what the weekly cap is but I’ve been told it saves more than loading an Oyster card and using that weekly cap.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens is one that is frequently missed because it is too widely known. https://www.horniman.ac.uk/
And if you go to the Horniman, the Bethlem Museum of the Mind is a small, but great museum all about mental health located in a mental hospital (Bedlam). https://museumofthemind.org.uk/
Lots of good tips here already. I would add that public transport is quite expensive, but easy to use with a credit card (don’t bother with oyster). Maybe get the TFL app and register your cards so if anything goes wrong (it does sometimes) you can dispute being wrongly charged.
If you can work out the buses, they are lots cheaper than trains/tube (1.75 flat fare) and you get to see London while you travel. I think the buses are pretty nice - clean and efficient. You only need to tap on (don’t tap off!) as they are a flat fare. If you get an app like CityMapper it can help you work out buses. You can also transfer between buses for free if it’s within one hour of your initial tap on (tap on again on the second bus).
As for eating, it’s a bit far from where you are but the Indian restaurants on Tooting High St between Tooting Bec station and Tooting Broadway station are fantastic and cheap, and it’s a fascinating place to wander. There are hundreds of places, but we like Jaffna House. They do lunch specials (Thali) for just a few quid. I reckon these restaurants are the best value in London. Best area is around Tooting Broadway, where there are markets and interesting little passageways.
Coffee in London is uniformly terrible (hey, I’m Australian, I have high standards!). Rather than pay money for something disappointing, if you sign up with the supermarket Waitrose, you can have a free coffee with any purchase (one a day, I think, so you all need to sign up). It’s at least as good as overpriced stuff from Costa/Cafe Nero etc.
The supermarket meal deals (especially Marks and Spencer) are often fantastic and great value. We often prefer to get an M&S deal and eat at home rather than pay a lot at restaurants. Often wine, starter, main, dessert for a decent price.
This is my last tip, I promise! The Number 11 bus goes past many of the important tourist sites. Ride the whole route from Liverpool St to Fulham (either way). If you can snag an upstairs seat it’s a cheap alternative to an expensive guided bus tour. No commentary, of course, but I am sure you can work out what’s what!
@toml , thanks for the tips. Visiting Bedlam, what a unique experience – right up my alley. I’ll have to try to get there! You always have great tips, thanks!
Not in London, in Philadelphia, PA, this reminds me of the Mutter Museum --of medical anomalies, at the College of Physicians. I highly recommend it if you get to Philly. When I worked in the operating room, we would have our Christmas parties there. There’s nothing like walking around with a glass of wine, peering at a toxic megacolon, the cast and liver of conjoined twins Chang and Eng and an iron lung.