Making the most of London

4 people in a high street chatting

When it comes to entertainment and events the capital is difficult to beat. Taking advantage of all it has to offer needn’t be expensive, either.

We’ve put together some ideas for things to do and places to visit to help you explore the city on a budget. We’ve also come up with some money-saving ideas that enable you to get discounts on just about everything.

Things to do

There is always something going on. And whether you are in to food and drink, films, pubs, clubs, comedy, cabaret, sports, or even knitting, there’s something for everyone.

Timeout, the Evening Standard, London Town, All in London, and Secret London are great sites for finding what is going on in and around the capital. They are also good for event offers and discounts as well.

Day out with the kids offers advice on kids’ activities and child-friendly destinations, including bars and restaurants with play areas.

For tips on good places to eat and drink try review sites such as Squaremeal and Beer in the Evening.

Tourist attractions

There are plenty of tourist attractions – from London Zoo to Madame Tussauds to the London Dungeon. But before you go, check for entrance deals online.

If you’re travelling by rail Days Out Guide has 2-for-1 offers on several of the capital’s most famous attractions. All you need to do to save yourself some money is download a voucher from the site and present it and your National Rail train ticket when you arrive at the attraction.

Cinema and theatre

Cinema visits cost £8-£12 a ticket on average, going up to £25 for some central London screens. But many run their own membership schemes or welcome Orange Wednesdays two tickets for the price of one deals. LondonNet cinema listings is handy for finding your nearest cinema.

For a more quirky experience try:

  • The Scoop, which shows film in an outdoor sunken amphitheatre.that has a cinema screen in the summer – several of their events are free.
  • Pop-up screening event Secret Cinema. Every month it shows different movies at a secret location, where dressing up and getting involved is all part of your night at the pictures.
  • The Prince Charles Cinema – which shows a range of classic as well as current films – is one of the cheapest cinemas in London with tickets for as little as £3.50.

The capital’s theatre scene is extremely competitive, and you can get seats for around £10-£25, even at the top venues. Many offer season and membership discounts on their websites as well as last-minute deals through their mailing list or Twitter – so subscribe!

Musical theatre can be pricey, but TKTS and lastminute.com offer up to 50% off standard tickets.

Museums and galleries

Visiting arts and cultural venues is one of the most affordable things to do in London, with free entry to most major museums and galleries. It’s not only the famous names such as Tate Britain, the V&A and The British Museum that don’t charge for entry, but also smaller, less well-known destinations such as the Museum of Childhood and the Wellcome Collection.

For cutting-edge art, the area around Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Hackney is home to plenty of small, free galleries, and a vibrant street art scene if you fancy exploring.

Weekend markets

Fruit and veg stallholder at Borough Market

Weekend markets are a popular destination for tourists and residents alike; they can also be combined with another Londoner’s favourite – weekend brunch.

They often open at about 8am, close around 2-3pm at the latest, and can get crowded from 11am. There are benefits to arriving early… or late, if you want to pick up last-minute deals at food or flower markets.

The most famous are:

  • Borough Market, which offers gourmet food on Saturdays. It’s linked by a short riverside walk to the galleries and venues on the South Bank.
  • Portobello Market in Notting Hill is open weekdays and Saturdays and sells upmarket antiques, fashion and second-hand goods.
  • The area around Brick Lane is busy on Sundays with Spitalfields Market and The Old Truman Brewery areas selling vintage clothing and homeware, fashion, jewellery and other crafts. Nearby is Colombia Road Flower Market.
  • Camden Lock is home to a variety of markets which are open throughout the week as well as the weekend selling alternative fashion, food, vintage clothing and arts and crafts.

Parks and free open air events

Hyde Park, St James’ Park and Green Park in Westminster are all popular during the summer – and they’re free. You can also hire a bike, boat or sun lounger. Facilities are good and include cafes and toilets.

Slightly further afield and less busy are Hampstead Heath, a large area of meadow and woodland with views over London from Parliament Hill; and the historic deer park and nature reserve of Richmond Park.

Throughout the year, the Mayor’s Office organises a number of free events and outdoor festivals such as the London Skyride and the Thames Festival, plus events to mark cultural festivals and public celebrations including Eid and New Year’s Eve.