In recent months I have started to re-appreciate the city I grew up in. With many places closed or restricted, I have made it my aim to explore the parts that I don’t normally have time for, to sit back and enjoy the scenery and fall in love with London all over again.
In doing so, I have come to realise that there is so much that can be done for free or with very little budget. Therefore, I wanted to share my top haunts, so you too can get the most out of the city.
For years, I have passed by the cable cars, not only because there are quicker ways to get around, but the thought of being stuck with strangers high above the Thames filled me with dread. Not because I don’t like people, but it was the fear of other messing about and possibly rocking the car.
Therefore, before the world started to go crazy again, I took myself off to Royal Victoria to pick up the 10 minute ride across the river to the Greenwich peninsula. Luck had it, on a weekday morning, there was no one about. So not only did I have the car all to myself, but the blue skies offered a fabulous view. For just £4 for a single ride it is something I recommend. Children under 5 go free, and over 5 its just £2 each way.
2. Wonder the sites of Greenwich
Other than my run through the area when taking part the London Marathon, I had not visited Royal Greenwich since my school years. It is safe to say I did not appreciate the sights on race day – so lately I have been doing so with a passion.
Museums and buildings have been closed for many months in the area. However, that doesn’t mean you explore. Take a walk through Greenwich Park, checking out the Cherry Blossoms (I have been on blossom watch for weeks) and the best view in London over to Canary Wharf and into the city. Here, many sights would be recognisable as filming locations, with Rangers House and Queens House both featuring in the recent Netflix hit – Bridgerton.
If you have time, wonder the market and visit many of the independent bakeries, cafes and shops. With the museums due to re-open soon I will be planning another visit – spending the day exploring as much inside as well as out.
3. View the city on the Thames Clippers
Now known as the Uber boat, jump on board the clipper and sail down the Thames. Starting at just £5 per journey it is a fantastic way for the family to enjoy the views from the river without spending excessive amounts of money on a city tour.
I have enjoyed a number of trips in recent weeks – often picking up the boat from Greenwich Pier and sailing all the way down to Brixton.
4. Hunt down the colourful streets of London
London is a wonder of colour, even on the dullest of days. You just need to hunt down the right streets. Within the last few months I have got off the tube and just wondered in neighbourhoods that I wouldn’t normally.
Not only for a change, but to discover new areas and a different perspective. You will find the cheeriest of streets in Chelsea, Notting Hill, Portobello Road and Primrose Hill – to name a few.
By keeping off public transport as much as possible, it is amazing what you will discover.
5. Check out Art and Installation Trails.
London has been fantastic for trails. In recent years we have seen the likes of Paddington, Shaun the Sheep, Dream Jars and some may even remember the Wenlock and Mandeville trails from the Olympics in 2012.
Not only are they free, but it is a great way to get out into the city, get your daily exercise and even for adults it’s a bit of fun.
One of the most recent installations is the “Hundreds and Thousands” by Liz West at The Tide in Greenwich. The 700m walkway has been transformed into a rainbow of colour. Most certainly worth visiting in coming weeks.
6. Picnic in the Royal Parks
Despite being in a city we have some fantastic green spaces, from Hyde Park to Greenwich Park, find time to settle down with a picnic on a sunny day.
With most parks offering great facilities including cafes and toilets, it’s a great way to get out and about. If you are lucky, you may even spot the pelicans in St. James Park.
7. Enjoy the views from the Sky Garden
Though currently closed to the public, this oasis is London’s Highest Public garden.
And the best bit is its free! However, you do have to book tickets to go up and they often get filled quickly – so always keep an eye out for dates. At the top, you can enjoy a cheeky drink at the bar, take pictures from the open terrace and you can even dine at one of the restaurants.
8. Walk the Thames River path
For those avid walkers, the 184 mile Thames Path offers not only a great challenge, but a fantastic way to view the city.
To this day I have not walked the whole length, but I have completed Greenwich to Hampton Court in sections – with the longest being a 26 mile trek from the city out to the west.
There are many trail itineraries you can follow, with the recommendation to cover the full distance in 14 days.
9. Climb the O2.
If a good challenge and a great view is what you are after, then the O2 climb is for you. Though the priciest of my list, at around £30 per person, it is well worth the money.
There are often deals or packages to be had, so do shop around before booking.
10. Walking tours
With an amazing amount of history within the city, there are so many tours that can be taken simply on foot. You can either check out some of the self guided tours suggested by the City of London, for example a movie location tour – which is free to access.
Or if you are prone to getting lost, perhaps a guided walking tour is for you. Usually these are reasonably priced – for example the Hidden London Tour is just £16 for a knowledgeable, professional guide.
So there you have it. 10 ways you can explore the city of London without breaking the bank. To this day, I am still discovering gems myself, so if you have any you think should be added to my list please do let me know.