By Genevieve Richards
They say that trying to find a bargain in London,
recently named as the second most expensive city in the world, can be like
looking for a needle in a haystack – unless you know where to look, that is.
If you are like me and want to soak up a little culture
during your holiday London has oodles to offer - much at bargain prices,
some at no cost at all. Unlike most other cities in the world, most of the
big galleries including the National Gallery, Tate Gallery, and Tate Modern;
and museums such as the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the
British Museum, to name a few, are free to the public. You can visit as many
as you like, as many times as you like during your stay. For further
information about London’s museums and exhibitions visit
For a glimpse into
the annals of history visits to the numerous palaces in and around the city
is a must. Buckingham Palace, situated at the end of the Mall, is the
official London residence of the Queen. Kensington Palace, in the heart of
Kensington, is probably my favourite of the royal residences – the gardens
are magnificent (it is situated in the ground of Kensington Gardens) and the
palace, which has been a royal residence for over 300 years, is lovely.
Parts of the palace, once home to Diana, Princess of Wales, remain a private
residence to members of the Royal Family today.
Another of my favourites is without a doubt, Hampton
Court Palace. Situated outside London in Surrey, Hampton Court is hailed as
the “the Greatest Palace in Britain”. Visits to the Tudor Kitchens (set up
as if preparing food in the 16th Century), the Georgian Rooms and Henry
VIII’s State Apartments are included in the tour and give insight into the
life of pomp and splendour experienced by England’s past King’s and Queen’s.
The palace gardens are also not to be missed – there
are over 60 acres of gardens to explore, including the world-famous Maze and
the recently restored Privy Garden.
Another of London’s
must-see paying attractions is the Tower of London. According to official
Tower of London literature, the Tower “has been the setting for many great
events during its 900 year history as a royal palace and fortress, prison
and place of execution, arsenal, mint, menagerie and jewel house”. See the
Crown Jewels, take a tour with the word-famous Yeoman Warders, known as the
“Beefeaters”, and visit the Scaffold Site and Tower Green where three
British Queens were executed, Anne Boleyn among them.
Although you will need to pay an entrance fee into both
Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London, each costing £10.80 at the
gate, you can buy joint tickets to both for £17.50 (roughly $31.50). Visit
www.hrp.org.uk for further information.
Because London is so deeply steeped in history almost
every street in the Capital is of historical significance. Walking tours
are a good way to see the City and learn more of what this exciting city has
to offer – the history, the architecture, the geography and whatever else is
of interest. London’s oldest walking tour company, The Original London
Walks, offers – among others - the following walks: Shakespeare’s London,
The secrets of Westminster Abbey, Darkest Victorian London, Ghosts of the
West End, and Jack the Ripper Haunts.
Most walks last around 2 hours, cover roughly 2 km (1
mile) and cost £5.50 (roughly $9.91). There is also a discount walkabout
card for numerous walks. Visit
http://london.walks.com for further information, or if you feel
adventurous enough to undertake self-guide walks visit
abundant churches also offer a peek into the rich culture and history of
religion in the UK. Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral being the two
most celebrated examples, and All Hallows London Wall and St. Andrew being
two lesser known churches but of equal historical importance. All Hallows
London Wall where the church yard is bounded by one of the few remaining
section of the original London Wall; and St. Andrew which is the largest
parish church built by St. Paul’s Cathedral architect, Sir Christopher Wren.
Personally, I always ensure that I take a tour of every
city I visit, usually by bus, as soon as I arrive. This way I am able to get
a general feel for the city without being overwhelmed by how much there is
to see. This is also a great way to plan your visits to each attraction – as
you go by on the bus (and listen to the commentary) you can decide whether
or not this venue is worth a more in-depth visit in the future.
Getting around the city
via the London bus network, despite the traffic, is a good way to see how
the city is laid out, how it is all connected – and this is especially
important in a city such as London where there is an entire underground
transport system. Tube stops that are on different tube lines may seem
miles apart while in reality they are within easy walking distance, and
although London seems immense you will be very surprised by how easy it is
to walk from, say, Covent Garden in the West End through Leicester Square,
Piccadilly Circus, and Green Park all the way to Knightsbridge. Travel cards
can be bought at all London Underground stations and selected newsagents,
and are for use on both the Underground and all public transport busses. To
save a few extra pounds buy daily, or even weekly, travel cards. Go to the
Transport for London website on
www.tfl.gov.uk for all bus and tube travel news.
The city’s numerous markets are also a great way to
experience the diverse cultures of the city, or to perhaps pick up a small
holiday keepsake. The most well-known and eclectic markets include the
internationally famed Portobello Road antiques market (which in addition to
antiques and coins also specializes in food, vegetables and clothes); the
fashionable Brick Lane market; foodie-heaven Borough market; and the
Spitalfields fashion market. For further information on these markets, and
While London is undoubtedly the most expensive city in
the European Union, not all holidays here need break the bank. There are so
many “bargains” to be found in London, and all it takes to find them is a
bit of diligent searching and the determination to enjoy all the city has to
offer, be it at a nominal charge, or for free.
Photographs courtesy of
Genevieve Richards was born and educated in South
Africa and has lived in London since 1995. A graduate in public relations
and journalism, she has now branched out into freelance writing.
to TravelLady Magazine