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Appreciating London on a budget

June 20, 2016 2:07 pm

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When your main focus is planning that next big trip it’s easy to overlook what’s on your doorstep. Which, in our case, is one of the best cities in the world! Never a dull day, but therefore never a penny in the pocket (sob). With new bars and restaurants seeming to pop up daily, London proves a tough city to be thrifty in. The only positive to being poor is thinking of the end goal… future travels! Until that happens, here’s my favourite weekend pastimes as a penniless city dweller.

1. The parks

For a city, London’s got a helluva lot of green space. Whether it’s sprawling Regent’s Park or family-orientated Clissold Park which literally is on our doorstep, the Big Smoke spoils us for choice when it comes to open spaces to depollute our lungs in. Hampstead Heath is a gorgeous natural space to waste away a day, with great views of the city from Parliament Hill and a natural swimming pond for the brave. Then, as with just about everything in London, there’s also the hip variety of parkland which I won’t pretend I don’t love. London Fields, my favourite city spot, is the crème de la crème of trendy parks – so much so that it doesn’t even call itself a park. Head there on a Saturday and catch Broadway Market on the high street. They sell amazing fresh meats, cheeses, cakes, breads, as well as take away pastas, burgers, etc etc (okay I know, this is meant to be cheap… but girl gotta eat) that you can cart over to the park for a particularly scrumptious picnic. Grab a couple of tinnies from the off licence and you’ll soon be laughing at those standing all of two hundred metres away who paid a fiver for a pint in a glass and the tiniest slither of crowded pavement to drink it on. Ha! If you want to avoid the market temptation there is a BBQ spot packed with fellow thrifties and their disposables. Or, be super prepared and bring your own picnic (a packed lunch of any description eaten in a park is a picnic in my opinion). What says summer more?

Tom reflecting on Hampstead Heath

Tom reflecting on Hampstead Heath

2. Exhibitions

In a city as large and diverse as London, there are exhibitions and events popping up daily, many of them free. Take advantage of the cost-free chance to be a culture vulture and take in some of the city’s many talents, and also see some great art and exhibition spaces around the city that you might not be aware exist. TimeOut magazine is my culture bible and weekend planner – they do the hard graft of finding out exactly what’s going on in the city each week, and letting us know whether it’s worth heading to – all we need to do is cart ourselves there. Such a good way to make use of a free afternoon, and win some personal culture points which of course excuse a messy night and hungover day in bed to follow.

3. Historic London

If art isn’t your thang why not get your culture fix by appreciating London as it stands – its glorious architecture and historic buildings are a feast for any eyes. Bank is a beautiful and interesting area to wander around, as well as St Paul’s Cathedral and along the Thames – the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate, the London Eye etc etc. If you’re after something a bit more gritty why not tag onto a free Jack the Ripper tour of Whitechapel (http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/london-tours/walking-tours/jack-the-ripper-tour/) or wander the streets of Soho. When your eyes aren’t focused directly ahead as you try navigate the busy streets in rush hour it’s amazing how much of this stunning city you notice.

4. Markets

Whatever you want, whatever you need (even if it’s a free activity for a weekend afternoon), London’s got it in market form. For food Borough Market is great, as is Chatsworth Road’s Sunday market (our old stamping ground). The iconic Columbia Road flower market is a great site to see, with Londoners radiating outwards with arms full of blooms for the majority of the day. Portobello and Brick Lane are also great for knick-knacks and a bit of a wander. The perfect thing about markets is that it’s normally much easier to enjoy window-shopping than it is on the high street (window-shopping for clothes works for no one). Get the thrill of retail therapy without the depressingly high price-tags, and if you really can’t avoid buying something hopefully it will make a much more acceptable wallet-dent than anything you’d find on the high street.

5. Music

Get yourself down to one of the great gig venues in the city and enjoy some music for free. Venues such as The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston, The Windmill in Brixton and The Lock Tavern in Camden have bands playing most nights of the week, as well as being great places to enjoy a pint of soda (N.B. the thriftiest drink in town, apart from tap water of course, which might not get you the best response in a pub). Read Tom’s article on London’s best gig venues here. Most boroughs also hold summer festivals which are a great way to watch local bands too, plus as they are outside you can afford to grab yourself a £1 Red Stripe from the offie. Southbank’s Festival of Love and Alexandra Palace’s Summer Festival are good options for music, although you’ll find that most areas hold a festival of some description. What better way to celebrate your thriftiness than a boogie in the street.

Enjoying the free music at Hackney Festival last summer

Enjoying the free music at Hackney Festival last summer

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