As someone who has spent much of their adult life living in London, it’s fair to say that I’ve picked up a fair few tips and tricks over the years for making the most of your experience in the British capital. Here’s how to see the best of London like a local!
Wear your best walking shoes
Like many a European capital city, London is a place best explored on foot. Even if you’re taking the tube or a bus (especially during peak hours), then it’s likely that you’ll spend much of, if not most, of your journey standing. As such, be sure to leave your heels at home and wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes!
Make the most of all the free museums
Whether you love history, art, architecture, or archaeology, there’s a museum in London, just waiting to be explored. Countless cultural attractions in the UK capital are free to visit and seeing as London is so expensive, making the most of all the free museums on offer is a great way to save money!
Experience the hidden gems of London
If it’s your first time in London, then no doubt you’ll want to see many of the must-see attractions which make the city so famous; Elizabeth Tower (incorrectly often referred to as ‘Big Ben’), the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye.
But once you’ve got a little feel for the city, then seek out some hidden gems. The park of St Dunstan in the East, wandering along the Thames Foreshore, and admiring the beautiful interior of St Bartholomew the Great are among some of my favourite unusual things to do in London.
Use the tube (London underground)
Forgo expensive taxi fares, and instead opt to travel how the locals do: i.e. via public transportation. In order to save money during your visit, you’ll also want to pay using a contactless debit card. Should you wish to avoid bank fees, then you might want to pay a deposit and purchase an oyster card instead. Whatever you do, avoid single fare tickets and travel at offpeak times; both are outrageously expensive!
If you truly want to experience London like a local, then you should also refer to the underground as the ‘tube’, rather than as the ‘underground’ or ‘metro!’ While most of the major London museums are free to visit (and instead rely on donations) you may still consider purchasing The London Pass, as this includes a one day hop-on, hop-off bus ticket.
Indulge in some great British food
Whether you’re looking for a traditional pub lunch, or simply want to experience an afternoon tea, London has no shortage of foodie opportunities. On a Sunday, be sure to go for a Sunday Lunch; complete with all the trimmings. For meat-eaters, this usually comprises of a roast lamb, chicken, or turkey, while veggies will usually be offered some kind of nut roast.
Go for a walk in the park
Unlike Paris, London is an incredibly green city. Just under half of London is made of parks, gardens, and other green spots, meaning that to truly experience London like a local, you’ll need to wander into one (or several). In the summer months, one of the best ways to do London on a budget is to buy some picnic supplies and head to one of the city’s green spaces to eat your meal outside.
Shop in the markets
When it comes to the UK capital, it’s fair to say that there’s no shortage of shopping experiences! Between the world-famous Oxford high street and smaller niche markets such as the Columbia Road Flower Market (specialising in all things floral), make sure you don’t miss out on the markets of London.
Some of my favourite markets in the capital include Portobello Road Market (a must for all vintage and antique lovers), as well as Camden Market (for all the foodies out there!) Elsewhere in the city, named arcades such as Leadenhall Market provide for some great coverage in the city when it rains. And in London, it rains a lot!
Wander the mews streets
One of the best things to do in London in the spring, summer, or autumn, when the leaves are pretty and flowers can be found in abundance, is to wander the mews streets. These roads, lanes, and passageways can be located in South Kensington and Chelsea and are a throwback to when the city ran on horsepower.
Today, these pretty streets are some of the most prime real estate in the city and make for the perfect instagrammable background, or a great place to escape the crowds of the city. Personal mews favourites include Kynance Mews (incredible wisteria in the spring and pretty autumn leaves in autumn), as well as Bathurst Mews, which can be found close to Paddington Station.
Get a little lost
London is a city with over two millennia worth of history to discover. And the best way to do this is to simply walk around, seeing where your feet might take you. For the best of the City of London and just South of the River, I recommend taking this free and self-guided London walking tour.