London is a cosmopolitan and happening city, but even with the recent favourable changes in the exchange rate it can be an expensive place to see on vacation. However, like all great cities, there is still plenty that can be done on a budget that would be entertaining and help you see the best of the metropolis. The five ideas listed below will help you get on the right track during your trip.
1) River boat trip from Westminster pier to Greenwich
Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8929612@N04/2456739920/
Taking a cruise down the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich is a great way to get a feel for the geography of the city and take in some major sites along the way. There are several companies that run regular hop-on-hop-off services from the pier at Westminster down the winding stretch of the Thames to Greenwich. For around Â£12.50 for an adult return you will get a prime view of many of the historic buildings of London and an informative, funny, commentary from the boat tour guides. It is worth getting off at Greenwich, birthplace of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, to climb the hill to the Royal Observatory for a great view back to London (you can also jump back-and-forth across the Prime Meridian if it takes your fancy). If it is sunny, make sure you pack some sunscreen.
Nearest tube station: Westminster
2) Camden market
Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joaoa/1164702320/
Camden market is a melange of colours, sights, smells, sounds and experiences. Actually made up of four individual markets, Camden is best visited on Friday, Saturday or Sunday when all the stalls are open and when it really comes alive with visitors from all over the world . The goods on sale have traditionally reflected the 'alternative' nature of the surrounding neighbourhood, with fabulous arts and crafts available. Also bring your hunger, as there are some fantastic food stalls throughout the market - although pick carefully!
Nearest tube station: Camden (if you wish to take in the colourful shops on the walk to the market); Chalk Farm is actually closer to the main part of the market itself
3) Take a stroll through the halls of Harrods
Possibly the most famous department store in the world, no trip to London would be complete without paying homage to this luxury department store. It is possible to spend many hours wandering through the 330 departments and over 1m square feet of sales space, just looking at the beautiful displays - the world famous food hall should not be missed. And remember, Harrods claims to be able to source anything you need, so if you're struggling to find that pet giraffe or used NASA space suit, maybe this is the place to ask!
Nearest tube station: Knightsbridge
4) Borough Market (artisanal food market)
The Borough of Southwark, sitting immediately south of the Thames holds much of London's interesting history (and often the naughtier type), and Borough Market very much keeps that link to the history of the area alive. As far back as the year 1014 traders would gather on London Bridge, Southwark's arterial link to the city north of the river and they have operated in the area almost continusouly ever since.
As the UK's interest in good food has increased over the last 15 years, so has Borough Market's provision of high quality produce. Best visited Thursday - Saturday, the market nowadays costs nothing to enter and offers a plethora of foods, drinks and ingredients to sample and buy. Often you can fill up on the many delicious free samples on offer, without having to spend a penny.
To see some examples of the produce you can find at the market, follow the link in my signature on the right of this page.
Nearest tube station: London Bridge
5) The National Gallery
Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/299930740/
Any trip to London wouldn't be complete without strolling through Trafalgar Square to see Nelson's mighty column and while you are there, you should not miss the awesome - and free - National Gallery (www.nationalgallery.org.uk). Home to Britain's collection of Western European 13th -19th century art, there is so much to see here it is breathtaking. Monet's, Rubens', Rembrandt's, the list goes on; given the depth of the paintings on show it is worth picking one section, collection or period per visit otherwise it can be a little over-whelming. My personal favourite? Hans Holbein the Younger's 'The Ambassadors'
Nearest tube station: Charing Cross or Leicester Square