In a dimly lit room, the wooden floor creaks and a fire crackles in the corner fireplace as a business-mannered bartender fills dimpled glass mugs with tepid cask ale. This is the scene in a typical London pub – and could accurately describe any one of the thousands of pubs in the city (yes, thousands). Classic pubs are a staple in London; a throwback to a bygone era that remains oddly fashionable in the present-day metropolis. (Read about our Classic Pub Crawl along the River Thames.) However, there is an alternative beer scene brewing in London: small craft breweries are opening throughout the city for microbrew consumption. Differentiating themselves from characteristic London pubs, the small batch breweries are often informal and industrial. Determined to get a good taste of the burgeoning scene, we joined hipsters and beer lovers for a self-guided London Craft Beer Crawl on the Bermondsey Beer Mile.
London is one of the most visited cities in the world – and it’s easy to understand why. The city is both historic and modern, it is home to royalty and celebrities and it’s packed with iconic sights, museums, palaces and parks. Unfortunately, the high price of sightseeing in London can quickly add up – with some entrance fees costing upwards of $30 USD per person. Budget travelers might fear a visit to London will break the bank, but we haven’t found that to be the case. In our 3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget, we focus on seeing the sights in London via self-guided walking tours and taking advantage of the many free attractions the city has on offer.
We are one week into our first housesitting experience…and loving it! Before we set off on this new-to-us adventure, we had doubts, fears and nervous jitters. I have never owned a dog and Kris hasn’t owned one for many years. While I was unsure how I would adapt to having a pet in my care, Kris was enthusiastic about the prospect of having a new pal. As usual, my fears were unfounded and at the moment that I’m writing this, I have a dog happily snoring at my feet.
Woody, a two-year-old, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, is our primary undertaking and biggest responsibility. He’s also just about the mellowest puppy I’ve ever met. He rarely barks, doesn’t beg for food, listens to commands and seems to enjoy hanging out wherever we are hanging out.
Of all the things to do in London, visiting at least a few classic pubs was high on our list. Dark interiors, wooden bars and cask ales are as much of a part of London as sights like Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The favorable spring weather encouraged us to seek spots that offered outdoor seating and a view, which led us to the pubs along the River Thames. We quickly learned that many of the pubs are owned by one of two chains, which we usually steer away from. But, in this case, the locations won us over. Our River Thames Pub Crawl was done over a six-day span and, although it could be done in one day, it would have surely resulted in a severe hangover and an empty wallet.
Tradition, royal, proper. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of London. Keen on experiencing a Sunday in London with those words in mind, we attended a service at Westminster Abbey, sat down to a proper Sunday roast and spent the afternoon voyaging down the River Thames.
Sunday in London at Westminster Abbey
The iconic Westminster Abbey is a magnificent church with soaring Gothic spires, more than a thousand years of history and a strong royal connection. Being that our time in London coincided with the birth of royal baby Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, we’ve been a little swept up in the history of Britain’s sovereigns, which made a visit to Westminster Abbey even more appealing. Sixteen royal couples, including Will and Kate, have said their vows at the Abbey and the next to be crowned will celebrate their Coronation at Westminster Abbey, as has every other king and queen since 1066.
Each of London’s neighborhoods has a distinct style and unique vibe. Greenwich, to the southeast of the city center, has a quaint, small-town feel, but is also home to several top attractions. The riverside location and expansive green space leave plenty of outdoor options for one day in Greenwich, London.
5 Things to see in One Day in Greenwich, London
Walking through town, the aromas wafting from the Greenwich Market immediately drew us in. Although we had just finished lunch, we were wide-eyed and drooling over the fragrant plates of gourmet burgers, fresh trays of sushi and steaming bowls of Thai and Indian food. Once we made our way through the food stalls, we perused the many aisles of art and crafts, some of which flowed down small alleys.
London is an expensive city, there’s no doubt about it. As budget travelers, we’ve focused on seeking out low-cost activities, which has equated to creating our own self-guided walking tours and being content with seeing most of the sights from the outside. Admission into some of the iconic landmarks can cost upwards of $30 USD, which is simply out of our price range. However, we have found a few freebies, including visiting the Sky Garden in London.
Located in the City of London on the north side of the River Thames – and directly across from The Shard, London’s tallest building – is the new 20 Fenchurch Street building. Nicknamed the Walkie Talkie by locals, it is the 5th tallest building in London at 38 stories. The building is used as office space – except on the top three floors, which are touted as a public garden with 360 degree views of the city, including an open air viewing deck and three restaurants. The bonus: unlike The Shard that charges $30 USD, the Sky Garden is free to enter.
London is massive on just about every definable scale: size, history, culture. We broke up our sightseeing by neighborhood, starting in the most iconic area: The City of Westminster. With Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Parliament, we had a full day of Westminster sights to see.
Westminster Sights: The Wellington Arch
Completed in 1830 to celebrate the British victories during the Napoleonic Wars, it has been moved and statues have been switched out, but it still stands as a triumphant arch.
Westminster Sights: Buckingham Palace
Built in 1705, the Royal Family has resided in Buckingham Palace since 1837, when Queen Victoria moved there from James’s Palace. The grand size – 355 feet by 393 feet with 775 rooms, including 78 bathrooms – is more impressive than the architectural design.
As much as we don’t like to map things too far in advance, we actually did plan on being back in the United States after exactly one year of travel. Instead, on Travel Day 366, we boarded a plane in Dublin, Ireland and headed east to London. Not necessarily the obvious choice for two budget travelers, we know. However, in London we are changing our M.O. and – right at the end of our year-long journey – we are starting a new adventure that we hope will allow us to continue traveling for at least another year at a lower cost: Housesitting.