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.
Visiting the Sky Garden in London requires booking free tickets through their website, where we could choose our date and time of entry. When we arrived, there was a queue, but it moved quickly. We showed our IDs, had our bags scanned and were whisked to the 36th floor. We were immediately wowed by the space. It was like walking into an airplane hangar hovering in the sky.
We were free to roam the area, take a seat in the garden or grab a table for drinks (which, at the Sky Pod Bar were actually priced on par with most other bars in London with the extra benefit of the view). The open air deck runs along the south side of the building providing stunning views of the city, but a tall glass barrier kept us from snapping the stellar pictures we had hoped to get.
We spent about an hour and a half at the top before descending. When we planted our feet firmly back on the ground, we set off on yet another walking tour that took us over the London Bridge, Tower Bridge and east along the River Thames.
Where To Stay
During our visit to London, we stayed in this awesome Airbnb Apartment. (Not already a member of Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and save money on your first stay!) However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip:
Or These Hostels:
Before You Go: Our top tips for your trip
- Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- It’s easy to get turned around or lost in any new city! Be sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook prior to arriving.
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
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