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.
About our 3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget
- Sights are listed in order, as to be seen on a self-guided walking tour. There is a link to a map for each day’s sightseeing adventures.
- Each sight listed is linked to more information about the sight, so that you can read about the history or highlights.
- If there is a charge to visit a sight, it is indicated. In an effort to keep our budget in check, we were content seeing many of the ticketed sights from the outside. For discounts, consider the National Rail Pass 2-for-1 vouchers or a city sightseeing pass (information for both below). Note: If it is not indicated whether a sight requires a ticket or is free, it is public space.
- We have packed our 3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget to the brim! It is possible to see each day’s activities in one day; however, timing will vary based on your walking pace and how long each sight holds your interest. Be aware of opening and closing times and daily events (like Changing of the Guard) and adjust according to your schedule and preference.
3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget
Spend the day walking through London’s best-known borough, Westminster. In the evening, wander into Chinatown before ending the day window shopping in the area of Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street.
- Wellington Arch (Visiting the arch requires a ticket)
- Buckingham Palace (Visiting the Palace requires a ticket; Check for times of Changing of the Guard, which can get very crowded)
- The Mall
- Trafalgar Square
- Horse Guards Parade (Changing of the Guard: Monday-Saturday 11am, Sunday 10am)
- 10 Downing St
- Westminster Abbey (Visiting the Abbey requires a ticket, unless you attend a service, which is free)
- St. Margaret’s Church (Entry is free)
- Palace of Westminster and Big Ben (Visiting Parliament is free)
- Golden Jubilee Bridge (Walk halfway across the bridge for phenomenal views)
- St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church (Entry is free; the basement ‘Cafe in the Crypt‘ restaurant has affordable food – and free, clean toilets)
- National Gallery (Entry is free)
- Chinatown (Eat dinner in Chinatown, if it fits your budget – recommended spot: Lido)
- Piccadilly Circus
- Regent Street
MAP: A link to Google Maps Day 1 of our 3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget
Start the day at the British Museum and then stroll the market in Covent Garden before exploring London’s Southbank. Get elevated and view the city from 3 viewpoints – south of the river, north of the river and over the river. End the day at a classic pub or with a budget picnic along the riverside.
- The British Museum (Entry is free; plan your visit with these suggested tours)
- Covent Garden and Jubilee Market
- South Bank
- Tate Modern (Entry is free; don’t miss the open-air observation deck)
- St. Paul’s Cathedral (Visiting the Cathedral requires a ticket, unless you attend a service, which is free)
- Sky Garden (Entry is free; advance reservations required)
- Tower of London (Visiting the Tower of London requires a ticket)
- Tower Bridge (Visiting the exhibition requires a ticket, but walking across Tower Bridge is free)
- Go to a pub and/or have a riverside picnic – or head to the hip Shoreditch district (alternatively, rearrange your schedule to be in Shoreditch for a free guided walking tour of East End Street Art)
- Note: Pubs in London are classic, but beers can be pricey! To get the experience and keep your budget in check, order a half pint…and sip slowly.
MAP: A link to Google Maps Day 2 of our 3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget
Leave the London city center and take a river boat to Greenwich. Discover the sights of Greenwich then head north across the river to Canary Wharf. Make your way back to the city center and hop on a classic, red double-decker bus to Kensington Palace. Walk Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park back toward the city.
- Boat ride from London Eye Pier (Ticket required; check timetables for the Thames Clipper here.)
- Greenwich (Check out these things to see in Greenwich)
- Canary Wharf
- Museum of London Docklands (Entry is free)
- Note: Leave Canary Wharf via the Tube (Jubilee line to Waterloo Station, then transfer to Bakerloo line to Charing Cross and find the bus stop for the #9 bus towards Hammersmith)
- #9 Double-decker Public Bus towards Hammersmith – depart bus at Kensington Palace (Ticket required)
- Kensington Palace (Visiting the palace requires a ticket)
- Kensington Gardens
- Hyde Park
MAP: A link to Google Maps Day 3 of our 3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget (Note: This map does not show the suggested route, but does correctly label the sights)
Tips for our 3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget
Budget Tips for Eating in London
The cost of eating at restaurants in London can add up in a hurry. The cheapest pub meals cost about $15 USD and it’s only slightly less for a sit-down meal in Chinatown (and that’s without purchasing any alcoholic beverages).
Our best budget tip for eating in London is to stop into one of the local grocery stores (Sainsbury’s locations and Tesco locations) and purchase portable meals – like meat, cheese and bread for sandwiches and apples or oranges – that you can carry with you and eat when you find an ideal picnic spot (of which London has many!). At Tesco, they also offer a £3 Meal Deal ($4.25 USD), which gets you a sandwich/pasta, snack/chips and a bottled drink. All of the options are not in one place, so look for the price tags that indicate the Meal Deal.
City Sightseeing Passes
In our 3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget, we focus on seeing many of London’s most famous sights from the outside via a self-guided walking tour. However, if seeing the inside of the sights is a must for you, using a pass can save money. Two popular London sightseeing passes are The London Pass and the London iVenture Card. Another option for discounted admission into London’s attractions are the 2-for-1 deals with the National Rail Pass– but it’s only a benefit if traveling in pairs and if you are planning on using public transportation on a daily basis. Determine which London sights and attractions are at the top of your list and then compare the passes to find one that best suits you and your budget.
Foul Weather Budget Alternatives
London has a reputation for being a rainy-weather city, but there are actually only about 100 rainy days a year. However, if your time in the city coincides with rain (or snow…or sleet!), consider these options to stay dry. And, just in case, carry a travel umbrella!
- Sightsee by Public Bus:
- London Bus Routes 9, 11 and 24 pass some of London’s best sights. (See below for more info on London public transportation.)
- British Library (Entry is free)
- Free Museums in London
London Public Transportation
London public transportation is clean and efficient – but it can also be expensive. However, there are many ways to take public transportation and keep your budget in check. For example, buses (only £1.50 per ride) are cheaper than the Tube, but usually take longer. There are Travelcards and Daily Caps – both of which can save money depending on how often you will be using public transportation. The key to saving is to do a little research before heading to London to determine which method of transportation will be the most cost effective for your trip.
- Oyster Card, Tourist Oyster and Travelcards
- Prices for Tube vs Bus – and Daily Caps
- National Rail Pass (for transport on London’s Tube and bus routes – and 2-for-1 Passes)
An alternative to taking public transportation is the Big Bus London, which makes stops at all the top tourist spots in the city!
Getting To and From London
Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSetting Fools, after all!) and London has several airports (the three major airports being Heathrow, Gatwick and London City). We start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner or Flight Hub.
For low-cost city-to-city travel within Europe, we rely on buses. Or preferred bus company is FlixBus – as it is economical, clean and comfortable with on-board wifi, seat-back entertainment, refreshments and a toilet.
We aren’t keen on driving abroad, but renting a car can often save time and money (especially when traveling with more than two people) – and it allows for greater discovery.
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!) We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, often, more space. London holiday apartments can also be searched on FlipKey (which is part of TripAdvisor) or VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner.
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, but still on a budget, there are many London hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center…just not many budget options. Perhaps consider bidding on a hotel room on Priceline for a better rate.
Budget travelers can search for London Hostels – like these top-rated hostels (based on guest reviews!): Park Villa Boutique Hostel, Wombats City Hostel and Astor Hyde Park Hostel. For a true bargain – and a unique experience – search for hosts on Couchsurfing, where travelers stay with locals for free.
Before You Go
- 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 (that can later be beautifully compiled into a travel photo book). 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.
More London Itineraries and Things To Do
- 15-Day London, Paris, Rome Itinerary
- One Day in Greenwich: 5 Sights to See
- Visiting the Sky Garden in London
- A Walk in London: Westminster Sights
- River Thames Pub Crawl in London
- London Craft Beer Crawl: Bermondsey Beer Mile
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