How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)

How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)
Ⓒ Provided by Condé Nast Traveler

By Sarah James, Condé Nast Traveler

There’s no escaping it: London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. A survey conducted by Mercer in 2022 ranked 227 cities globally—and placed the U.K. capital at number 15, outpacing San Francisco, Vienna, Oslo, and Dubai. Add on inflation and the effects of a looming cost-of-living crisis, and spending a day exploring London’s streets can feel wallet-bursting.

But, if you know where to look, you can spend a day gallivanting the city’s best-known landmarks and taking in its prettiest sites without deep pockets. Here, we’ve put together a one-day itinerary for soaking up some of London’s best-known attractions—plus eating some of its most delicious food—for less than $50, including transport to whip you around in no time. Note: Prices are marked with approximations due to exchange rates.

Here’s how to spend a day in London for $50 (or less).

Read More: Best Places to Stay, Eat, Drink and Shop in London

10 a.m. Walk through Green Park and The Mall (free)

How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)
Ⓒ Provided by Condé Nast Traveler

Almost 20 percent of London is parkland—there are officially about 3,000 public green spaces flecked across the many boroughs, from tiny squares to sprawling headliners such as Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath. Start the day strolling through one of the most-visited: Green Park. Set just behind the buzz of Piccadilly, lined with grand hotels, restaurants, and shops, it stretches across 40 acres in the borough of Westminster. Emerge at the eastern end, where The Mall—the road that links Green Park and Buckingham Palace—carves through St James’s in all its movie-star glory.

11 a.m. The Changing of the Guard (free)

How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)
Ⓒ Provided by Condé Nast Traveler

The Changing of the Guard is one of the spectacles London is best known for. It takes place at Buckingham Palace every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from 11am. This ancient ceremony has taken place since the 17th century, first at the Palace of Whitehall and then St. James’s Palace. Remember to check that the ceremony is still taking place if you’re visiting on a rainy day.

11:45 a.m. Walk to Big Ben (free)

How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)
Ⓒ Provided by Condé Nast Traveler

The ceremony at Buckingham Palace lasts about 45 minutes—once it’s over, continue east along Birdcage Walk to Big Ben (the walk takes about 15 minutes). After years of restoration, the scaffolding on the clock tower was removed in April 2022, revealing what might just be London’s best-loved landmark in all its finery. The clock tower is still closed for renovations, but there are a few vantage points to get a picturesque view—we recommend following Queen’s Walk to find an arch underneath Westminster Bridge, which frames Big Ben perfectly, or wandering along George Street, where you’ll encounter a smattering of red telephone boxes for a patriotic shot.

12:15 p.m. Hop on an Uber Boat (~$12 return)

How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)
Ⓒ Provided by Condé Nast Traveler

Sure, you could get on the tube. But a boat is the snazziest way to make the journey from Westminster to Bankside. TfL’s River Boat service connects lots of London’s loveliest corners, and is now operated by UberBoat—why head underground when you can take to the waters and see the city from a new, river-faring vantage point? Return journeys cost around $12 for adults and $6 for children. Fares are cheaper if you book on the app rather than paying once you arrive at the pier. Head for Westminster Pier and board a boat heading east, finding firm ground again at Bankside Pier.

1:15 p.m. Borough Market for lunch (~$7)

How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)
Ⓒ Provided by Condé Nast Traveler

There has been a market hall on the site of Borough Market since the 12th century. These days, it’s a bustling space where independent stalls sell speciality snacks to hungry explorers. Stretch your stomach with a walkabout, sampling meats, cheeses, and bread from the vendors before picking your poison. We recommend the grilled cheese sandwich from Kappacasein—an oozy blend of English cheeses between sourdough bread that will fuel your afternoon perfectly.

2 p.m. Head to the Tate Modern (free)

Lots of London’s best museums have free admission to the general areas—including The British Museum, The National Gallery, and both The Tate Britain, in Pimlico, and The Tate Modern, just around the corner from Borough Market. Take in works by Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, and Henri Matisse before nipping in the lift to the sixth-floor bar and restaurant for a well-earned sit down overlooking the river.

3:30 p.m. Jump back on an Uber Boat (return fare included)

You paid for a return Uber Boat journey, so you might as well travel in style to your next stop: Tower Bridge (alighting at Tower Millennium Pier). Entrance to the Tower of London is pretty pricey, but walking around the grounds and taking in London’s most iconic bridge is totally free.

4 p.m. Visit The Sky Garden (free)

How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)
Ⓒ Provided by Condé Nast Traveler

Access to the Sky Garden—London’s highest public garden, on the top floor of the Walkie Talkie—is free of charge until 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends. It’s worth booking a ticket in advance, if you can, although they will accept walk-ins if there’s space. Tickets are released every Monday. From here, you can get a glimpse of London 35 floors above the frenetic streets below—the three stories are filled with thriving plants and observation decks.

5 p.m. Drinks in Central London (~$4, plus ~$2.50 tube fare)

Hop on the tube for the first and final time, taking the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road. Nearby, you’ll find Arcade Food Hall—one of London’s best, it’s run by the people behind JKS restaurants (Trishna, Lyle’s, Bao). Nab a spot on the humming ground floor for drinks: Happy hour runs 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, making beer and wine starting at $4.

6:30 p.m. Dinner in Chinatown (~$16.50)

How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)
Ⓒ Provided by Condé Nast Traveler

You could find an affordable bite in plenty of Chinatown spots. But we’d place our bets on Dumplings Legend, which draws on inspiration from southern and northern China. Expertly folded dumplings such as the legendary xiao long bao and stellar steamed prawn dumplings are a steal—and a set menu for one costs from $16.50.

Read More: 48 hours in London: the top things to see and do

9 p.m. Finish the night in Soho (~$7.50)

You should have about $8 change from $50 left to fritter away. Spend it in Soho at Bar Termini, one of London’s best bars, where a house Negroni costs ~$7.50.

See more at Condé Nast Traveler

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Travel Magazine: How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)
How to Spend a Day in London for $50 (or Less)
This one-day itinerary will help you see the capital city of London without going over your travel budget of less than £50.
Travel Magazine
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