In September 2019, if you are following this blog you will notice a trend of very delayed blog posts, my mum came to visit me for 2 weeks.
She came with a childhood friend and quite frankly, they just showed up, with no idea of what to do here. Which is, so great…
It was up to me to make this trip memorable. I hadn’t seen them in years, so I planned the best trip I could with a very tight budget. So here you will find my selection of cheap or free things to do in London.
I hope you enjoy it!
It is common knowledge that London is a very expensive city. No, scrap that. London is a freaking expensive city. No matter how much you earn, it seems that it’s never enough. Strict planning was crucial to make this trip enjoyable for them and within budget.
Did they stay within their budget? No. When my mum and Primark met, it was love at first sight, which means that the doting daughter that I am had to pay for a lot of their expenses or the trip would have ended by mid-of the first week.
Where was I? Ah, let’s start from the beginning. If you are planning to stay here for over a week, buy a travelcard instead of pay as you go ticket. We stayed in zone 3 and we have gone to zone 1 everyday without a care because all our travel expenses between zone 1-3 were paid.
You can check the TFL website for their fares and budget for your travel expenses beforehand.
When it comes to meals, this can add so much to your budget that you will be feeling guilty or it will make you dive into your credit card. To help us minimize this expense, we left the house every day after lunch. This way, we had 2 home cooked meals and we would have a coffee and a sandwich or cake in one of the coffee shops in the city.
I know I am sounding super cheap, but come to London and you will find out why all this preparation, and let’s not forget it was 2 weeks! Oh my…
Travel expenses. Check. Meals. Check. Now, onto the free stuff
Take advantage of all the free museums and go to South Kensington, this area alone has the National History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, The Science Museum besides is full of little restaurants and coffee shops from all over the world.
Believe it or not, the M&M museum (why is that called a museum?) and the Lego store across the street were also a hit with them. Go figure! In that same Piccadilly Circus area you can also go to Chinatown or go to one of the theater plays.
For us, we walked from Leicester Square to Covent Garden. Yes you can take the underground but the best of it all is to walk and discover little corners of the city that perhaps would be undiscovered.
Before my mum arrived, I bought tickets to see Mama Mia! in Convert Garden as a surprise for her and her friend. I never had a secret that was so easy to keep. I spent the whole day hinting that we had another place to go and no one asked where we were going until we were in the underground going there! What?
I cannot count how many times I was ready to lose my cool. They are retired and came relaxed and ready for a 2- week holiday and I was the tour guide who kept rushing them and keeping a close eye so they wouldn’t be run over by a car, making them stand on the right side of the escalator. I think this trip gave me PTSD. I know I shouldn’t be joking with such serious matters but… Ah! They LOVED Mama Mia!
Still in the free category, the parks! There are so many of them it’s hard to choose. We went to Hyde Park and Regent’s Park where we had a little picnic on the grass and I fed grapes to a squirrel. So cute!
Also free but you have to book in advance is Skygarden. Weather permitting, the view is beautiful. If the weather is bad, eat some cake and pretend you are a giant, I don’t know!
One of the areas that I love is London Bridge. You will not only be by the river, but there are loads to see, I would say that maybe the best is the Borough Market. Spend some time in the area and you will see many spaces that not many people go to. For example St. Katherine Docks which houses a surprisingly cheap pub, The Dickens Inn.
Other free random stuff: The Flower Market, Abbey Road, Carnaby Street, Notting Hill Market, Neal’s Yard, Buckingham Palace and Harrods (If you don’t buy anything :D) . You are going to laugh but I even took them to Ikea! There’s none in Brazil at the moment and me like meatballs!
Did I just called Buckingham Palace random stuff? I guess I did! Ops.
Onto the paid stuff, there were not many really. I took them to the Planetarium in Greenwich, and Mama Mia. Other than that, coffee, cake, sandwiches and dinner.
London is a city that offers many attractions and as you can see, it’s easy to fill in 2 weeks of entertainment on the cheap. My advice is book all you can in advance, including theater and attractions. If you want to go to the paid stuff instead of the free ones you can use the London Pass and you will have an array of attractions to choose from.
Mum is fine, friend is fine, they still talk about this trip. They are happy which is important. Me? I am still recovering from those two weeks, 7 months later.
Do you need help budgeting your translation strategy?