Living in London for Free(ish)

We know what New York, Tokyo, Berlin, and the like might have to say but facts are facts: London is the greatest city on Earth. And that’s a fact. Fact.

What isn’t so great though is trying to figure out how to squeeze the most of this buzzing metropolitan — there’s so much going on and cool things to discover ‘round every corner. Whether you’re born and raised in LDN or a newcomer to the capital, knowing how to keep your money in your pocket is an art form in itself.

Luckily for you, that’s sort of what we do here at London on the Inside. We’ve put our heads together and come up with some brilliant tips for areas of London life where the pocket usually feels a pinch.

Did Somebody Say ‘Free’?

Yes, London can be expensive, but it’s also the best place in the country for free experiences.

First of all, there are enough free museums to visit that you could explore one every weekend and never run out of things to see, thanks to rotating exhibitions, special events, and new acquisitions. Some of our top picks include the V&A Museum, Design Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and… The Chocolate Museum (oh, yeah!).

If music is more your thing, the Royal Opera House put on free ‘Live at Lunch’ performances, which is ideal for taking in a spot of high culture on your day off work. In a similar vein, the Royal Academy of Music put on lunchtime concerts for the bargain price of £0. Combine art and music at the monthly Tate Lates down by the Thames at Tate Modern.

Famously, Covent Garden is a haven for street performers. If you’ve never seen them in action, make a bee-line for this West End icon and prepare to be amazed. Once you’ve finished there, there’s always more to see within the bustling Apple Market where craft makers and boutique stores offer their wares (you will have to pay for anything that takes your fancy, unfortunately).

And talking about markets, there’s an almost endless supply for you to wander. You’ve probably heard of Greenwich and Borough markets, but some of the lesser-known are equally worth a visit.

Under Waterloo Bridge, you’ll find the Southbank Centre Book Market, full of second-hand classics and contemporaries, maps, prints, and other good stuff.

Brick Lane Market is a real jungle and well worth checking out. Spread out over several streets, there’s always plenty of delights for the senses here. Visit on Sunday and you’ll have 200 stalls to wander!

We’re just scratching the surface here, but one place we couldn’t leave out is Columbia Road Flower Market. Get down early to pick up the best bunches, bulbs, cut flowers, and shrubs at this horticultural institution. The heavenly scents wafting through the streets is reason enough to get out of bed!

Maybe I Should Just Stay?

Ah, the timeless challenge: buying a place to live in London. If there’s ever a time where money will be tight, it’s when you’re buying a house (let’s be honest, it’ll be a flat in London). So, we were somewhat stunned to find a mortgage broker that offers their comparison services for free. Like, completely free. Trussle is great; their mortgage advisers have the lowdown on housing price ups and downs in the areas you’re looking at, stacks of info specifically for first-time buyers, mortgage comparisons, and loads more.

From Morden to Edgware and Back Again

But what about getting around? Well, travelling London is actually much cheaper than you might think. The Hopper fare was introduced in September 2016 and now allows passengers to jump on and off an unlimited number of bus and tram services across London within a one-hour timescale. As far as transport in London goes, that is practically free of charge.

If you’re just visiting London for a short period and/or plan to travel outside of zones 1-2, consider getting a Visitor Oyster Card. Not only can it work out up to 50% cheaper than regular public transport, but it also bags you discounts across restaurants, shops, the Emirates Air Line cable car, and Thames Clipper riverboat. Bargain.

Finally, a lot of the central major tourist attractions are pretty close to each other — and definitely within walking distance with equally good public transport options. Hopefully with all these tips, whether you’re a tourist or resident, there should be enough to make the most out of London.