London is considered one of the world’s most exciting and fashionable cities. I have never really fallen in love with it, but that’s probably because I wish I were prancing about in Duchess of Cambridge outfits and jumping into black cabs at my whimsy.
With its skyrocketing costs and my groundrocketing (is that a word? it should be) bank account, however, that’s never been possible.
So, how can I visit London in style, without spending a million pounds?
I am clearly not the person to ask, as I usually find myself eating meat pies and sleeping on couches. Thus, for this post, I enlisted the help of one of my best (and most stylish) friends who has called the city home for a few years. (Thanks a million, Claire! I will buy you a beer in Jordan! If they have beer there?)
Getting there & around
- Use frequent flyer miles. British Airways Visa offered an astounding 100,000 mile sign-up bonus last spring, which would get you from New York to London and back FIVE TIMES, for nothing more than some taxes and fees. (Or, since we’re talking stylish, that’s could instead be two round-trips in business class AND one in economy!)
- If that’s not an option, set a price alert on Kayak, or look at prices into nearby European cities, from which you can hop on a flight with a budget carrier.
- As for getting around, nothing’s cooler than the black cabs. If you don’t believe me, check out the Black Cab Sessions.
- For cheaper alternatives, the famed London Tube and double-decker buses always work, or check out the new public bike share — first 30 minutes are free!
- The best way to save money and dine in style is to get a tastecard. This little card gives you 50% off of more than 5,500 restaurants in the UK. It costs £80 for 12 months… but you can get a FREE 30 day trial — perfect for travelers!
- If you’re in London at the end of March, be sure to take advantage of the London Restaurant Fortnight (way better than restaurant WEEK, right?), during which you can enjoy three course dinners for £25 at many of the city’s best restaurants.
- Borough Market is an easy stop after the Tower of London – with fresh fruits and veggies and lots of yummy food.
- Personal recommendations from Claire: Wahaca on Wardour St in Soho (good for a pre-show meal – cheerful and easy!), Ottolenghi (near Angel, awesome food), Hummingbird Bakery (Notting Hill), Boddington’s Cafe (near Vauxhall, vegan community-run kitchen with a lovely lovely atmosphere…and it’s BYOB), and Moro (Exemouth Market).
- There are a zillion pubs in London, and it’s tough to go wrong. The Ye Olde Cheshire Cat is good and old-timey.
- To save money but still go to swanky places, why not check out happy hours? Sidle up and grab a pint with London’s stylish working masses.
- Claire’s faves: Charlotte St Hotel (for a day-time classy but expensive drink!), Gordon’s Wine Bar (pre-dinner drinks), The Book Club in Shoreditch (low-key bar/club), and Fabric night club (where the cool – but not toooo cool- kids hang out).
- London has an incredible arts scene, and what’s more stylish than a night at the theatre or opera? You can find same-day, HALF-PRICE tickets for many fabulous West End shows at the tkts booth in Leicester Square.
- Walking over the bridge to the Tate Modern (museum of contemporary art), you just feel cool. Best part? It’s free. To feel extra smart, take a free tour at 11 am, 12 pm, or 3 pm.
- Though the London Eye is a bit cheesy (and pricey), it’s great fun on a clear night. Pair it with a river cruise and save a few pounds (£25 for both).
- And, of course, all the essentials: Tower of London (well worth it!), British Museum, Imperial War Museum (really is sooo cool), National Portrait Gallery, Buckingham Palace. Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street, and Picadilly Circus.
- Though you might have to remove your fancy-pants boots beforehand, wandering is always free, and a great way to see more of London.
- An amble up Primrose Hill will give you fantastic views of the city. Afterwards, head to one of the cafes on Regents Park Road for apple crumble.
- On a lazy (hungover?) afternoon, why not wander around Southbank — down the river from Waterloo to London Bridge, enjoying lots of fun things to see and pubs to visit along the way.
- And, we can’t forget the gardens: Covent Garden, Hampstead Heath, and Kew Gardens.
- You can’t consider yourself stylish unless you do a little shopping, right? Try out these markets that the locals love.
- Cafes, awesome vintage clothes, and lots of hipster-watching are on offer at the Spitalfield markets in Shoreditch. It’s also close to Brick Lane, a street lined with curry houses.
- No visit to London is complete without a stop at Harrod’s. You don’t have to buy anything – just enjoy the experience!
- Broadway Market is ultra-hip and off the beaten track. Claire suggests walking there along the canal from Angel Tube Station, which takes a little while but will let you see a different side of London.
- And, of course, you can’t miss Portobello Market (from the movie Notting Hill). Unfortch, Hugh Grant sightings aren’t guaranteed.
- There are loads of boutique hotels in London, or you could try CouchSurfing.
- But, what would be more stylish than staying in a luxurious home or flat? The new service onefinestay (this post’s sponsor) seems like a winner. Though a bit pricey, it rents out stylish London homes while the owners are out of town. A cool feature is that the owners leave a list of where they eat/shop/etc., so that you don’t have to feel like a tourist!
Any Londonistas out there that can help me out with more tips on visiting London in style? On a budget? What would you add to this list?
This post is sponsored by onefinestay, which offers stylish accommodations in London. Though I’ve never used the service, it seems like a cool accommodation option.