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How to have a cheap weekend in London

Staying in the capital can often be expensive but you don't need to be put off by that. We talk you through where to sightsee for free, where the cheapest food and drink is, how you can travel cheaply and much more. 

There’s no beating a weekend in London. With so much culture, art and atmosphere on offer, it’s no wonder millions of visitors flock to the UK’s capital city every month. 

But London’s expensive – and a weekend in the capital can set you back a good few hundred pounds, even if you’re trying to do it cheaply. For many would-be visitors, the costs of spending an all-inclusive weekend in London can be a real turn-off.

But it’s possible to enjoy a non-restrictive, all-inclusive weekend in London without spending a fortune. We’re talking sightseeing, entertainment, food and drink and accommodation. In this guide, we explain how.

Cheap weekend apartments in London

Finding an affordable place to stay in London can be the most effective way to keep your overall costs down – but an affordable place in London is not easy to find. Hotel prices in the capital are much higher than the UK average, and at weekends, guests will have to front the premium prices on top. In fact, the average cost of a London hotel is £150 a night - with many other charging significantly more than that. 

But there are ways to keep your accommodation costs down. For example, staying further away from the city centre is an option. Others opt to rent spare rooms in Airbnb apartments so they’re not paying to rent a whole flat.

However, if you do want your own space and you want to be central, that’s where Stay Central comes in. 

With Stay Central, you can stay in University of London apartments and halls for as long as you need, whether it’s a weekend trip or longer. Our accommodation is both affordable and fantastically located, letting you stay in the heart of London for significantly less than most hotels and apartments in the area. For more information about our range of accommodation, take a look at the availability and prices.

Cheap and affordable sightseeing in London

There’s a lot to see in London, and a lot of it you can see for free - or at least very cheaply. Some of the most iconic landmarks in London don’t cost a thing to go and see. These include:

  • Seeing the lions at Trafalgar Square 
  • Walking by London Bridge
  • Going to see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (Although up until 2021 you’ll see quite a lot of scaffolding instead of a clock face)
  • Walking by Southbank to see the London Eye 
  • Walking through Camden Market 
  • Browsing the stalls at Borough Market 

If you do have some money budgeted for sightseeing in London, you can opt for a tour of London. Many people choose bus tours to get a grasp of the city, but a great way to do this cheaply is by joining a Free Walking Tour. 

In a Free Walking Tour, a trained, local guide will take you around various monuments in London, explaining the history behind each of the landmarks. The best bit about these tours is you won’t have to pay a thing! Although it is expected that you tip at the end of the tour, this will still cost much less than a bus or paid tour – and you’ll get a lot for your money!

You can take a look at the range of free tours offered. Covering everything from the main landmarks of London, to tours dedicated to London’s graffiti and pubs – you’ll be able to find a sight-seeing tour that will guide you through the parts of London you want to experience.

london market scene
London Market stall

Cheap food and drink in London

After accommodation, food and drink is one of the biggest expenses during a weekend away. In London, this is no exception, and a night drinking and eating can eat into your budget.

But treating yourself to dinner in the capital doesn’t have to break the bank. London is brimming with pubs and restaurants and there are plenty of high quality, budget eateries among them. This means you can enjoy dinner out without feeling like you’re doing it on the cheap.

For example, this list of affordable restaurants from London Eater maps out where you can find cheap food in London, while those on the hunt for super cheap eats will find meals for under £5 on this list.

An alternative is to prepare picnics for lunch and dinner! (Depending on the weather, of course.) 

London is also home to huge amount of vast, beautiful green spaces which can make for some really lovely picnic spots. Combine a picnic with a visit to Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common, Hyde Park or St James’s Park and you’ll enjoy a cheaper meal while also enjoying some of the most renowned parks in London.

Cheap shopping in London

If you’re going to London on a budget, then a shopping splurge is unlikely to be at the top of your to do list. However, the shopping scene in London is impressive and an afternoon spent window shopping can be a great way to enjoy some of London’s most iconic areas.

Head to the likes of Bond Street, Oxford Street and Carnaby Street and you’ll get a real taste of the some of the most buzzing, exciting parts of London. And if you manage to avoid buying anything – an afternoon window shopping can be a totally free, yet authentic London experience.

If you do fancy buying a few souvenirs but can’t front the high street prices, London is also a great place to go charity shop shopping. (There’s some great info on charity shop crawls here). There are also lots of reasonably priced high street shops along with cheaper vintage stores that can make a London shopping spree much more affordable. Take a look here at a list of London’s cheapest shops.  

Free and cheap entertainment in London

Entertainment in London isn’t hard to come by. And the best bit is there’s no need to spend much, if not any, money in order to enjoy what the city has to offer in terms of things to do. 

This guide from Visit London details up to 101 things you can do for free in London. From art galleries and museums to things to do with children, there’s an abundance of options for all tastes without having to spend a penny. 

If you have some money saved for entertainment in London, this guide details everything you can do for under £10. From a trip to Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium (at £15pp) to a dip in one of London’s famous outdoor lidos, there’s something cheap for everyone to do in London, no matter where your interests lie.

Affordable accommodation in the heart of the city

Stay in our bed and breakfast or self-catered apartments in central London. Find more about our accommodation and where it's situated here.

Affordable zone 1 accommodation
Portobello road sign and market purchases
Market Stall shopping in London

Travel cheaply in London for a weekend

London is very well connected, making it easy to get around. However public transport, such as the underground and buses, can be quite expensive. An Oyster card topped up with £20 (£25 in total once you’ve paid a £5 deposit) should be enough to get you around the city for a two-day visit. 

When you’re planning your trip, make sure you budget for this cost, as it’s difficult to avoid. However, it is possible to reduce your reliance on the tube by walking across the city. Throughout the centre it’s possible to walk between tube stops, meaning you’ll be able to save money on travel, while also enjoying the sights of central London.

Plan your cheap weekend in London in advance

Although London is expensive, you’ll see it’s completely possible to spend a weekend there without worrying too much about the cost. From accommodation to entertainment, there are loads of things on offer to ensure you enjoy London to the fullest without breaking the bank. 

But as with anything, this takes planning. So, before you head off on your weekend break to London, make sure you have the following planned in advance – it will save you a lot of money and temptation!

  • Your accommodation booked
  • Your travel within London budgeted for 
  • Your cheaper restaurants/bars chosen or booked in advance
  • Your entertainment itinerary planned 

Cheap weekend accommodation in London

At Stay Central, we provide affordable, short term accommodation in the heart of London. Our University of London apartments and halls are available for as long as you need and are ideal for a cheap weekend trip to London.

Both affordable, as well as conveniently located, our accommodation in the heart of London costs significantly less than most hotels and apartments in the area. We offer single bedrooms from just £46 a night, doubles from £88, and entire apartments from only £100.  

For more information about our range of accommodation types, take a look at our availability and prices here

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