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London on a budget: 50 fun things to do for £5 or less

Broke? It’s okay – you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a really good time in London. We’ve picked the best things to do for next to no cash

By Kate Lloyd, Angela Hui and Alice Saville

It might sometimes seem like the only way to have fun in this city is to spend a wodge of cash, but there are actually loads of brilliant things to do in London for £5 (or even less). You can take a yoga class or get a haircut, you can neck oysters, dig into dumplings and sample some of the city’s finest culture (think ballet at the Royal Opera House, Shakespeare at the Globe and baroque murals at London’s very own ‘Sistine Chapel’ aka the Painted Hall). So don’t just fade away watching Netflix and waiting for payday – get out there and enjoy the best cheap stuff the capital has to offer. 

Tuck into London’s best cheap eats and check out the city’s top free art.

1. Fly a fighter jet, £4

Museums Science and technology South Kensington

Being an RAF pilot seems like a cool job. You get to fly very fast and loop-the-loop in front of royals. But it also seems like a lot of work, you know? And the danger bit isn’t great. Luckily, the Science Museum’s new Typhoon Force simulator let’s you feel like you’re flying a jet with zero effort. You’ll soar in formation over pretty North Wales, then descend from 40,000 feet. KL

Science Museum. South Kensington. £4.

2. Eat a curry at an institution, £5

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Indian Strand

One of London’s original curry houses, the India Club has been untouched by time or fashion since the 1950s. All the food here is flavoursome and you can tuck into a tasty dhal or sambar for just £5. Everyone loves a lentil. AH

India Club, Hotel Strand Continental. Temple. £5.


3. Drink like you’re in Taipei, £5

3 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Contemporary Asian Borough Market

Bao’s steamed buns might get all the glory, but the Taiwanese joint’s soft drinks are under-the-radar gems of hydration. Think peanut-milk bubble tea with chewy pearls, or ice-cream floats made with Yakult (easily London’s most fun way to improve your gut flora). AH

Bao Borough. London Bridge. All £5.

4. See Shakespeare as the Bard intended it, £5

Theatre Shakespeare South Bank

Dive into the Renaissance equivalent of a mosh pit by getting a £5 standing ticket at Shakespeare’s Globe. The Bard’s goriest, bawdiest moments were designed to whip ‘groundlings’ into a frenzy. Turn up early and you’ll be so close to the action you can lean on the stage. AS

Shakespeare’s Globe. Blackfriars. From April. £5.

Stephen Cheetham

5. Chuckle for nothing, PWYC

Bars and pubs Pubs Islington

Dedicated comedy pub The Bill Murray puts on free shows by circuit regulars and future stars several nights a week and every weekend. Turn up nice and early to bag a seat, and bring some cash to chuck in the bucket afterwards if the line-up tickles your funny bones. AS

The Bill Murray. Angel. Pay what you can.

6. Unwind with some fish, £4.50

Things to do Forest Hill

Sure, the London Aquarium is ever so big and has a shark pool, but the Horniman’s more modest space can take you on an equally magical journey through the rivers and oceans of the world, from British ponds to Fijian coral reefs. AH

Horniman Museum. Forest Hill Overground. Museum entry free. Aquarium £4.50, £2.50 children.


7. Time-travel in your lunch hour, £2.50

Restaurants British Marylebone

In a city of endless Prets, switch up your lunch with something truly special. Go back in time at Rothe’s gloriously old-school deli that’s been making sandwiches every which way since 1900. AH

Paul Rothe & Son. Bond St. From £2.50.

8. Soar above the Thames, £3.50

Attractions Towers and viewpoints Royal Docks

London’s very own cable car is a quixotic rival to the more pedestrian ways of getting around by walking, bussing and tubing. It offers views over the Thames from inside a gently swinging gondola (dispel any lingering motion sickness by exploring Greenwich’s fascinating, fast-changing docklands). AS

Emirates Air Line, between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Victoria Docks. North Greenwich. £3.50.


9. Unlock an old tradition, FREE

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Tower Hill

Glimpse medieval times at the Tower of London’s Ceremony of the Keys. Each night, the Yeomen Warders enact a 700-year-old key-swapping ritual as they lock up for the night. Online booking is essential (if not very medieval). AS

Tower of London. Tower Hill. Free.

10. Catch a new movie at a retro price, £4.99

Cinemas Independent Peckham

South London’s indie-cinema stalwart PeckhamPlex has a powerful USP: all the hottest new movies at ’90s prices. Cheap tickets mean you can afford to take a chance, whether it’s braving a messed-up horror flick or checking out the work of local filmmakers. AS

PeckhamPlex. Peckham Rye Overground. £4.99.

Stephen Cheetham

11. Get in a canoe, £5

Kayaking and canoeing might seem like coastal pursuits: something bored Cornish teenagers do to get their kicks when the swell’s bad for surfing. But you can learn the sport in London at Laburnum’s evening adult boat club (Wednesdays 7.30pm-9.30pm), where you’ll pick up paddling techniques in beautiful riverside surroundings. Book your place in advance. AH

Laburnum Boat Club. Haggerston Overground. £5.

12. Swoon over salt beef, £4.50

Restaurants Jewish Brick Lane

Why is Beigel Bake an institution? The answer’s in the window. A huge slab of succulent salt beef, carved to order. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cheap eat in London more iconic than that stuff in a beigel. Order with as much mustard as you can handle and a whopping gherkin. AH

Beigel Bake. Shoreditch High St Overground. £4.50.


13. Meet famous dead Londoners, £4

Attractions Cemeteries Highgate

This city’s greatest alumni are buried in the morbid marvel that is Highgate Cemetery. In the East Cemetery, seek out the graves of Claudia Jones, mother of Notting Hill Carnival, and painter Patrick Caulfield, who designed his own headstone, spelling out the word ‘dead’. Does exactly what it says on the plinth. AS

Highgate Cemetery. m Archway. East Cemetery £4 entry.

14. Dig dumplings, £5

3 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Chinese Chinatown

At Jen Café, a fiver gets you a plate of seven sticky, minced-pork-and-chive, Beijing-style steamed dumplings (jiaozi). For an extra quid you can have them fried. Go on, treat yourself. AH

Jen Café. Leicester Square. £5.


15. Visit the ‘Sistine Chapel’, FREE

Attractions Sightseeing Greenwich

On the first Wednesday of every month, visitors can see the 40,000-sq ft Baroque murals covering Greenwich’s Painted Hall for free. ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’ was painted more than 300 years ago and has just undergone a two-year restoration, so it’s looking fresh. KL

Old Royal Naval College. Cutty Sark DLR. Free on the first Wednesday of each month, £12 otherwise.

16. Relax in a lofty garden, FREE

Attractions Fenchurch Street

Get the lift to the top of the Walkie Talkie and you’ll emerge in a garden with sublime views of London. Spot Tower Bridge, The Shard, Wembley Stadium and more. Or kick back among the ferns and succulents that lushly carpet its floors. AS

Sky Garden. Monument. Free.

Stephen Cheetham

17. Get an edgy do, £5

Budding hairdressers at the Toni & Guy Academy are always looking for models to practise their cut and colour skills on. The only catch? You have to be adventurous (‘half an inch off the layers, tidy up the greys’ doesn’t count). AH

Toni & Guy Academy. Tottenham Court Rd. £5 cut, from £20 for colour.

18. Enjoy a leafy paradise, FREE

Cinemas Barbican

The Barbican’s light-filled conservatory is an Instagram influencer hotspot for a reason: brutalist architecture and sculptural succulents are a combo made in design heaven. Explore its leafy delights for free on Sundays. Don’t forget to jot down the names of your fave ferns, intend to seek them out as houseplants and then never get round to it. AS

Barbican Centre. Barbican. Free.


19. Discover hidden canal history, £5

Museums Specialist interest King’s Cross

The watery arteries that run through London are equally full of discarded shopping trollies and fascinating stories. Discover the latter at the London Canal Museum, which is packed with artefacts from the waterways’ heyday. It even has its own dock so you can explore some narrowboats up close. AS

London Canal Museum. King’s Cross. £5.

20. Get pedalo-ing, £4

Attractions Parks and gardens Dulwich

Boating excursions are a romcom staple for a reason: floating, swan-like, above birdshit-filled water is extremely romantic. Take a date on a pedalo ride in Crystal Palace Park for a peek at the dinosaurs, in Dulwich Park to circumnavigate a secret island or in Greenwich Park to see geese galore. AS

Dulwich Park. West Dulwich rail. From Easter. £4.

Greenwich Park. Maze Hill rail. From Easter. £4.

Crystal Palace Park. Crystal Palace Overground. From Easter. £5.


21. Be a fan stan, £5

Museums Art and design Greenwich

Greenwich’s Fan Museum, housed in a pair of Grade II-listed Georgian houses, is a fan-tastic tribute to the noblewoman’s most essential accessory. The collection includes a fan painted by artist Paul Gauguin, glam numbers from the ’20s and even concertina-ed retro adverts. AS

The Fan Museum. Cutty Sark DLR. Closed until Feb 1. £5.

22. Devour dhal-dipped rotis, £5

3 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Malaysian Euston

It’s no secret that basement Malaysian joint Roti King is comfort-food royalty – just look at its lunchtime queues. It’s well worth getting in line for its roti canai: two pieces of flaky flatbread and a pot of moreish dhal that’ll make you feel like you’re getting a cuddle from a fluffy, friendly bear. AH

Roti King. Euston. £5.

Stephen Cheetham

23. Experience perfect pizza, £3.50

Restaurants Pizza Dalston

Open as wide as you can for Voodoo Ray’s extremely huge slices of very good New York-style pizza. The best in London? That’s a matter of opinion. But we do reckon these perfectly sloppy segments are the best you can get in Dalston or Peckham after midnight. And they start from just £3.50 for the margherita! And you can sit in! AH

Voodoo Ray’s Dalston. Dalston Kingsland Overground. From £3.50 a slice.

24. Relive your childhood, £1

Things to do Games and hobbies Finsbury Park

This sticky-carpeted paradise of Rowans is all about revisiting simple pleasures: playing arcade games, dancing to tinny R&B and getting brainfreeze from a neon slushie (it comes in many flavours – they all taste identical, and great), although if you want to bowl you’ll have to shell out a bit more than a fiver. AS

Rowans. Finsbury Park. £1-£3 entry, £2.30 slushie.


25. Get a plant-based junk food fix, £5

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Vegan Hackney

Before fast-food chains got all confused about meatlessness, faux fried chicken pioneer Temple of Hackney was battering seitan the actual vegan way. Sure, it’s about as healthy as eating deep-fried bread, but the Strips ’n’ Chips combo of two ‘wings’, small fries and a pot of sauce will kill all hunger pangs instantly. AH

Temple of Hackney. Hackney Central Overground. £5.

26. Eat a katsu pie, £5

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Vegan Camden Market

Is the winter cold getting you down? Warm up at Young Vegans in Camden. You’ll find flaky pastry treats stuffed with plant-based versions of fillings ranging from classic (steak and ale) to wild (‘cheezeburger’) to one of the best things you’ll ever eat (chick’n katsu). AH

Camden Market. Camden Town. £5 per pie.

Stephen Cheetham

27. See a pas de deux for pas de cash, £5

Music Classical and opera Covent Garden

Balletomanes on a budget can enjoy cut-price pirouettes courtesy of the Royal Ballet’s £5 tickets. You’ll be sitting (or standing) in the vertiginous Amphitheatre (higher than the Balcony), so bring binoculars to gaze at the action on stage, or indeed at the immaculately dressed punters in the stalls below. AS

Royal Opera House. Covent Garden. £5.

28. Take a bao, £2.50

Restaurants Chinese Chinatown

Don’t want none unless you got buns, hun? Well, you’re in luck, because Bun House offers towers of Cantonese-style pillowy steamed numbers filled with everything from pork to custard. If fluffy comfort food is what you’re craving, this house should become your home from home. AH

Bun House. Leicester Square. £2.50 per bun.


29. Make a splash, £2

Things to do Walks and tours Hampstead Heath

Are there any Londoners hardier than the winter swimming crowd at Hampstead Heath Ponds? These bargain-hunting tough nuts get their thrills and chills for just £2, which allows access for a whole day. Sack off the gym pool and join them, if you dare. AH

Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds. Hampstead Heath Overground. £2.

30. Build a Lego robot, £5

Bars and pubs Café bars Caledonian Road

Unearth skills that have lain dormant since primary school at one of café-bar Drink, Shop & Do’s whimsical workshops. Its Lego robot-building sessions invite groups to battle it out in a less technically challenging version of ‘Robot Wars’. AS

Drink, Shop & Do. King’s Cross. Next Lego Robots workshop Jan 22. £5 deposit.

Stephen Cheetham

31. See great art (and science) after dark, FREE

London’s museums lead something of a double life, getting up to all sorts once the sun has set. South Kensington’s most venerable institutions have monthly after-dark openings that let you flit around their collections, dance to DJ sets and try your hand at activities inspired by their current exhibitions. The lates at the Science Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and Natural History Museum are all free. AS

South Kensington. Free (some lates are ticketed).

32. Test your vagina knowledge at a fun night out, £3

Museums Camden Market

Are you a mufficionado or a nookie rookie? Find out at the Vagina Museum’s anatomy-based Pub(e) Quiz, which will challenge your vulva know-how. Keep the fanny-tastic fun flowing at the institution’s regular Bajingo Bingo nights. AS

Vagina Museum. Camden Town. Next Pub(e) Quiz Feb 10. Next Bajingo Bingo Mon Jan 20. £3.


33. See the city from the top of 311 stairs, £5.00

Attractions Sightseeing City of London

Named with commendable straightforwardness, the Monument is one of London’s OG tourist attractions. This 61-metre stone pillar memorialises the Great Fire of London and was built a few years after the 1666 disaster. Send your step-counter into overdrive by corkscrewing your way up the spiral staircase inside. AS

The Monument. Monument. £5.00

34. Meet a goat, FREE

Attractions Farms Vauxhall

Come nose to nose with the most soulful of animals at Vauxhall City Farm, which allows you to feed its goats. Fred, Barney and their friends will submit to a pat in exchange for a generous handful of grass nuts from the farm’s feed dispenser. AS

Vauxhall City Farm. Vauxhall. Free entry, donations welcome.


35. Borrow a bike for an hour, £4

Things to do Festivals Haggerston

Don’t let tourists hog the Santander bikes. Those ruby numbers are your ticket to a whole load of adventure. A day’s bike hire plus 30 minutes’ ride time costs just £2 (every extra 30 minutes is another couple of quid). That means for less than a fiver you could spend an hour cycling along the Thames from Battersea Park or spinning through the birthplace of GMT itself in Greenwich. AH

Various locations. £4 for bike rental and an hour’s ride.

36. Pretend you’re on a savannah, FREE

5 out of 5 stars
Attractions Zoos and aquariums Regent’s Park

Regent’s Canal offers loads to look at: start with the cybergoths of Camden Market then head west to get a peek at London Zoo’s wild dogs, which live in a canalside enclosure. Enjoy watching them wolfing down hunks of meat suspended on a zipline by wily zookeepers. AS

Regent’s Canal. Camden Rd Overground. Free.

Stephen Cheetham

37. Get a round in, £4.80

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Pubs Fleet Street

Two pints for under a fiver in central London? In this economy? You better believe it. God bless Sam Smith, Yorkshire’s patron saint of extremely cheap drinking. In Fleet Street’s Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, one of the most atmospheric Sam Smith’s pubs in Zone 1 (and a fave of Charles Dickens, no less)you can sink a pint of Alpine Lager for just £2.40. AH

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. City Thameslink rail. Pints from £2.40.

38. Neck oysters like a posho, £1

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Oyster bars South Kensington

Want to feel like the fanciest diner in town? Head to Wright Brothers in Battersea, South Kensington, Soho or Spitalfields on weekdays between 3pm and 6pm, where you’ll be able to gorge on fresh oysters for just a quid a pop. AH

Wright Brothers. Various locations. £1 per oyster.


39. Sip a frozen Margarita, £3.50

Restaurants Pizza Spitalfields

Sure, you can get a whole margherita pie at Pizza Union for £3.50, but did you know its frozen Margaritas cost the same? Live out your Miami pool-party dreams by indulging in slushy cocktails in such glamorous locations as King’s Cross and Old Street roundabout. AH

Pizza Union. Various Locations. £3.50.

40. Give your face a present, FREE

Shopping Toys and games Knightsbridge

You might be surprised to learn that La Mer, arguably the fanciest purveyor of moisturiser in the world, dishes out free 15-minute facials at its counter in Harrods. Bag yourself the golden-hued skin of a person much richer than you. AH

Harrods. Knightsbridge. Free.


41. Cheer on Chelsea FC Women, £3

Sport and fitness Stadiums Kingston

Why pay a small fortune to watch Chelsea men’s team kick a ball around, when you can see its women’s squad play at their ground in Kingston from just three quid? Sure, the Kingsmeadow stadium’s less fancy than Stamford Bridge but you can grab a bacon-and-sausage bap from neighbouring Fat Boys Cafe for a mere £2.90 to enhance your experience. Glory fans might prefer to splash out £7 to watch top-of-the-league Arsenal’s home games. Or do both. KL

Kingsmeadow. New Malden rail. From £3.

Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle
© Ian Macaulay

42. Explore a gothic castle, £3.50

Things to do Eltham

With a name that would make JRR Tolkien sit up and take notice, Severndroog Castle in deepest south London is a lofty folly built by an eighteenth-century lady as a memorial to her husband. Visit for panoramic views of the capital, ancient woodland and general spooky chills. KL

Severndroog Castle. Falconwood rail. Saturdays and Sundays. £3.50.


43. Take a hot choc for a stroll, £3.95

Restaurants Borough Market

Take yourself on a date ripped straight from a schmaltz town and spend a crisp winter afternoon wandering along the South Bank, hot chocolate in hand. The rich and comforting salted caramel number from Hotel Chocolat’s restaurant Rabot 1745 in Borough should be your go-to. Opt for a big ’un. KL

Rabot 1745. London Bridge. £3.95 for a large.

44. Party at Duckie, £5

Nightlife Clubs Vauxhall

LGBTQ+ stalwart Duckie turns 25 this year, but is it getting old, sensible, and into batch cooking? Oh no. Every Saturday, host Amy Lamé presides over a messy, sweaty night that’s dedicated to getting the crowd dancing, complete with cabaret spots from London’s alt-drag stars. AS

Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Vauxhall. Saturdays. £5 before 10.30pm.

Venue says The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is currently closed with Covid Tier 4 enforcement until further notice.


45. See a really, really bad movie, £3.50

4 out of 5 stars
Nightlife Late-night bars Shoreditch

If you get your kicks taking the piss out of daft plot twists and shocking acting, you’re probably a terrible person. But you’ll also enjoy Crap Film Club, a monthly meet-up for bad fans of bad films, with a different wretched movie screened at each event. You’re sure to have a perfectly awful time. KL

The Book Club. Old St. Early bird tickets £5.

46. Ease into the week with… jazz, FREE

Every Sunday, The Royal Albert in Deptford gets a bunch of good musicians from local colleges in to play classic soul, disco and pop with a jazz twist. It’s usually packed, it’s usually buzzy and it usually ends in mass dancing. A relaxing end to the weekend. KL

The Royal Albert. New Cross Overground. Sundays. Free.

Stephen Cheetham

47. Stretch it out, £2

Things to do Bermondsey

Say ‘namaste’ to affordable yoga at one of DIY Space’s pay-what-you-can vinyasa flow yoga classes. There’s no booking, just turn up, bring your own mat and we’ll see you in Shavasana. AH

DIY Space for London. 96-108 Ormside St. South Bermondsey rail. Membership £2.

48. Push language to its limits, £5

Restaurants American Waterloo

Push language to its limits, £5 Rhymes with Orange is a monthly sesh that lets wordsmiths of all abilities show off their linguistic chops. Resident poets show the crowd how it’s done, newbies can sign up to open-mic slots and the audience can turn the air blue with the night’s popular limerick challenge. AS

The Horse & Stables. Lambeth North. SE1 7RW. £5.


49. Get judged by an old-school robot, £3.50

Things to do Games and hobbies Holborn

Holborn alternative art den Novelty Automation is full of mechanical weirdness putting a DIY spin on traditional seaside arcades. Grab a fistful of tokens and try your hand at ‘Is It Art?’, which will cast an expert (robotic) eye over your creations, or learn quantum physics with the ‘Small Hadron Collider’. AS

Novelty Automation. Holborn. £3.50 for five tokens.

50. Get down at London’s funnest funk night, £5

Things to do Cultural centres Peckham

Desperate for a dance? CLF Art Cafe stalwart The South London Soul Train is a surefire spot for big-time boogying, with playlists packed with rare disco vinyl and extremely funky soul. Get there early for blinding live sets from artists from around the world. Arrive post-3am to hang out with mainly shitfaced Goldsmiths students. Win-win. KL

CLF Art Cafe, Bussey Building. Peckham Rye Overground. Early bird tickets £5 (more on the door).

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