London for under a tenner in your lunch hour

Explore London on the cheap at lunchtime

© Trustees of the British Museum

Leave your desk behind and do something different in your lunch hour for just £10 (or even less!). With a bit of imagination plus our suggestions on things to do for next to nothing, you'll never be stumped if you're strapped for cash in the capital. Got some suggestions of your own? Just add them in the comments below

  • Take tea in the British Museum

    44 Great Russell St, London, WC1B 3DG (7323 8000 /

    You could have a cuppa in one of the museum's many various cafés, but if you have time why not enjoy the free 'Way of Tea' session instead? This demonstration of the Japanese tea ceremony takes place in Room 92 roughly once a fortnight. There is also a terrific programme of free gallery talks focused around the current blockbuster exhibition. Many of them are also timed just right (45 minutes) for a lunchbreak.

  • Listen to a lunchtime recital

    Listening to live classical music in London can often be an expensive pastime but there are several churches around town where astonishingly good recitals can be heard and you'll come away with change from a tenner. The Church of St James's, Piccadilly offers a holy grail of free (donation welcomed) recital programming with free 50 minute concerts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. At St Giles-in-the-Fields Church there are free concerts every Friday from 1.10pm whilst around the corner at St Martin-in-the-Fields a donation of £3.50 will get you in to a free lunchtime recital at 1pm every Monday, Tuesday and Friday with works from the likes of Franck, Parry, Mozart and Gershwin.

  • Eat pie and mash at Manze's

    87 Tower Bridge Road, Bermondsey, SE1 4TW

    London's got loads of good-value places to eat, but it's rare that you'll be spending less than a fiver on food in as lovely surroundings as those at Manze's on Tower Bridge Road. London's oldest pie and mash shop (eels - jellied and stewed - also available, of course) was established in 1902 by the present owner's grandfather, Michele Manze, of Ravello in southern Italy, and the same art nouveau-style green and cream tiles grace the walls as did back then.

  • Take advantage of free wi-fi

    Why work from home when some of London's most impressive cultural centres, quirky little cafés and world-class museums are more than happy for you to pitch up, log on and generally make like their gaff is your very own office for the day? Take advantage of the free wi-fi at Barbican Centre, Camden Arts Centre or Royal Festival Hall.

  • Indulge in tea and cake

    Tea at the Ritz and other 'ritzy' London hotels will set you back anything up to £40 but London has many tea rooms where you'll come away with change from a tenner. Bea's of Bloomsbury offer a vast selection of teas from prestige specialist Jing and exceptionally pretty cupcakes with dusky blue walls and plush velvet chairs providing a glamorous contrast to the bakery. Spitalfield's premier tearoom Tea Smith - with its distinctly Japanese aesthetic - is undeniably stylish. Pair teas sourced directly from the Far East with the delightfully innovative offerings from leading pastry chef William Curley.

  • Pedal to the shops

    The odd argument with drivers aside, the capital can be a great place to cycle through. A lunchtime pedal to the shops is feasible thanks to London Cycle Hire Scheme. Head to Holburn, Farringdon and Islington for a spot of window shopping and bargain browsing. Start at Bayley Street and take in Russell Square and Guildford Street, before heading up Calthorpe Street into Farringdon, Rosebery Avenue, Upper Street and Camden Passage. Highlights in order of appearance include Russell Square Gardens, Lambs Conduit Street (with Persephone Books and Symphonic Records), Exmouth Market and after zipping past Sadler's Wells you'll reach Camden Passage, a cobbled lane with everything from high-end jewellers to heavily laden junk shops.

  • Foyles bookstore

    Take your time in London's bookshops

    Why not step away from the office and during your lunch hour explore another world. Take a look around one of London's fascinating bookshops, then sit back, relax, and unwined whilst reading a classic. Here are a few of our favourites: Hatchards, Foyles, London Review Bookshop and Skoob.

  • Pick a perfect place to picnic

    There's no need to leave town to picnic in the fresh air, surrounded by trees and flowers. Concrete jungle it may be, but London is also one of the world's greenest capitals. Grab some cucumber sandwiches and settle yourself on the lawns of Hampstead Heath, Regent's Park, or the charmingly secluded Holland Park during your next lunch hour.

  • Have a proper coffee in the West End

    Amid the West End's sea of crappuccino merchants there are some very special coffee shop gems. For a classic Italian coffee try the cosy Caffè Vergnano 1882 or Bar Italia if you're in need of a short, sharp caffeine hit. If you wish to relax, the charming Milk Bar or airy Lantana are perfect for a chin-wagging, supping session.

  • Stretch out with yoga

    Clapham North Arts Centre, Unit R Block 1, 26-32 Voltaire Road, Clapham, SW4 6DH

    New students who book online at the Shala Yoga Centre get a free introductory class (thereafter £13 for drop-in). This warm and inviting yoga studio offers daily ashtanga yoga classes as well as workshops and yoga for pregnancy.

  • Scoop dreams: the capital's finest ice creams

    Indulge in ice cream

    Tuck into something sweet at the capital's best ice-cream parlours. Were it not for the queues snaking out of the door on sunny Friday lunchtimes it would be easy to miss Scoop, an authentic Italian gelateria, discreetly tucked away in Covent Garden serving a host of artisan-made ices. Gelato Mio in the centre of Holland Park's ritzy parade of shops and Chalk Farm's iconic Marine Ices reflect a heritage of Italian favourites such as stracciatella and gianduia.

  • Eat old-school sweets

    For a proper, old-fashioned sugar fix head to Hope and Greenwood which opened its doors in 2004 to the delight of many children (at heart) who yearned for cola cubes, sherbert pipes and rosy apples. Over in Soho, Mrs Kibble's Olde Sweet Shoppe is a very handy source of liquorice twists, clove rock and swirly lollipops - perfect for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

  • Buy Chinese food in Chinatown

    Near Leicester Square, WC2H 7JS

    Head to New Loon Moon - labyrinth of pan-Asian delights - for an unrivalled range of products from different countries including China, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, India, Japan, Malaysia and even Burma. While Loon Fung is one of the only oriental supermarkets in this part of town to have a butcher's counter - pork shin bones and chicken feet are offered alongside more traditional cuts.

  • Get active at Fitness First

    Across London

    Kick start your journey to improved health and see how the gym bunnies live with a free one-day guest pass at your local Fitness First.

  • Take a stroll around Covent Garden Piazza

    WC2E 9DD

    Covent Garden is the only area of London licensed for street entertainment and as such attracts performers from around the world. In the open Piazza jugglers, mime artists, variety acts and musicians delight and amaze the crowds and make for the perfect lunch hour filler.

  • Browse under Waterloo Bridge

    SE1 7LT

    Stroll along the South Bank and before long you'll find the second-hand book market under Waterloo Bridge, a venerable London institution and a great place to browse for literary classics, out-of-print books and old magazines and prints (many of which you'll get for less than a tenner).

  • Eat at the home of Reggae Reggae sauce

    8 Lavender Road, SW11 2UG (7924 2288/

    Super charismatic marinade maverick and 'Dragon's Den' slayer Levi Roots opened his own restaurant in Battersea in 2007. Definitely one for the frugal, the Papine Jerk Centre offers a small but uncomplicated menu of Caribbean staples: Jamaica's national dish, achkee and saltfish is a crowd pleaser (expect queues at lunchtime), or try the richly seasoned mains of jerk chicken or curried goat with a side of fried plantain.