Christmas might be the most wonderful time of year, but it can also be expensive. With presents and endless parties and gatherings, it’s no surprise that your wallet feels a bit lighter come January. But the time of year full of festive cheer doesn’t have to mean draining your hard-earned savings. TfL’s off-peak fares starting from £1.50 – and their free and discounted travel for kids in London – mean that getting around to festivals, markets and dazzling light displays is super affordable.
Remember to check TfL Journey Planner before you travel.
1. Head for the big city lights
Christmas wouldn’t be complete without going to see some festive lights for free. And if you head to Oxford Circus, you can tick off four of the capital’s best displays in one free, LED-fuelled trip. Start your jaunt on Oxford Street, before heading on to see the displays on Regent Street and Carnaby Street. And if you’ve got the stamina for more sparkle, wander over to the glitz and glamour of Covent Garden. And here's a handy tip: did you know that you can get an off-peak fare when travelling into Zone 1 from Zones 2-6 during evening peak hours (4-7pm)? Off-peak fares then continue to apply until 6.30am the next morning! Fares start from £2.40 for an adult off-peak pay as you go journey on all Tube, DLR and most London Overground services.
Getting there Bakerloo, Central or Victoria line to Oxford Circus.
Local bus routes 6, 7, 12, 13, 55, 73, 94, 98, 139, 159, 189, 390, 453, N3, N7, N8, N18, N55, N73, N98, N109, N113, N136, N137, N207.
2. Experience some left-field festive traditions
Whether you’re a lifelong Londoner or have recently arrived in the capital, it’s always worth seeking out left-field attractions and festive traditions over Christmas – many of which are accessible during off-peak hours. Canter down to Greenwich on Sunday December 16 to bear witness to the ninth annual Pantomime Horse Race; or watch runners dressed as Christmas elves navigate inflatable mazes in Covent Garden on Sunday December 8. And given that both of these activities are at the weekend, savings on TfL travel are guaranteed: all travel at weekends is off-peak, no matter what time you go.
Getting to the Pantomime Horse Race DLR to Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich.
Local bus routes 129, 177, 180, 188, 199, 386, N1, N199.
Getting to the Great Christmas Pudding Race Piccadilly/Northern line to Leicester Square.
Local bus routes RV1, 9, 13, 15, 139, 153.
3. Get out and about on a Santander Cycle
There’s nothing like experiencing festive London on two wheels – plus, hiring a Santander Cycle is one of the most affordable ways to get around (and it's even open on Christmas Day!). It's only £2 to access the bikes for 24 hours, and the first 30 minutes of each journey are included.
4. Be charmed by a carol concert
Admit it: there’s nothing quite like a verse or two of ‘Silent Night’ to get you in the festive mood. Sure, you could buy tickets to carol concerts in the capital this year; but if you’re watching your budget, then there are plenty of ways to get your carol fix for free. It doesn’t get more majestic than the free carol services throughout December at Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral; or, feel the magic under the twinkling Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square across the month.
Getting to Westminster Abbey Jubilee, District or Circle line to Westminster.
Local bus routes 11, 24, 148, 211, N11, N44, N136.
Getting to St Paul's Cathedral Circle or District line to Mansion House.
Local bus routes 4, 8, 11, 15, 17, 26, 56, 76, 100, 172, 242, 521.
Getting to Trafalgar Square Bakerloo or Northern line to Charing Cross.
Local bus routes 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 24, 29, 87, 91, 139, 159, 453, N3, N5, N9, N11, N15, N18, N20, N44, N87, N91, N97, N109, N113, N136, N279.
5. Get a Zip Oyster photocard for free and discounted travel for all the kids
Got kids? Children under five travel free at any time on Tube, DLR, London Overground, buses and trams when accompanied by a fare-paying adult. For those who are a little bit older, the Zip Oyster photocard is your passport to fantastic free and discounted travel in London. With a Zip Oyster photocard, children aged 5-10 travel free on all Tube, DLR and London Overground services; and 11 to 15-year-olds travel free on buses and trams and get a discounted child rate on Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and most National Rail services. Getting one is super easy: you just need to visit tfl.gov.uk/zip and apply online. Simple!
6. Shop in the outer zones
The West End might be London’s most famous shopping district, but for a bit of variety, it's well worth exploring some of the capital's finest shopping strips outside Zone 1. The independent shops and local produce on offer in the likes of Wood Street in Walthamstow and Westow Street in Crystal Palace are in Zones 2-6, so can all be reached for just £1.50 when travelling off-peak on all Tube, DLR and most London Overground services. Fare shown is for an adult off-peak pay as you go journey not going via Zone 1. This means more money in your pocket to spend on cute pressies for your nieces and nephews. And don’t forget about the bus: the Hopper Fare lets you take unlimited bus and tram journeys anytime, anywhere within one hour of first touching in for just £1.50!
Getting to Wood Street, Walthamstow London Overground to Wood Street.
Local bus routes 212, 230, W12, W16.
Getting to Westow Street, Crystal Palace London Overground to Crystal Palace, then 13-minute walk or 432 bus.
Local bus routes 3, 122, 157, 202, 227, 249, 322, 358, 363, 410, 417, 432, 450, N2, N3, N63, N137.
7. Warm up at a Christmas fair
Tinsel, toys and some beautifully decorated trees? London’s amazing winter markets must have come to town. Wintertime at the Southbank Centre, Leicester Square’s Christmas market or Christmas by the River at London Bridge City are all free to attend. Browse the stalls before taking part in a carols sing-a-long.
Getting to Southbank Centre Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern or Waterloo & City to Waterloo.
Local bus routes 1, 4, 26, 59, 68, 76, 77, 139, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 211, 243, 341, 381, 507, 521, RV1, X68.
8. Make the pilgrimage to a south London winter festival
Winterville in Clapham Common is a wonderland of market stalls, performances, crazy golf and more. Entry is free on Tuesdays; £2 Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; and £5 after 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Getting there Northern line to Clapham Common.
Local bus routes 35, 37, 50, 137, 155, 249, 322, 345, 417, N137, N155.
9. Pick up a bargain at a Christmas auction
Compulsive planners look away now. This London tradition involves taking a risk – but if you are successful in nabbing cut-price goods on offer at Harts of Smithfield on Christmas Eve, you’ll save a pretty penny this Christmas. Set your alarm and arrive at the market before 6.30am to take advantage of off-peak fares (which apply before 6.30am) to guarantee your spot on the auction floor.
Getting there Circle, Hammersmith & City or Metropolitan line to Farringdon.
Local bus routes 55, 63, 172, 243, N55, N63.
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