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London on the cheap

Everyone knows that the British capital is as wonderful as it is expensive. So it is useful to have some advice on how to enjoy this city without breaking the bank.


London may be, or probably is, one of the most expensive European cities. This means that certain places can be enjoyed only by a select few.

But what about the rest? Others need not worry; they too have their place.

Transportation

The first thing needed is a means of transport to get from one place to another. Walking is ruled out as the distances are long for getting around on foot. But there is an inexpensive and healthy means of transport: the bicycle.

The bicycles available for public use in London operate every day of the year, 24 hours a day. It is very simple: you take any bicycle from one of the many bases distributed throughout the city and, after using it, you return it to any one of the said bases.

If the bicycle is used for less than 30 minutes it´s free and if it´s used for less than an hour it costs £1.

If, on the other hand, you opt for taking the bus, there are some routes that cover a wide area of the city. One of those routes is the 159, which covers tourist sites and monuments such as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and Big Ben. It is well and truly a cheap journey: less than £2 a trip. Or, if you decide to use a fare that will last all day, you can top up £4 on an Oyster card – much less than the £20 that the tourist bus costs.

Finding culture

In this respect, it’s a fact that visiting the museums is one of the activities that attracts the most attention in London.

There is no need to worry about entrance fees, as the majority of the museums (perhaps the best in the world) are free.

Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Miguel Angel… are only some of the artists whose work is exhibited in the Tate Modern, the National Gallery or the British Museum. Additionally, various ingenious gadgets can also been enjoyed in the Science Museum.

Street markets

Another highlight of London is its abundance of markets. Lovers of these mobile stalls will find what they are looking for: from antiques to exotic produce, as well as all types of clothes and other bits and bobs. Not to mention books, furniture, masks, food, original drinks, games….

One of the oldest markets in London is Borough Market, where a wide variety of food of premium quality can be found, which comes from all over the world including cured Iberian ham, seafood, vegetables and ostrich meat. It’s very close to the station and the very decor entices passers-by to enter as it has a French gallery look about it.

Portobello Road Market is also very cosmopolitan and varied. Perhaps as well known as Camden Market, it is located in west London in the Notting Hill area and offers antiques, fruit, clothes, shoes, collectables, furniture…the list goes on. There are always tourists and residents alike visiting this market but Saturdays are probably the busiest days.

Camden Market offers a similar experience whose charm, architectural ingenuity, and multicultural environment has been the topic for hundreds of articles.

It can take a day to explore the whole market and, even if there is little money to spend, the array of food and other odds and ends is so varied and endless, that simply walking through the marketplace is enough entertainment for a day. You are not tired out by the views and boredom is out of the question. And the prices are affordable for any pocket.

Camden Market is without a doubt one of the principal attractions of the city in which handicrafts, clothes, trinkets and clothes can all be found, among a very alternative culture: from punks to executives passing as all types of urban tribes.

Music

If what you are searching for is music, and in particular the Beatles, an option is to take a photo imitating the album cover for Abbey Road, the last album that the band from Liverpool recorded. Additionally, this London street is a must see, as it is always found crammed with the hustle and bustle of people and traffic.

On the other hand, if you are more into live music and a pleasant atmosphere, the ideal place to go would be Kenwood House.

There, during the summer there are a series of concerts from rock and roll to classical music, which members of the public observe from the hilltop.

But lovers of opera have their placed reserved in one of the most representative parks: Holland Park. During summertime, an opera performance is put on show in an open air theatre in the centre of the park. For an exquisite and generally expensive art such as opera, here it’s possible to appreciate it for only £12.

The other tour

Another possibility is what is known as the “Free Tour”. It’s a trip of about two and a half hours by foot, led by a tour guide who shows and explains to the tourists or residents the history, the present, and the use of places such as the Wellington Arch, St. James Park, 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square…

This single tour can be made on any day of the week between 11am and 1pm and offers the option of a tour in English or Spanish. The tour begins at the Hyde Park Corner underground station and you must book in advance on its website to secure a place on the tour.

This confirms that everything is a matter of careful browsing, of walking and asking before spending unnecessarily. There are many places to visit, spectacles to see, and food to enjoy in this London, which is not for a select few, but for all.

(Translated by Anna Cunningham – Email: a.m.cunningham.rozo@gmail.com)

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