So you're planning a weekend in London and you've realised that the prices here are typically terrifyingly high. We feel your pain but it doesn't mean you have to miss out on a visit. The city has plenty of low-cost attractions and places to eat and drink that mean you can stay here and have a great time without falling into your overdraft. Plan an affordable city break in the capital with our guide to a budget-friendly weekend in London.
Guide to a budget-friendly weekend in London
In this guide
- Affordable hotel accommodation
- Drinks before dinner
- It's dinnertime
- Keep the night going
- Free London activities
- Have some lunch
- Budget-friendly shopping
- Places for dinner
- Stop for brunch
- Laid-back activities
Affordable hotel accommodation
Stylish and sustainable
With The Corner, you get a stylish base in East London at a hotel dedicated to sustainability. Rooms are designed as pods, and each one has its own unique character. Rooms are equipped with water-saving showers, organic toiletries, and recycled furniture. There's a bar and kitchen on-site and spaces for co-working and meetings.
- Price: About £160 for a snug double room
Stay near Hyde Park
Located next to Hyde Park, Lancaster Gate Hotel offers affordable stays in central London. Guest rooms here have a classic look with bursts of colour, and a variety of room sizes are available. Whilst you're here, you can take advantage of room service or visit the on-site bar or restaurant, serving up budget-friendly international dishes.
- Price: About £156 for a double room
Affordable spa hotel
Located outside of central London, K West is a luxe hotel housed in a former recording studio. This modern hotel provides affordable luxury, with plenty of space to relax. Rooms are equipped with various amenities and the hotel has a range of facilities including a spa and fitness studio, a pool, a restaurant, and a cocktail bar.
- Price: About £160 for a double room
Drinks before dinner
Cosy cocktail spot
Escape the pace of central London with a cosy drink at FAM Bar & Kitchen. This vibrant drinking spot has bright red walls and a friendly and informal atmosphere. Classic and distinctive signature cocktails are served and you can also enjoy South American-inspired snacks. The bar has an impressive vinyl collection too.
- Price: About £12.50 for a margarita
Creative and classic drinks
Freud Bar has been open since 1986 and has a reputation as a legendary cocktail destination. The drinks are affordable and there's something for everyone on the list, from classic mixes to more imaginative drinks. The lively atmosphere here is enhanced by music and rotating art exhibitions on the stripped-back walls.
- Price: About £7.60 for a gimlet
Cocktails and fun
There are plenty of branches of The Cocktail Club dotted around the city. Here you get reasonably-priced cocktails combined with a sense of all-out fun. Each venue has a unique style but all have a buzzing atmosphere and a broad choice of drinks. It's the ideal environment to get your night going.
- Price: About £12 for a cocktail
Sleek pasta place
Sample high quality seasonal pasta dishes in a lively contemporary dining room at Soho's Pastaio. This friendly spot has indoor and outdoor seats. Start a meal at this slick establishment with antipasti before trying fresh pasta with a variety of gourmet sauces and fillings. Desserts and prosecco slushie cocktails are offered too.
- Price: About £15 for carbonara
Steak that's accessible
Flat Iron has branches throughout the city that make top quality steak accessible and affordable. Walk-ins are welcome at these smart restaurants, where the simple menu is made up of steak with a variety of sides to create your ideal meal. Despite the prices, all the ingredients used here are carefully sourced.
- Price: About £17 for steak and chips
A true taste of Naples
Enjoy real Neapolitan pizza at a reasonable price thanks to Pizza Pilgrims. These bold and modern eateries are located all over the capital, with each one having a unique personality. Top quality ingredients are sourced straight from Italy to craft the pies here, with a variety of tempting toppings to satisfy every palate.
- Price: About £10 for margherita pizza
Keep the night going
Vibrant party venues
Big Chill is a lively party venue where you can stay out late. The bustling spot attracts a youthful crowd with pumping music and a vibrant atmosphere. Enjoy drinks ranging from craft beer to signature cocktails and get dancing. Fun events take place regularly to enhance the experience.
- Price: About £10 for cocktails
Nights out in East London
The Jago in Dalston is a top destination for live music, showcasing a diverse range of global sounds. Drinks are affordable and there's an eclectic line-up of parties and performances here. Everything happens in a vibrant and intimate space. A strong sense of community is also key at this venue.
- Price: About £10 for event tickets
Pub parties in Camden
The Camden Head has been around since 1787, making it one of the oldest pubs in Camden Town. Today it's a buzzy nightlife spot with pumping DJ sets until late, comedy nights, a varied choice of drinks, and a lively atmosphere. The venue also does food, dishing up innovative burgers with flamboyant presentation.
- Price: About £7 for a glass of wine
Free London activities
City walking tours
Enjoy a city tour on foot for free with Strawberry Tours. A knowledgeable local will guide you on your walking tour and there are plenty of route choices. Whatever your interests are, there's something that'll appeal – check out the capital's street art, see places from the lives of film and TV characters, or see all the essential London sights.
- Price: Free
Tour an iconic building
The Palace of Westminster is best-known as the home of Big Ben and the UK Parliament. This striking Grade I listed building sits next to the Thames and is a must-see structure in London. UK residents can also join a tour inside free of charge and learn about the building's history and the inner workings of the political system.
- Price: Free for UK residents
The wonders of the natural world
Architectural marvel the Natural History Museum is packed with fascinating exhibits relating to the natural world and is free to visit. There's plenty for all ages to discover from fossils and dinosaurs to native wildlife and naturally-formed crystals. It's a family-friendly destination and there are eateries on-site too.
- Price: Free
Have some lunch
Hand-rolled pasta specialists Padella have a serious reputation and hungry Londoners are usually willing to queue for their pasta fix. This modern pasta bar offers a changing menu of antipasti, pasta with fresh sauces and fillings, and alcoholic and soft drinks. Everything is high quality but still comes at budget-friendly prices.
- Price: About £14 for fettuccine with pesto
Affordable award-winning burgers
Grab an award-winning burger at a price your bank balance will love at Bleecker Burger. These burgers have won some serious accolades and are made with top quality rare-breed, grass-fed beef. The eateries are cool, low-key, and contemporary, offering a straightforward menu of seriously satisfying food – just burgers, fries, and drinks.
- Price: About £8 for a cheeseburger
Traditional London pie shop M. Manze started out back in 1902. If you're looking for classic British food in a timeless setting then this is the place to go. The hearty menu is simple - meat and vegan pies are available, served with mashed potatoes and gravy or liquor. Get some jellied eels if you want to go all in.
- Price: About £7 for pie and mash
Browse books by the river
Browse books in a covered setting next to the Thames at the South Bank Book Market. Now a familiar fixture on the riverbank, the market attracts tourists and locals and is a great place to find unexpected books on a range of topics. Stacks of books are laid out on tables for shoppers to explore.
- Price: Varies
Massive antiques market
The world's largest antiques market is Portobello Road Market. It's been around for more than a century and is a treasure trove of antique finds, vintage fashion, and bric-a-brac. With traders changing regularly, there's always something new and exciting to discover. Street food vendors enhance the atmosphere here.
- Price: Varies
Find your vintage style
Starting out in a London warehouse, Beyond Retro is now a favourite in the city for unique vintage fashion, with a number of shops dotted about. In the well-stocked shop you'll see distinctive pieces and reworked garments that mean you can put together a one-of-a-kind outfit. You'll find fashion from the 1960s up to the 2000s.
- Price: Varies, about £25 for a dress
Places for dinner
Modern Soho chip shop
Enjoy classic fish and chips at Golden Union in Soho. This modern restaurant serves sustainable fish and also offers ample plant-based choices like vegan sausages. Expect traditional chip shop meals like fish, sausages, chips, and pies, served in a classic dining space with shiny white tiles. Takeaways are also available.
- Price: About £15 for cod and chips
Grand space for French food
Have a French meal in grand Art Deco surroundings at Brasserie Zédel. This centrally-located restaurant has a timeless and sophisticated look, plus a menu of classic French cooking. The prix-fixe option gives you a two or three course meal for a reasonable price. Wine is served by the glass, carafe, or bottle.
- Price: About £20 for a prix-fixe three course meal
Stop for brunch
Vibrant global recipes
Wild Thyme serves vibrant international brunch dishes in a warm and rustic space. The restaurant puts its own stamp on brunch classics with the choices ranging from light pastries and granola to hearty egg dishes and fried breakfasts. Pair your brunch with cocktails, coffee, or juice. The restaurant is cosy and has an outside terrace too.
- Price: About £12.50 for a fried breakfast
Farm-to-table eatery Cocotte specialises in rotisserie cooking, with plenty of chicken dishes on the menu. The chicken is free-range and sauces and marinades are prepared in house. Food is available all day with a brunch menu until 5pm. The venue is bright and contemporary with a homey feel.
- Price: About £13.50 for chicken and waffles
Low-cost Mayfair dining
Popina in Mayfair offers affordable brunching in the heart of the city. This upscale café is an award-winner, with a crisp interior and a tempting menu of popular dishes. Breakfast and brunch is the name of the game here, with sweet and savoury options on the menu like sandwiches, plenty of egg dishes, and granola.
- Price: About £8.50 for French toast
A real working farm
Experience a working farm without leaving the city by visiting Hackney City Farm. This family-friendly destination is free to visit and offers lots to do. You can explore the farmyard and gardens, meet the animals, visit the sustainable farm shop, or stop for a meal. A range of activities and events take place on the farm too.
- Price: Free
Soar above the Thames
Cruise above the Thames and take in fabulous views by riding the London Cable Car. Built to facilitate the 2012 Olympics, it's now a way to see the sights and get across the river in a memorable way. You'll get panoramic views, with slower journeys in the evening so you can make the most of it.
- Price: About £6 one way
Enjoy the view
Get a walk in the park and take in picturesque views of central London by visiting Primrose Hill. This North London park with an eponymous hill is a protected viewpoint – even the trees are intentionally kept low so that nothing gets in the way. Admire the view and soak up the atmosphere at this popular green space.
- Price: Free