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Your Budget Guide to London

by Barbara Rogers

Apr 5, 2024

© Viorel Dudau | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / Europe

No European capital is exactly cheap to visit, but family travelers to London will find activities and experiences that won’t break the piggy bank. The first of these, and the city’s best bargain, is a ride on the upper deck of one of London’s iconic double-decker buses.


Kids love the experience, and you’ll get bird’s-eye views of some of London’s top landmarks, especially on the Nos. 9 and 11 routes. Pick up a free transit map or consult the online map, and find the nearest stop on one of these routes. The best part of the No. 11 route is between Waterloo and Victoria stations, where it passes Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Trafalgar Square and St. Paul’s Cathedral.


From the No. 9 route, you’ll see the palaces of Kensington, St. James and Clarence House; Royal Albert Hall; Hyde Park; Piccadilly; and Trafalgar Square. Hop off near the end of the line at Covent Garden, a colorful market hall where browsing is always fun. Outside, you’ll often find street performers. Other leisure routes are designed to follow special interests, such as antiques, markets or heritage sites.


Before leaving home you’ll want to buy an Oyster Card, which covers bus and other transit fares throughout the city. These cards are a bargain, capping off at about $6.50 a day for however many rides you take. Single rides cost less than $1.50 and children under 11 ride free. If you’re traveling with kids aged 11–15, stop at a ticket window to have a youth discount added to your card.


The British Museum, one of London’s premier attractions, is free and filled with fascinating experiences and treasures. The Rosetta Stone, statues, mummies and elaborate mummy cases from ancient Egypt are kids’ favorites, as are Samuri and seventh-century Saxon armors. They can explore the museum with activity-filled backpacks highlighting Africa, ancient Greece, Mexico, Egyptian mummies, art or archaeology.


Also free is the Natural History Museum, where kids can experience an earthquake in a simulator and meet a roaring T-Rex. Several parks invite strolling, and Regent’s Park has playgrounds as well as Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, at its height of bloom from late May through early July.


The best free show in London is the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 10:45 a.m. Classical music lovers can attend free lunchtime concerts at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, in Trafalgar Square and Royal Opera House’s Live at Lunch concerts.


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