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How to Do London in 48 hours (On a Budget)

The Natural History Museum, London
The Natural History Museum, London | © Steve Tulley / Alamy Stock Photo
From food markets to the best museums in the country, there’s a host of London hotspots that are free or cheap to visit. This is how to make the most of 48 hours in London without breaking the bank.

Museum-hop in South Kensington

The Natural History Museum, the V&A, the Science Museum and the Design Museum are positioned in a cluster by South Kensington tube station and each offers a range of free exhibits as well as interchangeable ticketed galleries. The architecture here is a marvel in itself, but head to the V&A to view art and fashion that dates back as far as 3,000 years, and the Science Museum and Natural History Museums if you’re travelling with children.

Natural History Museum, London © Slawek Staszczuk / Alamy Stock Photo

Stop for lunch in Borough Market

Street food stalls are one of the best ways to eat cheaply in London and the markets in Camden, Spitalfields and Borough offer ample choice, making them a great place to visit with a group. Based by London Bridge station, Borough Market is a mix of food carts, bars, cafés, restaurants and shops selling authentic British produce. From here, walk the short distance to the riverside for a view of The Shard and London Bridge.

Borough Market, London © Trevor Mogg / Alamy Stock Photo

Browse the antiques in Camden Passage

Set back from buzzing Upper Street and inconspicuous during the working week, this charismatic passage comes alive at the weekend and local stallholders showcase stacks of antique crockery, jewellery, furniture and books that bring a sense of Old-English charm to the area. Detour via Saint Espresso on Pentonville Road for a slice of freshly baked banana bread and a taste of the best coffee in the area.

Camden Passage, London © Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy Stock Photo

Shop for vintage in Soho

Fashion lovers are sure to find a bargain in one of Soho’s famous vintage boutiques. Duke’s Cupboard is a treasure trove of designer pieces but those looking for something a little less premium should head to the central London branch of Beyond Retro on Great Marlborough Street where prices are lower and some of the best-value pre-loved gems can be found with a bit of dedicated searching.

Beyond Retro Vintage Clothing, London © Nathaniel Noir / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a walk through one of the city’s parks

Despite their central locations, Hyde Park and St James’s Park are picturesque destinations that offer an escape from the constant buzz of the city. Take a walk at sunset to benefit from the best views.

Hyde Park, London © I-Wei Huang / Alamy Stock Photo

Visit one of the city’s oldest pubs

Anyone looking for a historical drinking spot in the centre of the city should head for The Lamb & Flag. It backs onto Covent Garden in a small courtyard location that makes it a perfect (if rather cosy) al-fresco drinking spot. Further south in Wapping is The Prospect of Whitby. It’s said to have been frequented by sailors and smugglers in the 1500s and is still identifiable today by the hangman’s noose which remains outside. North of the river is The Spaniards Inn, which borders Hampstead Heath. Its building dates back to 1585 and has many myths associated with it, so settle in and do some research on what makes it so special.

The Prospect of Whitby, London © Eden Breitz / Alamy Stock Photo

Experience the British Library

The British Library holds over 150 million items across fourteen floors, making it the largest national library in the world by number of items catalogued. Admission is free and the building is open until 8pm between Monday and Thursday every week.

The British Library, London © Paul Street / Alamy Stock Photo

Time your trip to Columbia Road flower market

Every Sunday sees east London’s Columbia Road taken over with flower stall holders selling seasonal stems and foliage. Early birds can arrive from 8am to benefit from a quieter shopping experience, but prices drop around 2pm when stallholders start to think about closing up for the day – so if you can handle a crowd and aren’t in a hurry, this is the time to visit.

Columbia Road Flower Market, London © Suzy Bennett / Alamy Stock Photo