Best Things To Do In London For Under A Fiver

By Charlie Kenber

In today's climate of ever-tightening purse strings and funding cuts, it can be difficult to enjoy London on the cheap, but it is possible. Here are some ideas for less than five pounds...

There are no two ways about it, London is expensive. When you’re busy keeping an eye on your earnings, it can be difficult to justify splashing out the £50-odd a ticket it costs for a West End show, or the expense for popular tourist destinations (which you may well have done already).

However, there are alternatives. It is possible to enjoy London on a small budget: to prove the point we’ve compiled some examples for just £5 or less.

Snap up a cheap movie

The Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel caters for all needs: whether you are looking for a recent art-house release or something a bit more mainstream, one of their five screens is bound to show it. So rather than visiting one of the central multiplexes, why not show up here on a Wednesday and pay a fraction of the price – just £3.50? So having spent less than usually possible even with Orange Wednesdays, and all in such a great venue, you’ll leave floating with filmic joy.

Stroll along the Southbank

The Southbank has so much to offer, and is a perfect place to visit on a summer weekend’s afternoon. As part of the National Theatre’s ‘Inside Out’ programme (literally exposing the theatre’s workings), the Watch This Space Festival brings a huge range of mostly free performances onto the riverside – so make sure to check out the programme. Once you get hungry you can even pop over to the ‘Propstore’ – a pop-up riverfront café-bar built out of sets and scenery from NT productions. You can spot the props from your favourite shows and even grab a bite to eat – the most expensive dish comes in at just £4.50.

Check out the Southbank centre.

Settle down in a proper London pub

I know, I know, of course you can get a drink for less than a fiver, that’s no surprise. But what you may not know is that it is most certainly possible to get a pint in central London for less than £4, and quite a lot less at that. A personal favourite, the Samuel Smith’s chain of pubs pretty consistently promise character, good-quality own-brand drinks and a decent price (although the lagers do vary). With all beer still brewed at its original 1758 brewery in Tadcaster in a largely traditional manner, you can be guaranteed consistency. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street offers atmospheric cellar rooms dating from the 17th Century, whilst The Angel on St Giles High Street (close to Tottenham Court Road tube) features a lounge bar, at which you relax in a series of sitting rooms.

Alternatively the Euston Tap and Cider Tap outside Euston station offer a wide range of beers and (unsurprisingly) ciders for reasonable prices – with knowledgeable staff thrown in for free.

Browse for books

London is home to a considerable number of great second-hand book shops. Most famously, you can peruse the ever-popular islet of second-hand book stalls sheltered under Waterloo Bridge to find a bargain or stumble across that book you never remember to read. If you work up an appetite there are also several on Charring Cross Road, as well as the excellent Skoob Books tucked behind the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury. Plenty to explore, and most sold for very reasonable rates.

Watch a play at the Globe

Who said you couldn’t see a play for five pounds? All standing tickets at Shakespeare's Globe go for just that, which is why they don’t stick around. The intimate size of the rebuilt theatre ensures good proximity to the stage, often enjoying a better view than many of the seats. This is daytime theatre at its best, and even if it rains the show must go on, so raincoats may be necessary. You do have to book well in advance however, as tickets often sell out soon after release.

Image credits: Satish Krishnamurthy