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Things to do in London for less than £20

Like most students, you are probably following a budget. London can be an expensive city to call home, but fortunately the city offers exciting recreational activities that cost less than £20. Practise your English and have fun without emptying your bank account in the process.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea has been a staple of British culture since the early 19th century. Although it was popularised by the wealthy, you don’t need to own an estate to enjoy afternoon tea in London.

The Harlequin Restaurant at the Kingsway Hall Hotel in Covent Garden serves high tea every day between noon and 7:00 p.m. It includes an array of fresh sandwiches, homemade scones with strawberry preserves and clotted cream, and cakes and pastries made by the resident pastry chef. Price per person is £19.95, with gluten-free and vegetarian specials available with advance notice.

Bond & Brook is a restaurant located in Fenwicks department store on the corner on Bond Street. Afternoon tea is served every day except Sunday and starts at £18.50 per person. In addition to an assortment of loose-leafed teas, the service includes finger sandwiches (vegetarian options are available), scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and fancy miniature cakes.

East End Markets

London’s outdoor markets are a centuries-old tradition. For an authentic London experience (and chance to practise your English), go to one of the following East End markets:

  • Broadway Market
  • Brick Lane Market
  • Spitalfields Market

All three feature vintage clothing, unique and affordable designer clothes, jewellery, crafts, and of course food: Brick Lane in particular is celebrated for the quality and variety of its food, which reflects the multicultural nature of the area. You don’t need to spend any money at all to enjoy the atmosphere of a busy East End market.


Most tours are inexpensive and provide fascinating insights into London’s literary and art history. A popular tour of the city’s celebrated literary pubs is only £18 when a group of ten makes a booking, so invite your ESOL classmates to join you. If you enjoy Harry Potter books, there’s a Harry Potter Walk every weekend, and it costs only £9.

Fish & Chips

A meal of fish & chips is another decidedly ‘English’ experience that doesn’t cost a lot. Metro magazine recently rated ten locations based on user reviews posted on Yelp.com, and the Golden Hind in Marylebone was right up there close to the top. The tables are close together to foster friendly conversation, and students can save money by bringing their own bottle of wine to enjoy with the meal. Prices start at £11.

According to Metro, the #1 fish & chips location is Toff’s of Muswell Hill. Prices start at £11, the portions are reportedly huge, and the variety of fish available is unparalleled.

Art Galleries and Museums

There are fewer entertainment options that are more cost-effective than visiting one of London’s myriad of art galleries and museums. Go and see some Monet or Van Gogh originals, tour the dinosaur exhibit at the Natural History Museum, and hold Egyptian mummies at the British museum. If admission is charged at all, it is very modest and the opportunity to expand your Engish vocabulary is invaluable.

Open-Air Swimming

London may be the heart of UK industry, but within its borders is a number of open-air swimming ponds that draw thousands during the summer months. The Serpentine in Hyde Park can be enjoyed for less than £5. There are also three swimming ponds on Hampstead Heath: one for men, one for women, and one mixed.

Street Performers in Covent Garden

Covent Garden is where tourists go to pick up souvenirs and shop for bargains. If you’re on a budget, you can go there to watch the street performers, who put on some impressive shows for the price of a donation.

When students come to London to learn English, they spend a lot of money on classes, accommodation, and daily necessities. Fortunately, this vibrant city has plenty of entertainment options so affordable that there’s no reason to not have fun as well.

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