First Time in London, on a Budget.

Things to do and must do.

Sruthi Korlakunta
6 min readApr 13, 2024

Who said London should be expensive? After wanting it for so long, this year I finally made the trip. If you are planning to visit the city anytime soon, here is a little itinerary that you could copy.

London is overwhelming. The magnitude of the city and the never-ending action will have you running from one spot to the next but also make you want to stop every 5 meters to take it in. Having lived in Germany for 9 years, I have not seen a metropolis like London here. Berlin is nowhere comparable to the constant din of this city that never sleeps. So if you are planning to visit Europe from outside, make sure to stop in London because it is quite magical.

The famous telephone booth. Interesting choice to have never re-purposed them.

Arrival, Stay, and Getting Around

Look, this is up to everyone’s ease and budget but I got an excellent flight deal to Stansted Airport and a backpackers hostel quite close to the train station Liverpool Street. I’d recommend staying somewhere central but the city is generally very well connected. I haven’t had to wait for public transport for longer than a few minutes anytime.

Getting around town was super easy. You only need a credit card/debit card and you can swipe it in every time you use a bus. You will be charged no more than about 10 Euros in a day. It is a brilliant strategy. No hassle of ticket automatics, figuring out zones and prices, and day and week tickets. It is simple and cheap (relatively).

Attractions to visit in 3 days

First and foremost, all museums and many sights in London are free. You only have to book your entrance in advance. I managed to get tickets even on the day before, but if you already know you are traveling book them well in advance. It will save you a tonne of standing around in queues. And trust me, queues in London are the longest you've seen (and I’m from India).

Crowd at the British Museum on a weekend.

The Natural History Museum was the best among the lot and I wouldn't skip it. It was also fascinating because Darwin is from here (isn’t he?) and many of his studies and artifacts were displayed first-hand. The Night at the Museum and the Dinosaur segment come to mind first but the museum also had a jaw-dropping Gem-stone segment.

The Natural History Museum

The museum is large and magnificent, you could spend between 2 and 6 hours there depending on what you want to look at. I felt fulfilled after three hours and made my way to the British Museum.

To do both Museums on the same day is a massive endeavor, they're both immense. If I were you, I’d plan them on two different days. Here too, book your tickets in advance. You can explore the British Museum for the entire day or a couple of hours, however you please. But it is worth a visit and you might even enjoy it if the crowd isn't as bad as when I went.

These were the museums I spent most of my time in. But if you still have time, you must go to the National Gallery (a walk away from Big Ben) where you see many Impressionist art originals. (Monet, Van Gogh, etc.) Also recommended is the Wallace collection though I couldn't make it. All museums are open also on Sundays, and many holidays, so knock yourselves out.

For a view of the whole of London, Don’t forget to book a visit to the Sky Garden, it is even better than the London Eye. It is free and needs to be booked. You might not find tickets the day before.

Another Museum I visited is the Sir John Soane’s Museum, home of the architect who designed many landmarks in London, displaying his private collections. Would I go again — umm, nope. But it takes all of an hour, so if you are into something like that, do go.

Sir John Soane’s House

I also skipped the Wallace collection for a lack of time. On second thought I’d have preferred this to John Soane’s house. (They're just a tube ride away from each other). Also, The Wallace Collection is located in the shopping district (Yep, that’s why I had no time to see it).

Places to eat, walk around and enjoy

The London Bridge.

There is so much going on in the London Bridge area. After you stroll on the bridge and walk between those bridges, go to the borough Market. On a good weekend, you might lose your child and your partner in that crowd, so watch it. There is enough food and shopping in this area to keep you busy all morning, during, and before lunch.

London Bridge

You can also go to the Camden Market, a much more insanely full place with many more options to eat and no place to stand or sit. It is a beautiful walk by the Regent’s Canal to the Camden Market with many landmarks on the way, so make the walk, don't take public transport.

The Camden Market, Ladies and Gentlemen.
The Regent’s Canal
Floating Bookstall on the Regent’s canal

Some other on-the-foot locations include Soho (incredible at night), Buckingham Palace (in Soho), The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben. Last but not least, Primrosehill is a delightful spot to sit down and take a breath. You can see all across London and it is a beautiful, beautiful spot on a sunny noon.

From on top of Primrosehill

If you are a potter-head or a Sherlock Holmes fan, don't forget to stop by platform 9 3/4 (You will find it at the King’s Cross station) and Baker Street. When I went, the crowd was overwhelming, so I skipped taking a picture.

Shopping

Yes, I know it is all the same shops all over Europe, but Shopping in London’s Oxford Street is quite something. It has a massive collection of clothes and shops, though they are the same (non-luxury) brands we see everywhere else. That is where I did my shopping and I completely went bat-shit.

The Covent Garden is another chic little marketplace with many luxury brands and eateries where you can have a Gelato and stroll around. But it is also hard to find a spot in London where you cannot do that.

Budgeting all that

For real though, everything that I mentioned just now will cost you nothing. London has much to offer even if you don't want to spend a lot. Flying with Ryan Air and Staying at a Backpackers was ultra affordable because I booked in advance and most of the other attractions were free. Food prices are variable, but I found it cheaper than in Germany. So London might even be more affordable than, say, Munich. The city has my heart. ˚ʚ♡ɞ˚.

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Sruthi Korlakunta

I write on tech, books, and lifestyle. | Data analyst | Made human by all the people who love me.