UK Travel

How to visit London on a budget

Heading off to the big city with just a bit of pocket money doesn’t immediately seem like something we’d want to do. With such an amazing nightlife, it would almost be rude not to enjoy it, right? It is, in fact, possible to explore the city without spending a full months pay on it – as long as you know where to look.

Here is a neat guide to help you enjoy London even though you’re on a strict budget so that you get to enjoy travelling a bit more often.

Face the tube

Let’s start with the easiest first. London has a fabulous public transport system, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it. While the city is big, it also has a lot of people and many of them happen to be on the tube as well, making it a crowded and warm experience.

By coming to terms with the crowd and familiarising yourself with the tube system, it all becomes a bit more manageable, though, so try not to wimp out and order a cab every time. I first time I used the tube I had to double and triple check the maps to make sure I was going on the right line and in the right direction.

Besides, when you use the public transport system and get yourself an Oyster card, you get to explore the city like a local. They wouldn’t spend their hard-earned money on those overpriced cabs, so why should you?

If you’d like to sit down somewhere more relaxed and be served for once, it’s a good idea to check out a shisha lounge or two – they have great food and a relaxed atmosphere, making it a perfect place to spend a few hours with your friends.

Use the freebies

It’s really easy for tourists to save money as long as they take advantage of all the free things to do in the city. The British Museums, Tate Modern, and the National Gallery are just a few examples of great things to enjoy for absolutely nothing. It’s cultural too – and even a bit educational if you pay attention.

Walking around in the parks, admiring the Thames, and experiencing the Changing of the guards are also fun alternatives that will cost you nothing except for the energy you spend on getting there – or a tiny amount of your oyster fare.

Since you’re probably in the city to do a bit of shopping, why not check out some of the charity and secondhand shops too? Blitz is a well-known option, and they have a vast selection of cool preloved clothes that would just love to join you back home.

The wonderful markets

Booking a table at Duck and Waffle with a magnificent view of the Shard is a great time to spend your afternoon, but not the best alternative when you’re on a budget. Steer clear of the overpriced restaurants and eat at the local markets instead – buy your groceries there as well, by the way, if you’re money-wise enough to stay somewhere with a kitchen.

Borough Market is a great alternative, but you’ll also find excellent street food options at Camden Market. The portions they serve are usually gigantic too, so it should keep you full for a while.

Sightseeing with London Duck Tours

Recently the Hubby and I had a child free overnight stay in London, which doesn’t happen very often. I love our amazing capital city. It’s full of history and heritage. During the last year I have been to London 5 or 6 times, which has been amazing, attending various different events but this time the Hubby joined me.

London Duck Tours

As we are not the most decisive people in the world, other than going for a lovely meal at the OXO Tower, we couldn’t decide what to do while we visited.  We have never really just visited to be tourists. On this trip we fancied doing a London Bus tour, but then London Duck Tours got in contact asking if we would like to join them for a sightseeing tour. We had both heard great things about the Duck Tours as my Brother-In-Law had been on them a couple of times before, so we went for it.

London Duck Tour

The Ducks were originally used in the Second World War, to unload troops and cargo straight onto beaches, after so many docks had been destroyed. The Ducks have been rebuilt and modified to meet todays regulations.

The Tour

Arriving in London to the start of the Duck Tour on York Road, we released as it was the Queens Birthday. So the Classic Tour of Westminster was not possible. I was a bit disappointed as I loved the thought of going past Buckingham Palace, St James Palace and Westminster Abbey. Instead we went on ‘The City Tour’ which is used when they are unable to go via the Classic Route.

London Duck Tour

We went past the Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street, the magnificent St Pauls Cathedral, being informed of different snippets of history along the way by Ben the rather cute English man with an New Zealand accent.

London Duck Tour

On to the Bank of England, learning about its vaults and how a tube line has to go around the underground vaults. The Monument to the Fire of London, the Tower of London and seeing HMS Belfast sitting on the water.

London Duck Tour

Across to The Shard, Southwark Cathedral and the Imperial War Museum. My Hubby was very impressed by all of the information we had been given. He’s a bit of a history geek so knows a fair amount anyway, but even he learnt a few bits.

London Duck Tour

We headed onto the water next to MI6 which was a bumpy ride down the river bank into the water, getting onto the water it was surprisingly cold. We sailed the up the Thames to the Houses of Parliament. Seeing the Elizabeth Tower, mistakenly called – Big Ben, from the water was lovely.

London Duck Tour

We headed up a the Thames before turning around and heading back to the starting point at York Road.

London Duck Tour

We had a fabulous trip with London Duck Tours, I would highly recommended anyone booking a trip. They are such a novel way of seeing the sights of London in an humorous yet informative manner. Next time we are in London, I shall make sure that there isn’t a big event going on so I am able to do the Classic tour.

*We were given tickets for the Duck Tour in exchange for review, as always thoughts and opinions are my own*

 

Feast On London – OXO Tower Brasserie Review

During April some of the top restaurants in London take part in ‘Feast On London’, a month long city wide celebration of London’s culinary heritage.

As we were heading to London for the weekend we thought it would be a nice treat to eat in a fine dinning restaurant.

There were so many to choose from on Bookatable that it was very difficult to pick somewhere. We were however only booking a few days before our trip, so a lot of the restaurants had already been booked up. We were on a tight time frame because I had an event to attend in the evening. So, we decided on booking a 15.30 table, plus I wanted great views across London. I love the London skyline, it’s a fabulous view to gaze at. Each time we visit something new has appeared.

The OXO Tower Brasserie

The OXO Tower Brasserie seemed like the perfect choice, it was located fairly near to the London Duck Tour, which we were booked on to at 13.30. The menu looked great and at £33 per head for 3 courses plus a cocktail, it would be silly not to book. A great price for dinning in London. Plus not forgetting those beautiful views across the city.

We arrived to a warm welcome up on the the 8th floor of the OXO Tower, by a friendly receptionist who stored our coats and arranged for us to be seated.

OXO Tower Brasserie Review

Our table was just one row away from the window, which still gave us great viewing opportunity. After we had made our orders for drinks, a white wine for me and a beer for my Hubby, the table next to the window became available. Our kind waiter asked if we would like to move across, perfect! Right next to those beautiful views. During the summer months I can imagine the roof terrace to be full of people having cocktails and delicious foods. On our visit however it wasn’t overly warm and quite cloudy, so no-one was outside.

Feast On London Menu

OXO Tower Brasserie Review

Our attention soon turned to the menu. I opted for the Cod cheeks, followed by the Roast Chicken and then the Chocolate hazelnut cake. My Hubby went for the Rabbit Ragu, Roast Chicken and the Treacle Tart. We also ordered the roasted new potatoes and sprouting broccoli sides.

The Cocktail

OXO Tower Brasserie Review

The cocktail that came with the menu was Bombay Sapphire and Hibiscus. It came served in a tall glass with ice, lemon and Hibiscus petals floating in it. We both thought it was a tasty cocktail, not too sweet, with floral flavours that finished with a warmth of gin. We both would happily have had 2 or 3 of these.

OXO Tower Brasserie Review

The Starters

OXO Tower Brasserie Review

We didn’t seem to be waiting for too long when our starters arrived. What with us chatting away about our day so far and plans for the rest of the trip along with looking at that stunning view of London.

OXO Tower Brasserie ReviewMy starter of, beer-battered cod cheeks, bitter leaf salad, lemon and seaweed aioli. It looked amazing and smelt amazing on arrival I couldn’t wait to try it. The cod cheeks fell apart and melted in the mouth, all the little flavours together was just fabulous. The little lemon oil along side the seaweed aioli worked perfectly on the dish.

OXO Tower Brasserie Review

The Hubby had slow-braised rabbit ragu, pearl barley and truffle pecorino. I’m not keen on game, so it is my Hubby’s choice of food whenever we dine out. He loved it, saying it was full of rich tomato, gamey flavour. The rabbit just fell apart. It seemed to be a winner for him.

The Main Courses

OXO Tower Brasserie Review

We both opted for the roasted chicken, slow-cooked bacon collar,truffle onion purée and spring greens. Adding sides of roasted new potatoes and sprouting broccoli. It was truly delicious. That salty bacon flavour against the truffle and onion purée just cut through the flavours. The roasted chicken was soft and tender still full of moisture, the knife just glided through. Even though we added a couple of extra sides to the meal, we really wouldn’t have needed to as there was more than enough.

OXO Tower Brasserie Review

The Dessert

OXO Tower Brasserie Review

I went for the chocolate hazelnut cake with condensed milk ice cream. I was honestly disappointed with my dessert. It wasn’t what I was expecting, I was expecting a chocolate cake however it was not. I felt the cake was a little dry and the hazelnut crumb was burnt. It had that bitter burnt taste across the dish, which honestly wasn’t brilliant. The ice-cream was creamy and smooth, however I couldn’t tell it was condensed milk. So, I was disappointed with my dessert and I wish I had opted for something else.

OXO Tower Brasserie Review

My Hubby opted for the treacle tart, rhubarb and clotted cream, he loved it. The rhubarb was well cooked, with just the right amount of acidity to cut through the sweetness of the treacle tart. Amazing along side the clotted cream.

Overall Review

We both really enjoyed our meal at the OXO Tower Brasserie, there was a relaxed atmosphere with friendly staff that were happy to help you out. There is an open kitchen so you can see the food being prepared, over seen by head chef Keir Barry. Who designed the British style menu. Even though I was not overly impressed with my dessert it would not put me off visiting again on our next tip to London.

 

Mummy in a Tutu

 

My Top 5 UK City Breaks

top 5 uk city breaks

The Hubby and I love a UK city break. More often than not, its a family trip. However on the odd occasion, when we have a couple of child free nights, its great to get away. When we look for a couple of nights away we like to choose different cities. The UK has many stunning places to visit. The UK has some of the most culture rich cities in the world, each steeped in history.

We have chosen our top 5 UK cities to visit, York, Edinburgh, Bath, Cardiff and of course, our capital city, London.

York

top 5 uk city breaks

York is my most favourite place to visit. Having stayed on many occasion both with and without children. Each visit we find a new corner of this amazing city we haven’t yet explored or a new favourite thing to do. This city is packed with history, visiting the Jorvik centre is a great way to learn about Yorks Viking history. It’s not just somewhere for children but great for adults as well. We have visited alone and with the children.

Walking though the shambles, seeing all the old shop fronts, popping in and out of the little shops. Just watch out for the cobbles. There are also lots of lovely antiques shops to wonder around. York Minister is a beautiful thing just to look at, even if you don’t go inside. However if you do, make sure you ‘climb the central tower’ it takes you up on to the roof walk, so gives you the best views of the city.

York is packed full of places to visit, restaurants, bars, unique shops. Not forgetting the famous afternoon teas at Bettys.

York is well worth a visit.

Edinburgh

top 5 uk city breaks

Edinburgh is a beautiful old city, full of cobbled streets and little alleys full of stylish boutiques. One thing I just love about Edinburgh is it’s city centre. It’s quite small so you can easily walk everywhere. Not having to jump on a tube or bus to see something new. Edinburgh has recently been named the UK’s Greenest City. You’re never far from rolling hills and lush inner city parks.

If you want to make the most of your trip to Edinburgh why not book a personal city guide, they will help you explore the city and fill you in on its rich history. Just make sure you visit Edinburgh castle, it dominates the city sky line and gives you some of the best views of the city.

No trip to Scotland is complete without Whisky (not Whiskey!), luckily there are lots of Whisky bars to choose from while you are there. Plus there are lots of different hotels and accommodation options to pick.

Bath

top 5 uk city breaks

Bath is another of the UK’s most beautiful cities. In fact it is the only entire city to have been awarded the accolade of World Heritage Site. Bath is the only place in the UK you can bathe in naturally hot spa water and home to the Roman Baths. People have been visiting Bath for over a thousand years just to experience the naturally warm, mineral rich waters.

The City of Bath is famous for its Cresent’s, housing the most in the UK. The Royal Cresent is beautiful to visit, showing off the largest collection of Georgian architecture in the UK.

If you are wanting a relaxing trip to Bath, you should visit the Thermae Bath Spa in the city centre. Relax in the thermal waters and enjoy the roof top swimming pool, that gives you great views of the city. Something that I would love to do, but haven’t been able to just yet… one day.

There are many other fabulous places to visit, including Bath Abbey, or take a walk around the city on the National Trust Sky Walk Trail.

Of course, shopping is brilliant in Bath, with local boutiques and high street stores set within Georgian buildings. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and hotels so Bath has something for everyone. Having written this post I cant wait to start planning our next trip to Bath.

Cardiff

top 5 uk city breaks

 

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales. Home to many historic houses, Dr Who, the Millennium Stadium and the newly developed Bay area. The National Opera house is meant to be an amazing place to visit, so it is on the list for our next trip to Cardiff.  Cardiff Bay is the largest water front development in Europe, which has transformed the dockland into an attraction all on its own.

Full of great restaurants and little bars, there is something for everyone in Cardiff. There are also plenty of hotels and B & B’s to cover all price ranges. The National Museum and Art Gallery is free to enter and has a stunning room of rocks and minerals, just amazing. There is also the Royal Mint experience, great for families too.

Cardiff is full of history. There are lots of Ghost walks all around the city, allowing you to have some fun but also learn about the history along the way. If you are planning a city break, Cardiff should be at the top of your list.

London

top 5 uk city breaks

London is our capital city, the hub of British history, fashion, business and tourism. Not forgetting our Royal Family. London is busy, but amazing. I have loved every trip we have made to London. Being a day trip on the train or a couple of nights staying in a cute boutique hotel in Covent Garden.

One thing we haven’t done is a open bus tour, which is the plan for our next visit. They take you around to all of the major sights: Buckingham Palace, The Mall, Big Ben, West Minster Abbey, The Houses of Parliament, London Bridge… the list is endless. It’s a great way of taking in the sights. But that isn’t all London has to offer, with the London Eye, Madame Tussauds and The London Dungeons there is so much to do in London with or without children.

Shopping is just brilliant in London. If you can’t find something in London, it’s unlikely you will find it on any other high street. Designer shops, boutiques, vintage shops and high street stores can all be found on the streets of London. Not forgetting the vibrant, multicultural markets.

Food is at the heart of life in London, with some of the most renowned restaurants in the country. So finding a great place to eat isn’t a problem, just make sure you book a table. There are clubs and bars are all over the city so night life in London is always exciting. Don’t forget to book in for afternoon tea in one of the many hotels in London, I love afternoon tea anyway but afternoon tea in London just seems more special.

London is a wonderful place to visit, it’s something that people either love to do or hate. I love it and would highly recommend that everyone goes at least once to see our capital city.

So there are my top picks for UK city breaks, York, Bath, Edinburgh, Cardiff and London.

What’s your favourite city in the UK to visit?