For a lot of people, going into summer in London can be a little concerning. Evenings of going home from work to cook dinner and watch Netflix have been replaced by wanting to soak up the sunshine in cocktail bars and beer gardens. Everyone is throwing a party, summer wardrobes are so tempting to buy and most of us are saving for a holiday over the next coming months.
So how can you still make the most of summer in London without breaking the bank? I have a few tips to share and I would love to hear yours too!
Meeting friends for food
So the first category, planning a meal out with a group of friends on a budget. Now my first tip for trying to plan a birthday, or similar event, that involves a group of you eating out, would be to look to Groupon first. There are so many restaurants and pop ups on here with most offering 50% off your bill. It isn’t currently on Groupon, but we have been out to Pizzabuzz in Shoreditch quite a few times, as they were offering 2 meals for £30 which included a pizza each (add around 3-5 ingredients) and unlimited Prosecco and beer for 2 hours. In terms of creating a plan for your birthday this is such an easy way to ensure that people can afford to come, but also that they are definitely coming as they will have bought the Groupon in advance! Currently on Groupon there are places such as 28 West Bar & Grill, McQueen Shoreditch, and King’s Head Cocktail Bar & Courtyard all offering around 50% off your Brunch.
Picnic in the park
Another (potentially obvious) idea is going for a picnic in the park. A lot of parks won’t let you BBQ inside but I love a good picnic, if everyone brings one item each and you have a cooler box, picnic blanket and speaker between you then this is such a cheap idea AND you can get a tan. I personally love Hampstead Heath as it’s less popular with tourists and it’s so huge and split into different sections so there are so many different picnic spots to discover. There is an M&S up the road or if you are getting the Thameslink from West Hampstead there are a lot of spots around there. Alternatively, if you want to get out of London a little bit for the day then the gardens at Hampton Court Palace are free to enter and you can have your picnic there which is absolutely stunning.
Finally, if there’s a smaller group of you and you just want to spend the day perusing around London, then I would recommend market hopping. This means you basically spend your whole day eating (the dream) but you can spend as much or as little as you want, it can also be a fun challenge to try and sustain yourself purely off free samples. Borough & Camden Market are obvious brilliant places to visit, and quite easy to get between the 2 on the Northern line. They are also open everyday of the week! I have also seen that The Cheese Wheel pasta place that’s all over Facebook at the moment has an offer on Groupon, so you can always market hop your way over to there and then continue your journey after lunch! Soho also do a vegan market on Saturdays, Brick Lane has a fab food market on Sundays, as does Spitalfields every day of the week. You can even find them in more hidden locations such as West Hampstead (Saturdays) & Swiss Cottage (Wednesdays). Basically create a food map of London markets and spend your day visiting as many as possible! I have personally visited every single one of the markets I have mentioned, but there are so many more to see in London so please do send across your recommendations!
Meeting friends for drinks
Finding places to go for drinks cheaply can be a bit difficult in London (obviously not including drinking in a park…) but here are some ideas for places I have been quite a lot that won’t break the bank.
Some great person has created a map of all the Sam Smith pubs in London.
Samuel Smiths Brewery and Pubs are the beer lovers god. This group of pubs across London are dedicated to providing good, cheap beers and real ale in a traditional and relaxed pub environment. Forget watered down lagers costing £4, Sam Smith’s pubs in London provide fantastic cheap beer and in a proper London boozer.
They also provide spirits for relatively cheap prices as it’s all own brand, ironically the most expensive thing you will find in here are the soft drinks.
Your best bet for cheap bars in London is chasing happy hour. Timeout have helpfully put together a list of the best happy hours in London to get you started. My personal recommendations would be Dirty Martini:
Join us and sip on half price martinis, £20 bottles of Prosecco, £12.50 bottles of wine and £3.50 bottled beer and cider
and Be At One. If you download their app you can extend your happy hour on even longer and they run all sorts of promotions.
I had my birthday at Be At One Kings Cross last year and I loved it. They have 2 for £10 cocktails until late at night (longer with the app) and specifically at the Kings Cross branch they offer £5 cocktails to students all night! My favourite is the Bee’s Knees which you may have read about in my blog post about summer cocktails.
What else can we do?
If you are visiting London for the first time then there are literally thousands of websites that advise on things to see in London for free, such as the changing of the guard, all of the wonderful museums we have, walking down the South Bank and watching street performances in Covent Garden.
If you live in London, or have done most of the tourist areas and want more, I would recommend the following:
The Barbican Conservatory
Home to exotic fish and over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, a visit to our Conservatory is a perfect way to enjoy a lazy Sunday with friends and family.
Did you know: the large concrete tower you’ll see at the centre of the Conservatory is our Theatre flytower.
Visiting the conservatory is free, though they do offer other options such as a tour and afternoon tea which you can read about on their website.
Get cheap last minute tickets by either going to the venue in the morning and queuing at the box office, or trying your luck in the lottery on TodayTix. Alternatively, go and see shows at venues that are off-West End. Some of the best theatre I have seen has been at smaller venues such as The Vaults and Stratford Circus. All of these places have cheap theatre options! If you are 16-25 do sign up for the cheap tickets from the National Theatre and the Roundhouse as well as Mousetrap because there’s loads of offers you shouldn’t miss out on. This photo was taken after seeing 42nd Street on the front row for £15.00.
Otherwise just pay attention to the offers on Timeout. I personally just booked tickets to Ballie Ballerson through their offers, which meant I paid £3.75 for a 2 hour session in the giant ball pit – see if they still have the offer here. They currently have offers for Comedy Clubs, Secret Cinema, Taste of London and Zoo Nights!
That’s all for now, gosh that was a lot of links to add! Do let me know if you have any recommendations for cheap things to do in London for the summer, I hope this was interesting!