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Backpacking London on a budget: 39 Highlights + 13 Travel Tips!

View of the city from the Shard building while backpacking London

London has so much to see, and a visit to the city is well worth it. Whether you love culture, history, or nature – in London you’ll find a bit everything. With so many London attractions to offer, you should definitely allow enough time for your visit to the British capital. Although you can visit the highlights of London probably in 1-2 days, you will not be bored if you come with a little more time. I spent a full week in the city on my last trip to London, so I had plenty of time to explore all the interesting places there. Here’s everything you need to know about backpacking London!

Keep in mind that London can be an expensive city. However, you can easily save money by sleeping in an affordable backpacking hostel in London! I already stayed in The Village Hostel directly at the London Bridge (they also have great capsule rooms!) as well as the Liverpool Street Hostel close to hip Shoreditch. Both were great places and excellent value for money!

Important: London and the city’s attractions are very expensive – you can save some money by pre-purchasing the London Pass! Here you can get express admission to many sights in London (without having to queue too long), use the Hop-on Hop-off Bus, and save a lot of money. I have already used the London Pass and was thrilled! Find out about current prices for the London Pass here!

By the way, in this video you can see some of my highlights when backpacking London:

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Reasons why you should go backpacking in London

London is a great city that is worth seeing and a quick trip to London will never disappoint! Here are a few good reasons why London is perfect for a weekend break.

London is well-connected and easy to reach 

One of the main reasons why London is perfect for a weekend getaway is the cheap flights. With different airlines, you can fly from most cities in Germany directly and without problems for little money to London. If you want to be quite cheap, there are often Ryanair flights for just 10 € from Germany to London! But even if you do not like Ryanair, you can fly with, for example, Eurowings or Easyjet, often for under € 100 to London and back. The good thing is that for a London getaway you usually just need hand luggage, and can save yourself the extra cost (and time) of the case task.

By the way, note that there are several airports in and around London. If you use, for example, Ryanair, you will land in London Stansted – and thus about 70km outside of London. You can get to the city center either by train (about 25 €, takes less than an hour) or by bus (about 10 €, takes almost 1.5 hours). So keep in mind that you may still have to pay for these cheap airline tickets. Also, Gatwick Airport and Luton Airport are well out of the way and you should allow plenty of time to get from the airport to the city center (and back again).

The cheapest for a weekend trip to London is probably the Heathrow Airport. This is the largest airport in London (and one of the largest in the world!) And conveniently, London Heathrow is connected to the Tube – so you can get to the city center in less than an hour, for only 4.50 pounds. That seems like too long? Take the train to Paddington Station in 15-20 minutes (paying a bit more: 26.50 pounds). However, note that the London Heathrow Airport is huge. Therefore, you should look out for your terminal in advance and count with enough time.

You see, London is a great place for a weekend getaway – and if you choose the right airport, you can get to the city center quickly and cheaply.

Sunset while backpacking London
Sunset in London

You can experience a lot in a short time

Let’s be honest – a London weekend trip is not enough to see and visit the whole city. However, I was surprised by how much you can see and experience during such a short trip in London. Most of the sights are conveniently located directly in Central London. Much of it can even be explored on foot – Westminster, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, or the London Eye – most of London’s landmarks are central and often on the banks of the Thames. That’s why I recommend you explore a lot of London on your weekend trip on foot. So you can just let yourself drift through the streets without having to fumble one sight at a time.

Not only are you looking for sightseeing during your London getaway, but you want to use your weekend to get to know a few different neighborhoods in the city? Then why not visit the colorful streets of Notting Hill, the laid-back Greenwich or hip Brick Lane? If the weather is good during your London weekend trip, I also recommend going for a stroll through the city’s parks – in the vast Hyde Park, you’ll forget that you’re in one of the largest cities in the world!

Park in London
Exploring the parks of the city

Backpacking London can be done on a budget

London has a reputation for being an incredibly expensive city. Sure, living in London will cost you a lot of money, and it’s possible to spend a fortune during a London getaway. But it does not necessarily have to be that way. Because you can visit London for a little money! With a London getaway you will not spend much time in your room – so you can easily book easily a hostel! You can find some hostels in London, which are super centrally located and at very little cost. I personally have stayed at the St. Christopher’s Inn at London Bridge – a super cool experience! And for the food you do not have to spend a lot of money on your weekend trip. Sure, you can go to incredibly expensive and chic restaurants. But you can also eat cheap on the street and in food stalls. This not only saves you money, but also time – because who wants to spend their short trip in London only in restaurants?

If you want to spend little money on your short trip in London, I also recommend that you focus on the free sights. Sure, of course you can see the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral from the inside – but then you’ll have to dig deep into your pocket. Alternatively, you can also see all these landmarks from the outside, which is often no less beautiful. You want to have a great panorama of London, but do not want to spend 30 € for the viewing platform in “The Shard”? Then off to the Tate Modern – here you have a great view of the city, and it’s completely free. By the way, there are also many interesting museums in the city, such as the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, without admission fees.

You also save a lot of money if you get the London Pass in advance! Current information and prices can be found here!

London’s nightlife is great

Fancy a party weekend in London? Then go ahead! Because the city is of course known for its pubs and pints. There are some nightlife attractions in London for your weekend trip, especially in Soho, Chelsea, and Shoreditch. And in London, you’ll find it all – whether you like to drink your beer in the pub or celebrate chic in trendy clubs. In addition, in London, especially on weekends, there are always plenty of offers – there are theaters, concerts, shows, and of course interesting musicals. By the way, tickets for musicals are also available in the West End on the day of the performance, and often for little money! Read more about the nightlife in London!

The city is easily accessible by public transport

London may look a bit big and dazzling at first glance – especially if you’re just in town for a quick getaway. However, much of the British capital can be seen in only a few days. The reason for this is the practical network of public transport. You can easily discover London by metro, bus, and even ferry. So you can visit and experience different districts of London in a short time.

Colorful houses of Notting Hill
Notthing Hill

Backpacking London is a great experience for everyone

No matter what you like and where your interests are – in London you will find what you are looking for. You like sights and culture? Then off to Westminster. You are a fan of the royal family? Be sure to visit Kensington Palace and take a trip to Windsor Castle. You like history? Off to the British Museum. Or do you just want to enjoy nature? Then walk through Hyde Park. A re you a great Harry Potter fan? Then off to the Warner Brothers Studios. There is something for every taste in London and you are completely flexible in making your short trip to London free.

Buildings in London
My London backpacking trip

Backpacking London Travel Tips

A visit to London is definitely worth it – because the metropolis has a lot to offer and thrills tourists from all over the world. Due to the sheer size of the city, as well as the numerous sights and attractions of the British capital, a trip to London can also be a bit daunting. That’s why I give you all the information and the best insider tips for your vacation – with these London insider tips and travel tips you are perfectly prepared for your city trip! Additionally, you can also find some more tips for London here!

Use your credit card and don’t take out much cash

While there are still a few shops in Germany that are opposed to accepting card payments (or only making this possible after a certain amount), London (or most countries in the world…) is way ahead of us here. You will be able to pay anywhere and without any problems with your credit card; with small amounts even a short touch with the card and a PIN is not needed. In some stores, it was even explicit that cash is not accepted. Accordingly, as a London travel tip, you should definitely bring your credit card with you and not withdraw too much cash – because you may not get rid of it in the end. Believe me – no matter what, where, and for how much you buy: you’ll be able to pay anywhere with no credit card problems. And you will notice how much more practical and easy life is with it.

Save money by staying in a cheap hostel or hotel

You want to visit London, but not spend a fortune on it? Then you should stay the night in a hostel – who needs a private room if you are going to be sightseeing all day anyway? I slept at St. Christopher’s Inn on London Bridge – in this new capsule hostel, you can even gain a unique experience and stay in a Japanese-style capsule. Super cool, and still a real insider tip in London! You would rather stay in a real hotel, live centrally and still not spend too much? Then I recommend the Point A Hotel with a convenient location right at King’s Cross Station.

Saving money in a hostel when backpacking london on a budget
Night at the capsule hostel

Eat in cheap street stalls to save money

If you have only a few days in London, I advise you not to waste too much time and money on food. While you visit the city, you can eat incredibly cheap! Visit the Borough Market at noon, for example, or get cheap street food on Brick Lane. Here you save money and time, which you can use well for your London stay.

Visit the free attractions when backpacking London

As you can see, many of London’s most famous landmarks cost a lot of money to visit. So I’ll give you the travel guide to focus on the free sights while in London. This way, you can explore all the squares and parks without paying a penny. Also, I have to admit that I found some of the city’s landmarks even more interesting from the outside than from the inside!

Save money with the London Pass

You want to see many attractions and landmarks in London, but also want to save money? Then I can suggest you get the London Pass. Here you pay a one-time fee, but you get admission to more than 80 sights and attractions of the city. Among them are some of London’s most expensive and important landmarks (such as the Tower of London, The Shard, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral) – so you can save money here. In addition, you also save time and stress because you can avoid buying tickets and even skip the queue at some attractions. The price of the London Pass depends on how many days you use it. A London Pass for one day is available for 69 pounds, for two days 94 pounds and for three days you’re at 114 pounds. If you want to explore London very intensively, the pass is also available for 6 and 10 days. Incidentally, you have the option of booking public transport in the London Pass. Children pay less.

In general, the London Pass is worthwhile in any case, if you want to visit many attractions. As an insider tip for London, I recommend purchasing the pass for either 2 or 3 days so you can see the main attractions.

Visit the free museums in London

London is certainly not a cheap destination – but if you do it right, you can see a lot of the city for little money. For example, you should take advantage of the free entrance to the city’s museums. London has some of the most impressive and important artifacts in the world! Particularly popular is the British Museum (here you can see archaeological treasures such as the famous Rosetta stone) and the Natural History Museum. You rather like art? Then off to the free Tate Modern Gallery – where you even get a great, completely free view of London from the viewing deck.

London on a budget with free museums
Visiting the British Museum

Get an Oyster Card for public transport

Above all, if you stay in London for several days and often use public transport, it is worth buying an Oyster Card. With this handy map you can use any public transport (tube, bus, train, ferry) and you just have to hold your card to the scanner when entering or leaving. The card will charge you a certain amount in advance, which automatically deducts your travel expenses. The Oyster Card costs you a one-off payment of 5 pounds, then you can top up your desired amount and explore the city from morning to night on public transport, In addition, you can save even money, because the trips with the Oyster Card are also slightly cheaper, as if you regularly buy single tickets – and of course it is also much more practical and faster.

Budget london tips with using public transport
Using the Tube in London

Differentiate the different airports in London

Attention – in or around London there are several different airports that are controlled. And that definitely makes a difference as to how fast you are in the city center. As an insider tip for your London vacation, I advise you to pay close attention to which airport you will be displayed for a certain price – because by train it can cost you another 20-30 € extra to come from there into the city. The London Stansted, for example, is preferably served by Ryanair. Note, however, that the airport is a long way (by bus almost 1.5 hours) outside of London! Also Gatwick and Luton are a bit away from the city and you have to plan enough time in any case. To get to the city center, you usually either take the train (more expensive and faster) or the bus (cheaper and slower) .If you have the choice, it is well worth it to pay a few euros to fly to London Heathrow , This airport is connected to the London Underground network and you’re in the city center for just 4.50 pounds in less than an hour – if that’s too long for you, the train will take you in 20 minutes (but for a full 26.50 pounds) to Paddington Station. In principle, you come from any airport to London – but with different durations and prices. That’s why I give you the London travel guide, to pay attention to the flight booking.

Visit London apart from the most famous sights

When thinking of London, of course, most people immediately think of the city’s most famous landmarks, such as the Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London. Sure, you should definitely take a look at these attractions. But that’s not all! London has so much more to offer than the well-known attractions. How about a visit to the Greenwich area, where you can visit the UNESCO World Heritage Old Royal Naval College and have a great panoramic view of London from Greenwich Park? This neighborhood is still a real London insider tip. Or do you want to stroll through the colorful streets of upscale Notting Hill, where every Saturday a huge market takes place on Portobello Road? Another London insider tip is to visit the hip Brick Lane in East London – here you’ll find graffiti and street art artwork, laid-back cafés, and the alternative Nomadic Gardens. You see – London is so much more than “just” London Eye and Big Ben!

Nomadic Gardens when backpacking London
Nomadic Gardens at Brick Lane

Enjoy the free viewpoints when backpacking London

Some of the best views of London – such as the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the gondolas of the London Eye, or the top of The Shard – are quite costly and entry is fast at 20-30 pounds per attraction. You do not want to spend so much money, but still have a great view of London? Then there are two observation decks that I can suggest for you as a travel guide for London. You have a great view of the city from the Tate Modern building, directly on the south side of the Thames. The building contains some art galleries and exhibitions and is completely free to visit. But even if you are not interested in art, a visit is worthwhile, because with the elevator you can get to the observation deck, from which you have a great view of London.

Another cool view of London is the “Monument to the Great Fire of London”, located just off London Bridge in the business district of the city. The column is not quite as high, for only 5 pounds but very cheap. Countless steps lead you up the spiral staircase to the (unfortunately barred) viewing platform from which you can see as far as Tower Bridge.

London backpacking tips for free viewpoints
Free view from Tate Modern

Get entrance tickets for the attractions in London in advance

For some of London’s most popular attractions, you’ll need a (usually not so cheap) admission ticket. For example, while you can easily visit the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London from the outside, you will need a ticket to see the inside of these attractions. It is often worth buying the tickets in advance on the Internet. With this insider tip for London, you can sometimes save yourself money, but in all case, you will definitely save the waiting time.

Bring an umbrella and wear layers

The weather in London can be incredibly changeable. Although I was really surprised in October, to have almost only sunshine – this can change quickly. That’s why you should definitely bring an umbrella with you in your luggage for London and also dress according to the onion principle. For example, it is incredibly hot in the subway – it’s worth wearing an easily pulled-out jacket instead of a thick wool pullover. As a travel tip for London, I suggest you bring clothes and gear for every weather and season. I hope these London tips will help you to be well prepared for your trip! I wish you much fun on your trip already – let me know in the comments how you like London!

Sometimes you’re faster by foot than by metro

Although London is a huge city where you often depend on public transport, you can nevertheless explore many areas well on foot. In Central London, you are sometimes faster than with the subway! The Tube in London is great for seeing more distant parts of the city. However, every time you have descend for several minutes with escalators in the depth and buy yourself a ticket. If you’re on foot, London’s major attractions, including Westminster with the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace are within walking distance. I also enjoyed strolling along the Thames – so you can even walk from the London Bridge to Westminster along the river and enjoy the beautiful views along the way.

tube station on a London backpacking trip
Waiting for the tube

Best places to visit when backpacking London

Royal and historical attractions in London

First and foremost, London is well known for its historic attractions, such as the Tower of London, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace. Of course, you should not miss these attractions, especially on your first visit to London. Conveniently, most of London’s highlights are right in the center of the city, and you can even walk to some of them. Especially if you are interested in the British Crown and the Royal Family, the following London attractions will thrill you.

Save a lot of money and time by purchasing the London Pass in advance. Current information and prices can be found here!

Streets of Westminster
Westminster

Big Ben & Palace of Westminster

These are probably the most famous sights in London and can’t be missing here of course! These London landmarks are right on the River Thames and are hard to miss. By the way, if you walk across Westminster Bridge, you’ll have the best view. On the other side of the Thames, you can also find the London Eye directly! Note, by the way, that the Big Ben is currently wrapped in scaffolding for refurbishment, and this will probably continue for some time (probably until 2021). That’s why the Big Ben is currently not the perfect photo opportunity for your trip to London. Due to the renovation work, unfortunately, you currently are not able to undertake tours into the interior of the tower and you have to be content with the view from the outside.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Westminster
• Admission: Big Ben tours currently not possible due to construction work

Westminster bridge in London
Big Ben and Palace of Westminster when backpacking London

Westminster Abbey

Just behind the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey is another London attraction you should not miss. In this more than 1000-year-old cathedral, all British kings and queens were crowned, some also even buried. For a staggering ticket price, you can see Westminster Abbey not only from the outside, but also from the inside. But look again at the opening hours, as the cathedral closes quite early (around 15:30, sometimes even earlier) and closes completely on Saturdays. Westminster Abbey was also the only landmark in London that I actually had to queue for (about 45 minutes).

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Westminster
• Admission: 22 pounds (cheaper if you book in advance)

Inside Westminster Abbey in London
Westminster Abbey

Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge over the River Thames is another landmark in London and a landmark that you should see during your trip. The two twin towers were built at the end of the 19th century and have since been considered one of London’s most remarkable monuments. If you want to learn more about the Tower Bridge, it is worth visiting the Tower Bridge Exhibition, which is located directly in the towers. Here you also have the view of the Thames and can walk in the passage of the towers on a glass floor above the bridge.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Tower Hill
• Admission: Free from outside, visit the exhibition: 9.80 pounds

View of Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge Exhibition visit
Tower Bridge Exhibition

Tower of London

The Tower of London is located right at the beginning of the London Bridge and is also a well-known landmark in London. Here you will find several exhibitions and galleries where you can learn more about the history of London. Because this building has a busy history behind it, and was already considered a weapons warehouse, execution place, zoo, and of course as a palace for the kings! The most famous exhibit (unfortunately you cannot take pictures) are the British Crown Jewels

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Tower Hill
• Admission: Free From Outside, Tickets: 26.80 Pounds (Online In Advance: 22.70 pounds)

Tower of London panorama
Tower of London

Kensington Palace 

Kensington Palace is located west of Hyde Park, right by the Royal Gardens. The royal estate is already worth seeing from the outside and is one of London’s most popular sights, above all because of its historical significance for the British royal family. The palace was used extensively in the past, with figures such as Queen Victoria and Lady Di who lived here. If you are a big fan of the royal family, you should probably also look at the Kensington Palace from inside. Here you can see the different rooms of the Royals and of course a lot of pomp. Kensington Palace also hosts an exhibition on Lady Di’s fashion.

The entrance fee for the Kensington Palace is well worthwhile only for big fans of the British Royals or their history. But a visit to the Royal Gardens to see the exterior of the palace is well worth it and should be on your list of London attractions.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Kensington High Street / Notting Hill Gate
• Admission: 19.50 pounds

Kensington Palace when backpacking London
Kensington Palace

Buckingham Palace

A visit to Buckingham Palace is also a must in London. This landmark is the official residence of the British Queen, guarded by the famous watchmen (who cannot leave their faces). Of course, Buckingham Palace is closed off by a large gate in front of which enthusiastic tourists can watch the entrance of the palace. Incidentally, you can also join a tour of Buckingham Palace, where you can see the Queen’s Gallery and the state rooms at close range. Adjacent to Buckingham Palace is the beautiful St. James Park. Accordingly, you can easily reach the attraction from Westminster by walking through the park. At Buckingham Palace, you can also see another London landmark – the famous changing of the guard. This ceremony takes place daily (or every two days in winter) at 11am in front of Buckingham Palace. Remember, however, as it can get very crowded, to be sure to be there early.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Victoria / St. James’s Park
• Admission: Free from outside, Tickets: 23 pounds

Highlight in london is Buckingham Palace
London’sBuckingham Palace

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral is arguably one of the most impressive sights in London and for me it undoubtedly is one of the greatest attractions the city has to offer. The huge cathedral looks incredibly impressive and beautiful from the outside. But it is also worth a visit inside, because it gives you access to the viewing platform on the cathedral! You’ll have to climb hundreds of narrow steps up until you’re rewarded with a great view of London. Although you are not quite as high as in “The Shard”, you are still a lot closer because St. Paul’s Cathedral is located right in the middle of London. For me, the view was accordingly spectacular. If you do not want to pay the entrance fee, you can just visit a service in the cathedral. Unfortunately, you will not be able to climb the dome. As a side note, Lady Di and Prince Charles got married in this cathedral!

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: St. Paul’s
• Admission: Free from outside, Tickets for inside: 18 pounds

Backpacking London on a budget: Visit at the cathedral
St. Pauls Cathedral

Museums and exhibitions in London

If you’re interested in culture and museums, London is the place for you. The good thing is that world-class museums, such as the British Museum, are completely free! You do not like to look at relics from the past? No problem! In London, you can also conveniently watch a musical, marvel at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, or visit Harry Potter’s movie studios.

Save a lot of money and time by purchasing the London Pass in advance. Current information and prices can be found here!

Natural History Museum inside
Natural History Museum London

The British Museum

The British Museum is probably the most famous museum in London and therefore a top attraction. Here you will find many archaeological treasures of history, sorted by continents or regions of the world. The museum is huge and a bit overwhelming in its size and abundance. Here are some of the most important treasures in the world, such as the Rosetta Stone. Incidentally, the name of the British Museum is a bit misleading here. As, in the museum, you will learn nothing directly about the history of Great Britain. Instead, the galleries and exhibitions focus on the whole world, and you can see artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, or Persia. Although the Museum exhibits are worth seeing, the British Museum is also very crowded. I was there on a Tuesday morning visit and had to beat my way through countless school classes and Asian travel groups. For history buffs, a visit is always worth it – but do not expect to be the only one touring this museum.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Holborn (+ Short Walk)
• Admission: Free

Visiting the british museum
British Museum

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is one of London’s most famous museums. It is definitely worth a visit, even if you are not usually the biggest museum fan. If you’re lucky, you can also take part in a very special event here: Dino Snores for Grown-ups! This event only takes place every few weeks, but is worth it even more. Here you can fulfill a dream and spend a night in the museum! The Museum of Natural History opens its doors in the early evening, the visitors get a sleeping mat (you must bring your own sleeping bag) and can freely choose a place to sleep – even in the entrance hall, directly under the huge skeleton of the blue whale! Several events and program events during the evening (including comedy, music, gin tasting, and insect tasting) and breakfast the next morning. In addition, of course, all galleries are open until late at night and can be explored in peace. An extraordinary experience! However, a visit to the Natural History Museum is also worthwhile (by day)! Then it’s even free.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: South Kensington
• Admission: Free (By Day)

Natural History Museum at night
Night in the Natural History Museum

Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studios

If you’re a Harry Potter fanatic, you’ll love your Harry Potter Museum Tour. In the studios you can see some of the original props, costumes, and film locations of the Harry Potter movies. For example, on a tour, you’ll see the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room, Dumbledore’s office, the Dursley House, Diagon Alley, and even walk through the Forbidden Forest. I was particularly impressed by the many small details – wherever you look, you will discover props that you know from the movies. For Harry Potter fans, this London attraction is a must!

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Train from Euston to Watford Junction, then the Harry Potter Bus to the Studios
• Admission: 41 Pounds

Harry Potter Studio tour London
Harry Potter Museum London

Enjoy a musical when backpacking London

The city is known for its great musicals in London’s West End. Here you can show up even on the day of the performance and spontaneously buy tickets very cheap for the shows. In London you can see some of the world’s most famous musicals, such as “The Lion King”, “Mamma Mia”, “Wicked”, or “Les Miserables”. On my first visit to London a few years ago, I spontaneously visited “We Will Rock You” and was thrilled.

Musical visit
Musical in London

See the wax figures in Madame Tussauds

The famous wax museum is an indispensable part of London and is considered one of the city’s most popular sights. And a visit is indeed a lot of fun – here you can see famous people from films, music, and politics up close and personal. And the best thing – all celebrities are always ready for a photo shoot with you!

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Baker Street Station
• Admission: 39 pounds

at Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds

The coolest areas when backpacking London

Of course, London has some historical and significant sights to offer. It’s just as much fun to discover the city’s different districts! Above all, if you do not just want to check one attraction after the other, I recommend that you explore the different areas of London without a big plan. Below I describe my experiences in some of the most interesting districts of London, which are very much worth seeing.

Colorful streets of Notting Hill

The district of Notting Hill is located in the southwest of London and is easily reached by tube. Notting Hill can be described in one word: beautiful! The district is one of the upper parts of London and this is also immediately recognizable in the houses. Here you will find expensive estates, hip cafes, and brightly-colored houses. The neighborhood stretches along Portobello Road, where every Saturday a market takes place. By the way, Notting Hill has also been used as a location for a number of films and series, most notably, the famous movie Notting Hill starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. The famous blue door number 280 is located right on Portobello Road, as well as several other locations, such as the Notting Hill Bookshop. If you need some rest, you can also stroll through Notting Hill’s Kyoto Garden at Holland Park. Especially noteworthy is the always colorfully decorated “The Curchill Arms” Bar. Notting Hill is known for the huge Notting Hill Carnival Festival in August – but it’s also worth a visit on another date that is far from this event.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Notting Hill Gate
• Admission: Free

Churchill Arms Bar London
Churchill Arms Pub Notting Hill
Portobello Road London in Notting Hill
Portobello Road Notting Hill

Explore hip Greenwich

Greenwich is located in east London but is easily accessible by tube, bus, or even Central London ferry. Especially beautiful in Greenwich is the Old Royal Naval College – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that you should definitely see. Incidentally, this structure has also been used as a backdrop for some film productions, such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Les Miserables.

Film sets in Greenwich
Film tour in Greenwich

But that’s not all – Greenwich has more to offer, as this part of London is full of sights. Visit the National Maritime Museum, stroll through Greenwich Market, and explore the small lanes of the neighborhood. In Greenwich you will also find the zero meridian (hence the name Greenwich Meantime!). Do not miss out on a trip to Greenwich Park – this huge, green space is perfect for relaxing sightseeing in London. If you still have energy, you should hike up the hill to have a great view of London. In the middle of the park you can also visit the Royal Observatory (but this has an admission cost). North Greenwich is a lot more modern, here is, for example, the huge 02 Arena, where many world stars hold their concerts. It is also being built into a large shopping center that will open soon.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Greenwich North (Attention: Here you are in the north of Greenwich and for the well-known attractions such as Old Royal Naval College and Greenwich Park you have to walk a bit, alternatively you can reach Greenwich by ferry or bus)
• Admission: Free

Backpacking London at Greenwich Park
View from Greenwich Park

Enjoy the streets of Mayfair

The posh Mayfair district, located between Soho and Hyde Park, is considered one of the richest and most expensive areas of the city. Here you will find expensive boutiques and beautiful buildings. With Hyde Park directly adjacent to Mayfair, you can easily connect these two attractions

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Bond Street
• Admission: Free

Fancy Mayfair neighborhood
Streets in Mayfair

Feel like you’re in Asia when visiting Chinatown

Like so many other cities in the world, London has its own Chinatown, right next to Soho. The main street is lined by a large Chinese gate and the typical lanterns. Walking through Chinatown you will find a variety of Chinese restaurants and shops

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Tottenham Court Road / Piccadilly Circus
• Admission: Free

Colorful streets in Chinatown
Streets of Chinatown

Explore the exciting streets of Soho

Soho is a popular nightlife district in the city and was previously considered part of “Bohemian London”. Accordingly, Soho is known for multiculturalism and openness – here you will find sex shops, LGBT bars, and countless restaurants and pubs. Soho is colorful, cosmopolitan, and definitely worth a visit.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Tottenham Court Road
• Admission: Free

Soho when backpacking London
Streets of Sohos

Walk around Covent Garden

The Covent Garden district is just off Soho and Westminster, making it a popular area in London, which is full of attractions. Covent Garden is well known for the Royal Opera House and the centuries-old Covent Garden Market. If you want a fancy and typically British meal, I recommend the “Simpson’s in the Strand” restaurant. Even scenes for the series “The Crown” and “Downton Abbey” were filmed here!

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Covent Garden
• Admission: Free

Visit at Covent Garden
Covent Garden London
Simpson's Restaurant London
At Simpson’s The Strand

Check out hip Brick Lane in East London

The Brick Lane is probably the hippest area in London. Known a few years ago as derelict working-class neighborhoods of the lower class, these times are long gone. The area around Brick Lane and Shoreditch in East London is now considered an arts and entertainment district and is worth a visit. Here you will find countless street art and graffiti artworks, vintage stores, art galleries, street food, and vegan cafes and restaurants. Also worth a visit are the Nomadic Gardens right next to the train tracks – a community garden full of art and alternative exhibits.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Aldgate East
• Admission: Free

Cool Brick Lane street art
Brick Lane London

Visit Camden and its markets

Camden is a London borough and is best known for its hip and diverse street markets. The main artery through Camden is the High Street. Here you can enjoy street food, explore vintage stores, and stroll along the canal. Camden is colorful, exciting, and worth a visit.

Visiting Camden in London
Camden main street
Camden Market in London
Market in Camden

Squares and monuments when backpacking London

In addition to London’s famous royal and historic sights, which most tourists visit first, there are many more in the city. Here you will find a selection of other interesting monuments and places that are worth seeing during your visit to London.

King’s Cross / St. Pancras Hotel 

As a Harry Potter fan, do you really want to have a photo on Track 9 ¾, but you do not have time to visit Harry Potter Studios? Then you can also shoot your souvenir photo at King’s Cross Station. Right next to King’s Cross Station is the venerable St. Pancras Hotel. This luxurious accommodation looks great from the outside and is worth seeing, and even if you do not stay overnight, it’s worth a visit. In the hotel bar you can mix a cocktail – if the opportunity arises, you can ask here if you are allowed to visit the famous staircase of the St. Pancras Hotel. This became particularly well-known when the “Wannabe” music video of the Spice Girls was filmed here.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: King’s Cross
• Admission: Free

St. Pancras Hotel when backpacking in London
St. Pancras Hotel London

Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is one of London’s busiest and most iconic squares, surrounded by shopping malls and shops. Here you can visit the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain and you can also quickly walk to Soho, Mayfair, or Westminster. First and foremost, the Piccadilly Circus is known for its huge LED wall, where colorful advertising lights are lit day and night.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Piccadilly Circus
• Admission: Free

Piccadilly LED at night
Piccadilly Circus at Nacht

Borough Market

The Borough Market is probably the most famous market in London and is definitely worth seeing – especially at lunchtime, and you can find cheap and tasty snacks here. The market is partially covered and it’s fun to walk around and get a closer look at the stands.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: London Bridge
• Admission: Free

Visiting the Borough market
Borough Market London

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is arguably one of the city’s most famous public squares, making it an important London landmark. The square is filled with fountains and statues and lion sculptures, as well as the large Nelson Column (a memorial in honor of Admiral Nelson) in the center. If you’re interested in art, you’ll also find the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Charing Cross
• Admission: Free

Trafalgar Square panorama
Trafalgar Square London

Millennium Bridge

The pedestrian bridge spans the Thames and connects the two sights of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern. Above all, the view of the cathedral is spectacular from the end of the bridge. The bridge was opened in 2000, but then closed due to unexpected wobble and waver, and then reopened again two years later. Fun fact: in the sixth Harry Potter movie, the Millennium Bridge (not accidentally) is shaken so much by the Death Eaters, it finally collapses.

• Next Tube / Tube Station: St. Paul’s / Blackfriars
• Admission: Free

Millennium bridge London
Millennium Bridge

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is a huge park right in the center of London. Here you can relax and unwind from the clatter of London sights. The park is huge and invites for a long walk, especially in good weather. You do not want to stay in the park too long? No problem, as it is surrounded by some of London’s most desirable neighborhoods and attractions – such as Mayfair to the east and Kensington (including the famous Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens) to the west of Hyde Park.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Hyde Park Corner, Lancaster Gate (whichever corner of the park you want)
• Admission: Free

Lake in Hyde Park
Visiting Hyde Park

Leadenhall Market

This huge, covered market in the middle of London is very nice to look at and is also one of the city’s little-known sights. Already in the 14th century, the market was used, but completely destroyed and rebuilt during the big fire a few hundred years ago. Here you will find many shops, restaurants, and cafes and I recommend you to just walk through the market halls. By the way, this attraction is especially worth a visit for Harry Potter fans – the market serves as a template for Diagon Alley, and some scenes were filmed there (for example, Harry’s and Hagrid’s visit to the first film).

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Monument / Bank

• Admission: Free

Traveling Leadenhall market London
Leadenhall Market

HMS Belfast

This former warship is located directly between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. On board you can learn more about the warship and the soldiers on board, for example, during World War II in use. If you do not want to visit the ship directly, you can also admire it from the shore.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: London Bridge

London at night

The sights of London are worthwhile not only by day, but also at night! While London does not have a huge skyline like New York City, you should not miss the night view of the city. I recommend you just walk along the Thames after sunset – so you can enjoy the great view of the Palace of Westminster on both the London Bridge.

night view of london
London at Nacht

Viewpoints in London

Now you have explored all the sights in London as well as the most popular museums and neighborhoods. So, what else is missing? Of course, a great view of the metropolis! Here you can see the most famous sights of London from above. There are many great viewing platforms in London, here are some of the most popular ones.

Monument to the Great Fire of London

The monument, in the form of a pillar, is located directly in the business district of London at the London Bridge. For just 5 pounds, you can climb countless steps up a spiral staircase and enjoy a great view of London from above. This sight is still relatively unknown and for a relatively small amount of money you have a cool view here.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Monument
• Admission: 5 Pounds

Fire Monument
Monument to the Great Fire of London
Panorama from Monument to the Great Fire
View from the Monument when backpacking London

Tate Modern

The Tate Modern Art Gallery is a must-see for art lovers, as this London attraction features a variety of art exhibits and is located directly on the River Thames, in the center of the city. Even if you are not a big fan of art, you should not miss the Tate Modern – because here you will find one of the most beautiful viewpoints of the city. Just take the elevator to the viewing platform. This is completely free!

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Southwark
• Admission: Free

Tate Modern viewpoint
View from Tate Modern

The Shard London

The best (and highest) view of London is from the Shard Building, just off London Bridge. The tower is over 300 meters high and from the observation decks on the top floors you can (through glass) experience a great view of London. Just because of its futuristic shape, you’ll be able to easily recognize The Shard. If you want to go to the Observation Deck, I recommend you do this in the late afternoon. Then you have the opportunity to see the sunset from above and, with a bit of patience, even catch a glimpse of London at night.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: London Bridge
• Admission: £ 30.95 (cheaper if booking in advance)

Shard building
The Shard
 
Shard viewpoint when backpacking London
View from The Shard

London Eye

The worth-seeing London Eye is an integral part of the city skyline and another landmark of London. The Ferris wheel is already impressive from the outside, and is the best view you have from the opposite side of the Thames (in Westminster). However, you can also enjoy a ride through the air in the giant gondolas and see London with all its sights from above. The journey takes about 30 minutes, but expect a long queue until you finally make it into the gondola. It is best to buy your ticket in advance – this will save you some money as well as stress and time. If you do not want to have to do queues, there are also “fast track” tickets to buy. By the way, the London Eye is the most visited (paid) attraction in London! 3.5 million visitors see London from the Ferris wheel every year.

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: Waterloo
• Admission: from 25.20 pounds (cheaper if booked in advance)

London Eye at sunset
Famous London Eye

St. Paul’s Cathedral

I have described the St. Paul’s Cathedral in more detail above. The building is huge and the interior will definitely impress you. It is especially worth seeing, however, I found the great view from the dome of the cathedral to be the most important thing. Here you have to climb some steps, but the view of London from the lookout point is a spectacular reward!

• Nearest Tube / Tube Station: St. Paul’s
• Admission: Free from outside, Indoor tickets: 18 pounds

Panorama from the cathedral
View from St. Pauls Cathedral

Sky Garden Viewing Deck

From this building you can also enjoy a great view of London. Here is the highest garden of the city! Note, however, that you must reserve your visit here in advance(for free!). Unfortunately, during my visit, the Skygarden was booked out, so I haven’t been able to visit this sight in London yet.

Primrose Hill (Camden)

The beautiful green Primrose Hill Park is located near Camden and can be practically combined with a visit to the Camden Market. Here you can walk through the green area and have a great view of the skyline of London from the top of the hill. Primrose Hill is part of Regent’s Park, which moves further south and also has the London Zoo.

View from Primrose Hill London
Primrose Hill

Best tours when backpacking London

The majority of London can be visited alone and comfortably on foot or by public transport. But now you might also want to get to know London away from the famous sights. Here I tell about some tours that I have done in London.

The Millennium Bridge
Walking on the Millennium Bridge

Visit famous places of the Beatles

If you’re a fan of The Beatles, London is where you can discover some of the most significant places in the band’s history. Best known here is probably the Abbey Road in the north of London – the famous cover of the four was taken here at the crosswalk, and in the adjacent studio, two albums were recorded. Abbey Road is London’s best-known Beatles attraction, but there’s much more to discover for real fans. I took part in a Beatles Tour with Small Car Big City and discovered the coolest places in a Mini Cooper – a great experience!

• Nearest tube station (Abbey Road): St. John’s Wood

Abbey Road in London
Beatles Tour – Abbey Road

A boat cruise on the Thames

You have the most beautiful view of London from the water! The city is shared by the Thames and you can see all the sights along the water on a boat trip. For example, you can take these from Greenwich, and drive along the Thames to Westminster. You can also take a boat under the city’s countless bridges, such as Tower Bridge and London Bridge. The sight of London at sunset is especially beautiful.

On a boat in London
Boat cruise on the Thames

Explore the filming locations of Harry Potter in London

A visit to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios in London is not enough for you? Then you should take part in a Harry Potter tour of Central London. Here you will be taken to famous sights and places where film scenes were shot. So you see the template of Leadenhall Market, the entrance to the Ministry of Magic (at Westminster), and cross the Millennium Bridge, which is destroyed by the Death Eaters in the movies. Real fans should not miss this tour!

Harry Potter walking tour London
Harry Potter Tour London

You see – in London there is a lot to discover, and you can easily spend a few days sightseeing in the city. If you only have time for a short break, you will probably have to concentrate on the most important sights, depending on your interests. Only one visit to London is not enough for all the attractions anyway, but this gives you a great reason to visit the city again at any time!

Conclusion for backpacking London

London is one of my favorite cities in the world and although it is not a classic backpacking destination such as BangkokKuala Lumpur, or Bali, it is still very much possible to travel London on a budget and to explore the city as a backpacker. If you take advantage of the free attractions and my money-saving tips, you can have an incredible time at a low cost and I highly recommend everyone to visit London. I’m sure you’ll have a great time!

Have you already been to London? How did you like it? Let me know in the comments!

Read more: I created a summary of my experiences as a Wanderguide about London on Travelade.com – make sure to check it out!

Did you like my article and find it useful? Let me know in the comments - I'm always happy to hear from you :) Cheers, Patrick
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