London is many things: historic, exciting, absolutely one of my favorite places on Earth. However, it is most certainly not cheap. But if you’re a capable—and frugal—college student like me, you can find ways to do London on a budget, or even better yet, free.
With the help of the Arcadia London staff, I have managed to experience so much of London life and not cry when I have to look at my bank account.
Take advantage of class-sponsored tours
Through Arcadia, I have been able to tour the BBC news studio, the Guardian newsroom, the Imperial War Museum, the Frontline Club, Tower of London, and the Churchill War Rooms. While some are actually free, such as the museums, others are sponsored by Arcadia. At first, some didn’t sound very exciting to me, but they ended up being so worth it. For example, during our tour of the BBC studio, we were offered free spots in the studio audience at the “ONE Show” (the British equivalent to E! back home) and got to meet the guest star, Aaron Paul, the actor who plays Jesse in Breaking Bad.
Attend the Talk of the Town
The Arcadia staff in London puts together these fun nights called Talk of the Town, which are a great way to learn and get free drinks. They do several throughout the semester. We get to talk with a guest and have free drinks in a private room in local pubs. The talks are entertaining as well as educational. I’ve attended a slam poetry session with local artists and met the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.
Parks! Go to the parks!
There’s no better way to experience London life than in parks. Trust me on this. As I have learned from living here, English people love their dogs. They take them everywhere and the dogs are so well-trained! Every morning, I pass dogs on the street off their leash, just walking and wagging their tails without a care in the world. In the parks, they run around, playing fetch and chasing the squirrels. It’s a nice place to escape from the rush of traffic and people and just enjoy the day. Then there are the pigeons. The pigeons here are not scared of you. they are not scared of anything, they are invincible pigeons. So on a day off, tale a bag of bread or crackers to the park and befriend some feisty pigeons and playful pups.
Hit up the markets
The markets are centers of culture and activity in London. There’s so many different types of them. Portobello Market has street performers and antiques up the wazoo. At the end, the smells of enticing foods envelop you. Brick Lane Market is for the hipsters out there. Hidden away in Shoreditch (AKA Hipster Central), they have endless vendors of retro and vintage clothing or vinyl records and Polaroid cameras. Borough Market is for all my Foodies out there. It’s a maze of delicious food and ingredients, fresh fruit and vegetables, and yummy smoothies and drinks. Every type of food, culture, and smell is crammed into this pavilion-covered heaven. With free samples from the vendors, you can experience the tasty treats London has to offer while not breaking the bank.
So forget frugal-student stress and pull out those maps, because London is here for the taking.