London honeymoon on a shoestring budget

Old Nov 9th, 2000, 07:34 AM
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London honeymoon on a shoestring budget

My husband and I are planning a belated honeymoon in London this December. The goal is to experience as much as we can without blowing our savings for a house. To that end, what can you suggest in the way of restaurants and sights to see? We're not afraid to go off the beaten track in search of great finds and we prefer unassuming quality over pricey pretension. Thanks in advance!
Old Nov 9th, 2000, 10:56 AM
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Many of the museums in London are free:

British Museum FREE
Open: Mon-Sat 1000-1700 Sun 1200-1800

Imperial War Museum 5.5GBP (FREE after 3:30)
Opening hours: Daily 1000-1800

Museum of London 5GBP (FREE after 4:30)
Open: Mon-Sat 1000-1750 Sun 1200-1750

National Gallery FREE
Open: Daily 1000-1800 Wed 1000-2100 (tour at 6:30W)

National Portrait Gallery FREE
Open: Sat-Wed 1000-1800 Th-Fri 1000-2100

Sir John Soane's Museum FREE
Opening hours: Tues-Sat 1000-1700

Somerset House FREE
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 1000-1800 Sun & Bank Holidays 1200-1800

Tate Britain FREE
Opening hours: Daily 1000-1750

Westminster and St Paul's both charge admission, but not if you are attending a service (which I consider a great way to see them anyway):

Westminster Abbey
Services: M, T, R, F - 5.00 Sat - 3.00 Evensong
Sun - 10.00 Matins - 11.15 Sung Eucharist - 3.00 Evensong

St Paul’s
Services: M,T,R,F,Sa – 5:00 Evensong
Sun 1015,1130,1515,1800

Old Nov 9th, 2000, 11:07 AM
David White
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Have you located a place to stay? London is pretty pricey and the hotels are often not up to standard, for the money. The Travel Inn County Hall is a popular "budget" hotel located just across the Thames from Parliament. Rooms for £70 per night. You can find cheaper places, but for a modern, central hotel the Travel Inn County Hall is a good bet.

Here are some money saving tips:

Use the Tube and bus system for transportation. On days that you will use the Tube/bus, auy daily Tube passes (and/or weekend passes) for the central zones (1-2) only....most all the major sights are in these zones. You could also buy a London Transport Visitor Pass, but you'll probably pay more for this than individual daily passes. Info on this subject can be found at:

the British Museum is free and some of the other major musuems offer free admission late in the day. Your time will be limited, but you can see the highlights.

Try the half-priced theatre kiosk in Leicester Square for cheaper theater tickets. You should consider splurging on London theatre, but the half-price ticket outlet is a chance to save money (if you are flexible about what shows you want to see).

Food in London is also expensive, but fortunately there are some options. Pret A Mangier is a high quality sandwich chain with locations all over town. Another popular, high quality chain is Pizze Express...yes, pizza, but it has received high marks for quality. Pub food can be a bargain, but there are some downsides (like smoke-filled rooms, and some pretty lousy food at times).

You should probably also consider splurging for afternoon tea while in London--someplace fancy like Brown's Hotel, the Ritz, or Fortnum and Mason (the dept. store). Still, you can get a simplier, less expensive tea at any number of places in London. FYI, many London natives don't do tea as a daily routine, you're likely to see more tourists than Brits having tea.

Walking is free in London, and the city is a great place to stroll. Granted, the weather in December may not be ideal, but if you get a good day, walk through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, and/or St. James's Park (my favorite).

Hope these ideas help you. You will enjoy London together.


David White
Old Nov 9th, 2000, 12:38 PM
Nigel Doran
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Try for cheap deals at 'good' restaurants. Also go for pre or post-theatre menus, or those at lunchtime for really good value. Don't be bullied into buying mineral water. London water, iced, is fine. Tip at 10-12.5% and check that it is not already included. Eat at Pret and Marks and Spencer for sandwiches etc. Buy a weekly Zone 1 and 2 (or just 1) here by bringing a passport photo, or travel on a daily travelcard after 0930. Just explain your needs to the person at the counter. Avoid taxis, use public transport to get from the airport to your hotel (so travel light - bags on the Tube in rush hour, or even not in rush hour means HASSLE. )
Old Nov 10th, 2000, 09:39 AM
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With the recent exchange rate falling eating our in London is not that much more expensive than big American cities, you just have to know where to look! Remember, when you see prices on a menu that tax is already included. Something which gets me every time in the US!

Browns restaurants are really good. Not to be confused with Browns Hotel, the website is, they have a menu and locations listed. I have only been to the one in the City, but I'm sure the one in Covent Garden is similar. Mainly British food, very good quality, large portions, quick service and not too expensive - main courses are from £8-14. The steak, mushroom and Guiness pie and any of the desserts are thoroughly recommended

I prefer the Pizza Piazza chains over Pizza Express (Leicester Square and Kensington), I think they have a website with a menu.

Make sure to have a Sunday roast dinner, its a British tradition most tourists miss out on. Most of the pubs will serve this as a set meal or a carvery. Some of the chain pubs and wine bars serve OK to good food at cheaper prices than restaurants, usually under £6.
Henrys bar in Covent Garden/City has a nice selection of food for under £7.

For cheap quick meals cafeteria style, department store restaurants can be OK. You can usually get a full cooked breakfast first thing for under £2.

From one Karen to another, I hope this helps. If I think of anything else I will let you know.
Old Nov 10th, 2000, 10:22 AM
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I just got back from London a couple of days ago and thought I would return the favor of the info that I gleened from this site before I left. We stayed near Paddington Station on Sussex Gardens (a street that is wall to wall hotels).A couple of streets flanking it are also wall to wall hotels. We paid 48 pounds for a twin (two single beds) with a bathroom which was a super deal. The area is great, safe and easily accessible to downtown by bus (1 pound fare) or tube (1 pound 50 pence). We enjoyed travelling by bus because we saw so much. Tubes are of course fast but you see nothing. The food is expensive but breakfast is included in the price of the hotel and you can pick up cheap(ish) sandwiches or bagels in Leicester Square and Picadilly Circus. So all one really has to be concerned about is dinner, and if you look around a bit you could just go to the cheapest place you find. As it is your honeymoon, definately splurge on one theatre performance or you may regret it later. Have fun.
Old Nov 10th, 2000, 02:35 PM
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Having lived in London for 3 years and returned every year since, the greatest thing about the city is just walking around to see all of the sights and neighborhoods. The dining choices are far better and more varied than London's reputation (virtually every type of ethnic restaurant you can imagine). The shopping is incredible, but assume that prices will be 25% to 50% higher than in the US, since the pounds spend just like dollars but are worth more. Still, window shopping around New Bond Street, Covent Garden, and Knightsbridge (Harrods) is a lot of fun.

The worst thing about London is the cost of the hotels. Still, I prefer to sacrifice a little to be in a close-in, nice part of town, thereby avoiding long Tube rides. A favorite is the Chesterfield in Mayfair, but it's tough to get under L150 per night. Very cozy and quaint, and walking distance to all of London. Try B&Bs or the many cheaper hotels around Paddington Station (I agree with previous comment) and around Earl's Court, although that is a little seedier (but still quite safe).

The sights are just amazing, and history is all around you. Of the previous post on museums, don't miss the Cabinet War Rooms, behind Whitehall off of St. James Park, if you are at all interested in WWII history. It's easily toured in an hour or so, while the British Museum is often crowded and so overwhelming. The National Gallery and the Tate are my favorite art museums, the latter particularly if you like Turner's watercolors. As to cathedrals, unfortunately they did just begin charging at Westminster Abbey, I believe about L5, but it is outstanding, as is St. Pauls, and shouldn't be missed.

Great walking itineraries can be found in various guidebooks. My favorites include taking the Tube to Green Park, through to the front of Buckingham Palace, through St. James Park to Westiminster, the Abbey & Houses of Parliament, up Whitehall past 10 Downing (Prime Minister's residence) and all of the statues to Trafalgar Square, then into Covent Garden and Leicester Square. All of this can be done in about 4 hours, making a leisurely stroll of it. On a different day, take the District Line out to Tower Bridge, tour the Tower of London (get there early), then walk back west to the Monument of the Great Fire, through the City business district, stop at St. Pauls, and then along the Strand to Cheshire Cheese Pub for a beer at one of the older pubs in town. A lot of walking, but worth it to get the feel of the place. Another fun cheap thing are the London Walks tours. There are pamphlets for them at all the hotels. For L5, you can choose from 20 or so historical itineraries, from art, music, literature, pop culture, whatever. I finally did the Jack the Ripper walk a few months ago and it was outstanding (and creepy, as you're in the exact spots the crimes occurred). Highly recommended.

For meals, I absolutely agree that Pret a Manger is the place for inexpensive, delicious sandwiches (avoid pub sandwiches, which are all butter with a paper-thin slice of ham). Hotel breakfasts, the famous English breakfast "with boiled toMAHto", is greasy, gross and vastly overpriced. Get a bagel or croissant from one of the many takeaway cafes, go to Pret for lunch, and wander around Soho for dinner -- Indian, Italian, Thai, French, Chinese on Gerrard Street (Lee Ho Fooks) even Mexican at Cafe Pacifico in Covent Garden or the Texas Embassy Cantina in Trafalgar Square. So much to choose from. If you really want to splurge for a honeymoon dinner, try Pont de la Tour, across the river with an amazing view of the Tower Bridge, or any of the other Terrance Conran restaurants around town.

Obviously bring an umbrella and warm coat, scarf and gloves. It's not as rainy as people think, but it will be chilly. Sorry for the length of this, and have fun!

Old Nov 11th, 2000, 07:30 AM
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Please be careful with the restaurants in the Leicester Square/Piccadilly area, as most of them are over-priced tourist traps i.e. the Aberdeen Angus steakhouses and the places advertising fish and chips. Bets to get recommendations for restaurants, as there are so many places to eat in London and unfortunately a lot of bad places!!!
Pret is good for a quick breakfast or lunch. You will probably get breakfast with your hotel. English breakfasts can be very nice (despite what Clark says - and tomatoes are usually fried not boiled), not too much unlike the big American breakfasts.
Some of the wine bars do nice sandwiches.
The Conran restaurants are quite pricey, however if you check the website they do some special offers. Set menus are usually good value. The Chop House is very good if you eat in the Bar area, much cheaper than the restaurant.

December always has a great Christmas feel in London, there will be lots of lights up in the main shopping streets such as Oxford Street and Regents Street. December is my favourite month in London for atmosphere!
Old Nov 11th, 2000, 09:10 PM
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I traveled as a student (so you know it was economical). I don't know what kind of sacrifices you are willing to make, but we stayed in a hostel which was not bad; the owner was very nice and corresponded some months before the trip to confirm reservations and such. It's a stone's throw away from St. Paul's and 2 of the major Underground lines. We did the tube pass for the week, which I think you can purchase at any tube station. It was incredibly convenient. Also, at the hostel they have packages where they provide for 1 or 2 meals each day. we usually had breakfast there, took a picnic lunch (on Buckingham's lawn was nice, or in Hyde Park) and ate dinner out. Fish and chips is always an inexpensive, British alternative. The London Tower is worth the admission (I don't remember how much), and I liked Madame Tussaud's. We were satisfied with just seeing the Tower bridge and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben from the outside. But Westminster Cathedral is another must. Harrod's is fun and it's free, unless you decide to buy something. also, seeing the changing of the guards at Buckingham is free--if you do go, don't stand up at the gate. when they start, you'll get the best view if you sit on the curb next to the street cause they march down the street. a kind bobbie told us that. you can see a theater show for cheap if you find a vendor on the street that's selling tickets for that night's performance. the shopping district by Picadilly is fun to window shop. hope the info wasn't too repetitive.
Old Nov 12th, 2000, 04:48 AM
Ben Haines
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Dear Ms Vitale,

You've had excellent advice. I thought I might copy you by e-mail notes that I keep on disc on free and cheap things in London, hidden London, London walks, and meals in pubs and other cheap places.

Please write if I can help further. Welcome to London

Ben Haines
[email protected]
Old Nov 16th, 2000, 02:34 AM
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Mr. Haines' advice is excellent. We just returned last week from our first visit to London and stayed at the Travel Inn County Hall on a friends' recommendations. We found the location to be excellent- within walking distance to Waterloo station and all tube connections. We had purchased rail travel passes prior to leaving the US and it was worth it, as we certainly used the tube constantly to get around. As we were traveling with our daughter and grandchildren, the price at the Travel Inn, i.e. 63.75 pounds, could not be beat. It was certainly not luxurious, but clean, quiet, comfortable, quiet and it had a coffee pot, a very important asset to people like us who live on coffee. We recommend it highly. However, be sure to book well in advance as they seem to attract many London businessmen and even some parliament members, who, I
might add, had a lot of interesting comments about our election debacle the day following the vote.
There is so much to see and do that even a week is not enough. Be sure to bring an umbrella, comfortable shoes, scarf and gloves and a warm coat. We did all the tourist things, i.e. changing of the guard, (once is enough) tower of London, (OK), saw the Lion King (fabulous costumes and staging), covent garden, British museum, St Pauls, Westminster Abbey,(not enough time to spend there- it's on our must see list of things to do on our next visit), took the Thames river boat cruise, went on the London Eye, did Madame Tussauds, walked Regent street and did the Harrods "thing", had great dim sum in Chinatown (better than NY or San Fran), and enjoyed Saturday Portobello Road antiquing. We walked and walked and walked, the only way to really experience everything.
The energy of the city is incredible, much like NY, and the people were very kind.
ONE CAVEAT- watch your pocketbooks and personal items. A pickpocket attempted to lift my husbands rucksack,
(with two children all he would have gotten was toys, books and snacks) but I was able to interrupt he and his partner and wrestle one to the ground.
(There's never a bobby around when you need one!)
Never carry your funds in a backpack or pocketbook and be on the alert. They generally work in pairs and we watched them choose a mark in the gift shop of the Abbey and alerted
a guard before they were able to lift someones wallet.

Food is more expensive than NY or San Francisco, but of good quality. We were surprised by the excellent pizza at the chain, PIZZA EXPRESS, which are located throughout the city, pass on the RAINFOREST CAFE, highly recommend the Dragon Inn in Chinatown and MOOSHISUCHI. As coffeeholics, we were in heaven with all the great coffee shoppes and were surprised by the excellent pastries.
Be careful about eating from the vendor carts that surround the parks and London Eye. We were told some very unappetizing stories.
We are looking forward to return for some grown-up amusements next time- the Tate gallery, Greenwich, Oxford etc. but all in all we thoroughly enjoyed our first trip and are planning a return.
Old Nov 16th, 2000, 04:59 AM
Beth Anderson
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HI Ben,

If it is not too much trouble, I would also love info on free/cheap things to do/see/eat in London. I think I have managed to find many fairly expensive things (there's nothing like walking everywhere!) but it's always nice to know about more.



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