Digging to Roam

London One Day Tour – On a Budget

25 July 2013

If you read my one-day walking guide to London, you noticed that I was directing you to places that require you to shell out a lot of money just for an entry fee. European travel can really lighten your pockets if you aren’t careful and most likely your currency suffers when compared to the British Pound. If you want to travel London but are afraid of the costs, fear not! I’m going to give you a tour, with the same premise of being a one-day walk, but requiring you to spend almost no money besides on food and drink! Think that’s impossible in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world? Read on and walk about.

…and prepare for some repeat stops from the last guide, there are some places you just have to go no matter what.

British Museum

Open 10 to 5:30pm (or 8:30 on Fridays) with free entry, the first place on our itinerary is the British Museum. I know what you’re going to say, every free tour is just museums. I know I am biased towards loving museums, my degrees in anthropology and archaeology are a dead giveaway, but just hear me out. The British Museum is iconic and a must see. Originally established in 1753, it was open to the public 7 years later. After much expansion and many many more collections, it now houses one of the largest collections of cultural and historic artifacts in the world. The Rosetta Stone is there! (We won’t go into the ethical implications of such a prominent Egyptian artifact being kept in Britain…not today anyway).
The architecture alone makes it worth the trip.

Depending on when you attend there are different collections on display. The layout of the museum is beautiful and feels natural to move from one collection to the next. Find what interests you most and get lost in the vast corridors; meandering between displays that you can freely photograph unless otherwise stated.

It’s a bad photograph with a lot of reflection,
but that is the Rosetta Stone.

Leave out of the front and hang a right. If you want get your first pint at Museum Tavern on the corner of Great Russel Street and Museum Street, otherwise walk down the one way (with the Museum Tavern to your left). Walk straight (down Little Russel Street into Coptic Street) until you reach the main road New Oxford Street. Cross the street and head down the opposite street which comes at a diagonal, A401. Keep following this funky diagonal street until you reach Piccadily Circus.

Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is a famous and busy road intersection (junction). Likened to New York City’s Times Square, Piccadilly Circus has large displays and bright signs on buildings. In the center is a gorgeous fountain. It’s a tourist site in and of itself. Take a look around and keep walking the same direction we were before.
You should be on A4 or Piccadilly. Follow this road until you hit the entrance to Green Park.

Buckingham Palace

Green Park is near Buckingham Palace, turn a slight left into the park and make your way down towards the palace while enjoying the scenery of the deciduous trees and luscious green grass. Buckingham Palace is the home and work place of the Queen of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth realms (no, not just of England). In front of the palace is the Victoria Memorial, completed in 1924, it is a sculpture dedicated to Queen Victoria.

The ornate gates of Buckingham Palace.

After oohing and aahing over the palace through the shiny gates, move on, head down Birdcage Walk. It’s a one way street with St. James Park to your left. The photo ops are infinite here, with plenty of classic architecture along the tree lined street. At the end of the park you’ll reach a street called Storey’s Gate, turn right and you’ll end at the junction of Storey’s Gate and Victoria Street.

Westminster Abbey

In front of you will be Westminster Abbey, it costs money to go inside but it’s free to take photographs of the magnificent Gothic cathedral and to wander around outside. Since the year 1100, Westminster Abbey has hosted 16 royal weddings, including Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Westminster Abbey was built in the 10th century AD.

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Cross the street and take in the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The large clock tower on the north side of the building contains a bell, which is nicknamed Big Ben. The Houses of Parliament, officially known as the Palace of Westminster, houses the two houses of the parliament for the United Kingdom. The current structure was built after the original was destroyed in 1834. It sits on the North side of the River Thames.
One view of the Palace of Westminster with a
statue of Oliver Cromwell in the foreground.

Once you’ve had your fill, mosey along.

Horse Guards

With the Houses of Parliament behind you, go right down the road and you’ll reach the Horse Guards building. The current building was completed in 1753, and I have to be honest, even after looking up the history of the building I’m a bit fuzzy on the purpose of it, besides that only the monarch can drive through its archway. I do know that there are guards on horseback there and it makes an awesome photo op.

Whaddup Royalty?

Okay, turn around and head back, and cross the river to the South Bank.

South Bank, Bridges, and Views

This tour misses out on some high views of the city, but if you concentrate on the bridges you can get some beautiful shots of London. Once you’ve cross Westminster Bridge go left along the River Thames, by passing the London Eye. Make sure to back up onto Chicheley Street for a great picture of the famous Ferris wheel.

Walking along the south side of the Thames.

The South Bank was a later development than what happened on the north side of the river. In the early 1920s the riverside was opened up for enjoyment by the public, expanding in the 1950s into what you see today. There is a long walkway along the river which has historic landmarks to the right and the gorgeous River Thames (along with amazing views) to the left. The pedestrian sidewalk (or pavement as the Brits call it) plays host to street sales and artistic displays.

This is not from Waterloo Bridge but from Blackfriar’s
Bridge, in the picture you see Waterloo Bridge..

Make sure to walk up Waterloo Bridge for classic views of London. Make your way along and visit the Millennium Bridge as well (the bridge that was featured in the 6th Harry Potter film) and you can get a great view of St Paul’s Cathedral and it’s iconic dome.

Millennium Bridge with St Paul’s Cathedral
in the background.

Keep on the South Bank and you will near London Bridge, right before that though, is Borough Market.

Borough Market

Borough Market is a premier food market open for lunch every day but Sunday. The market itself is open Thursday-Saturday. It’s worth taking a gander here. Focusing on sustainable products, local vendors, and quality foods you’re sure to find something you like. As I did in the last post, I’m going to plug for New Forest Cider and their stall which is open on full market days. They had some of the best hard cider I’ve ever had. Another thing you can do on full market days: fill up on free samples!

The New Forest Cider display reads:
“We didn’t come here for apple juice!
This is some of the strongest, finest
alcoholic cider money can buy…”

Keep walking along the river…

Tower Bridge

Bypass the London Bridge because the current one is a simple concrete structure built in the 1970s. Let’s move on to the good stuff: Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge from the south of the Thames.

Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894. It is made up of two towers that are connected by two walkways high above the bridge itself. It can raise to allow large ships through, which is why it was built that way. It’s a gorgeous landmark, and you can walk over it for free.

St Paul’s Cathedral

Once you’ve crossed Tower Bridge, go past the Tower of London and circle around (keep the castle on your left), you’ll pass a small garden on your right as you walk on a slightly windy main road. Another road comes off it at an angle called Eastcheap (yes, really, Eastcheap). Veer right and follow Eastcheap, you’ll be off the main vehicle street this way. Walk along as it turns into Cannon Street until you reach St Paul’s Cathedral. A church dedicated to St Paul has been at this location since the 604 AD. The cathedral as it stands today dates back to the late 1600s.
St Paul’s Cathedral is part of the Church of England.

Take some photos of the beautiful English Baroque architecture and continue along Cannon Street.

Temple Church

One thing you’ll notice about Britain is that streets change names, and seem to have multiple names sometimes. Cannon Street turns into Ludgate Street and Fleet Street. Once you’re on Fleet Street (which I kid you not is later called Strand), look to your left for the Temple Church.

I have thrown a church into this tour because Britain is famous for its historic cathedrals, and you must visit one in London. Temple Church charges a modest entry fee of £4 for adults, £2 for senior citizens, and nothing if you are 18 and under. Be sure toe check their website for opening times, usually they are closed by 4pm.

Dating to the 12th century, the location was purchased by the Knights Templar who constructed the original part of the church known as the Round Church. The church became official in 1185 and is currently part of the Church of England.

It’s been a long day! Time to treat yourself!

Covent Garden

Continue along Strand. You will pass Waterloo Bridge, and then look out for Southampton Street. Head up there and you’ll be at Covent Garden. Tucked into the West End, you’ll find a wide variety of activities and eats. It’s an entire area of London with over 60 pubs, and tons of restaurants, as well as stores and over a dozen theatres. You’re likely to find street performers and many people milling about.

The main market area of Covent Garden.

It’s the perfect place to end your day and start your night. You’ll have no trouble finding great food, drinks, and entertainment. You can hop from pub to pub or enjoy the cafe culture and indulge in some chocolate. Whatever you fancy, you’ll find it here.

Kristance Harlow

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  1. Rose L on July 26, 2013 at 1:54 am

    it brings back a lot of memories from the time we visited London. I wish I'd had the camera then that I have now!

  2. mplanck on July 25, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    What a nice addendum to yesterday's tour of London. Nice to know you don't have to have bags of money to enjoy what might be a once-in-a-lifetime excursion! You should really be a tour guide or one of those intrepid young women who host PBS Globe Trekker series.

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