London can be an expensive holiday spot, especially when arriving with Rands. It doesn’t have to be though, as the city offers plenty of affordable ‐or free activities throughout July/August. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy the precious sunshine!
Shoreditch is the home of Boxpark, a food‐market and retail paradise made from shipping containers. Very urban, very cool and very delicious and at lower prices than a restaurant. Stalls represent multicultural flavours so expect to find Greek, Chinese, Lebanese, Mexican and more, much like London itself. Another version of the same concept exists in Brixton. With screens and live music also on offer it is worth checking both their pages for happenings.
Just down the road from Shoreditch is the famous Brick Lane. This street is known for its authentic Indian restaurants and assortment of vintage clothing shops. Go here during the week to explore the stores or on a Sunday to wander around the extensive market of bric‐a‐brac, records, leather ware, books and of course more edibles. Good for perusing or purchasing, depending on your luggage allowance…
Brixton: Buoyant and bustling
Far more than the Southern cousin of Shoreditch, Brixton is a vibrant community of immigrants and hipsters. As mentioned it is home to its own version of Boxpark but also hosts a market and litany of bars, restaurants and cafes. There are plenty of quirky, creative shops filled with things you didn’t know you needed (cards against humanity, board games) and even if you aren’t buying, it is worth a gander. Come here to discover vegetables you’ve never heard of and cocktails you wish you hadn’t. Brixton has a rich, multi‐textured feel. The fabric of this society is less gentrified than Shoreditch and more representative of London. It has also been home to many musical icons such as David Bowie, some members of Fleetwood Mac and the Clash, as well as Adele. Free walking tours are on offer by different companies so you can learn more about the impact this area has had on the world. Definitely value in a visit!
Hampstead: Picnics, swims and pretending to be a Bronte Sister
Beautiful and expansive, Hampstead Heath is free for all to enjoy. There are also glorious bathing ponds which only cost a few pounds and can satisfy the Victorian Lady in anyone ‐no bonnet required. With the sun only setting around 10pm, Hampstead is an idyllic spot to settle in for a balmy evening with friends. Drinking in public is legal in the UK, so you can even pack some picnic rosé.
Battersea: More than a Power Station
Battersea in South West London has events throughout the summer such as street food festivals, retail stalls and Wimbledon screenings (watch all day for free!) There is also a series of pop‐up events to entertain children. Mum and dad can stroll around with peace of mind knowing that the little ones are not only safe but also entertained. 10am to 4pm starting from 19 July… free! Children not included. Regret no pets.
Hammersmith: Free festival
During July Hammersmith hosts an award winning festival for its 11th year. With a full programme of theatre, opera and literature it is sure to please those who want to engage in the arts during their holiday. There are even outdoor yoga classes to ensure that essential mind/body/soul connection. If you wish to be cultural on the cheap, here is your chance.
Clapham is home to many a South African expat. For some reason we tend to congregate here. On the weekends during the warmer months there are free concerts on the common. Come along to sit on the grass, enjoy the bandstand and tap your foot to some instrumental melodies. A very British way to spend an afternoon, just don’t forget the Pimm’s!
Getting around to all of these free events is simple with the London Tube. If you plan on touristing in London for longer than a week then your best bet is to buy an oyster card for zones 1 to 3 depending on where you are staying. This is much more cost‐effective than purchasing single tickets. It also makes you look like a local, an added bonus. Just be sure to move your backpack out the way if you want to avoid any passive aggressive sniffs from other passengers!
Car hire is considerably more affordable in England than it is in South Africa. Hertz, Avis, Europcar…all familiar names but unfamiliar prices. If you fancy a road trip then London is very conveniently situated for you to take one.
For day trips, Oxford or Cambridge are excellent options. The towns home to these renowned universities are steeped in history and have endless nooks and crannies to explore. There are also grassy spots to laze on and lovely walks along the river. Only and hour and a half by car from London, it is a very doable outing.
Bath is a little further along, around two to three hours, and is a Roman city with ruins that you can visit at no cost. Even further, perhaps more suitable for an overnight stay, are the Cotswold Hills. Comprised of manor houses, chapels, meadows and valleys, this region looks like it comes straight from a fairytale (and was probably the inspiration for some). It was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it certainly is one. Of course, you cannot put a price on nature and so this region can be appreciated for free.
Heaving with life and energy, London can be an exciting but financially exhausting metropolis. For those wishing to find some peace and quiet in clean air, then escaping the pollution and visiting other parts of the country is entirely possible and affordable. If the city is the main focus of your trip then there is also plenty to do that won’t place too much strain on the purse strings. Hopefully these tips will help South Africans appreciate the holidays without the accompanying anxiety.
Have you visited London recently? Tell us some of your favourites spots in the comments section below!
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