Londoners are a funny breed of person. Regardless of where they were born, those who have lived in the city for more than four weeks, build a surly exterior to all non locals that can make them downright bad tempered. Especially if a non local walks in their way on a commute or en route to buy a lunch time sandwich. That being said, Londoners will, curiously, once questioned by any tourist, become immediately helpful and friendly as English sensibilities take over.
However, that does stop short of sharing insider secrets. For there are a number of ways that locals continually endeavour to eek out their monthly pay packet, by utilising the plethora of free or cheap things that the capital has to offer. These tips will have been hard fought for through trial and embarrassing error in some cases. I have listed some of my own here for anyone intending to visit my home town soon.
1) Thames Clipper
Whilst a perfectly feasible way to commute to work for Londoners, for tourists visiting the capital, the Thames Clipper departs from multiple jetties down the river for a fraction of the price of other dedicated river tour operators. Plus the Clipper makes a mean gin and tonic, which is the perfect accompaniment to see the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf to name but a few. Remember to show your TFL Travelcard if you have one - it halves the cost.
If even the civilised, and inexpensive, manner of travelling by the Thames on a Clipper literally doesn't float your boat, my next preferred way of getting from A to B in London is to walk! Whilst the inclememt weather does sometimes get in the way, walking is, shock horror, COMPLETELY FREE and therefore a brilliant way of seeing the sights in Zone 1 that are much closer together than you'd give the English capital credit for. Plus, one of the things I love about London is that on top of all the busy main attractions, down every side street there is something to see, a cute coffee shop to stop in or an Instagram worthy shot to take.
3) Free Permanent Collections
One thing I missed, and still miss, when I moved away from the Big Smoke were its art galleries. And, as an art history student, it pains me to confess that I definitely did not make use of them as much as I should have when I lived there. I really had no excuse as all of the big hitters have COMPLETELY FREE permanent collections that are absurdly good. The Tate Britain, Tate Modern and the National Gallery to name but a few have almost inexhaustible pictures and paintings on show all year round.
4) Free Lunch Time Concerts
Being such a melting pot for musicians means that Londoners have a wealth of free concerts to attend if they are in the know. St Martin's church next to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square holds them, along with other churches dotted around the capital, and the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank also runs some. Being COMPLETELY FREE to attend does not mean that quality is at all scrimped on making finding one of these beauties a no brainer.
5) Cheap Ticket Outlets for the Theatre
Going to the theatre in London is mightily expensive. There's no two ways around that. However, there are ways to make it cheaper at the very least as there are such fabulous shows on offer it would be a shame to miss out. The internet offers several outlets that sell discounted tickets either in advance or for on the day itself. My husband and I once had a fabulous date night going to see the Commitments for about £25 for the both of us, though granted our seats had restricted views. More recently, we went to see the Book of Mormon for just over £50 each. Still quite a lot of money but they were worth a great deal more.
Other quick tips:
1) London has the best parks all over th city. Make use of its many cafes, grab a sandwich to go and eat Al Fresco when the weather allows.
2) Buying a ticket to climb St Paul's may not be the cheapest in town, but the same ticket allows you to revisit all year. Ditto of the much underrated Queen's gallery.
3) If you are a National Trust member, your card can sometimes gives reductions to non NT places.
4) The Londonist and Time Out always have great ideas for up to the minute free and cheap things to do in the Capital
5) If you want to go up the Shard for the view, go to one of its bars and buy a drink instead of paying at least £25 just to get a lift to the viewing platform.