Savvy Travel: London on a Budget

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The London Eye from St. James Park, London, England

London on a budget? Yes, it is possible. We’ve asked a few top hotel concierges for their must-do’s in the city this winter. And the best part? Most of them are free.

Brexit, or no, there’s no denying the drop in the value of the pound has been a boon for Canadians travelling to the British capital. And many hoteliers in London have had the preternatural sense to spend time and money into reviving their properties.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often,” said the enigmatic Brit, Winston Churchill. We can’t help agree, sir.

Click through for some of the best wallet-friendly ideas from four of London’s top hotel concierges, with a mission to help us navigate the city on the cheap. Pip, pip, cheerio.

Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill in Marylebone. Within walking distance to Hyde Park, Marble Arch and the shopping of Oxford Street, and an easy cab ride from Paddington Station, where the Heathrow Express makes its London stop.

London on a budget, from the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill Concierge:

  1. Winter Festival at the Southbank Centre.
  2. The Radical eye: Modernist Photography from the collection of Sir Elton John at the Tate Modern until 7th of May. £15 (adult)

 The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences in Mayfair. On Piccadilly, across the street from Green Park, which leads to a walking distance path to Buckingham Palace.

London on a budget, from the Athenaeum and

  1. Chinese New Year and the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House and Gardens – 29 January 2017 (Chinese New Year): Celebrate the Year of the Rooster in London, with the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people descend on the West End to wish each other “Xin Nian Kuai Le” (Happy New Year in Mandarin) or “San Nin Faai Lok” (in Cantonese). The Chinese New Year festivities in Central London are free to attend and take place in Trafalgar Square, Chinatown and across the West End. January 19, 2017 to February 26 2017 (Magical Lantern Festival): Wander through a garden of magical lights as Festival returns to Chiswick House and Gardens.
  2. Rowing: Head of the River Race, 25 March 2017 – Every spring, 400 national and international crews of eight rowers take to the waters to compete along London’s famous river Thames in the annual Head of the River Race. Rowed over the 4.25 mile (6.8km) Thames Championship Course, the race begins at 2.15pm at Mortlake and ends at Putney. See the crews off from Chiswick Bridge, cheer them on from Barnes Bridge as they gather pace, or watch them approach from the Hammersmith Bridge. You can also try to find a good spot on the river banks or a seat in a cosy pub along the course. Free
  3. Rendez-Vous 2017: Tall Ships Regatta in Greenwich and Woolwich, From 13 April 2017 to 16 April 2017 – A fleet of 40 ships takes to the river Thames for four days of festivities over the Easter weekend, as the crews prepare for a 7,000 nautical mile transatlantic race to Canada. Marking the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation and organized by Sail Training International, the vessels will leave London at the end of the weekend, setting sail for Portugal, Bermuda and Boston, before arriving in Quebec on 18 July.

The Marylebone in Marylebone. Kitty corner to Golden Eagle, a classic English pub that’s been around since 1851, walking distance to The Regent’s Park, as well as The Wallace Collection gallery (see more, below), where art lovers can take in the Rococo artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing. The 18th-century painting is sublime in all its oil-painted glory, in which the suitor catches a glimpse of his lover’s skirts while she swings through the air with joyous ease.

London on a budget, from the Assistant Head Concierge, Riyas Kallan, at The Marylebone.

  1. Wallace Collection: A free national museum displaying superb works of art in an historic London town house. The collection was acquired principally in the 19th century by the 3rd and 4th Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess. Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2017 Winners Exhibition -Tuesday March 7, 2017 – Friday March 31, 2017. Price: Admission Free
  2. Wigmore Hall: One of the world’s great concert halls, specialises in chamber and instrumental music, early music and song. Many excellent performances will be there throughout the year.
  3. Star Wars Exhibition at Madam Tussauds: The Star Wars exhibition will include 11 immersive sets for the popular film series. Come face-to-face with Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, Yoda, and Luke Skywalker. Guests can also take the controls in the flight deck of the Millennium Falcon – perfect for little and big kids alike! Open until June 30, 2017.
  4. Marylebone stopping stroll: The main shopping drag is Marylebone High Street, but the whole area is packed with fabulous shops and restaurants: Come here for everything from haute couture and baby clothes to organic butchery and extravagant cakes. There’s also a specialist travel bookshop called Daunt Books that’s worth a detour just for its Edwardian fixtures and fittings. Don’t forget to visit the Marylebone Farmers’ Market on Sundays, a brilliant little food market tucked away behind Marylebone high street. Fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, cheeses a total delight. It’s near the famous butcher Ginger Pig and La Fromagerie cheese shop is outstanding and well worth a visit.

Sheraton Grand London Park Lane in Mayfair, on Piccadilly.The Park Lane is the first of its kind in London – a Sheraton Grand – but it’s the historic preservation that mixes modern touches that will continue its rep as a meeting spot for Londoners shopping Piccadilly or travellers who want to explore the neighbourhood, from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square.

London on a budget, from The Park Lane concierge:

  1. Borough Market, a fantastic food market, it is London’s most renowned food and drink market, specializing in high quality retail and wholesale food. The market is open year round Monday to Saturday.
  2. There is a slightly lesser known food market just half a mile from Borough Market called Maltby Street Market, which is open year round, Saturday and Sunday. It is a lively street market in Bermondsey with a combination of stalls, under-arch shops, pop-up bars and eateries, a great way to spend a few hours in an afternoon.
  3. Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath: A hidden gem set in the northern grounds of the heath is a former stately home.  It is managed by the English Heritage and is free for everyone to enjoy.  It has beautiful gardens as well year round activities for children plus a world class collection of art ( including sculptures by Henry Moore plus paintings by Rembrandt).  Hampstead Heath is one of the highest points of the city and offers amazing views over London.