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How to spend the perfect fall weekend in London

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One of my favorite things about having spent the past few months in Europe? How easy it was to hop on a train or plane for a city break in another country! I could be in Prague, Barcelona, Copenhagen or Rome within a few short hours, soak up some sun in Lisbon for a couple of days, indulge in Italian gelato in Rome or stroll along the canals in Amsterdam.

But after traveling around Europe for nearly three months, I came to the conclusion that London was still my favorite European city. I might be biased, having lived there for so many years, but I’ve also traveled to enough other places to be able to say that I don’t think any other European city can rival London in all the things it has to offer, in terms of culture, food, nightlife, markets, shopping, green spaces, things to do, theater, and areas for urban exploration.LondonWhen I stopped in London this year I had the opportunity to show a first-time visitor around town – something I did on a regular basis when I was living in London, which is why I felt comfortable playing tour guide for my friend – and which is why I thought it was time to share my recommendations for the perfect fall weekend in London with you. Of course this itinerary also works at any other time of year. Here is my suggested itinerary for three days in London – including the must-see London landmarks, afternoon tea, my favorite museums for some culture but also some cool street art spots, the best walks and my favorite green spaces, delicious food and evening activities.London England

Day 1: Royal London and London’s most iconic sights

I usually start my London explorations with a walk from Victoria Station all the way to St Paul’s Cathedral, or if I’m not too tired yet, a little further into the ‘City of London’ to take in the views from the Monument and to finish with a pint in Leadenhall Market.

From Victoria Station, follow the signs to Buckingham Palace. If you’re really into the royal family, you can visit the palace during the summer months (tickets start at £20.50). But for most people it is enough to glimpse through the fence and snap some pictures of the guards in their fancy uniforms. The ‘Changing of the guards’, which takes place at 11.30am (daily between April and July, every other day the rest of the year) is a great spectacle to catch, and it’s free, so you might want to time your visit so that you can see it.london parksFrom Buckingham Palace, walk over to Green Park and follow the lake until you reach the Horse Guards building, where you’ll encounter another typical London sight: the Horse Guards, as the name implies. From there, walk down Whitehall, past Downing Street, and you’ll reach Big Ben and the Houses Of Parliaments, across from Westminster Abbey. Cross Westminster Bridge and turn left onto the South Bank, where you’ll follow The Queen’s Walk along the river.

Here’s where you can stop for a ride on the London Eye (£19.35) or continue on towards Millennium Bridge, a pleasant walk that’s just over a mile long. Before crossing the bridge, make sure to check out the current exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London’s most famous contemporary art museum, which is housed in a former power station. It is one of my favorite contemporary art museums in the world. Heading up to the cafe is a good idea no matter if you’re a fan of modern art or not, because the views from up there are fantastic.

Once you’ve crossed Millennium Bridge you can decide if you want to pay St Paul’s Cathedral a full visit (tickets from £18.00) or just peek inside (well worth a peek, I say, even if you don’t want to pay for full access). If you’re not visiting the church, head further east until you reach the Monument, a freestanding  202 ft (62 m) tall column that offers probably the cheapest views over London at £4. The catch? You have to climb 311 steps to get up there, there’s no elevator to be found. However, for your effort you get a neat certificate that confirms that you successfully climbed to the top.london millennium bridgeAnd now you definitely deserve a pint – and a short ten minute walk from the Monument, you find Leadenhall Market, a beautiful covered market dating back to the 14th century (and representing Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter movie!). Unless you’re heading there on a weekend, you’re also likely to encounter dozens of ‘suits’ there – people who work in London’s finance sector. Most banks have their offices in this part of the city, and bankers, like most other people, tend to enjoy an after work pint (or two). Mingling with them makes for an interesting experience though. There are also some restaurants in Leadenhall Market – if you’re looking for a typical British pub dinner, head to the Lamb Tavern.

Day 2: Notting Hill and Central London

I’d start Day 2 with breakfast in Notting Hill – Walk up Portobello Road and pop in to some of Notting Hill’s antique shops along the way, or simply admire the neat Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian architecture. If you happen to be in London over the weekend, I’d recommend heading here on Saturday when the famous Portobello Road Antiques Market takes place – but come early, it gets pretty crowded around noon.Portobello Road MarketTwo of my favorite breakfast places right on Portobello Road are the Electric Diner and Lowry & Baker (also great to just pick up a coffee). Two more breakfast spots worth mentioning in the area are Granger & Co (by Australian celebrity chef Bill Granger – but reasonably priced) and the cozy Wildflower Cafe. For an extended Notting Hill walk, I recommend turning right onto Westbourne Grove. Head back south on Garway Road until you reach Kensington Gardens, and go for a stroll in this beautiful park which is basically an extension of Hyde Park. If you are into art, I recommend stopping at the small Serpentine Gallery right in the park which has always interesting exhibitions (free admission). Walk eastwards through the park until you hit Marble Arch, the giant arch on the northeastern corner of Hyde Park.

You might begin to feel hungry again, and now it’s time for afternoon tea! During my last visit to London I tried something different: Street Food Afternoon Tea at The Arch, a small boutique hotel in the fancy Marylebone neighborhood (just a short walk from Oxford Street), which has an interesting twist to it: instead of your usual mini sandwiches and scones, they serve mini burgers, mozzarella risotto balls, vegetable skewers and quesadillas, followed by scrumptious eclairs, macaroons, rice pudding and fruit tarts – all combined with tea, of course, which you can select from an exquisite tea menu. I tried the vegetarian version of the street food tea, but of course there is also one for carnivores. If you’re heading to London before Christmas, you’re in luck: the Arch currently has a special Christmas-inspired street food afternoon tea (check out the menu here).Afternoon Tea at the Arch LondonI loved the elegant yet cozy ambiance at the restaurant, and it is just the right thing to do before hitting Oxford Street for a little shopping spree. After some shopping on London’s most iconic (and busiest) street, you might want to get away from the hustle and bustle here. Turn right (southwards) onto Argyll Street (just after Oxford Circus) which leads to the pedestrianized Carnaby Street. Here you’ll find more independent shops, different from the big High Street chain stores, and plenty of options for a quick bite or drink.

Follow Carnaby Street all the way down to the end and you’ll find yourself right in the heart of Soho, which really comes to life after dark. If you’re a theater buff like I am, I suggest ending the day with a West End show. Comparetheatretickets.com is a good place to start looking which plays have good deals, and you can find a comprehensive guide to finding cheap Westend theater tickets here.

If you’re not into musicals or plays, end the day with a drink or dinner in Soho. Places I recommend are: Franco Manca for pizza, Oka for sushi, Bao (to-die-for Taiwanese street food), Fernandez & Wells for tapas and wine, Princi for tasty Italian food, Busaba Eathai (Thai), and Yalla Yalla for Lebanese food, to give you just a few ideas. For drinks, check out the French House (great beer selection), the Lyric Tavern for a solid British pub experience, Mark’s Bar (underneath the Hix restaurant) for sophisticated cocktails, the Experimental Cocktail Club if you’re looking for a speakeasy experience (good luck finding it). If you want to fancy it up, head to Milk & Honey (reservations obligatory).london portobello road buildings

Day three: Markets and street art

Day 3 is all about East and North London. If you’re visiting over a weekend, I’d plan to do this day on a Sunday. Start with a stroll through Columbia Street Flower Market (only on Sundays), or begin right in Brick Lane, where a massive flea market takes place every Sunday. Take your time and take in the street art around here, the flea market stalls, head into the Old Truman Brewery which is now filled with artsy shops and galleries.

On the southern end of Brick Lane you’ll find plenty of Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants which is what the area is famous for. Make sure to be hungry enough for a curry – here you’ll get the best curry in London. You may be overwhelmed by the large number of restaurants – I recommend consulting Tripadvisor or Foursquare before you decide which one to go to, or check out this rating of every curry restaurant on Brick Lane.East LondonAfter lunch, head over to Pettycoat Lane Market if you’re into fashion – you can find some amazing bargain deals here (note: also only on Sundays).

If you love street art, I suggest checking out some of East London’s cool graffiti scene (you will have seen some in Brick Lane already), but it’s a bit tricky to find all of the colorful pieces, which is why I recommend taking a free London street art walking tour (tipping mandatory!) with a local guide who will also give you some insights on the artists and East London in general. The tour runs five times a week at 2pm, online reservations are necessary. If you can’t make the tour, here’s an excellent self-guided street art walk through East London which includes brilliant pieces by famous street artists such as Banksy, Roa and Stiks.East London street art and Brick LaneSince this day is all about markets, you can’t miss Camden’s famous markets, which can be an all-day activity – it’s easy to get lost in the giant maze of different markets, all set around the locks of Regent’s Canal. Since I moved to London for the first time in 2005, the markets have become a major tourist attraction and some of them have also seen a revamp. And yes, it is crowded, but it’s still one of my favorite things to do in London, and the food stalls alone are worth the trip to Camden. If you’ve still got stamina after all the market strolls, head south along Regent’s Canal until you reach Primrose Hill. It’s a lovely walk and the views over London from the top of Primrose Hill are unbeatable (on a sunny day, that is!).Camden Town London

Tips for visiting London with little time and little money:

– Pick up an Oyster Card, London’s transportation card. It is much cheaper to travel on public transportation with an Oyster Card – with it, a day ticket will cost you £6.50. If you simply buy a day ticket without Oyster card, it’s a staggering £12.10 (US$18.30)!

– If you are planning to visit a lot of the attractions that aren’t free, such as the Tower Of London, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace, consider buying a London Pass which is £75 for two days and 89 for three days. Here’s a good article that explains when it’s worth buying a London Pass and when it’s better to skip it.london big ben– There are two local buses that pass most of London’s major sights and landmarks, such as Tower Bridge, Hyde Park, Tafalgar Square and Oxford Street. If you’re pressed for time, get an Oyster Card with a day ticket – at £4.50 (buses only) much cheaper than the hop-on hop-off buses that cover pretty much the same route. You can find a list of the best bus routes for sightseeing in London here.

– If it’s raining, head to the museums. The great thing about London is that most of its fabulous museums are free! My favorites include the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the National History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, but have a look at this list for more free London museums.London England

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Irresistible Brighton: What makes Brighton so appealing?

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The first time I heard about Brighton, the popular seaside town on England’s south coast, was in a Sherlock Holmes crime novel I read as a young adult, which was set in 19th century Brighton. The book did not only talk about a murder case Holmes solved, but it also mentioned posh women in fancy, flowing dressed who were meandering up and down the extensive promenade, hands in white gloves that were holding an ornate umbrella, it vividly described elegant Regency-style buildings with stuccoed facades and column-framed entrance doors. When I finally visited Brighton, many years later, that was the image I had in my head.BrightonAs soon as we arrived at the beach promenade, I could immediately picture Brighton in its heyday as posh weekend getaway for London’s elite and royals. It still had the flair of this elegant seaside town with gorgeous, well-maintained Georgian-style houses facing the ocean, the stunning Royal Pavilion, and the old fashioned pier.  

However, once you start exploring Brighton beyond the promenade you realize that the town is anything but stuck in time, having developed into its very own modern version of an English seaside resort, a town that is completely different than all the other seaside resorts on England’s south coast, with its very distinctive, incomparable character that sets it apart from cities like Portsmouth and Southampton. So what makes Brighton so unique? Brighton UKAlternative & creative minds

A big reason that Brighton is so different from other seaside town are its people. Brighton is known to be a town that attracts people with alternative lifestyle: Vegetarians, gay and lesbians, artists, hippies, you name it.. You’ll find them in Brighton. Creative minds? Artsy, liberal and open-minded? That’s what Brightonians are. The eclectic mix of interesting people and alternative lifestyles gives the town a distinct character. Brighton is also known for an overall less money-driven and laid-back lifestyle (synonym!) than nearby London, for example. The vibe here is relaxed, stress-free and there is an ever-present feel of vacation in the air.Brighton charactersBrighton is quirky

This undoubtedly comes with the aforementioned alternative lifestyles – with those, you automatically get a more interesting city than your standard picket fence prefab home community. Brighton comes in bright colors, with street art, giant murals and coffee shops and restaurants that aren’t your regular chain (even though I can’t deny that all of Britain’s typical high-street chains are also present in Brighton). Which other town in England has a vegetarian shoe store and a vegetarian pub, vegetarian Sunday roast inclusive?Quirky Brighton Treasures in the Lanes and North Laine

Brighton has two kinds of lanes that are not to be confused: The Lanes, a maze of little alleys, which are quite unique. These are located close to the beach, just west of the pier. Turn into any of the little streets that lead away from the beach and you’re already in the Lanes, which are lined with little shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants, inviting to stroll, window shop or stop somewhere for a coffee. Or a pint, of course. No matter which Lane you turn into – here, it is all about individuality instead of following the mainstream. Just step inside The Marwood coffee shop and have a look around and you’ll know what I mean (you should stop there anyway for their self-proclaimed ‘kick-arse coffee and life-changing cake’).brighton lanesAnd then there is North Laine, another paradise for treasure hunters, filled with jewelry shops, antique stores and anything in between. Vintage clothes, records, unusual souvenirs, delicious food and vegetarian shoes? You’ll find it all here. This is also where you find Komedia, a fantastic entertainment venue where you can catch a comedy, cabaret or music show while enjoying great food.brighton lanesThe glorious beach

Of course the beach plays a big part in what makes Brighton so irresistible. Miles and miles of beach just a short walk from the town center – not many cities are blessed with such a prime location. And even though Brighton’s beaches don’t have sand, but pebble stones, it repeatedly makes its way into lists of world famous beach towns. One thing that gets me wrapped up in nostalgia every time I walk down the beach are things like the quaint, wooden beach chairs, the little oyster shacks and charming gift shops that are housed in what used to be homes for fishing boats.Brighton BeachBrighton is colorful

Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know how much I love street art, and Brighton just so happens to be a paradise for street art lovers. You don’t even have to look for it – just walk down the streets and you’ll notice colorfully painted walls in narrow alleys, stencil art on walls, and entire buildings covered in stunning murals. But it’s not only street art that makes Brighton colorful – people here are not afraid to paint their houses purple, blue or pink, instead of the same-same white houses you have in most cities.Colorful BrightonA historical gem: The Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion is undoubtedly Brighton’s best known landmark, built by Prince Regent (he was later crowned King George IV) in the early 19th century. The impressive building does not look British at all, and doesn’t even fit into Brighton, but that makes it stand out even more. You can’t miss the giant domes and minarets, and upon getting closer, the ornate columns and well-maintained gardens that surround the Pavilion. If you are a history buff, you don’t want to miss the inside which is still filled with the Regency-era furniture and Chinese decorations like an extravagant dragon chandelier in the dining room.Brighton Royal PavilionCheesy but charming: Brighton Pier

Brighton used to have not one but two piers – that was until the West Pier was destroyed by a fire. The iron and wooden skeleton of it still sits in the water, slowly deteriorating. I’ve noticed that the remaining parts of it have gotten smaller since I first visited Brighton in 2005, but the West Pier still draws a lot of people every day – it makes a great backdrop for Brighton’s stunning sunsets.Brighton PierThe other pier, Brighton Pier, is still up and running, including its antiquated games arcade which is always teeming with people, and a small amusement park at the very end of the pier, where antique carousels meet modern day roller coasters and other thrill rides. Even though some might call it cheesy, it is one of the last remaining 19th century piers of such size in the country. I personally love walking along the wooden boardwalk, grabbing a bag of freshly fried, still warm doughnuts and enjoying them in one of the deck chairs while looking out over the ocean and Brighton’s beaches, the ever present crying seagulls hovering above me (be careful when you grab a bag of fish and chips – these seagulls are not afraid to come down and grab food right out of our hands!).Brighton England

A fantastic culinary scene

Brighton has an amazing culinary scene that goes way beyond British pubs and the same ol’ chain restaurants I know from other cities in the UK. Not only does Brighton have a great selection of vegetarian restaurants, but you can also indulge in heavenly baked goods in one of the many bakeries and coffee shops (trust me, I don’t think there was a day when I didn’t treat myself to a slice of cake, a cupcake, scones or afternoon tea!), enjoy a variety of ethnic cuisine, fresh and organic food, and there are high-end fine dining eateries for a special occasion (like the Restaurant at Drakes, the award-winning vegetarian restaurant Terre A Terre or 64 Degrees). The diverse and scrumptious culinary scene is something that makes Brighton stand out, and some of the restaurants that I recommend you check out are: Egg & Spoon, the Artisan Deli & Coffee House, Metro Deco for afternoon tea, St James Pub, Bill’s, the Redroaster Coffee Shop, the Basketmakers Arms Pub, Fishy Fishy for seafood and Riddle & Finns for champagne & oysters, Wai Kika Mu Kau and Food For Friends for vegetarian and vegan food (the latter is more upscale, the former casual), Pelicano House and The Marwood for coffee & cake, Sabai Thai and Muang Thai for Thai food, That Little Tea Shop In The Lanes for cake and tea, Angel Food Bakery for cupcakes.
Brighton food

Tips for visiting Brighton

Brighton is only a 50-minute train ride from London’s Victoria Station, making it a perfect day trip destination. Tickets, if bought in advance, can be found for as little as £5 via TheTrainline.com – I myself was able to snatch one of these discount tickets when I visited Brighton last month, in the middle of summer high season.Brighton imagesEven though a day trip is tempting, I recommend taking more time to enjoy Brighton’s nightlife and to have enough time to explore the town as well as fit in some relaxing beach time. If you decided to spend a night (or two – there are enough day trips from Brighton to make a longer visit worthwhile) I highly recommend the new YHA hostel which is located smack dab in the middle of all the action and a minute from the beach for budget travelers, and the funky and gay-friendly B&B Snooze in the Kemp Town neighborhood if you feel like splurging on something out of the ordinary.Brighton where to stayFor more information, accommodation recommendations and events in Brighton, check out VisitBrighton.com.

I visited Brighton as part of the fabulous Must Love Festivals project. My stay was organized with the support of VisitBritain and Expedia. All opinions are my own.

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Where To Stay In… Brighton: Bed and Breakfast Snooze

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Usually, when you book a B&B in England, you know what to expect – a traditional British home, with a few lovingly decorated old-fashioned rooms that evoke a homey feel. I love staying in B&Bs – you usually get to talk to the owners because they’re so small, and the experience is much more persona than a large, anonymous hotel. Sometimes, however, I feel that the rooms have a bit of a grandma feel and be decorated in a funkier way.Brighton Snooze Bed and BreakfastWhich is exactly what Tony and Paul, the minds behind Snooze in Brighton, did. Instead of your traditional British B&B you get a B&B experience with a twist here: I would call it B&B extravaganza. Brighton Snooze B&BFrom the moment you enter the B&B , you can’t escape the funky vibe that is maintained throughout the entire building. There is original artwork on the walls, painted in bright colors, even street art, with the center piece being a giant mural on the ceiling of the breakfast room, and a hotchpotch of random furniture and accessories placed around the house, collected over the years in various flea markets and antiques shops in Brighton and beyond.Snooze Brighton DecorationI particularly loved the collection of old bottles in the breakfast room. snooze b&b brighton bottlesAt Snooze, no room is like the other, each one has a different theme, mostly related to music. My bedside table for example was a drum, and the walls were decorated with album covers.
snooze brighton bed and breakfast bedI had the chance the peek into one of the suites, and see for yourself: snooze brighton bed and breakfast roomIsn’t that a fabulous place to spend the night in? I feel like that’s where rockstars in the 70s would have loved to stay!
snooze brighton bed and breakfast bedNo matter where in the house you looked, the one thing that was obvious everywhere was just how much love and attention to detail had been invested here, how much effort and thought had been put into making Snooze what it is today. The owners’ love of music, art and design is visible in each and every little nook and cranny at Snooze, and it was fun to explore all these little details, to reminisce about bygone eras and to wonder what Brighton must have been like in the times of the mods and rockers.   Brighton Snooze Bed & BreakfastWhen Paul and Tony (and their spouses) took over Snooze in 2006, it was a run-down B&B, not known as Snooze yet, and in urgent need of renovation. It has taken years of renovations and collecting of the memorabilia to give Snooze the retro look it has now, and I am sure more artwork and little gems of bygone decades will be added in the future, adding to its quirkiness. snooze brighton bed and breakfast roomSnooze is small, with only 6 rooms and 2 suites, which gives it a cozy feel, and enables you to get to know the other guests in the breakfast room while munching on eggs, beans and toast and everything else that goes into a traditional breakfast. In addition to a full hot breakfast, guests can fill their tummies with yogurt, muesli, cornflakes or porridge, fresh fruit, toast and jams.Brighton Snooze B&B breakfastThe vintage feel of the B&B also fits in wonderfully with the kind of town that Brighton is: eclectic, weird, and funky. A place like Snooze feels right at home here, and sitting right in the Kemptown neighborhood with its quirky eateries and bars, it is the perfect place to get the perfect ‘quirky Brighton’ experience.Brighton Snooze RoomsAnd speaking of the neighborhood- not only are you right funky Kemptown, but Tony and Paul also make sure that you aren’t accidentally walking into a mediocre bar or restaurant, by leaving an extensive folder with a number of detailed restaurant and pub recommendations in each room. snooze b&b brighton we love brightonI’ve never stayed in a B&B that felt as trendy and young as Snooze, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to – simply because Snooze feels so unique that I doubt there’s anything like it out there.snooze b&b brighton viewIf you’re looking for a B&B experience out of the ordinary, Snooze is your place!

Details

  • Location: 25 St Georges Terrace, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 1JJ, England
  • Price: Double rooms start at £75, twin rooms at £80. The suites start at £95. Please note that prices increase during the high season (in the summer)
  • LGBT Friendly: Yes, very much so!
  • Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
  • Amenities: Free wifi, breakfast included in room rate, tea & coffee making facilities and hairdryer in each room, TV and an extensive free dining guide in each room
  • Website: SnoozeBrighton.com

Brighton Snooze Bed & Breakfast England

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Where to stay in… Brighton: YHA Hostel Brighton

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The minute I set foot in the new YHA youth hostel, I knew I would have a splendid time there. I saw the tasteful, stylish decor on the walls and I wondered: Am I in a hostel or in a boutique hotel? Instead of walking up to the reception, I was drawn to the bar & restaurant area, because they were so pretty.

I mean look at this:YHA Hostel Brighton restaurantEven though I had such an amazing first impression, I had no idea if my room would be equally as nice. Upon opening my door with a key card (also more hotel-like than hostel-like!) I was blown away by how spacious and how gorgeous the room was! Located on the top floor, not only did my room come with jaw dropping vistas over the promenade, but it came with a bathroom nearly as big as the room itself. It was among the biggest bathrooms I have seen anywhere I’ve ever stayed! And the best part: it came with a freestanding old-fashioned tub. Despite the old-fashioned look bathtub and shower (yes, there was an additional shower) were brand new, as was the sink. Added bonus: There even was a hairdryer!YHA Brighton private roomMy room had a little area with two cushions confined by a waist-high wall, but in all honestly, I just wanted to lay on my bed and enjoy these amazing views.YHA Hostel Brighton private room viewIn addition to private rooms, the hostel has 3 and 4-bed rooms and several dorms, categorized in 4, 6 and 8-bed rooms. If you opt for a private room, you are provided with towels and soap, there is a dressing table, and some bathrooms come with a bathtub like I had. And if you want to indulge in the amazing sea views I got to enjoy, I recommend splurging on one of the 12 deluxe rooms, all of which come with a view and truly feel like a hotel rather than a hostel.YHA Hostel Brighton private roomOn the ground floor, there is a big breakfast room and the aforementioned bar/restaurant, which got quite lively in the evening and would be the place to mingle with other travelers. The prices for drinks are very reasonable which makes it easy to convince travelers to stay here and have a drink instead of going out, with glasses of wine for around 3.25, bottles for around 10 and pints of beer for around £3.25.YHA Hostel Brighton sofaA full English breakfast can be purchased for only £5.25, and if you prefer making your own food, there is a fully equipped self-catering kitchen.YHA BrightonWhat makes the YHA Brighton stand out besides its excellent interior design and hipster factor is, without a doubt, its location. It took me about one minute to walk down to the beach, one minute to get to the Lanes (where most of all Brighton’s amazing restaurants, pubs and cafes are), and two minutes to the Royal Pavilion. If you want to go out at night, Kemptown’s gay bars and clubs are just a couple of minutes away, and so are all the other bars close to the beach.YHA Brighton communal areas

Details

  • Location: Old Steine, Brighton, E Sussex, BN1 1NH Price: Dorm beds start at £16 per night, 5-bed ensuites start at £95, 6-bed ensuites at £115. Double ensuites start at £40, premium doubles at £50,single ensuites at £25, twin ensuites start at £40, triple ensuites at £60
  • LGBT Friendly: Yes
  • Digital Nomad Friendly: Comfortable communal areas with good wi-fi
  • Amenities: Free wifi, breakfast (£5.25), bar and restaurant, luggage storage, kitchen, towels provided in all private rooms
  • Website: www.yha.org.uk/brighton

YHA Brighton collage

 

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Great festivals to visit in the UK

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There are unlimited reasons to visit the UK. It’s not always viewed as the most exotic of international destinations, but it does have a little bit of everything: beaches and hills, modern towns and historic ruins, theater shows that take us back hundreds of years, and massive concerts from the best acts in music. The whole region is a brilliant blend of old and new, such that any well-planned vacation there can be both fascinating and enjoyable. And amidst all there is to see and do throughout the UK, some of the best attractions are the festivals that take place throughout the year, celebrating food and drink, sports, the arts, and just about anything else you could imagine.

Here are some of the very best of these festivals to add to your UK travel bucket list.

The Boat Races

Technically not so much a festival as a sports celebration, the BNY Mellon Boat Races bring droves of fans out to the River Thames in London. The history of the race dates back to the 19th century, with the 2016 event set to mark the 162nd time it’s been held. Though there are some supplementary contests, the main event is an eight-man rowing contest between Oxford and Cambridge teams. A combination of school rivalry, tradition, and pure excitement has made it one of the most enjoyable sporting events on the UK calendar.
Hands up who likes Dragon Boat Racing ...The Grand National  

Keeping with the sports theme for a moment, there are a number of exceptional horse races that take place in the spring and early summer throughout the UK, and frankly each one could be deserving of a spot on your travel list. But a recap of the 2015 Grand National reveals that it’s become the biggest race in British jumps racing, and that’s as good a reason as any to pick it out of the wide selection of these events. Held at the stunning Aintree Racecourse, the Grand National actually consists of three days of racing action, and amounts to a sort of holiday for many of its spectators. A heavy focus on food, drink, and fashion makes the whole experience bigger than the races themselves.  

Isle Of Wight Festival  

The UK has so many music festivals in any given year that it’s almost unfair to single one out. But for its consistent quality and unique location appeal, the Isle Of Wight may just be the best option. The festival takes place on an actual island, which is pretty cool on its own, but the attractions are always worth a special trip as well. The 2015 lineup featured a diverse selection of top-notch musicians including Fleetwood Mac, Billy Idol, The Black Keys, and Pharrell Williams, among many others, meaning there’s basically something for everyone. World famous musicians on an island south of England in early June? Yes please. Bat For Lashes @ Bestival, Isle Of Wight

Robin Hood Festival In Sherwood Forest

If your festival or event search has you looking for some uniquely British appeal, look no further than the Robin Hood Festival, a delightful historical exhibition that takes place in August in the real Sherwood Forest. One countdown of Britain’s best festivals revealed that there are actually archery lessons available for visitors, in addition to the popular displays of jousting and swordsmanship. It all amounts to a grand, semi-historic reenactment.

Great British Beer Festival

For a more traditional food and drink festival, London’s Great British Beer Festival in the autumn is one to keep in mind. According to a list of Britain’s best beer festivals, over 50,000 people attend this event on average, comprising a big, relaxed atmosphere in which people simply enjoy the outdoors and a wide selection of food and drink. This past year, more than 900 beverages were featured, including selections from more than 350 breweries across Britain! This event is a great way to celebrate the arrival of the autumn season if you’re vacationing in the UK.looking below at the great british beer festivalThat’s a little bit of everything! Sports, culture and history, food, drink, and music all come up in UK festivals throughout each year, but these are some of the best selections among many.

Photo credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Common License (1) Boat race by Bill Harrison; (2) Isle Of Wight Festival by David Jones; (3) British Beer Festival by Quite Peculiar
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Polaroid of the week: Colorful Notting Hill, London

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polaroid of the week england london notting hillWhen my friend Shannon told me she would be in London in September, I knew I had to squeeze in a week in my former adopted home. After all, I had spent a week with her niece not even two months ago but hadn’t seen her in a year. For some reason, I never made it back to London in all these years of travel, except for a short layover last November, nearly five years after saying goodbye to England. And I had already vouched to spend some more time in the city I used to love so much this year – now I had an excuse to make it finally happen. A week was far too short, but it was enough time to show Shannon some of my favorite hangouts, catch up with friends, see how the city has changed over the past few years and even fit in a not-so-ordinary Afternoon Tea.

The first few days were so rainy and cold that I already had to wear the warm clothes I had packed for Iceland, where I was headed next, reminding me why I had gotten tired of London in the first place. But then, when the sun finally came out the last couple of days, London was shining in all its glory again, making me think that moving back here at some point might not be such a bad idea.

A day spent strolling through Camden’s markets and along Regent’s Canal to Primrose Hills to take in the new skyline (the Shard changes it quite a bit!), meandering along the Southbank from the London Eye all the way to Millennium Bridge to see what’s new in the Tate Modern, neighborhood explorations in Mayfair, Marylebone, Notting Hill and Shoreditch brought back many great memories of the years I spent here. Especially our day in Notting Hill, where we marveled at quirky antics in Portobello Road Market, had me think of all the times I used to go to that market on Saturday to pick up fresh produce when I lived at the end of Portobello Road.

Once again I left London feeling I didn’t spend enough time here, and that I should make more than a half-hearted effort to spend more time here again – rather sooner than later. The city has changed so much over the past five years, and a week was by far not long enough to explore all the new places that have popped up everywhere.

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5 fantastic weekend getaways from London

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This post is brought to you in partnership with Flybe.

One thing I loved when I was living in London was how easy and cheap it was to get out of the city. Sure, London itself is fantastic, and I don’t think there was a single weekend in my years spent there that I wasn’t doing anything, because there is always something awesome going on, but sometimes the city can get a bit too much. After all, it is a hectic place, and with 8 million people in Greater London, sometimes you just want to escape. And the travel industry must know that, and luckily makes it super easy for Londoners to leave town for the weekend.

Budget airlines like Flybe that connect London not only with other UK destination but also with mainland Europe make it so easy to spend the weekend somewhere else – even when I was on a lousy graduate salary I was able to escape the city every other month! Here are five examples for weekend getaways from London and how little it costs to get to these places:

Edinburgh

Edinburgh with its wonderful medieval architecture in the Old Town and grand Georgian houses in the New Town is one of my top three places in the UK. I have spent several weekend getaways in this Scottish treasure and am thinking about my next visit all the time. Going for a stroll on the Royal Mile up to the castle, hike up to Arthur’s Seat for the views over the city and the scenery around Edinburgh, go on a spooky cemetery tour at night and feel like you’re back in the 15th century – I dig it all. Not to mention the cozy pubs for a pint and the hearty Scottish breakfasts in the morning!

  • Flight duration from London: 90 minutes
  • Flights from: £39.99

edinburgh

Newquay

Ah, Cornwall! This incredibly scenic slice of England, down in the far southwest of the island, with beaches that are sometimes even too pretty for people to believe they are in the UK! Newquay, albeit a surfing hot spot, still hasn’t lost any of its old-time English charm, with plenty of little tea houses that invite to stop for a scone and a cuppa. While Newquay is nice, it is also quickly explored, and I recommend venturing further into Cornwall on your weekend getaway – either with a rental car or by foot, hiking one of the many coastal hiking trails. Even though summer is obviously the best time to visit Cornwall, it is an absolutely gorgeous spot year-round.  

  • Flight duration from London: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Flights from: £37.34

 cornwall beach england

Amsterdam

It seems like I can’t stop gushing over this oh-so-picturesque city! Quaint tree-lined little streets that line a maze of canals that cut their ways through the city, imposing 17th century historic merchant buildings with hoists, the smell of fresh waffles that made their way into the Dutch cuisine from nearby Belgium, and yummy Dutch cheese – what’s not to like? Amsterdam feels downright relaxing compared to bustling London, (only if you can block out the hundreds of bicycles that whiz by you constantly, of course). There is just no better way to spend an evening strolling by the canals, crossing the lit-up bridges and finding a sidewalk café from which you can watch the boats glide up and down the canals. Add some art (the Rijksmuseum), history (Anne Frank House) and some quirkiness to the mix (the porn or the sex museum, for example), and you’re set to have a blast on your weekend in the Netherlands.  

  • Flight duration from London: 1 hour
  • Flights from: £39.99

Amsterdam

Newcastle

Newcastle, often overlooked as a bland city in northern England, has actually seen an amazing transformation over the past few years. I have always loved Quayside and the great architecture of the city, plus the fabulous Baltic Centre For Contemporary Art which I visited several times when I lived in nearby Durham. Newcastle itself doesn’t have a whole bunch of sights to offer – but it is noteworthy that the castle has just reopened after extensive renovations, and the views from the top are stunning – and yet, the city was recently voted the ‘UK’s best city’ by readers of the Guardian newspaper. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes Newcastle so special – a mix of the architecture, the river and riverside bars, the pub and club scene, and the friendly Geordies, I guess? – so you’ll have to go visit and find out for yourself!

  • Flight duration from London: 75 minutes
  • Flights from: £34.99
Newcastle
Newcastle by barnyz via Flickr’s Creative Common License

Shetland Islands

I admit, the flight time can be a bit off-putting for a weekend getaway to the Shetland Islands, but it’s definitely worth the trip on a long weekend. Leaving Friday for Sumburgh and flying back to London on Monday would give you two full days to explore these remote little islands, which are Scotland’s northernmost outpost. The rugged beauty of the green, treeless islands is simply stunning, and you can get a glimpse of what life is like in such a desolate northern location in the middle of the ocean. If you need more reasons to convince you to go to the Shetland Islands, check out the Daily Mail’s One Minute Guide To The Shetland Islands. The islands are best explored by car – just hop into a rental car straight at the airport and drive up north, taking in the incredible scenery around you.

  • Flight duration from London: 5.5 hours
  • Flights from: £118.98
Shetland
Shetland by Duncan C via Flickr’s Creative Commons License

What’s your favorite weekend getaway from London?

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Brighton’s epic 25th Pride Festival: Carnival of diversity

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A gorgeous seaside location, a community known for their tolerance and diversity, and celebrating a quarter of a century of Pride Marches, which is a huge milestone – what could possibly go wrong at this year’s Brighton Pride?brighton rainbow flagsWell, with the infamous British summers, Pride can be hit or miss. I went to Pride events in England where it poured down on us, and then there were years when I went to Pride events and got sun burnt. In England, it can go either way, and when my plane touched down in the middle of a rain storm on a chilly summer morning, I was worried. Would the epic Pride weekend I was hoping for get rained out?brighton pride parade 2015 colorsbrighton pride parade pavilionBut I didn’t have anything to worry about: I woke up to bright blue skies on Friday morning and it seemed all of Brighton was already in a festive spirit, even though the main festivities wouldn’t start until Saturday.brighton pride rainbow flagUsually, around 160,000 spectators line the streets for the parade, but with the event’s big anniversary, close to 200,000 people were expected to attend Pride this year. The 2015 motto was Carnival Of Diversity, honoring Brighton’s diverse and open-minded LGBT community. I really couldn’t have chosen a better occasion to return to one of my favorite cities in England (but more on Brighton later).Birghton Pride 2015brighton pride 2015 piratesThe city had already felt super festive when I arrived on Thursday, with more rainbow flags flying around town than I’ve seen at any other Pride event I ever attended (and I am not exaggerating here!). That reminded me of just how liberal and nonjudgmental Brighton was. Kids with two mommies or two daddies were nothing out of the ordinary here, and a local friend told me her 9-year old had a boy in his class who had a gender change over the summer – and when it was announced at school, nobody even bat an eye. Brighton, as accepting as ever.brighton pride 2015 lesbian coupleSo it shouldn’t have surprised me that each and every business was flying rainbow flags and that the city is home to one of the biggest Pride festivities in the country – in fact the second biggest after London Pride – but that said, not even London has the same kind of festival atmosphere that you have in Brighton.brighton pride paradeBrighton parties the entire weekend. And Brighton parties hard. From the opening parties on Friday night until the early hours of Monday morning, the entire city feels like a huge festival ground. A massive festival ground is set up in Preston Park, complete with a funfair! That’s where the main party takes place on Saturday, and the celebrations in Preston Park feel almost more like a music festival instead of a Pride event – but more on that below. The other party hot spot is in Kemptown, Brighton’s gay neighborhood, where during the village street party on Saturday and Sunday thousands celebrate in the streets, DJs spin records outside of bars and bartenders mix drinks right on the sidewalk.brighton pride fest 2015 street partyAnd then there is the parade, which was so colorful and vibrant that I never once got tired of watching float after float go by. While there was a number of floats that were all about being jolly and celebrating how far the LGBT community had come over the past 25 years since the first small Pride March in Brighton, there were also organizations reminding us that there are still 70 countries in which homosexuality is a crime – not to mention the five countries in which homosexuality is punished with death penalty.brighton pride 2015 signsBirghton Pride 2015brighton pride 2015The range of floats was very divergent: political organizations campaigning their purposes, fun floats including gay and lesbian dance groups, cheerleaders, LGBT divers, runners, etc., and the people who came out to watch the parade were just as diverse: families, groups of friends, same-sex couples as well as straight couples – it was amazing to see how many people (and dogs!) had come out to show their support for the LGBT community. brighton pride 2015Brighton Pride 2015brighton pride 2015 cheerleadersThe parade made its way from the seafront (a slightly altered route and a delayed start due to a suspicious package that was found on the parade route) to Preston Park. After watching it for a while we made our way along with the floats towards Preston Park, as did a big part of the crowd.brighton pride parade 2015brighton pride 2015brighton pride crowdsBy the time we arrived in Preston Park, the festival grounds were already packed and the festive atmosphere was infectious. I don’t know any other Pride event that feels as much like a music festival as Brighton Pride does, and we started exploring the grounds.brighton pride festival grounds carouselsbrighton pride festival groundsPreston Park’s festival grounds are big enough to fit tens of thousands of people – some of the tents alone fit up to 8,000 people, just to give you an idea of how big the area is. In addition to various dance tents and a cabaret tent you can find bar tents here, lots of food stalls, some smaller stalls that sell Pride merch, lots of carousels and thrill rides, and the main Pride stage.brighton pride festival grounds carouselBrighton Pride festival groundsThe line-up shows how big of a festival Brighton Pride is: every year, the organizers manage to attract top acts and chart toppers like The Human Leage, Mary Lambert, Ella Henderson, and British pop stars Ms Dynamite and Tulisa.brighton pride festival grounds main stageOn the DJ front, Fatboy Slim was the biggest name and had no difficulties in making the crowds dance, and the ladies were ecstatic when Ruby Rose took over the turntables in the Girls Dance Tent, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed by her hot looks DJ skills. brighton pride festival grounds dance tentAbout 40,000 people enjoy the DJs and performance acts here, and I loved seeing how many non-LGBT people had joined the festivities. Some people might be turned off by having to pay for the festival, but at £16 I found the tickets to be more than reasonably priced, considering how much you got for it: all the DJs, the acts, the rides, and not to forget all the logistics and security necessary to organize an event like this. Brighton Pride festival grounds main stage1Brighton Pride festival grounds carousel 2015Later on, we joined the 30,000 people that were roaming the streets of Kemptown where the Village Party went on until Sunday morning, long after Preston Park had closed. Kemptown is where all of Brighton’s gay bars and clubs are located, and places like Revenge, the Terrace Bar, A Bar, Camelford Arms, Legends Bar, the Queens Arms and Charles Street Bar were all packed, with people dancing inside and spilling out onto the streets which had been blocked off for cars and limited for pedestrians. brighton pride 2015 street partyWhile Pride usually slows down on the third day, Brighton Pride was still going strong on Sunday and I was impressed with everyone’s stamina, considering that some people were still dancing when I was already having breakfast. brighton pride street party djBut by late afternoon, Kemptown was packed again, and the street party continued with people flirting, dancing, drinking and enjoying the sunny weather. brighton pride fest 2015 barbrighton pride street party 2015 crowdsWhen I left Brighton the next morning, I was still brimming with excitement, event though I was utterly exhausted after this party weekend. As a festival lover, I loved how much this weekend – especially Saturday in Preston Park – felt like a music festival, with tens of thousands of music lovers coming together to dance, sing along, drink and celebrate, no matter if gay or straight.Brighton Pride 2015brighton pride 2015 girlsBrighton Pride 2015I have no doubt that I will be back in Brighton for Pride.

Where to stay

If you want a B&B experience that’s a bit different from the traditional British B&Bs, I highly recommend staying at the funky Snooze, conveniently located in Kemptown – close to the Village Street Party, but still far away enough to get a good night’s sleep.   If you are on a tighter budget, the newly opened YHA Hostel is the perfect choice, located a 1-minute walk from the beach, right in the center of the action, and a 2-minute walk from the Kemptown Village Party. 

brighton from yha
View from my room at the YHA Brighton – love it!

 

Additional information

For up-to-date information on next year’s line-up, the parade route and other Pride events, visit Brighton-Pride.org. pride cake brightonI visited Brighton as part of the fabulous Must Love Festivals project. Many stay was organized with the support of VisitBritain and Expedia. All opinions are my own.

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Polaroid of the week: A beach day in sunny Brighton

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polaroid of the week england brighton beachAfter leaving New York heartbroken last week, I arrived in the UK on a cold and rainy 55°F /13°C morning – a bone-chilling shock to my system after leaving New York the day before in 100° /38°C temperatures. I was afraid my highly anticipated long weekend in Brighton might get rained out – including the Pride Parade I was so looking forward to.

But the weather gods were on my side and by the time I took the train down to Brighton, the sun had come out and it had warmed up again. As soon as I arrived, I made my way to the beach to enjoy the blue skies while they lasted and for some fun on Brighton’s famous pier. It seemed like all of Brighton had the same idea and the pebble beach was packed with families, young couples and summer exchange students. Everyone was so happy and relaxed, and a lot of LGBT folks had arrived early for Pride weekend, which made me look forward to a fun-filled weekend. I was not only excited for Pride, but also to rediscover the city I used to visit regularly when I lived in England, and to see how it had changed in the six years I hadn’t been there (and how Pride had evolved since I last went there nearly a decade ago!).

I couldn’t have chosen a better weekend to rekindle my long lasting love affair with the famous English seaside town that had started exactly ten years ago – I was blessed with perfect summer weather the entire five days I was in town; Brighton Pride turned out to be the best Pride Festival I’d been to in years, and I can’t wait to share more photos of the colorful parade and some ideas on how to spend a few days in Brighton with you.

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How to visit London on the cheap

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London is rumored to be notoriously expensive and the British Pound Sterling is usually very strong, making it more expensive to visit this exciting metropole for almost any nationality. Most visitors struggle to keep their costs low when exploring England’s capital, but there are a few secrets to traveling to London on the cheap. In today’s post, I am sharing my best travel tips to stick to a shoestring London travel budget:london museum

Be smart with public transportation

Public transportation will probably be your biggest expensive while you’re in London, but there are some ways to save money on buses and subways. First of all, pick up an Oyster Card instead of paying for single rides each time – trust me, you’ll need one. There is a £5 deposit for the card itself, but you’ll get it back when you leave and return the card.

1. Get an Oyster Card

You have two choices when you buy an Oyster Card: you can buy a daily or weekly travel card, or you can simply add money to the card. That way, the ‘pay as you go’ version, is cheaper if you don’t plan to take a lot of trips during the day (but if you are staying not right in Central London, it’s very likely that you’ll be using public transportation every day). With the Pay As You Go version you’ll pay only £2.30 per ride instead of the full £4.80 fare for a single ticket.

If you opt for the Pay As You Go option, your daily fare will be capped at £6.40 (in Zone 1 & 2, Central London), which is the price of a day ticket. A day is counted until 3am the next morning, by the way. If you’re wondering how much money to put on your card: £20 will usually cover a return journey from Heathrow plus travel around Central London for one 1 or 2 days. If you are planning to stay for 3 to 4 days, put £30 on the card. If your card runs out, you can always put more on it. If you’re spending an entire week in London, your cheapest option is the 7-day travel card (£32.10 vs. £44.80 for 7 daily travel cards).London tube2. Off-peak vs. on-peak

If you don’t want to get an Oyster card, it is still possible to buy (paper) travel cards – they are considerably more expensive though, with £12 for a day pass (compared to the £6.40 cap off with an Oyster Card). If you’re a late riser, opt for a off-peak travel card, which is cheaper than a normal travel card but only allows you to travel after 9.30am, however there isn’t a difference in all travel cards – for example you pay the same price for an off-peak card in Zone 1, but if you stay further outside and need a travel card that reaches until Zone 5, it does make a £5 difference. You can see all the current London fares in this table.

3. Buses vs. subway

You can even save more money when you take the bus instead of the tube – and buses in London aren’t the grimy kind you’ve got in some U.S. city, but new, clean double-decker buses which connect the places that aren’t covered by the subway and train network, but some go on routes parallel to a subway route, and this is when taking the bus is cheaper. A bus ride with an Oyster card is £1.50, no matter if it’s peak time or not. Also: if you use only buses and use a Pay As You Go Oyster Card, your fare will be capped at £4.40, which means every day when you reach £4.40, you’ll ride the rest of the day for free.London market coffee houseSightseeing by local bus

Also – taking the bus is a much better way to see the city, so if you’re not pressed for time, I recommend taking the bus whenever possible. While hop-on hop-off tours are a great way to see London, they can cost an arm and a leg! Instead, there are several London bus routes which pass right by the most iconic sights, which are all included in the price of your day ticket or Oyster card (though there are no headsets, so you might need to do a little background research yourself.

One of the buses that goes by many of London’s sights is bus number 9 and you can hop right on in Piccadilly Circus. The bus passes Trafalgar Square, Somerset House, Harrods, the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall in West London, and finishes at St Paul’s Cathedral in East London.

Another fabulous route for sightseeing is bus RV1 which runs between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway. You can get on it on either end and the route follows the Thames passing the South Bank with the London Eye, London Bridge and even goes right over the Tower Bridge.london tower bridge

Most of London’s attractions are free!

One of my favorite things about London is that most of the city’s attractions are free – including its famous museums, such as the British Museum, the National History Museum or the Tate Modern. (A great way to spend a rainy day by the way, and there’ll be one of those most likely!).

In addition to the free museums and galleries, you can see many other things that are icon

ic London landmarks without paying a penny, such as:

  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Tower Bridge
  • Hyde Park
  • Portobello Road Market & Notting Hill
  • A river walk along the Thames
  • Changing the Guard & the horse guards
  • Big Ben
  • Camden Market and the canals
  • Primrose Hill
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Oxford Street (stick to window shopping though, or visit Primark)

London guardsSo while a trip to London can be pricey, if you feel like you have to do things like Madame Tussaud’s, go inside Buckingham Palace, the London Eye or the Shard for views (which you can get much cheaper when climbing the Monument in the City of London, by the way, which is only £3, or entirely free if you head up to Primrose Hill or Hampstead Heath).

Free Walking Tours

I love free walking tours – they usually give you a great overview of the city, allow you to get your bearings, and at the same time you’ll get some background info and insider tips. Tour guides love to share their knowledge of the city, so don’t be shy if you’re looking for recommendations for a certain kind of cuisine or just a good pub with cheap beer. When you join a free walking tour, you’ll also notice how close most of the city’s attractions are and that most of Central London is surprisingly walkable. I recommend Sandeman’s New Europe Royal London Tour, a 2.5 hour walk that covers Buckingham Palace, No 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, St James Park and the Horseguards, to name just a few stops. London houses

Use discount vouchers

Before buying anything, check if there are any discount vouchers for the activity, food or drink you’re planning to buy. For example, browse through VoucherBin UK for the latest voucher codes before you set off on your trip.

Discount vouchers are hugely popular in the UK and many restaurants offer meal deals or 2-for-1 dinner vouchers. There are also vouchers for supermarkets if you’re planning to cook for yourself, and it pays off to compare prices in the main supermarket chains (Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose) to see which one has the items you’re planning to buy on offer.london big ben

How to save money on paid attractions

If you’re planning to see some of London’s attraction that aren’t free, consider getting a London Pass which includes over 60 London attractions, including a Thames River Cruise, the Tower Of London and Westminster Abbey. Tip: If you buy the pass through VisitLondon, the official tourist board, you’ll get a 10% discount on it.

If you only plan to visit one or two of the paid-for attractions, check online if they offer an advance booking discount. Most of the attractions offer it – the London Eye for example is 20% cheaper if booked in advanced.

If you’re planning a trip out of town on the train – to Bath or Brighton for example, you should also check out the National Rail website where you’ll usually find 2-for-1 offers for all major attractions (if you buy a train ticket). Train tickets should be purchased in advance, too, by the way: a ticket to Brighton is £22.90 if you buy it on the spot, but it can be as cheap as £11 if you buy it a few weeks in advance. This kind of travel requires planning, but it makes a huge difference on your wallet.London Eye

Cheap West End Theater Tickets

Theater is a fix part of many London visitors’ itinerary, and seeing a play in the West End is well worth the splurge. The best part is that seeing a play or musical doesn’t need to be expensive – I’ve seen plays for as little as £20! Similar to New York, London also has discount ticket booths – head to the TKTS ticket booth in the afternoon to get discounted tickets for the same evening. The Guardian just published a guide on how to get the best deal for West End Theater Tickets.London views from Primrose hill

Food and drinks

First of all: don’t ever spend water on bottled water when you are in London. The tap water in the city is perfectly fine and safe to drink, and not only will it save you some precious Pounds, but you’ll also do the environment a favor.

For a cheap lunch, head to Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Boots and pick up one of their lunch deals, which are as little as £3 and include a sandwich, a drink and an additional item (chips, fruit or something sweet). It doesn’t get any cheaper than this! If you prefer a hot lunch, head to EAT or Pret A Manger for a hot sandwich or a soup. You can get either one for less than £5. All of these places have several healthy food options.

When the weather is nice, it is always a great idea to buy picnic food and eat in one of the beautiful parks – nothing beats an al fresco lunch in Regents Park or St James Park. I highly recommend Portobello Road Market and Borough Market to pick up a quick yet scrumptious meal.

If you’re staying in a hostel with a kitchen, you can buy one of the cheap dinner deals that is offered by all of the supermarket chains for as little as £10 – this includes a starter for two, two main courses and even a bottle of wine! (Tip: If you splurge on the £20 dinner deal at Marks & Spencer, you get the best value for money with a starter, main, a side dish, dessert and wine).

If you prefer to go out, try to find a coupon for 2-for-1 meals or look for a pub with 2-for-1 meal deals. Bread selection at Borough Market

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