Good Deals in London
There are ways to make a holiday in London, if not cheap, at least within the realm of the reasonable.
This is often the biggest expense for travelers, but there is one appealing option. During vacations many universities open up their residences to vacationers of all ages. The Urban Learning Foundation near Canary Wharf in East London offers private lockable single rooms in shared suites, a garden courtyard, and a chance to check out the up-and-coming area of the Docklands. Prices range from £27 per night to £130 per week or even less for longer stays. Contact: 011- 44-0-20-7987-0033; www.accomodata.co.uk/280295.htm.
In Islington, the City University of London offers a variety of residences from £21 per night (some are available year round). Contact: 011-44-0-20-7040-8035; www.city.ac.uk/ems/accomm/accomm.html. For central stays, the London School of Economics has a number of residences available during Christmas, summer, and the month-long Easter vacation. Prices start at £27. Contact: 011-44-0-20-7955-7575; 011-44-0-20-7955-7676; lse.ac.uk/collections/vacations.
A 1-week bus and tube Travelcard, at£17 for Zone 1 or £20.20 for Zones 1 and 2, is your best bet. For shorter stays a 1-day off-peak Travelcard for £4.30 or a weekend card for £6.40 are also good deals. For those with more time and less money the real steal is a daily bus pass at £2.50.
London museums are one of the top bargains in the world. The best are free: the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery (just around the corner from the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square), where you can become intimately acquainted with the courtiers of Henry VIII among other notables.
Food and Drink
If you're in Trafalgar Square anyway, the cafeteria in the crypt of St-Martin-in-the-Fields offers reasonably-priced English fare and, considering its location, a surprisingly cheery atmosphere. St Paul's Cathedral also has a crypt cafe, just a stone's throw from Nelson's tomb. Though visiting historical sites like the Tower is pricey, a good dose of scandal and lore can still be had for the price of a pint. The Anchor Pub, at 34 Park Street on the bank of the Thames (Station: London Bridge), is where Samuel Pepys watched London burn during the devastating Great Fire of 1666. If you're there on a Friday or Saturday, grab a cheap meal at the nearby Borough Market, picturesquely located under the railway tracks. With a history dating back to medieval times and crowded with jostling gourmands, it's an atmospheric spot to grab a lamb-burger or a freshly-squeezed juice.
Another good pub and market combo starts at the Ten Bells Pub at 84 Commercial Street in Whitechapel (Station: Aldgate East), an artsy bar once patronized by some of Jack the Ripper's victims. On Sundays check out the food stalls at the hip organic Spitalfields Market.