While the cost of sightseeing in London varies, here is a good idea what most families can expect to spend on vacation.
London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, but there are ways to visit with a reasonable budget. For starters, pepper your itinerary with free museums, parks, gardens, and free walking tours. You can also select a hotel or apartment that includes a kitchen, allowing you to cook some meals rather than eating out.
There are still some sightseeing costs that you can’t avoid, including admission tickets for the leading attractions. To help you guesstimate how much money you will need to sightsee in London, we put together a brief guide that explores what you may need to buy and what you should expect it to cost.
How Much Should You Budget Per Day in London?
What you spend per person per day in London depends on the attractions you want to see, your choice of transportation, and the deals you secure to potentially reduce the cost. When you look at data collected from previous London travelers on the cost of sightseeing in London, the average daily expense per person is £145, which is about $199.
There are ways to reduce that number, so let’s look at the average cost of expenses that typically come up when you’re sightseeing away from home. We’ll start with three primary expenses right now, but look for a more detailed discussion of attraction and entertainment expenses below.
The Cost of Food in London
Data collected from past travelers shows that an individual may spend £29 per day on food in London, on average. That translates to about $40 per day, per person. If you go to the more upscale restaurants, choose more than three courses, or consume alcohol with your meals, you could easily surpass this average cost per day.
Restaurants and cafes are the most expensive places to eat in London. You can expect to spend at least £25 per person when eating out at a nice restaurant. You can save money by eating at pubs in the evening and choosing simple sandwiches for lunch. Some restaurants may also run lunch or breakfast specials, which can save you money if you’re willing to eat whatever the special has to offer.
The Cost of Transportation in London
For about £5, you can purchase a one-day TravelCard that allows you to use unlimited public transportation in London all day. The day starts at 9:30 am, and you can use the tube and buses to get to most attractions throughout the Greater London area.
You can also buy an Oyster Card online and have it delivered to your home before you leave for London. Load money onto the card and use it to pay as you go. The card will cover the following transportation options:
- London Overground
- TfL Rail
- River Bus
- Some National Rail services
Taxis are quite expensive in London, so most tourists and even locals use the tube unless they’re taking a day trip or tour that includes private or group transportation.
Keep in mind that you can also walk between many attractions in Central London quite easily to reduce the cost of sightseeing in London. You won’t necessarily need transportation more than once or twice per day if you plan your visit and group attractions and places of interest by location.
The Cost of Souvenirs/Shopping in London
What you spend picking up souvenirs for loved ones and shopping for your family largely depends on where you shop. If you go to some of London’s street markets and shop small boutiques, you may find some great deals.
If you want to shop at Harrods and other upscale stores, then you will naturally spend more money shopping. This is such a personal expense that you should set your own budget based on the estimated cost of food, attractions, entertainment, and transportation.
The Cost of London’s Top Attractions
The best way to save on attractions and entertainment in London is to balance free and paid options. If you have young children in your family, you may also save by visiting more attractions that admit children for free. Even some restaurants in London will grant a free kid’s meal for each adult meal purchased.
Many London attractions also offer a small discount if you simply reserve your space online in advance. If you’re planning a detailed itinerary, it’s not difficult to go online and make reservations before you head for London.
If you’re more likely to wing it and go wherever your heart desires each day while on vacation, you should still try to get some of those online reservation discounts, even if you reserve the evening before or same day.
To give you some idea of what you may spend on London’s attractions and entertainment venues, consider this list of admission prices for some leading family-friendly attractions as of early 2021:
- London Dungeon: standard ticket from £24 online in advance or £30 same day
- Sea Life Aquarium: standard ticket from £24 online in advance or £30 same day
- Shrek’s Adventure: standard ticket from £21 online in advance or £30 same day
- Tower of London: £25.00 for adults, £12.50 for kids aged 5-15, family saver deals £37.50 – £62.50
- Tower Bridge: £10.60 for adults 16+, £5.30 for kids aged 5-15
- Westminster Abbey: £18 for adults, £7 for children
- The Shard: standard ticket from £32 – online discount £25
- Buckingham Palace: £26.50 for adult state room tickets, £24.00 for over 60s & students, £14.50 for children aged 5-17/disabled, FREE for under 5s
Some venues like the Tower of London offer slight discounts if you make a donation at the time you reserve your tickets. We included the straight ticket prices without the donation here.
Keep in mind that these were the prices as of March 2021. Always check with the attractions online to check the current rates. Most major London attractions will maintain stable pricing, but fluctuations are always possible.
Saving with Attraction Passes & Bundles to Reduce the Cost of Sightseeing in London
You shouldn’t pay full price to enter every paid attraction in London unless you’re visiting so few that it doesn’t make sense to invest in an attraction pass or bundle.
What does that mean?
It means London visitors can buy passes that give them free entry or reduced prices to many of the top attractions. You simply show your pass at the door to gain entry at the free or reduced rate. You can also invest in bundles when you buy tickets to individual attractions. You’ll see these options when you go online to reserve your tickets.
If you’re spending a long weekend, a week, or even longer in London, you will likely benefit from using these deals to reduce the cost of sightseeing in London. The best strategy for a family vacation is to invest in an attraction pass and then bundle attractions that aren’t included in the pass. That takes a bit of planning as you look at what is covered under your pass and what attractions offer the best bundles for the remaining London experiences that you want to enjoy.
To give you a head start, let’s take a closer look at the leading attraction passes and some of the best money-saving bundles for families.
Attraction Passes in London
Attraction passes should include a variety of London attractions, including Royal palaces, museums, entertainment venues, and even restaurants.
The following are your primary options. Note that they differ significantly in price, but you’re paying for different types of discounts.
- London Pass: Pay £79 for a one-day adult pass, including discounts at over 80 leading attractions plus fast-track entry for select venues. Also includes discounts on dining and theatre tickets, one hop-on, hop-off bus tour, and the convenience of a mobile app. £56 for a child’s one-day pass. Passes good for up to 10 days are available.
- London Explorer Pass: Pay £45 for an adult pass that provides entry into two London attractions. Pay £33 for a child’s ticket that covers two attractions. Passes are available for up to seven attraction credits. Select from over 50 London attractions. Passes are valid for 60 days after purchase date.
The London Explorer Pass may come with some added discounts for select restaurants and entertainment venues but is largely focused on discounted rates for select attractions, which you choose from a list. The London Pass will cost a bit more but offers more expansive discounts and even some opportunities to cut the line at some of London’s most popular tourist attractions.
When deciding which pass is best for your family, consider how many included attractions you want to visit and the price of reserving tickets online directly through each venue. Some attractions do offer slight discounts if you book your tickets online in advance, but the passes may still offer the better deal overall.
Attraction Bundles in London
Some of the best attraction bundles in London are for popular entertainment venues like Shrek’s Adventure, Madame Tussauds, Seal Life Aquarium, and London Zoo. Instead of purchasing tickets for each of these experiences, make sure to check for bundle options that deliver multiple venue tickets for a reduced price.
Also look for free or discounted cruises when you purchase tickets to select events. For example, you can buy tickets to any of the following experiences with a river cruise included:
- Madame Tussauds
- Merlin’s Magic London
- London Dungeon
- London Eye
- Sea Life Aquarium
The best way to find bundles is to look up the website for attractions that aren’t included in your chosen attraction pass. The bundle options are usually featured along with standard ticket prices and are available to book online in advance.
Budgeting for London in Reverse
If you’re overwhelmed by all of the expenses that you need to consider when budgeting for a London family vacation, try doing this in reverse. Rather than determining what it will cost to see and do everything on your must-see list, try determining your maximum per-day budget for the family based on your financial means.
You can then determine what attractions and places of interest you schedule each day of the trip, sticking to that budget. You can see menus and sometimes even prices for many restaurants and cafes online, which allows you to budget food with some accuracy.
It’s also a good idea to give yourself some wiggle room when budgeting. Perhaps set aside a certain amount of extra money that you can spend wherever you like. That gives you the freedom to stray from the plan and budget when you find something unexpectedly exciting on your trip.
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