Market Madness

London has so many great markets that it tends to be overwhelming. They are so varied in offerings that it is almost necessary to visit all of them to get the full experience. Although the crowds and the sheer amount of stuff being sold can sometimes be maddening, they do offer a great deal of items at prices that are far cheaper than what you would pay at a traditional store. For that reason alone, they are definitely worth the trip. Also, if you are a slacker or procrastinator and have yet to buy a Father’s Day gift, the markets are a great place to find that perfect and unique present for dear old Dad. Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Borough Market

Borough Market is located near London Bridge and is easily reachable by public transport. The main draw here is the wide variety of food vendors. They sell (and hand out samples) of foods from all over the world. From chocolatiers to cheese mongers and bakeries, the market has something for everyone.

Market Hours:

Thursday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Friday: 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Saturday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

 

Brick Lane

Brick Lane market is located in East London and offers shoppers an incredibly diverse selection of goods. Here, you will find everything from vintage military jackets and sunglasses, to handmade jewellery and t-shirts. Also, there is a huge selection of cheaply priced international foods available in the food halls around the market. While you’re there, check out the street art, including works by Banksy and D*Face, that is scattered around Brick Lane.

Market Hours:

Sunday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

 

Portobello Market

Portobello Market runs through the heart of Notting Hill in West London. The main draw here is the extensive selection of antiques, as well as high quality fruits and vegetables. It is worth making the trip for the food alone. The quality of produce available is leaps and bounds better than what you will find in the grocery store, and it is sold for a fraction of the price. The market gets a bit crowded, buy if you can handle the hustle and bustle, you will find some great deals.

Market Hours:

Monday – Wednesday: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Thursday: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Friday – Saturday: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM

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Interview with the Cheapskates

What better way to discover new deals and cheap things than by talking to my fellow cheap/poor classmates? Recently, I had a conversation with a few of my comrades to discuss what their favorite London deals and discounts are…

London on the Cheap: What are some of the best hidden deals you have come across in London?

Cheapskate #1: There is a place called Steak+ that offers a 2 course lunch for £5. It’s amazing! It makes me feel classy even though I’m only spending £5.

Cheapskate #2: Yeah, it’s so cheap for what you get!

LOTC: Is the food actually good?

C#1: Yeah, and there are a bunch of menu items to choose from, so you don’t feel like you are stuck eating something you don’t necessarily even want.

LOTC: Since we’re on the topic of food, have you found any other good meal deals around the city?

C#1: Yes! One of my favorite things to do is go to to Borough Market on Saturday. You can literally fill yourself up on all the free samples from the vendors. There are some really great traders there with high quality food, so you get the chance to try all these delicious things without spending a pound.

C#2: Although the quality definitely isn’t as good as what you will find at Borough Market, a little food secret that I discovered recently is from McDonald’s. When you show your student ID, you get a free McFlurry or cheeseburger when you buy an Extra Value meal. Always say yes to free dessert! The best thing to do is ask wherever you are if they ave discounted rates for students. It’s surprising how many restaurants, clothing shops and other attractions in London offer some sort of discount or incentive to us poor students!

LOTC: Besides food, what are some other free or cheap London discoveries?

C#2: Of course the museums are one of the best free things in London. They are places I would actually pay to get into, so the fact they are free makes them even better. It’s nice to just be able to stop into any of them on a whim and not have to worry about dipping into your funds to visit them.

C#1: I totally agree. In my country, I’m used to having to pay a decent amount of money to get into the museums. By not having to pay an entrance fee here, I almost feel like I’m cheating or stealing!

LOTC: Any last remarks or advice?

C#1: London isn’t exactly an easy place to live when you are trying to save money, but there really are a lot of great deals out there. It may take a little work and effort to find them, but it is possible.

C#2: Don’t not do things because you think it’s too expensive; just find ways around spending the full amount!

The Happiest of Hours

Everyone loves to relax and have a few (or more than a few) drinks, but it’s not always the most wallet-friendly of activities. Drinks in London are not cheap, and we all know that after a few, our good judgment and penny pinching ways tend to get lost among the empty glasses and bottles. That being said, the city has some great deals on drinks at different times throughout the week. Take advantage of these great deals, but just make sure you don’t Lindsay Lohan yourself!

Foundation Bar

Foundation is a bar/lounge located in the heart of Covent Garden. Don’t be fooled by its unassuming facade; below street level lies a lovely establishment that offers 50% off all drinks from 4:30 PM – 7:30 PM everyday. Although this may seem too early in the evening to drink, the fact that the bar is underground makes it perpetually feel like midnight. So, don’t be surprised if you emerge from what feels like a full night of drinking to discover it’s still light out. Be careful, things can get crazy.

Opal

Opal is a club venue located at Embankment station. Not only do they have DJs nightly, but they also have live music every Thursday. Plus, they offer a happy hour deal that takes you to midnight (which is rare!). Happy Hours run from 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM everyday (till 12:00 AM on Thursdays), with all drinks 50% off and food platters available for £7.95.

Los Locos

Finally, if your tastes are leaning more toward a collegiate and student party type of vibe, Los Locos in Covent Garden is your place. With Happy Hours taking place from Tuesday through Saturday and DJs spinning from 11:00 PM – 3:00 AM, you are sure to have a blast without breaking the bank. House drinks start at £2.95, pitchers of cocktails are £9.95, all bottles of wine are 20% off and beers are available for £1.95. Happy Hours are Tuesday & Wednesday from 5:00 PM – 3:00 AM, Thursday from 5:00 PM – 11:00 PM and Friday & Saturday from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM.

Resources for the Cheap

Surprisingly, there are a ton of great deals to be found in London. There are so many different places where cheap stuff and discounts can be found that it tends to be overwhelming. Luckily, there are a lot of great resources that find the best offers and “share the wealth” with their fellow deal hunters. A great place to start looking for these resources is Twitter. Here is a list of the Top 5 best people to follow on Twitter if you are looking for London discounts. Following Apple’s announcement of their new products this week, it’s best to start looking for ways to save your money now!

Young & Poor! @youngandpoor (5,909 followers)

The name pretty much says it all. Follow them to receive updates on sales and free/discounted events going on around the city.

Days Out In London @DaysOutInLondon (4,490 followers)

Days Out in London specialises in 2 for 1 deals at dozens of London attractions. They also offer great discounts on train travel across the country.

KGB Deal UK @KGBdeals_UK (1,990 followers)

KGB Deals’ “Agents” hunt down the best deals in London. Their offerings include everything from spa specials to reduced prices at restaurants around the city. Check out their Destinations page for discounts on trips to places ranging from Northern England to Tunisia.

Starting Out London @startingolondon (1,797 followers)

Starting Out London not only collects London deals and vouchers from around the web, but the site also features London happenings, current events, entertainment news, and event listings.

Mr. Vouchers @my_vouchercode (940 followers)

Much like the other Twitters previously mentioned, Mr. Vouchers collects discounts and places them in one easy to find spot for deal hunters. It seems like everyday a new deal site pops up, so by following this account, at least some of the hard work that goes into searching for cheap things is done for you!

Thrifty Theatre

London theatre is world renowned for the variety and caliber of its productions. Unfortunately, buying tickets to these shows isn’t always in everyone’s budget. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable options for those looking to add a little art and culture to their night. So, if you’re looking for an alternative to Euro 2012, you might want to check out a show (and save some money in the process!).

tkts

tkts is located in the heart of Leicester Square and is the most well known provider of discount theatre tickets in London. They offer half price tickets on the day of the show for a large selection of West End performances, including musicals, plays, dance and opera. For those who prefer to plan their theatre trip before the day of the show, they also offer advance purchase tickets at a reduced rate. Check here for the list of tickets available today.

The Royal Court Theatre

The Royal Court Theatre focuses on producing performances by new and innovative UK-based and international writers. This dedication has earned it the title of “most important theatre in Europe” by the New York Times. For an affordable night out, take advantage of £10 Mondays. For non-members, bookings for these performances become available at 9am on the day of the show. Also, if you’re quick enough to get them, there are 4 standing places for each performance available one hour before the show…and the tickets are only 10p!

London Theatre Passport

Viator offers a London Theatre Passport which gives you access to your choice (from a pre-selected list) of West End shows. This will only set you back £21.00 (inclusive of taxes, fees and handling charges). Bookings for the Passport can be made online in advance, then redeemed for your show of choice at Charing Cross Road.

Culture Yourself

While it may be difficult to pull yourself away from the just released Mr. Rogers remixed “Garden of Your Mind” video, there are a few more options in London that may offer a little less nostalgia, but a lot more culture. One of the best things I’ve discovered about London is that the majority of the city’s museums are free to enter. Special exhibitions may charge an entrance fee, but general admission to the permanent collections are totally gratis.  Considering the quality of the museums and the extensive collections they offer visitors, that is pretty amazing…and a budget-minded person’s dream!

Here are a few of the “don’t miss or you’ll regret it” museums in London:

Natural History Museum

The Dinosaurs gallery alone is worth the trip. It features skeletons of a T.Rex and Triceratops, as well as animatronic dinosaur replicas. There are also life-size models of some of the world’s largest mammals, including a blue whale, and an entire exhibit dedicated to some of the Earth’s most beautiful treasures, including rocks, gems and minerals.

British Museum

The British Museum features one of the best collections of ancient antiquities in the world. As you explore each regional gallery, you will be taken on a literal walk through the history of culture and civilization. Can’t miss pieces include the Rosetta Stone, Hoa Hakananai’a and the large collection of Egyptian burial artifacts, including the remains of a Pre-Dynastic Egyptian man that has been preserved for more than 5,000 years.

Tate Modern

The Tate Modern houses a large collection of modern and contemporary art from 1900 onwards. The galleries are organized by art movements in history, meaning pieces from different periods of time are juxtaposed against each other. This gives the viewer the unique perspective of seeing how artists of the same style have influenced or opposed one another. The museum also features a free Interactive Zone that lets visitors explore multimedia, films and games that present modern art in a non-traditional way.

Olympics for the Broke

I have always been, and most likely always will be, obsessed with the Olympics. Every two years I dedicate an inordinate amount of time to watching as much Olympic coverage as I possibly can. Whether it be a popular event like figure skating or swimming, or a more obscure event such as women’s weightlifting and trampolining (yes, please), I will most likely be parked in front of my TV watching as if I have been a dedicated fanatic for my entire life. For some reason, the Olympics bring out my inner sports fan. You would think that living in a crazy sports city like Boston for 10 years that I would care more about professional teams (Go Celtics!), but I am far more interested in the often overlooked and under appreciated Olympic athletes.

That being said, the fact that the Olympics are taking place in London this year makes me giddy with excitement. When July 27th rolls around, I will most definitely be glued to the nearest television. Since I am not lucky enough to have event tickets, I’m not one of the lucky ones that will get to go inside the Olympic venues that have been built in London. However, even non-spectators can  feel part of the action by exploring the extraordinary venues that have been constructed. Guided walking tours are offered on a daily basis at 11:00 and 13:00. The cost is £9 for adults, £7 for seniors & students and £5 per child under 16. Compared to the prices of the Olympic tickets that will be released this Friday, (£995 for the opening ceremony) £9 is a price that all of us poor people can handle.