Winter wonderland in London

Photo of London South Bank covered in winter snow

It’s the magical time of year again when temperatures drop and we swap jackets for coats, cord for sequins, pumpkin spice for mulled beverages and deck the halls. ๐ŸŽ„

It may be chilly outside but with a good thermal and endless choice of activities to do in a city that never sleeps, there’s no excuse to hibernate. ๐Ÿ›‹๏ธ

From fairy lights to festivities, here’s what Londoners love about wintertime. โ„๏ธ

Dazzling lights

Picture any European city from mid-November and you’ll get everything from quaint glittering villages to all-out light show bonanzas; you can guess where London sits on the spectrum. โœจ

Dazzle your family and friends with impressive light installations at Regent Street stretching between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square. ๐Ÿคณ

For something a little different, visit Christmas at Kew, Carnaby Street, Leadenhall Market and spectacular out shopfronts in Mayfair, Fortnum & Mason and Harrods. ๐ŸŽ

Be sure to check your local council’s website to find out what’s happening in your area! ๐ŸŽ„ 

Festive food

Photo of a woman holding a hot beverage

I hope you saved some space after Halloween because the food fest doesn’t end when the jack-o’-lantern snuffs out. ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿซ๐Ÿญ

Planning a Christmas feast or need to bring a plate? A traditional Christmas goose might be hard to come by, so you can opt for a stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce or roast ham with apple sauce. Pair this with delicious roasted potatoes, parsnips, carrots, sprouts and a Yorkshire pudding with gravy. ๐Ÿ˜‹

For starters, pigs in blankets and mince pies are classic, and for dessert a Christmas pudding or layered trifle. ๐ŸŽ…

Wash it all down with a mulled beverage like wine, cider or whiskey. The secret ingredients are citrus peel, cloves, cinnamon and a pinch of sugar!

Ice skating

Work off those calorific Christmas treats with a lap or two (hundred) around the ice rink. โ›ธ๏ธ

Skate by fairy light at iconic venues such as the Natural History Museum, Somerset House, Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace. โœจ

Don’t forget, you can also enjoy ice skating year round at venues like Alexandra PalaceLee Valley Ice Centre and Streatham Ice Centre! โ„๏ธ

Magical markets

Photo of a woman at a Christmas market

Christmas markets are perfect for socialising and shopping outdoors. Here you’ll find all your trinket, bauble and bratwurst needs in one place. ๐ŸŒญ

In Central London, visit markets in Leicester Square, along the South Bank, by the river at London Bridge, Borough Market and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. ๐ŸŽก

In North London, pick up gifts from Camden Market, at Stokey Winter Market or Alexandra Palace. ๐ŸŽ

In South London, you can enjoy markets at Greenwich Market, Pexmas, Winterville in Clapham Common, and the Scandinavian Christmas Market for something a little different! ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

Wet weather plans

Photo of a woman admiring art in a museum

London isn’t exactly known for its amazing weather, so when the grey clouds roll in you’ll find plenty to see and do under cover. โ˜”

Check out a new theatrical production at the iconic West End or Shakespeare’s Globe, shop at Oxford Street or dance the night away at one of London’s many music venues. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽค

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to museums and galleries, many of which are free to visit. Some favourites are the British Museum, Science Museum, Tate Modern, V&A and the London Transport Museum – all of which have fabulous gift shops. ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

Wintry walks

Every now and then it snows in London and adds a mystical mood to London’s picturesque parks. ๐Ÿ„

If you’re looking to make the most of a dusting of snow, look no further than Regent’s Park, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park and Kew Gardens. โ›„

Breathe in that crisp fresh air with a stroll along South Bank or on the Thames Path – my favourite stretch starts at Hammersmith Bridge and finishes in Richmond. ๐Ÿฅพ


What are you most looking forward to in wintertime in London? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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Photo of a squirrel in London in autumn

Fall for London in autumn

London in warm autumnal hues coupled with fun activities and events will make you think twice before swapping hiking boots for slippers. ๐Ÿ‚

London Greek food guide

Photo of koulouri Greek pastry

Greek cuisine harks back to its roots founded on the “Mediterranean Triad” from ancient times: wheat, olives and grapes i.e. wine. ๐Ÿ‡

Greek food features aromas like oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill and laurel leaves (aka bay leaves) that flavour a range of vegetarian, fish and meat dishes like moussaka and lamb kleftiko.

And let’s not forget feta cheese, featuring in the iconic Greek salad and phyllo (or, filo) pastries, and lemon and yoghurt flavours.

If you love Greece as much as I do, you can keep the spirit of your last visit alive with my tried and tested favourite Greek hospitality venues around London.

Coffee and brunch

Photo of girl carrying freddo cappuccino Greek coffees

From freddo capuccino to crispy spanakopita, get your brunch and caffeine fix at these stylish cafes. If you’re after something sweet, order a bougatsa or a galaktoboureko to go with your Greek coffee! โ˜•๐Ÿฅ

  • Briki in Exmouth Market. We ordered spanakopita, tiropita and bougatsa.
  • Ergon Deli + Cafe in Mayfair and Westfield Stratford. We ordered koulouri with poached eggs, Greek yoghurt and spicy oil, and galaktoboureko.
  • The Life Goddess in Bloomsbury and Carnaby Street. We ordered spanakopita, kataifi and baklava.

Street food

Photo of Greek lefkada lamb souvlaki with Greek salad

If you’ve visited Greece you’ve undoubtedly snacked on delicious pork gyros, but Greek street food is more than just your favourite pitta wrap with chips! ๐Ÿ˜‹

  • Holy Pitta in Angel. We ordered bifteki with feta filling and karditsa (sausage) and ravani.
  • Kalamaki Street in Covent Garden. We ordered the Spartan Box with pork souvlaki, Greek salad, feta sauce, spanakopita and bougatsa.
  • Yamas in Camden. We ordered kolokithokeftedes (courgette balls) and pork gyros portion.

Taverna

Photo of grilled octopus at a Greek restaurant

Depending on where you’ve visited in Greece, chances are you’ve enjoyed the warm hospitality of a fish or meat taverna. These are our favourite spots in London to enjoy a hearty feast with fresh Greek salad and ouzo or tsipouro. ๐Ÿ‹

  • Andy’s Taverna in Camden. We ordered the mixed grill, halloumi and pastourma.
  • Hungry Donkey in Aldgate. We ordered feta chips, htipiti (cheese dip), avgolemono (chicken lemon soup), soutzoukakia (lamb) and kormos.
  • Tony’s Pita in South Hampstead. We ordered tyrokafteri (spicy feta dip), kokoretsi (intestines) and mixed skewers.

Restaurants

Photo of a Greek restaurant starter pastry with feta and tomato

Greek restaurants don’t differ a whole lot from tavernas in terms of menu items, but keep these spots in mind for a special occasion and for a modern twist on traditional flavours. ๐Ÿฅ‚

  • Lemonia in Primrose Hill. We ordered saganaki (fried feta), soutzoukakia (meat balls) and pagidakia (lamb cutlets).
  • Opso in Marylebone. We ordered feta kataifi, metsovone croquette, giouvarlakia dumplings and roasted potatoes.
  • Retsina in Belsize Park. We ordered taramasalata, falafel, lounza (pork), loukanika (sausage), mixed grill and kataifi.

Do your tastebuds agree with this list? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


Still hungry? Be sure to check out my guides to the best Neapolitan pizza and Australian brunch spots in London!


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Photo of Oxford's skyline

Day trips from London

There’s nothing quite like strolling along a tree-lined canal or cobblestoned village lanes. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

Photo of Tower Bridge and London's skyline

First impressions of London

If expat life feels like home then you’re doing it wrong ๐Ÿ˜… This is my ever growing list of culture shocks I’ve experienced since moving to London.

What I’ve learned about London

Photo of a red telephone box in London

In my mind, the transition from Sydneysider to Londoner should’ve been a piece of (tea)cake. ๐Ÿซ–๐Ÿฐ

Both cities are roughly the same size in terms of commuter belt, but Sydney’s population is half that of London, and appear quite similar at surface level.

But dig a little deeper and you might uncover a culture clash or two! We may share a monarch and language, but life as an Australian expat in London will teach you that football means a very different thing in this corner of the world! โšฝ

Weather

Photo of a rainbow above King's Cross Station in London

London is known for its moody grey skies and drizzly weather. This is true to an extent but after living here for a couple of years, I find “moody” is the keyword.

From stifling heat waves to blink-and-you-missed-it flurries of snow, it’s no wonder Londoners resort to drastic measures like swimming in ponds and sunbathing in parks.

Autumn and spring are by far my favourite months in the UK as both seasons boast stunning natural beauty, and they tend to have more stable weather. ๐ŸŒธ๐Ÿ‚

Before signing a lease, make sure your new room or flat has double glazed windows and heating!

Work

Aerial photo of Monument

London a land of opportunity. No matter how niche, there’s a role for everyone in varying degrees of seniority in almost every industry.

Competition is fierce and this can sadly drive down wages, particularly in industries like marketing and events. Finance and tech roles are paid well but be prepared to compete. โš”๏ธ

Recruiters are important for getting your CV seen. In London, recruiters form close working relationships with companies and can advocate for you once you’re in their system.

Recruiters are so commonplace that they specialise in different industries (e.g. marketing for not-for-profits), so be prepared to do your homework in approaching the right ones.

Renting and expenses

Photo of houses facing a Hampstead Heath pond

Renting in London is equally, if not more, competitive than job searching. Spareroom is your best bet for finding a room in a flat share, and Rightmove or Zoopla for leasing your own place.

Key considerations

  • Plan your budget around rent, bills and expenses as a whole to avoid any nasty surprises. For instance, council tax and transport fares vary depending on the area
  • Ensure there is central heating (wall mounted heaters) and that potential flatmates are in agreement on usage as electricity costs do tend to go up in winter
  • There are no power sockets in bathrooms, so a mirror in your room is useful for drying your hair
  • Check the TV licence situation. If you don’t plan to use it, make sure you’re able to opt out
  • Areas without a Tube station are generally cheaper. If you can bus, walk or cycle to work then consider living in an area like Crouch End or in South London
  • Hard water, limescale build up and mould are sadly part of the fact of life in London. Keep on top of your cleaning schedule and consider splitting the costs of a cleaner for a deep clean
  • Some flats don’t have living rooms! If you plan to entertain at home or enjoy a sociable living environment, factor this in. ๐Ÿ›‹๏ธ

Transport

Photo of the Tube roundel at Piccadilly Circus

London transport is world-famous. It gave us colourful Tube lines, red double-decker buses and “Mind The Gap”. ๐Ÿš‡

The city is a maze and there’s absolutely no shame being a Londoner for years and relying on navigation apps! The most popular ones are Citymapper, Google Maps and TfL Go.

Transport in London is also notoriously expensive. The Tube (London Underground) fares tend to be the highest, while buses, Overground and cycle hire are much more affordable. And scenic! The front seats on the top deck of the bus offer the best views.

Everyone’s in a rush, so knowing where to walk and stand is important. Walk on the left, and stand on the right of escalators. It’s a bit nonsensical, but you’ll get used to it!

The network is old and particularly susceptible to weather; autumn leaves and snow can cause delays. Having multiple routes available for where you need go is advisable.

Food and eating out

Photo of a Borough Market food stall

Traditional British cuisine can range from warm and hearty, like Sunday roasts and homemade pies, to downright dull i.e. a different sandwich for every day of the week. ๐Ÿฅช

But London’s food scene draws inspiration from all corners of the globe and offers huge variety to impress every foodie and gastronome. Check out my guides on where to find the best Australian brunch and pizzerias in London! ๐Ÿคค

Some iconic menus to sample in London are Dishoom, Padella, Kanada-Ya, Duck & Waffle, and Nando’s (no kidding). ๐Ÿ—

Food markets and food halls are also a great experience all round. My favourites are Seven Dials Market, Brixton Market, Broadway Market, Borough Market, Mercato Metropolitano and Mercato Mayfair.

Eating out (and ordering in) can be an expensive habit. Here’s how you can save without missing out.

Health

Photo of a thank you NHS banner in a tree

While comfort and convenience in terms of food choices may be appealing, it can lead to a phenomenon called the Heathrow injection, so remember to strike a healthy balance. ๐Ÿƒ

The NHS (National Heath Service) covers almost all your healthcare needs and is free (once you’ve covered the IHS payment as part of your visa application).

NHS wait times can be long, so if your employer offers membership to private health insurance I recommend opting in. Keep in mind the NHS doesn’t cover all dental, eye and contraception care.

To register with a local GP, you’ll need proof of permanent address (utility or council tax bill or tenancy agreement) but there are walk-in clinics to tide you over until you settle in. ๐Ÿ 

Socialising

Photo of two girls at an art gallery in London

With so much going on in London, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Once you’ve ticked the main attractions off your list, check TimeOut for what’s coming up. ๐ŸŽญ

While London is full of millions of people, most people experience loneliness. With people coming and going all the time, it can be difficult to make friends. This is especially true as an adult.

Thankfully there are so many options for socialising and meeting new people. Bonding over a common interest like sports and hobbies or joining expat communities are often the best foundation for lasting friendships.

In terms of finding someone special, having so many fish in the sea can be tricky. On the one hand, people don’t feel pressured to settle; on the other hand, they might keep swiping. Being open and upfront about your expectations is the best way to avoid the tedium that is online dating. โค๏ธ


Whether you’re here for a gap year or for the long haul, London will bring you a wealth of life experience. What advice would you give to someone thinking of making the move? ๐Ÿ‘‡


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What to pack when you move to London

Photo of a girl packing clothes

With limited baggage allowance, packing up all your worldly possessions into a suitcase might seem impossible but it doesn’t have to be. Each item just has to earn its place, and this guide will show you how! ๐Ÿงณ

Clothes and accessories

Photo of a woman's outfit

Did you know the term “capsule wardrobe” was coined by a Londoner? Essentially, it’s the essentials: a collection of timeless staples which can then be paired with seasonal pieces.

For example: coat, jeans, white shirt, black blazer, pencil skirt, little black dress, sundress, jumper, scarf, hat, flats, heels and boots.

Aside from the staples, bring about a week’s worth of underwear, socks and sleepwear. The rest you can cheaply stock up on once you’re here. ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

I also found it handy to bring a set of activewear and trainers as you’ll be doing a lot of running around in the early days.

Key considerations

  • Quality over quantity is key. Leave the bargains and synthetics back home and bring only your best pieces.
  • Prioritise versatility. Your typical rented room in London is cosy, so ideally each piece can be worn for different occasions, including at work.
  • Practice some self-love. If you haven’t worn something in months because it’s uncomfortable or makes you feel self-conscious, donate it to charity.
  • London is one of the fashion capitals of the world, so you have loads of options to look forward to!

Toiletries

Photo of toiletries

Toiletries take up a surprising amount of space and the weight quickly adds up. Unless you have a skin allergy or particular hair care needs, don’t bother bringing your cosmetics collection.

Pack around a week’s worth of shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste (travel size is perfect) and stock up when you arrive. You’ll be surprised how cheap toiletries are in the UK, however makeup prices vary greatly.

You might even score a few freebies from the airline or hotel! ๐Ÿงด๐Ÿช’

Key considerations

  • If you use over-the-counter products, ask your doctor to cover your prescription for the next few months so you can stock up before you leave. Getting a local GP in the UK can take time (a permanent address is essential), so it’s best to prepare in advance.
  • Not all products have the same retail name in different countries! Might be worth double checking online for specific products.

Tech devices

Photo of various tech

Tech is important to get right early on. Having data on your phone for navigating and a reliable laptop for forms and applications are crucial for hitting the ground running. ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿ’ป

What to bring: mobile phone (unlocked SIM!), laptop computer, portal power bank, charger per device, adapter (AU to UK is essential, and AU to EU is useful for trips) and a USB stick (you never know).

Key considerations:

  • If you’re planning to upgrade in the near future, consider waiting until you arrive so you’ll be covered by warranty in the local region. I bought my mobile phone on my first day in the UK!
  • Consider bringing a power board to avoid over-relying on adapters.

Important documents

Photo of an Australian passport and flight ticket

Get your life admin organised before you go anywhere near Departures. ๐Ÿ›ซ

You’ll need originals and photocopies of all your important documents and, ideally, digital versions backed up in cloud storage and synced to your devices just in case.

What to bring: passport (visa vignette included), various forms of ID, visa approval letter from the Home Office, proof of funds document (valid up until 3 months), and any professional accreditation documents (university degree etc.) required for your field of work.

Key contacts:

  • If you get into trouble and require passport or consular support, contact the Australian High Commission: United Kingdom on +44 (0) 20 7379 4334.
  • Register your journey on Smart Traveller and follow their recommendations for the United Kingdom.
  • Dial 999 to reach emergency services in the United Kingdom.

Food and confectionery

Before you stuff your face or fill every compartment with TimTams, relax. Australian confectionary, even lamingtons, are relatively easy to come by in London.

Pay Clapham a visit and you’ll get a decent (albeit pricey) flat white and ANZAC biscuit in no time. ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ

Key considerations

  • Ask your friends and family to bring a goody bag when they come to visit.
  • Admittedly, there are a few things you won’t find like Weis Bars. Have a go at making your own! ๐Ÿจ
  • Australian brunch is hugely popular in London. Check out my top picks to get your avo on toast fix. ๐Ÿฅ‘

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. Let me know in the comments below if you think I’ve missed anything! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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Avoid the Heathrow injection

Photo of London pub entrance and fish and chips sign

As scary as it sounds, it doesn’t involve anything sharp. ๐Ÿ’‰

“Heathrow injection” was coined by Australian and New Zealand expats to describe rapid weight gain when settling in London. This is largely attributed to a busy schedule and over reliance on convenience food. I’m looking at you, ยฃ3 meal deal.

Pints in the pub, full English breakfast, fish and chips with mushy peas and Sunday roasts are all enticing British icons, but you don’t need to try them all in one week!

Striking a balance is key. Small, simple changes can lead to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle (and weight).

Walk or cycle

Photo of a girl walking in the park

You’ve no doubt heard about London’s iconic Tube network and red double decker buses, but did you know TfL manages the Capital’s cycle hire scheme? You can hire a Santander Cycle from as little as ยฃ2. ๐Ÿšฒ

As quick as the Tube might go, did you know some station changes are quicker to walk? For example, it can take up to 15min to change from the Northern line at Leicester Square to the Piccadilly line at Covent Garden while walking it is just 3min!

Check out some of these walking routes next time you’re exploring Central London.

If walking or cycling isn’t feasible for all of your journey, consider getting off a stop or two early. You might discover a new store or cafe along the way! ๐Ÿšถ๐Ÿšด

Shop the High Street

Photo of Notting Hill Bookshop entrance

With online shopping overtaking in-store purchases, fears over the “death of the High Street” are growing.

Often it feels like an early Christmas when a parcel arrives with your name on it, but there’s something magical about turning the fabric of a new scarf over in your hands in-store that online shopping can’t recreate.

So next time you feel like browsing online, step out instead and explore your area and support local businesses. It’s the perfect excuse to get some fresh air and hit your daily step target. ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ

Meal prep

Photo of homemade salad in a glass jar

With pizza and burger chains, cheap meal deals and an active social life beckoning, it’s no wonder we opt for convenience over cooking and grocery shopping. ๐Ÿฅฆ

This unhealthy habit can rack up pounds (both ยฃ and extra padding) fast. Aside from high cost of living in London, fast food, pub meals and microwave meals are large in portion size and generally full of hidden nasties like sugary sauces and saturated fats.

Cooking is a great way to save time and money. You could get your weekly groceries and meal prep done on a Sunday afternoon, for example. It also puts you back in control of portion sizes and what healthy contents go into a meal. โš–๏ธ

Salads, wraps, rice paper rolls, pasta and sandwiches all travel well and are quick and easy to make. I use Cancer Council’s Healthy Lunch Box for inspiration!

Join a fitness group

From CrossFit to circus, salsa to SUP and more, there’s fun fitness activities happening in every corner of London. ๐Ÿ’ช

Gym prices are notoriously high, and class passes can be even more expensive. Check your company benefits scheme if you’re eligible for discounts. You might be lucky enough to have an onsite gym!

Meetup and Facebook groups are a great way of finding local groups for running, tennis, football, yoga and more! They’re often cheap if not free, and a great way of meeting people.

Up your Insta game

Photo of Camden Market

London is easily one of the most “Instagrammable” cities in the world. ๐Ÿคณ

From heritage monuments like Tower Bridge and Big Ben to stylish cafes and street art, a photo hotspot is likely just around the corner.

Popular instaworthy locations include Neal’s Yard, Brixton Market, Leadenhall Market, Sky Garden, Brick Lane, Hampstead Village, Portobello Road Market, Kew Gardens and more.

Visit London’s feed is a great source of inspiration!

Curb liquid calories

Photo of a London pub beer garden

London boasts cosy traditional pubs, but there’s a reason a pint or two leaves you feeling full. ๐Ÿป

Many alcoholic beverages are calorific and loaded with sugar. Try substituting your next colourful cocktail for gin and slimline tonic, a glass of Prosecco, red wine or a dry white.

Non-alcoholic drinks can be just as bad like bubble tea, frappucinos and soft drinks. The English got it right with a cuppa tea.


Have you experienced Heathrow injection? Share your advice for managing an active, healthy lifestyle in London in the comments! ๐Ÿ‘‡


Latest in London

A pizza snob’s guide to London

Photo of two Neapolitan woodfired pizzas

Hi, my name’s Amanda. And I’m a self-confessed Pizza Snob. ๐ŸคŒ

I can trace my love affair back to October 2016 when I visited the birthplace of the Neapolitan pizza: Naples, Italy. Once you’ve sampled the best in the world, you’ll never look back.

I hit the ground running when I arrived in London in my search for the l’autentica. Here’s my definitive list of places you knead-to-try. ๐Ÿ•

Note: this covers traditional wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. If you’re looking for Domino’s, you can show yourself out.

Best pizza in London

L’Antica Pizzeria

About: “Real Neapolitan taste. Cooked with passion.” โค๏ธ

Made with: Caputo flour, low-salt dough, slow-fermented over 36 hours, cooked at 400ยฐC.

Perfect for: a cosy, hearty meal with family and friends.

Located in: Hampstead and High Barnet in North London.

Homeslice

About: “20” pizza whole or by the slice.” ๐Ÿ˜‹

Made with: high protein German 405 flour, aged 24 hours minimum, cooked at 500ยฐC for 60-90 seconds.

Perfect for: a date night sit-down meal or a quick bite on the go.

Located in: Shoreditch, City of London, White City, Marylebone, Neal’s Yard.

Zia Lucia

About: “Genuine pizza.” ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น

Made with: four types of dough! Vegetable charcoal, wholemeal, gluten-free, traditional, slow-fermented over 48 hours.

Perfect for: ordering in or an after work dinner with friends or colleagues.

Located in: Islington, Hammersmith, Aldgate East, Boxpark Wembley.

Great pizza in London

London is enormous, and so are its pizza options! While not all can be #1 (in my heart), these places serve seriously delicious pizza and are well worth a visit. ๐Ÿ’ฏ

Decent pizza in London

Eh, sometimes you just want to grab a bite but aren’t feeling particularly fussy. Here are some good and cheaper pizzerias. ๐Ÿ‘Œ


Do your tastebuds agree with this list? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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Thrifty London life tips

Photo of a Pret coffee cup at a picnic in London

London is one of the most vibrant, thriving and exciting cities to live in the world. It is also one of the most expensive. ๐Ÿ’ท

Coming from Sydney, I was confident the high cost of living wouldn’t be painfully obvious. I was mostly wrong.

Steep rent, public transport and bills (some, you’ve definitely never heard of) coupled with generally lower wages takes some getting used to. After your first few pay cycles, you’ll start to work out what you can afford and what’s best to enjoy in moderation.

While you work out your budget, here are some tips for scrimping and scraping without missing out. ๐Ÿ‘Œ

Food and groceries

Photo of a London food market stall

Bottomless brunch and covering the next round of drinks can stack up quickly. Fast food is cheap, but you can easily achieve a healthy and sociable lifestyle:

  • ยฃ3 meal deals are a convenient mid-week lunch or breakfast to go. They typically include a sandwich, bottled drink and packet of crisps
  • Packaged salads and sandwiches at supermarkets are great for healthy convenience, but costs much less if you meal prep at home ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿณ
  • Cafe loyalty cards offer freebies or discounts over time. Following your favourite places on social media is also a great way to spot a giveaway
  • Supermarket prices can vary a lot. Opt for cheaper groceries at Lidl, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons
  • Yellow stickers typically signifies a reduced price item which is perfect for a sandwich or sushi roll to be consumed that day.

Transport

Photo of a Santander Cycles docking station

TfL isn’t a world leading transport authority for no reason, but its coloured Tube service and iconic Black Cabs come at a cost. There’s plenty of ways to get from A to B in the Captial:

  • London Bus and London Overground services are the most affordable options (aside from walking!)
  • Off Peak fares apply outside of rush hour periods, and avoiding Zone 1 when using the Tube is also cheaper
  • The Santander Cycles cycle hire scheme are also affordable and accessible with thousands of docking stations located in zones 1-3 ๐Ÿšฒ
  • Cycle to Work scheme offers significant discounts on purchasing a bicycle, so it’s worth checking if your employer has one.

Rent and bills

Photo of the view from a London flat

Well, let’s get this one over with like a bandaid: renting in London is ridiculous. Paying up to half your salary for a “cosy” room sharing with random people with varying hygiene standards and noise tolerance levels gets old fast. ๐Ÿ™ƒ

While you don’t always get what you pay for, these tips can help ease the pain:

  • Rent is typically cheaper in East London and South London
  • Avoiding Zones 1 and 2, and often depending on the area 3, is a good rule of thumb but bear in mind public transport costs increase the further out you live
  • Living within a 10min walking distance of a Tube station will drive the rent up. Consider moving to an area with good transport connections to Central London or your office via bus, Overground or Docklands Light Railway
  • Not all council taxes are created equal so it’s worth taking into consideration
  • Opt out of paying for a TV licence and avoid doubling up streaming subscriptions. You can split the cost between your flatmates ๐Ÿ“บ
  • Central heating can easily double your bill in the cooler months. Substitute it for warm indoor clothes and a good quality duvet from autumn!

Socialising and sightseeing

Photo of Sky Garden

Enjoying all London has to offer is hugely appealing; while it’s important to treat yourself to a West End show from time to time, there’s plenty of affordable options to keep you entertained:

  • London hosts some of the best museums and galleries in the world, and almost all of them are free to enter
  • Panoramic views of the city are free from Sky Garden and the Viewing Level at Tate Modern
  • Standing tickets are just ยฃ5 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
  • Pubs and bars often host cheap trivia nights, comedy sessions and theatrical performances
  • London’s many stunning parks are perfect for picnics and outdoor fitness ๐Ÿƒ
  • Food markets or food halls are a great location for social gatherings as there’s a variety of options to suit everyone’s tastes and budget
  • Lunch time menus are typically cheaper than dining out in the evening
  • Rush tickets are a great way to bag cheap tickets for live and theatrical performances
  • MeetUp and other online groups offer socialising and free or cheap classes.

Fashion and beauty

Photo of a clothes rack

London is considered a fashion capital of the world. If you’ve ever wandered down Oxford Street and Regent Street, you’ll see why! Fast fashion is the name of the game, but your wardrobe doesn’t need to be at odds with your wallet:

  • Bag a bargain for a good cause at a charity shop
  • Shop sustainably at London’s vintage and retro markets
  • Use an app like Vinted or Depop to find your next secondhand treasure ๐Ÿ‘—
  • Student discounts are available at many major retails (and food vendors) so make sure to flash your ID card
  • Get your hair cut for free or coloured for a significant discount with salons like TONI&GUY who need hair models for their apprentices
  • Check Groupon or similar services for beauty package deals to get your nails, waxing and more for less.

Health and fitness

Photo of pedestrians crossing Millennium Bridge

While bottomless brunch beckons, it’s important to balance binging with regular physical activity. Affordable options include:

  • Streaming online workout videos
  • Free trials at gyms and fitness centres are a great excuse to try something new. Barre, anyone?
  • Joining a local fitness group. There’s loads of hiking, yoga and other social groups running cheap or free sessions
  • Cooking at home and freeze portions to have something healthy on hand when hunger strikes
  • Reading my guide for avoiding the Heathrow Injection! ๐Ÿ’‰

Holidays and travel

Photo of

European holidays and local trips in the UK are a hugely appealing reason for being located in London. With multiple airports and international rail, it’s also hugely accessible. Here’s how to bag a bargin:

  • Score cheaper airfares by travelling mid-week
  • Shop around for fares, tickets, rooms and rentals online
  • Flights and accommodation are generally cheaper in shoulder seasons (off-peak)
  • Student discounts apply for most airlines and travel packages
  • Learn the basics of a new language via app or a free language exchange.

How to do keep your finances under control in London? Share your hot tips and hacks in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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Day trips from London

Photo of Oxford's skyline

London’s abundance of things to see and do is part of its charm, but eventually you’ll want a break from the hustle and bustle.

In the mood for an adventure? Take a day trip to a neighbouring town! There’s nothing quite like winding down while strolling along a tree-lined canal or cobblestoned village lanes.

England is full of heritage sites and historic towns to admire. Explore medieval castles, mysterious ruins, sprawling countryside and cottages. There’s something to suit everyone’s interests. ๐Ÿ˜

These are my favourite trips easily accessibly by coach or train from the Capital. Planning ahead is advisable when it comes to affordable fares!

Bath

Photo of Roman Baths interior

Top sights: the Roman Baths, built above a natural hot spring, is equal parts museum and ancient archeological site. The city of Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage site; it boasts incredible architecture like Pulteney Bridge, Bath Abbey and The Circus. Feeling thirsty? Sample the local water’s distinct flavour at The Pump Room Restaurant.

When to go: year round, but summer can be particularly busy.

Getting there: direct train from Paddington Station (1h 20min).

Did you know? Jane Austen is a famous Bathonian resident. It’s also the set of films like The Duchess and Les Miserables. ๐ŸŽฌ

Bournemouth Beach

Top sights: explore Bournemouthโ€™s seven miles of beach and surprisingly warm microclimate! Water sports are a popular pastime here; who would ever have thought you could learn to surf in the UK?! For a traditional holiday experience you can rent a classic beach hut.

When to go: summer (or a heatwave day if you’d like to swim). ๐Ÿ–๏ธ

Getting there: direct train from Waterloo Station (2h) or coach from Victoria Coach Station (2h 45min).

Did you know? Its colourful beach huts were originally built in 1909 and the site is marked with a blue plaque at the east of Bournemouth Pier.

Brighton

Top sights: Brighton is a beautiful pebble beach getaway with its iconic pier jutting out into the sea. The town itself features charming architecture, historic pubs and plenty of stores and eateries to explore. Cycling is also a popular way to take in the coastal views.

When to go: summer or any heatwave day.

Getting there: direct train from Victoria (1h) or from Blackfriars (1h 20min).

Did you know? Brighton is considered the second most haunted city in Britain after York. Halloween party, anyone? ๐ŸŽƒ

Bristol

Top sights: the iconic Victorian Clifton Suspension Bridge is a symbol of Bristol. There is a hiking trail to get to the summit, or you can take the easier route via the park. The harbourside is also another major hub of the city, and was frequented by pirates back in the day. While you’re in the area, be sure to check out Banksy’s Girl with the Pierced Eardrum.

When to go: year round, but milder climate is preferable if you’re planning outdoor activities.

Getting there: direct train from Paddington (1h 30min).

Did you know? Famous Bristolians include actors like Jeremy Irons and Maisie Williams; literary heavyweight J K Rowling; the mysterious street artist Banksy; and the infamous Blackbeard the Pirate! Robert Louis Stevensonโ€™sย famous bookย Treasure Island features many locations around Bristol. ๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ

Cambridge

Drone photo of Cambridge University grou

Top sights: Cambridge is a very walkable city, but cycling is the most popular way to see the sights. Some highlights include the King’s College Chapel and the university grounds, a mix of things to find and try at Market Square, and a view of the town from Great St Mary’s. โ›ช

When to go: year round but summer is preferable for punting on the River Cam, and autumnal walks are magical.

Getting there: direct train from King’s Cross (50min).

Did you know? Cambridge gets its name from the River Cam, and the city has played host to films like The Theory of Everything and Netflix’s The Crown. Cambridge University has also produced world-renowned scholars including Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing. ๐ŸŽ“

Canterbury

Photo of Canterbury canal at night

Top sights: Canterbury Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the world’s most famous places of worship. The town is also home to The Marlowe Theatre; get caught up in the controversy as to whether Canterbury-born Christopher Marlowe actually wrote some of Shakespeare’s works. ๐ŸŽญ

When to go: year round, but a picnic in springtime by River Stour is a great excuse to visit!

Getting there: a direct train from St Pancras International or Victoria Station (up to 1h 30min). Canterbury East is the nearest stop to disembark but Canterbury West is equally close to the centre of town.

Did you know? Canterbury is the setting of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The town’s name is inspired by the fact that it was an easy canter on horseback from London (back in Roman times!).

Hitchin Lavender

Top sights: Hitchin is home to one of the loveliest lavender fields; best of all you can take your clippings home! There are picnics tables onsite for you use or you can order from the cafe. It’s also nice to extend your trip to the town centre where you can admire medieval buildings and cute local shops and cafes. ๐Ÿงต

When to go: lavender blooms between mid-June until mid-August, but if you stick around in mid-August you can also enjoy the sunflower fields!

Getting there: train from St Pancras International (50min) and a taxi or ride hailing app from the station (10min).

Did you know? The small market town of Hitchin became an established lavender grower as early as the 1500’s. It was one of the only two areas in the country.

Oxford

Drone photo of Oxford University grounds

Top sights: spend the day exploring The City of Dreaming Spires by visiting the university campus, baroque architecture at Blenheim Palace, 1,000 years of history at Oxford Castle & Prison, the iconic Radcliffe Camera and Bridge of Sighs, and get lost wandering the Oxford Covered Market.

When to go: year round, but shoulder seasons will mean less crowds!

Getting there: direct train from Paddington (50min).

Did you know? Famous literary geniuses attended Oxford University such as Oscar Wilde, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien who studied at the Bodleian Library. The city’s “Olde Worlde” charm also made it the perfect backdrop for Harry Potter films; you’ll recognise Christ Church Cathedral playing the part of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. โšก

Rye

Top sights: explore cobbled alleys lined with historic buildings; medieval pubs, Georgian homes and strangely named houses like โ€œThe House Oppositeโ€ or the โ€œHouse with Two Front Doorsโ€ along Mermaid Street. If you like ancient structures, you’ll enjoy Ypres Tower which was built in 1249 to defend the town and Rye Castle. A beach stroll at Camber Sands is just a bus ride away.

When to go: year round. Perfect for a beachside afternoon or an evening by the fireplace.

Getting there: two trains from St Pancras International changing at Ashford International (1h 10min).

Did you know? Rye used to be surrounded on all sides by water. Hundreds of years ago, it formed part of the medieval Cinque Ports; the town’s hilltop vantage point made it useful for guarding against marauding invaders. ๐Ÿ›ก๏ธ

Stonehenge

Top sights: well, Stonehenge! There’s also a walking trail exploring the area with great views of the famous stone circle as well as archaeology and wildlife.

When to go: summer and winter solstices are thought to be a spiritual experience.

Getting there: train from Waterloo Station (1h 25min) and a local bus from Salisbury to the Visitor Centre (30min).

Did you know? Stonehenge remains shrouded in mystery even after 5,000 years. Scholars generally agree that it was a calendar given its significance during the summer and winter solstice. It’s also estimated that 200 people are buried at the site. According to a 12th century legend, giants placed Stonehenge on a mountain in Ireland before Merlin the wizard moved it to England with magic. ๐Ÿง™

White Cliffs of Dover

Top sights: the iconic White Cliffs of Dover are a perfect for a scenic coastal hike. Popular stops along the way are the Fan Bay Deep Shelter constructed in World War 2, and the South Foreland Lighthouse. The imposing Dover Castle is also a short journey away (6min by car, 35min on foot). ๐Ÿฐ

When to go: the trail can get muddy, so pack your wellies or hold off until a dry spell.

Getting there: train from St Pancras International (1h) to Dover Priory and then take a cab (10min) or walk (40min).

Did you know? The iconic white chalk surface dates back to the Ice Age. On a clear day you can glimpse France from across the channel. Your phone’s timezone might change, so don’t panic if you suddenly think you’re an hour ahead!

Windsor

Top sights: Windsor Castle, royal wedding venue and preferred place of residence of Queen Elizabeth II, dominates a day trip to Windsor. The town also shares its name with the British monarchy features historic sites and the sprawling Windsor Great Park with 500 free roaming deer at the castle’s doorstep. ๐ŸฆŒ

When to go: all year round.

Getting there: train from Paddington with a change at Slough (45min).

Did you know? Windsor castle has been home to The Royal Family for over 1,000 years and is the largest occupied castle in the world!


What’s your favourite day trip destination from London? Share your tips in the comments! ๐Ÿ‘‡


More in London

First impressions of London

FeaturedPhoto of Tower Bridge and London's skyline

If expat life feels like home then you’re doing it wrong.

London seems similar at first – they drive on the same side of the road and speak the same language – until you realise there’s 30+ dialects, they’re football mad (โšฝ not ๐Ÿ‰) and fish’n’chips are eaten away from the beach.

Here’s my list of things that immediately stood out to me in my first months in the UK, but this might just be the tip of the iceberg!

The good

๐Ÿ“ฑ Citymapper is the only way to navigate – it combines Google and TfL data
๐Ÿ’“ Mobile data plans are much more generous (but with mixed reliability)
โš•๏ธ NHS upfront for expats is expensive but the care you receive is unrivalled
๐Ÿš Sitting at the front on the top level of a double decker is the best way to take it all in
๐ŸŽญ A visit to The Globe Theatre makes studying Shakespeare for years worth it
๐Ÿงฃ Wall-mounted heaters, such genius!
๐Ÿท Mulled wine, where have you been all my life?
๐Ÿ• Squash is a thing – even Franco Manca’s signature pizza base
๐ŸŒˆ It doesn’t rain all that much, it just drizzles
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Clapham is overrun by Australians and New Zealanders
๐ŸฆŠ๐Ÿฟ๏ธ Foxes and squirrels scurry around like Pokemon!

The bad

๐Ÿ“ž Telephone boxes are run down and smell like pee
๐Ÿค” Brits use ‘You all right?’ as a legitimate greeting
๐Ÿ“บ You pay for a TV licence you never use
๐Ÿฅฆ Most supermarkets close early on Sundays
๐ŸŒฌ๏ธ Air-conditioning is virtually non-existent, even on public transport
๐Ÿซ Chocolate tastes strange, but Galaxy bars make up for it
๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ There are no power points in bathrooms
๐Ÿ  SpareRoom.co.uk is a necessary evil – watch out for scammers
๐ŸŒ Fresh produce isn’t that fresh at all
๐Ÿ’ฉ The Thames has got nothing on Sydney Harbour and is always brown
๐Ÿ™ Making friends is hard work and you may feel lonely at times.

The ugly

Big Ben will be covered in scaffolding until 2021!

๐Ÿฆ You won’t find a Weis Bar anywhere but you can try an online recipe?
๐Ÿ‘ข People actually wear UGG boots outside
๐Ÿšฐ Hard water is liquid hell, and don’t even get me started on limescale
๐Ÿš† Trains outside of London are privately operated and hella expensive
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Eating out is double the cost and half the quality of what we get back home
๐Ÿƒ Everyone’s in a rush – be prepared to be bumped, knocked and shoved daily
๐Ÿ›‹๏ธ Some apartments don’t have a living room
๐Ÿšฝ Sharing one bathroom and toilet between five rooms is normal
๐Ÿšจ You become desensitised to news of violence or moped thieves in your area
๐Ÿคง Sometimes there’s black stuff in your tissue after sneezing.

The amusing

Get used to uncomfortable eye and body contact on the Tube

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ Try dropping some true blue Aussie vernacular mid-conversation, it’s an experience
โ›ฑ๏ธ ‘Beaches’ in the UK
๐ŸŒณ People sun bake in parks in summer
๐Ÿงฅ Australia Day in winter is more brunch than BBQ
๐Ÿš‡ Tube, Underground, Overground, Rail, DLR … can’t we just call it a train?
๐Ÿป Brits who are equally rowdy after a couple of pints
๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ Standing on the right on the escalator but having no clue where to on the pavement
๐Ÿ˜• Brits who pick up on your accent but are too polite to ask where you’re from
๐Ÿคฃ Cockfosters is a legitimate name of a Tube station on the Piccadilly line
โ„๏ธ 10min of snow is enough to interrupt the whole transport system
๐ŸŒ You learn what ‘Antipodean’ means for the first time
๐Ÿฅง Christmas mince pies do not contain mince meat – don’t be fooled.

I’ve got a niggling feeling I might have missed a few things … If you’ve experienced culture shock since moving to London or the UK, do tell!

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