Interesting budget things to do
Guest post by Alexis Brett
It’s no mystery why Soho has become one of the most popular (and expensive!) areas to visit in London. From its dazzling West End theatre district, the string of flagship stores in and around Oxford Street, and the “oh-so-rock-and-roll” Carnaby Street (which was the epicentre of Mod Fashion during the 60s)…even the small area of grass (Soho Square) is famous amongst visitors and locals!
And with many of London’s most popular restaurants, theatres, bars and shops being located in Soho, it’s hard to imagine that saving a pound or two could even be possible when visiting this elegant London neighbourhood. But just because Soho is considered to be one of the most lavish neighbourhoods in London doesn’t necessarily mean you need a lot of money to enjoy it for all it’s worth.
It’s easy to simply stroll around Soho or go on a free tour, but if you really want to dig deep into London’s most famous neighbourhood, you’re going to have to spend at least a few hours dining in one of its restaurants, or watching a performance in a historic West End theatre – but at what cost?
#1 | Watch a matinée theatre performance
To say that London’s West End is loaded with theatres is a massive understatement; (its nickname is “Theatreland,” after all). But with tickets costing as much as £140 per person, many visitors avoid watching a theatre performance in Soho altogether.
However, there are a few tricks you can try in order to save money on experiencing London’s West End theatre district in all its glory. The TKTS booth in Leicester Square offers last-minute, discounted tickets for various theatres in Soho, and some Soho theatres even offer discounts for students and young adults under the ages of 30 as well.
But if you’re really concerned about spending the majority of your savings on going to a Soho theatre, your best would be to buy tickets for a matinée performance. Depending on the theatre, matinée performances usually take place between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on specific days of the week; (for example, between Wednesday and Sunday, or only on Thursdays and Fridays). Tickets for matinée performances are sold at a fraction of the cost of evening performances, and you could easily save anywhere from 15% to even as high as 40% on overall ticket costs.
#2 | Dine in Chinatown
Eating at a restaurant in Soho’s Chinatown is a great way to save money on overall food costs during your visit to London; plus you get to sample some authentic Asian food you won’t be able to find anywhere else in London!
With over 80 different Asian restaurants, dim sum parlours and buffets to choose from, all it takes to find an authentic Asian meal at a dirt cheap price would be to walk from one end of Chinatown to the other. Many Asian restaurants in Chinatown offer “Chef’s Specials” for as little as £5, and it’s not uncommon to pay less than £10 for a starter, main and drink in a restaurant in Chinatown as well.
#3 | Shop at a street market in Soho
Soho may not be home to the most famous street markets in London (like Portobello Market or Borough Market, just to name a few), but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t any street markets to be found in the area.
Soho’s Berwick Street Market has been around for nearly 200 years, and many travellers and even locals are known to shop here and avoid Oxford Street altogether; (especially if they consider saving a few pounds serious business).
Although the Berwick Street Market focuses more on produce and food, it’s not uncommon to find great deals on items like vintage furniture, leather goods, phone accessories, and even hand-made clothing from Peru! Plus buying local produce to cook at home is another great way to save money during your trip to London, especially if you have access to a kitchen or cooking facilities.
#4 | Party it up on a Monday or Tuesday evening
Everyone knows that going out for a night on the town in London can put a huge dent in your savings; but that doesn’t mean you can’t save a pound or two while visiting some of Soho’s trendiest pubs, bars and nightclubs… if you plan properly beforehand, of course.
Many of Soho’s bars and pubs offer great deals on Monday, Tuesday and even Wednesday evenings during their Happy Hours (which are usually between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and many places don’t have cover charges before 9 p.m as well. Not only that, many pubs and bars in Soho offer cheap cocktail judges or two-for-one drinks that could cost anywhere from £2 to £5 – which is an incredible amount savings once you do the math.
#5 | Window shop along Carnaby Street
And last, but certainly not least, if you really want to save money during your visit to Soho, then your best bet would be to avoid shopping at its expensive stores altogether; (they are some of the most expensive shops in London, after all). However, window shopping can be a fun tourist activity for anyone wandering around Soho’s thriving shopping area – and best of all, it’s free!
If you only have a limited amount of time to window shop in Soho, then strolling up and down Carnaby Street is a must. Because the famous street was once the epicentre of Mod fashion during the 1960s, many stores still have items of Mod fashion items and clothing displayed in its windows, which are worth snapping a photo of or two.
And while you’re there, make sure you take a photo of the iconic Carnaby Street sign and the famous “Spirit Of Soho” mural at 9 Carnaby Street!
A bit about Alexis
Alexis Brett is a Canadian/Slovenian writer who has been living and travelling around Europe for the past eight years.