Capital cities are notoriously expensive. Tourist attractions rack up the prices for admission, and eating around tourist hot spots can be an expensive day out. However, if you know where to look and what to do, you can enjoy just as much of London as anyone else without spending a fortune.

Here are some top ideas for seeing the best of London on a tight budget.

Free museums

London has a plethora of world class museums and art galleries, many of which are free. The National Gallery, just off Trafalgar Square, holds paintings by some of the most iconic masters in the world. From Van Gogh to Monet, Picasso to da Vinci, all the greats can be seen at no cost in this incredible gallery.

If you are travelling with children, the Natural History Museum and nearby Science Museum in South Kensington will occupy your whole day, with displays of technology, impressive stuffed animals and, of course, one of the world’s best collections of dinosaur skeletons.

Cheap sightseeing

Don’t pay over the odds for an open-top bus or a guided tour around the city. Instead, take the number four bus route, which passes Waterloo, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Barbican. The number 88 also runs through some iconic parts of town, including Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.

To make the most of your trip, invest in a one-day travel card which will let you travel on all the inner city tubes, buses, ferries and overground trains for free. Costing under £10 and half price for kids, these are essential for getting around without paying a fortune.

Eating for less

In the daytime, head over to Carnaby St close to Oxford Circus, where you can grab a bargain bite for lunch. You’ll find lots of chain restaurants that don’t charge over the odds, such as Cha Cha Moon for Chinese and Leon for sandwiches and salads.

In the evening, the West End is the place to be – though avoid Leicester Square and the overpriced eateries in the theatre district. Instead, head over to vibrant Chinatown, where you can find lots of inexpensive restaurants serving authentic Cantonese and Chinese cuisine.

Can you afford a West End show?

You would think on a budget that you wouldn’t be able to, but if you are prepared to queue and not be too fussy about which show you see, the tickets booth in Leicester Square offers admission to major West End musicals for up to 50 per cent off the face value.

Sleeping options

Central London hotels are very expensive, but if you do a bit of searching around you can often find a number of cheap hotels in London that aren’t on the fringes of the city. If you visit in the week, the cost of travelling on a rush hour train can often exceed the cost of a hotel room, so grabbing an overnighter in one of the bargain hotels in the city can often work out a better bet than trying to make your way home at the end of the day.

This post was produced by Jeremy Koops.

Image by fernando Garcia redondo via Flickr