It’s a universally known truth that London tops many a travel wish list.
No matter what you are interested in, you will find it in the British capital. World-class art? Check! Millennial history? Check! Latest fashions? Yes, yes, yes! Not to mention the stunning architecture, delicious food, countless museums, fabulous attractions, electrifying shows, amazing music scene, centuries-old traditions, unparalleled shopping and vibrant night life.
It’s a shame it’s all so expensive, though! Or, is it?
A couple of days ago I shared with you the first part of my fun and fabulous list of 50 things you can do for free in London. Click on the link now to find out what you can see, savour and experience there without a charge! For example, I told you about a searchable database allowing you to find out up to eight weeks in advance where you can catch a glimpse of your favourite member of the British Royal Family. I mentioned that you can get really close to animals – domestic, wild and extinct – without having to pay an admission fee. And I also shared with you details about two huge free to attend parades with thousands of performers and spectacular fireworks among other things.
Today I will treat you to the second half of the list. I hope that, even if you pick just a handful of these ideas to explore during your forthcoming trip to the British capital, this will make your stay there even more enjoyable and memorable.
26. Engage in people watching. With a population of over 8 million people from all over the world and every possible conviction under the sun, you will feel like an explorer out in the wild observing human interaction and rituals. Some of the most exciting places for people watching are: the Camden Town markets which seem to exist in an 80’s sub-cultures time wrap; London Bridge around 5.30-6:00 pm on a work day when a wave of identically dressed people in dark business suites leave the City and with unsmiling faces and unflinchingly fast pace walk to the nearby huge train/tube station in order to get on the first train back home; and Oxford Street, mainly on Saturdays, when mothers and daughters descend on the shops to indulge in Britain’s favourite sport – shopping.
27. Attend the debates in the UK Parliament. A tour of the exquisite building of the British Parliament actually costs quite a lot of money, but you can attend the debates and watch from the public galleries how political history is made by the MP’s who battle it out over laws and other topics of the day. Just be aware that even though the tickets are free, if you are an oversee visitor, you may need to queue sometimes up to an hour or two.
28. Delve into the British Museum. There were times when I felt uneasy browsing its expansive rooms looking at artifacts which I thought would be better returned to the places where they had originally come from. With the events we are currently witnessing in the world my opinion sharply changed. So, don’t miss the chance to wonder at the colossal Neo-Assyrian winged bulls with human bearded faces. Explore the Egyptian rooms, marvel at the Rosetta Stone and say hello to the Easter Island moai. The Aztec room is my favourite with its fabulous stone tablets, turquoise mosaic masks and two-headed serpent. Finish your visit with a walk round the Museum’s Courtyard – the largest covered public square in Europe encompassing an impressive area of 2 acres.
29. Keep an eye on Skint London‘s website for announcements of last minute free (and budget) things to do and see in and around London. You can enjoy free entrance to festivals, bike round London on free bicycles and attend many other fun and exciting events without paying a penny.
30. Listen to classical music in splendid surroundings. From the free concerts held among the priceless paintings of the National Gallery at London’s Trafalgar Square to the regular free lunchtime recitals organised by the Royal Opera House, you can enjoy world-class performances without making a dent in your finances.
31. See a Hollywood star or two. Red carpet premieres and film festivals are regularly promoted online giving the fans a chance to flock to Leicester Square in the heart of London’s West-End in order to see in the flesh their favourite actors. Who knows?! You may even get a selfie or an autograph.
32. See where rock and pop music history was made. Visit the iconic Abbey Road and recreate the famous photograph of John, Paul, Ringo and George. Pass by the Royal Academy of Music which counts Elton John and Annie Lennox among its former students. Walk off Regent Street to 23, Heddon Street where in January 1972 David Bowie posed for the album cover of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Above all, take a stroll down Carnaby Street – the symbol of the Swinging London of the 60’s and the music of that time.
33. Entrance tickets for Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral are rather expensive. They are both more than worth a visit, so, if you are really strapped for cash, but would like to see them from the inside, you can attend a service. Just have in mind that you will not have access to all of the sightseeing points within, neither will be able to roam around.
34. Sit down for a moment of rest at an iconic place in London. Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus are both very popular choices for the weary tourist and traveler to catch their breath. Trafalgar Square is stunning with its fountains and the majestic Nelson column flanked by lions. Piccadilly Circus is one of the most famous spots in the world with the statue of Eros, the gigantic advertising billboards and the imposing architecture of the buildings which surround it.
35. Explore the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is fabulous! My top three things to see in it are the fantastical glass chandelier under the rotunda at the entrance to the museum, the incomparable Jewellery Gallery and, thirdly, the Cast Courts, containing real-life size casts of some of the most famous sculptures and architectural pieces, the originals of which are spread all over Europe.
36. Download itineraries and maps for self-guided walks which will help you explore London at your own pace and following a particular topic.
37. Attend a talk, learn something new and see an expert in their field giving you food for thought. Talks and lectures are organised daily in London by renowned bodies. Some of the most popular ones are held by the London School of Economics. No ticket or pre-registration is required, but entry is on a first-come, first-served basis, so make sure that you are there on time.
38. See how the other half lives by strolling nonchalantly into the abodes of luxury – Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Marvel at designer fashion, high-end jewellery, incredible furnishings. The Food Halls at Harrods deserve an hour of your time with their beautiful surroundings and incredible delicacies meticulously selected from the creme-de-la-creme of the world’s best possible foods.
39. Let the children play to their little hearts’ content at Diana Memorial Playground located in Kensington Gardens just next to Kensington Palace. There is a huge wooden pirate ship, a beach, teepees and play sculptures. Then treat the kids to a visit of the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green and marvel at the amazing collections of toys, games, puppets and other childhood friends.
40. Go on a photo safari either by yourself or in a group. It doesn’t matter if you can’t tell your Nikon from your Kodak or if you only take pictures with your smartphone. London will awake the budding photographer in you. Set some time aside to simply walk around and explore streets, buildings and parks, taking photos of people, typical British quirks and small picturesque details. Or you can join the free photography talks at the National Gallery which combine lectures with practical briefs.
41. Marvel at the exquisite Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens just opposite the Royal Albert Hall. It commemorates the death of Queen Victoria’s husband and celebrates the Royal couple’s achievements, passions and interests. The ornamentation is stunning and a visit is more than worth your time prior to a leisurely walk through the gardens and the adjacent Hyde Park.
42. Go for a walk on a canal footpath. North London is crossed by canals used in the olden days to transport goods. Nowadays you can enjoy a nice and relaxed stroll along one of these canals enjoying the view of dozens of colourful barges moored along the way. Pots with plants adorn the decks of the barges, some of which have been turned into cafes, others are used for cruises and several have been refurbished into permanent homes. To see them, you can go to Little Venice or Camden Lock to mention but a couple of the most famous spots in the London’s network of canals.
43. Explore the two Tates. Tate Modern is an impressive building – former power station – on the river Thames which holds modern and contemporary art exhibitions. A special mention goes to its huge Turbine Hall where some epic installation art shows take place. I remember one where the floor of the hall was covered with individually hand-made ceramic sunflower seeds, each of which was also painted by hand. Tate Britain displays historical and contemporary British art and it houses many of the works of J. M. W. Turner.
44. Snap a selfie of your smiling self right next to a symbol of London. It could be a red phone box, a red postal box, a pub sign, a London Underground logo or even the neon-lit advertising billboards at Piccadilly Circus. Go on, everyone does it, plus this type of pictures always seems to attract dozens of likes on Instagram and Facebook. (Yes, this is a link to my Facebook page. Go on, click and give it a like! Thank you!)
45. Tick a free gallery off your art appreciation list. Saatchi, the Serpentine in the Hyde Park, the Barbican, Whitechapel Gallery – all have some fabulous exhibitions if you love your art modern, abstract and with a touch of extravagance to it.
46. See the moving bronze sculpture of a ship called ‘The Navigators’ which takes a pride of place in a pool amid the Hay’s Galleria in Southwark (a great starting point for the walk I recommended under point 1 of this fun and fabulous list).
47. Check the website of the University of Arts London for their Summer Shows – a series of free art, design, fashion, communication and performance exhibitions taking place across London.
48. Visit the London Silver Vaults – the largest single collection of silver for sale in the world which is contained within over forty shops, all of which have been owned by the same families for at least 50 years. The vaults are only a few minutes away from London’s Jewellery Quarter – Hatton Garden, too.
49. Go on a museum crawl. I have already mentioned some of the most amazing museums in London under separate entries in this list, but, seriously, the British capital has a never-ending supply of some of the quirkiest and one-of-a-kind museums in the world (Museum of the Anesthesia, anyone?!). Here are a few of the biggest and most well-known free ones: Science Museum, Horniman Museum, Museum of London, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Air Force Museum. Feel free though to be extravagant and pick some smaller names such as: Geffrye Museum, Bank of England Museum and London Sewing Machine Museum, which are all also free of charge. Plus, don’t forget that most of these museums have a rich programme of free events, talks and tours through the year, so check their websites prior to your visit for further details what you can expect.
50. Have fun! Honestly, you are in London – this huge, amazing city with so many layers, that you will need years to peel them back carefully one by one in order to get to know it fully. Instead you have a limited number of days at your disposal, so jump straight in, take opportunities as they present themselves and explore, explore, explore – both London and yourself.
So, here you have it! The second lot of 25 things you can do in London for free based on my 12 years living in the British capital. Which ones you have already ticked off your wish list and which ones you will be enjoying during your next visit to London? Also, if you have suggestions what else can be added to this list, please let me know. Thank you!
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