London’s got a bit of a reputation for being pricey, and of course when it comes to property, transport and a pint it’s easy to wrack up a hefty bill. London is currently ranked as the fifth most expensive city in the world, with just New York, Zurich, Geneva and Oslo being less affordable. Whether you are stopping by for a quick visit or living in London, it always helps to find ways to keep things within budget. There is plenty to do for free in London, meaning you can save money and still make your time in London affordable.
Museums and Art Galleries
London is renowned for its wealth of glorious galleries and museum, and there are plenty with free admission. Perhaps the most famous of these museums is the Natural History Museum with its impressive collection of dinosaur bones, fossils and animatronics. The Victoria & Albert Museum is also well-known and houses an array of artifacts from all over the world and The British Museum is famed for housing the glorious Rosetta Stone as well as its enigmatic Egyptian mummies. If you are after something a little more unusual, then The Grant Museum of Zoology covers the whole animal kingdom and has some very rare specimens preserved in fluid as well as taxidermy and skeletons. The London Sewing Machine Museum contains 600 sewing machines including the world’s first Singer that once belonged to Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter. The William Morris Museum is an apt tribute to the famed designer and The Museum of the Home allows us to snoop around British domestic interiors.
A visit to the British capital isn’t complete without some of the traditional tourist activities. A visit to Buckingham Palace is a definite and the Changing of The Guard is a tradition that is worth catching. The Guard Mounting (or Changing of the Guard) takes place at 11.30am each day at Buckingham Palace (or every other day in the winter). Other favourite tourist hangouts include Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Picadilly Circus and The Tower of London, which are all completely free to visit. There are frequently festivals and activities going on in Trafalgar Square and quiet days simple mean you can get closer to the Majestic Lions and the impressive Nelson’s Column.
The Beatles’ Abbey Road album is one of the most famous and well-loved albums in the world. The zebra crossing outside the renowned studios makes for a great photo opportunity and is a lovely way to feel connected to The Beatles.
London is full of beautiful parks which are great places for meeting friends, enjoying a good book, dabbling in some photography or sketching or sitting back and letting the world pass by. Aside from the popular big parks, there are plenty of lesser known ones that are full of personality. Phoenix Garden in London’s West End is great for wild flowers and Holland Park has a delightful Kyoto Japanese Garden.
Hyde Park is vast, impressive and verdant but it also has the quirky Speaker’s Corner where you can hear all sorts of people expressing their opinions. Hyde Park and the neighbouring Kensington Gardens are impressive in their size. You can also explore the Diana Memorial Gardens and delightful Peter Pan statue.
If you are into flowers then a stroll through Columbia Road Flower Market is a great experience. With its vibrant colours and bustling atmosphere, it is fantastic for photos too.
London hosts some of the best gigs, theatre and cultural events in the UK, if not the world. If money is tight, you can still enjoy some exceptional cultural activities. Plenty of pubs in London have great live music on for free. You might just stumble across the next hot band to get signed. Places like The Dublin Castle, The Lexington, The Barfly, The 100 Club and The Hawley Arms all offer great live music. Each Saturday at Notting Hill Arts Club you can discover new talent at Rough Trade’s free showcase event.
Jazz fans might like to check out The Forge, and if classical is more your thing then there are free lunchtime concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church and the Royal College of Music also offers free lunchtime and pre-rush hour concerts.
London also has a thriving spoken word scene with free events such as Spoken Word London hosting exceptional artists.
Street Art and Buskers
London is brimming with incredible buskers. It’s not uncommon to encounter a street magician, a classical string quartet, a statue artist, a beat boxer and a junk percussion troupe in the same afternoon. The West Piazza of Covent Garden Market is full of talented street performers. The artists in this area are especially talented, as they have to pass an audition before performing here. The South Bank is another area where you can often find street performers, especially at the weekend.
There is a lot of remarkable street art in London, especially in the North of the city. Street art is of course, often temporary so you can’t guarantee if something you hear about or find online will still be there when you go to visit. Political pieces such as the work of Banksy often get covered up pretty quickly. It’s worth checking out the LDNGraffiti Website to see what is new and current. Some artists to look out for include: Space Invader (@invaderwashere), C215 (@christianguemy), Phlegm (@phlegm_art) and Lily Mixe (@lilymixe).
There is plenty to do in London that doesn’t cost a thing, with a little imagination some research you can fill a day with engaging activities without spending anything at all.