London is one of the most popular European destinations for tourists, especially those from North America and Asia. As in other big cities, and because of currency exchange rates, prices in London – for accommodation, food and drink, entertainment, transportation – can be high. So what can you do for free?
London is home to a number of world class art galleries. As well as Tate Modern on the site of a former power station on the south bank of the Thames which specializes in modern paintings, sculptures and other installations, there is also its sister gallery Tate Britain, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square, itself an iconic and much-visited destination (there is a exit from Charing Cross London Underground station directly into the square). All these galleries are free to visit, although some of them may ask for a voluntary donation or charge admission for special events or exhibitions.
All the big London museums are free to visit but as with the art galleries some of them charge admission for special exhibitions. They include the British Museum, one of the world’s leading museums with extensive collections relating to British and world history, the Museum of London, where you can learn about the history of the city starting with the Roman occupation of England, the Natural History Museum, and the Imperial War Museum which documents the lengthy history of the British involvement in international conflicts.
Walk or picnic in one of the London’s many open spaces such as Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and St. James’s Park. Many also have impressive views of the city’s landmarks and historic buildings.
St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey charge admission fees to visitors but it’s free to attend a service (you can also get in free outside these times if you tell them you’re visiting for religious reasons and are insistent).
Free live music in London spans rock, jazz and folk in pubs to classical concerts in churches such as St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
Institutions where you can attend free talks and lectures include the London School of Economics and the Royal Society.
Many places in London, such as the parks, offer free guided walks. You can also of course go for a walk yourself, for example along the Thames with its iconic skyline.
The Central Criminal and High Courts and Houses of Parliament – where you can watch a trial or debate – are open to visitors, although you may need to queue in order to gain admission.
While top class football, cricket and rugby is very expensive, there are sports events you can watch in London, notably the University Boat Race on the Thames and the London Marathon.
One of London’s main attractions is its architecture, from the Norman Westminster Abbey and Tower of London, through Wren’s seventeenth century St Paul’s Cathedral and modern buildings such as Canary Wharf.
As you can see, whether you’re staying at hotels in Earls Court or more upscale luxury central London hotels there are lots of free things to see and do in London. Go and experience some of them for yourself and have a great trip to England’s historic and vibrant capital.
Have you visited London? Which of all free sightings do you like best? Any others you think should be in the list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you think others might find it helpful!
[Photo credits @ Fickr: top anirudh koul; middle Michael Spence]