You don’t have to break the bank to have a good time on holiday. Nicola Iseard takes you through a host of great experiences to be had for free in the English capital.
1. Visit the museums
It’s hard to believe that the two best museums in London are free to visit, but to be sure, you can visit Tate Britain and Tate Modern without putting your wallet in your pocket.
The former house works for some of the world’s greatest artists, including Bacon, Hockney Moore, which are all in the Tate Modern Museum of Contemporary Art, which is located in a striking old industrial building. Looking for Picasso’s sitting nude, use geometric-like shapes.
The London Museum has an incredible 1.1 million objects and does not charge you anything to see them.
The ever-changing collection of documents from London’s history, from prehistoric times to the present.
Highlights include artifacts of pottery, bones and stones dredged during the restoration operations in the Thames in the 19th century; marble sculptures of the Mithra house of God – London Roman mithraeum – the famous London designers and costumes including Norman Hartner And Vivienne Westwood.
2. Watch the Changing of the Guard
With some careful planning, you can witness one of the world’s greatest spectacles without paying a penny.
The Changing of the Guard is a ceremony that dates back to 1660 and it involves one regiment – donning his iconic bearskin hat – taking over from another. He marches from Wellington Barracks at approximately 11:15am, accompanied by a band, to the forecourt of the Palace where the ceremony is held before the old guard returns to the barracks.
For the best view, get there early to secure a spot close to the railings. Check the website for dates, and the weather forecast – the ceremony doesn’t take place in very wet weather.
3. Take a selfie at Trafalgar Square
While away an afternoon exploring this iconic public square. It is the second most photographed landmark in the world and home to some of London’s best sights.
At its centre towers Nelson’s Column, built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson (who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805), which is guarded by four lion statues at its base.
The square also boasts two elaborate water fountains, four sculpture plinths and statues of historically important world figures. Visit during December and you’ll see it at its best – decorated with a beautiful 70ft-tall Christmas tree, donated every year by Norway to thank Britain for its role in liberating their nation.
4. Roam around Queen Mary’s Gardens
In need of some quiet time? These quintessentially English gardens, named after the wife of King George V, offer a peaceful haven right in the middle of London in Regent’s Park. It boasts one of the finest collections of roses in the country, with over 12,000 planted throughout the gardens; take a seat on one of the beaches and breathe in the aromas (the perfume is so rich you’ll wish you could bottle it). Look out for the gardens’ star attraction – its very own “Royal Parks” rose.
5. Be a foodie at Borough Market
When visiting London’s oldest food market (it’s more than 250 years old), make sure you go with a good appetite and plenty of shopping bags.
It is located in a vast open-air space under a Victorian-style warehouse roof, and brimming with food stalls offering all manner of goodies, from fresh seafood and cured meats to cheeses, spices, ales and homemade chocolates.
Many stalls offer free tastings so you can try before you buy, too. Check out the website for details of free cooking demonstrations and foodie events.
6. Catch Evensong at Westminster Abbey
While general admission to this 700-year-old Abbey will set you back £20, a visit during Evensong is free.
Taking place at 5pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, plus at 3pm on Sundays, you’ll get to hear the Abbey choir sing – and this is not just any choir, but one renowned worldwide as being one of the finest choirs of its type. It is a wonderful way to experience the Abbey at its best – alive with worship and song.
7. Walk down the South Bank
Take a leisurely stroll along the south bank of the River Thames and check out the famous landmarks.
The Globe Theater and the Southwark area are highlighted from the Cathedral Millennium Bridge and the London Eye (the night can be said to be the most noticeable when it lights up).
Download a free hike and learn all about its history as well as places to visit on the way. The South Coast Center organizes free live music events and exhibitions on a regular basis.
Otherwise, just sit down on the bench, amusing many street entertainers.