England, and the UK as a whole, is notoriously expensive for visitors. You’d be lucky to find dorm room accommodation for less than £20 (US$30) and when you add this to food and travel costs it soon adds up. According to Lonely Planet, backpackers could scrape by on £50 per day, but this is unlikely in London. To help you get by in this pricey city I’ve compiled a short list of five free things to do in London.
|£18 to get in to Westminster Abbey?
Surprisingly, many museums in London are free to enter. The list includes:
- The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
- National Portrait Gallery, next door to the National Gallery
- British Museum, Great Russell Street not far from Tottenham Court Road
- Natural History Museum, Kensington
- Science Museum, Kensington
- Victoria and Albert Museum, Kensington
- Tate National, Millbank
- Tate Modern, South Bank
It’s a pretty impressive list! You could spend hours in each of these wonderful national treasures. There are privately owned museums that charge an entry fee, for example the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden and many other attractions charge some, quite frankly, extortionate amounts to get in. Did you know it costs £18 to visit Westminster Abbey? I understand that they need to pay for the upkeep of the Abbey but surely if they reduced the costs they would attract more visitors and bring in just as much?
2. Walk Over Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is a sight synonymous with London. The bridge was completed in 1894 after it was decided that another river crossing was needed in the East of London. At the time, the only other bridge was London Bridge. One of the best places to capture those classic Tower Bridge photographs is from the South Bank near the HMS Belfast. Walking over the bridge is totally free and offers some great views up and down the River Thames. There is an exhibition you can visit which lets you walk across the high level walkways but it’s £8 so I’ll leave that one up to you.
|Tower Bridge from the North bank of the Thames with the HMS Belfast in sight|
3. Take in the Markets and Street Theatre at Covent Garden
Covent Garden is home to a huge market. There’s the Jubilee Hall that houses a wide range of stalls selling anything from antiques to I heart London t-shirts, the East Colonnade Market where the stalls sell homemade soaps and other handicrafts, and in the Apple Market you can find a huge selection of products for sale by artisans. The surrounding buildings are home to high end shops and eating places galore. Of course, window shopping is always free and while you’re wandering around Covent Garden you’ll come across street theatre acts. The best acts are found in the piazza in front of the church, but they’re all dotted around. Covent Garden is also a fantastic place to sit and people watch. If you like beer, try the Porterhouse brewery pub. It has a whole menu of beers from around the world! Opposite, used to be The Australia Shop. I’m really sad that it has closed down as whenever I was in London I was go in to pick up a Cherry Ripe or two. Now I’ll have to order them online and pay even more for the delicious Australian choccie bar.
4. Explore the Sights of London on Foot
Although the distances are quite large, London is a very walkable city. It’s actually pretty flat. Many of the main attractions are centrally located and it’s possible to walk a loop that takes them all in. From Trafalgar Square you can walk through Admiralty Arch and down The Mall to Buckingham Palace. You can watch the Changing of the Guard most days at 11.30am, get there early to get a good view through the railings. From Buckingham Palace walk through St James’ Gardens and see if you can spot any pelicans. At the end of the park you’re in Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament, 10 Downing Street and Horse Guards Parade are all within easy reach. Both Leicester Square and Covent Garden are a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square as well. Just walk north past the National Portrait Gallery to reach Leicester Square. West from here is Covent Garden: east of Leicester Square is Soho. Handily, there are lots of little maps dotted about. You’ll see black sign posts that have maps on them. One map shows the wider area and the other the local area with a walking time guide on it. They are really useful! If you’re want to travel further afield, the Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme is brilliant value for money and there are bike stations all over London. For just £2 you can have unlimited cycle rides up to 30 minutes in duration. Take a look at the website for more pricing information.
5. Enjoy the Many London Parks
|This is me in St James’ Park|
One of the wonderful things about London is the amount of green space. There are large parks all over the capital and of course they are all free to enter. Some of the parks are:
- St James’ Park
- Hyde Park
- Regent’s Park
- Green Park
- Greenwich Park
- Kensington Gardens
All of the above are historical Royal Parks and the Government look after them so that future generations will also be able to enjoy the parks. London’s parks are a brilliant place to unwind, have a picnic and spend time with friends.
I love the hustle and bustle of London. There’s always something going on and you can never be short of something to do. When I visited last week it was really hot and very busy. London is fun all year round, each season brings different events and the landscape changes.