Some say that London is expensive. Sure, it is but if you’re creative and can think outside the box a little bit you can enjoy this amazing city with the same travel budget you would any other European capital! Skip the line to ride the Eye and let’s go, there’s plenty more “London” to see than that.
Londoners know that there is always something free going on in the core of the city and if not… there are always the museums which, unlike most cities in the world, are completely free! That’s right, all of the government sponsored museums are free. With so many free activities to do in London, there’s no excuse for putting it off, recession or not. If anything, it’ll be your hotels in London that set back your travel budget, so make sure you compare prices before reserving!
Victoria & Albert Museum
The building itself is worth marvelling at, just next to the Museum of Natural History along Cromwell Road. It survived the Blitz, although you can see the damage to the outer wall on the Exhibition Road side. Inside is a myriad of rooms, filled with golden trinkets, mosaics, statues and artefacts from around the world. Highlights include the modern design rooms, the samurai costumes and the miniature portraits. The V&A also puts on some very well-curated exhibitions so always check out what’s on display temporarily.
This place is a food-lover’s dream. The market it open Thursdays and Saturdays, don’t both going on any other days because you’ll just be disappointed. Grab a light breakfast and then bring your canvas shopping bags with you for a feast. There are mostly merchants selling hand-crafted foods, gourmet cheeses, cured meats, olives, cakes and breads… You can sample your way through lunch here! One of London’s best coffee joints is here too, called Monmouth on Park Street. For £2.30 you can get the best latte you’ve ever had in your life… honest!
Portobello Road Market
Each and every year Europe’s largest street festival takes place here, near Notting Hill Gate. The Notting Hill Festival is an absolute riot for two days! For the rest of the year Portobello Road is an eclectic shopping street with everything from over-priced cappuccinos, vintage thrift stores to reggae record shops. The market street is characterized by the differently coloured painted houses. The market is the best during the weekend when the most stalls are open. If you’re shopping for unusual souvenirs then come on Sunday when the flea market is open on Portobello Green.
Serpentine Gallery & Hyde Park
You can certainly make a day out of visiting the famous Hyde Park but save some of your afternoon for visiting the lovely Kensington Gardens and more specifically the Serpentine Gallery. It has a stunning permanent collection with big shots like Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst and always impressive temporary exhibitions from influential artists from around the world. In summer there is a special pavilion set up where frequent films are screened as well as talks hosted with exhibiting artists.
Don’t be fooled by the ever-inviting lawn chairs set up in the park. You have to pay £1.50/hour to use them. Instead bring your own blanket to sit on in case the grass is damp.
The sheer size of the British Museum is enough to swallow anyone up. There are millions of artefacts here and no chance to see all of them in one visit, or ten for that matter. Once you arrive, head straight for the main hall that opens up to the sky. Grab a complimentary map (although they suggest a £1 donation) and plan your route. If you don’t have any special interests in the collection, just choose one or two wings or pick a sampling of “high-profile” items, like the Rosetta Stone or the huge sphinx statues from Egypt. The Greek statues are also pretty fantastic.
Somehow this last museum gets left out of the typical “free things to do in London” lists and it’s a wonder why? One of the most… curious… museum collections in the city by far! It’s located in an unassuming building near Euston Station so keep your eyes open for the signs. Go straight up to the Medicine Man Collection on the first floor to get an up-close look at 500+ of the strangest objects you’ll see in one room in your life: Florence Nightingale’s moccasins, Napoleon Bonaparte’s toothbrush, lock of Henry V’s hair, ancient Japanese sex objects, medieval artificial limbs…
“A free destination for the incurably curious.”
Museum of London
Not far from St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Museum of London is one of the most interesting free museums in the city. The top floor is dedicated to the pre-historic, Roman and Medieval London up until the Great Fire in 1666. The bottom floor (arguably the more interesting of the two) takes you from Victorian London all the way to present day. Don’t miss the rad outfits from the 1960s and rock-and-roll memorabilia!
What are you favourite free spots in London? If you had 24 hours in this great city, what would your essentials be?