What to do in London for Free

Ahhhh, London Town. A place where everybody knows your name…… Er, maybe not, but it is definitely a city that is extremely difficult to get bored in. As Dr Samuel Johnson once said ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’

Only the first part of the statement may be true, as our fair city is one of the most expensive cities in the world, but I recognise the sentiment.

In this time of austerity, money is extremely tight and its becoming more important than ever to pick and choose carefully what you’d like to do in England’s capital city and many of the attractions can be fairly expensive, especially for travellers/Londoners, who are on a tight budget.

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

Well, dear readers, help is at hand! I have compiled a list of my favourite activities in and around London which won’t cost the earth, if anything at all. I love nothing more than wandering the streets of London with my camera in hand as it offers so much for nothing more than the price of a train ticket (and in all honesty, this is only needed to get into the heart of the city for the majority of, as, contrary to popular belief, London is extremely accessible without the need for stepping onto a tube)

1) Museums

One thing that we have to be thankful to the Labour government for, is the abolition of entrance fees for museums and art galleries back in December 2001.

London certainly doesn’t lack museums! In my opinion, we are extremely lucky to have so much knowledge on our doorsteps and in such grand settings too.

From the likes of the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the V & A Museum situated in South Kensington to the British Museum and Museum of London both situated near Holborn.

My personal favourite would be the Natural History Museum. There is nothing better than wandering this museum on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Even the building the collection is housed in, is a fantastic specimen in itself. It’s a great example of Victorian architecture (the building was opened in 1881).

2) The Arts

When you think of the arts, you are bound to think of Paris or Florence being the art capitals of the world. But in London, you have several famous art galleries, that again, you can wander around for the fair price of zero pounds.

You can see several famous works of art around London from ‘Sunflowers’ by Vincent Van Gogh and ‘Samson and Delilah’ by Rubens within the walls of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square; to the huge collection of Constable paintings in the Tate Britain and, and finally the modern art offered by Tate Modern (where you can find my favourite sculpture in London; Torso in Metal from ‘the Rock Drill’ by Jacob Epstein)

The London Eye

The London Eye

3) London Landmarks – Past and Present

London has a plethora of famous landmarks and it can be extremely difficult to decide on what to see in a day out in this great city of ours. From Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square; to the Monument to the Great Fire of London in Fish Street Hill; From Buckingham Palace to the London Stone sat opposite Cannon Street station (legend has it that London would fall if any harm came to the stone, much like if the ravens left the Tower of London) to more contemporary landmarks such as the ‘erotic gherkin’ (30 St Mary Axe) and the soon to be completed office building/hotel ‘The Shard’.

It would be too difficult to list ALL the landmark London has to offer, however, you cannot go wrong with walking from Westminster (Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament) through to Tower Bridge. The River Thames is a fantastic route to take as you will be able to take in such sights as the London Eye, Cleopatra’s Needle, The Millennium Bridge and HMS Belfast.

4) UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Apart from its landmarks, London is also well known for its UNESCO World Heritage sites. London has 6 sites on the list overall, which is impressive considering the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has 28 of these sites dotted around its green and pleasant lands.

National Gallery

National Gallery

Five of these World Heritage sites, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew; Westminster Abbey; The Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London have entrance fees payable, and due to the title of this review, I am not going to say anything other than these attractions need to be visited whenever possible!

The sixth World Heritage site is Greenwich, which, apart from Southbank, is one of my favourite places to go walking in London. Its history is steeped in maritime tradition and it has not changed much in the past few hundred years. It is a beautiful place with its Victorian and Georgian architecture standing out.

There are several sites worth visiting in Greenwich for free. From walking through Greenwich foot tunnel (which was built in 1899, in order to allow workers living on the south side of the Thames to reach their workplaces in the London docks and shipyards then situated in or near the Isle of Dogs.); visiting the National Maritime Museum and observing some of its historic artefacts and artwork. Greenwich market is a great place to potter around, as it has a great selection of arts and crafts to peruse. It also has a fantastic selection of foods from around the world cooked fresh.

One of my favourite views of London is from Greenwich Park, you get some great panoramic views of London, especially on a rare sunny day enjoyed in the capital. Greenwich park is also home to the Royal Observatory, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren (who was also responsible for Greenwich Hospital, which become the Royal Naval College and finally, the National Maritime Museum). Like the National Maritime Museum, it has some important items of national heritage on display, such as John Harrisons H2 time piece.

However, due to the explosion in visitor numbers since the abolition of museum fees, the Royal Observatory have deemed it necessary to reintroduce some fees and these were brought in on 8 March 2011. Adults are now charged £7 for a day ticket, while children under 15 years old are free. However, you can purchase a pass for £10 which will allow you to visit as many times as you’d like for the next 12 months. Personally, I think the entrance fee still makes the visit worth it.

These are just some of my favourite things to do in London, however, we’d like to hear your personal experiences in this city of ours.

Have you got any tips for Londoners or travellers?

(Of course, it would be negligent of me as a travel blogger to suggest that the museums and art galleries don’t cost anything to run and so I would always suggest giving a small donation as it would help future generations to continue to enjoy these amazing attractions.)

Gavin London

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