London may not instantly strike you as a city in which there are many things to do for free. Its reputation as an expensive city may add to this notion, yet, as we’ve already presented many ideas to help cut your budget whilst visiting London, it is now time to show some of the ways in which you can enjoy London for free!
See the Sights
There are certainly plenty of free things to see in London. After all, it costs nothing to merely walk around the city and see some of the most famous sights (Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the rest), right?
Definitely also recommended in this category are some of the museums of London that do not charge admission – the quality and number of exhibits mean that you could spend hours, days even, at them…and you’ll probably learn something as well! The same can be said for London’s galleries, particularly the two Tate Galleries and the National Gallery.
(Note that some special exhibits at London’s museums and galleries charge a separate entry fee.)
Free London Events
There are some great events and festivals in London that you can watch for free. The Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge takes place every March/April and can be watched from the banks of the River Thames. Also every April is the London Marathon which is run along a route from Greenwich to The Mall, so you can turn up at any part of the route to watch and cheer on the runners. If you’re brave (and sporty!) you can also take part, obviously, although you do have to obtain a place via the ballot (see the website for details) – it’s not just a turn up and join in kind of event!
One of the most famous London events is the annual Notting Hill Carnival which is held over the last weekend in August (with that Monday always being a Bank Holiday – a public holiday). There are street parties, live music and parades, as well as stalls selling food and drink and other items to help in your revelry.
Chinese New Year celebrations take place every year and centre around Chinatown in Soho, with parades and other festivities.
If you feel like getting a bit of exercise on your visit to London, jogging in one of the capital’s parks is your best choice. If you’re staying in central London, try Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park – there’s assorted loops of the park you can undertake. Alternatively, running around the outside of Regent’s Park is another easy and largely-car free route to navigate (there’s a few small roads to cross), and you’ll even pass by a section of London Zoo where you might spot some of the animals as you run past; normally, it’s the tall giraffes that are very visible! Nearby Primrose Hill is also suitable if you fancy including an incline in your run.
How about getting free entry to events that you might otherwise need to pay admission for? Music, film, clubs and similar?
Pick up a copy of the weekly listings mag Time Out, handed out at Underground stations on Tuesdays, which lists events taking place in London for that week. Many of the listings include events that are free.
Some nightclubs do not charge entry before a certain time (for example, 9/10pm) so as long as you’re prepared to start partying a little earlier, you won’t have to pay entry. It is also worth checking out the website of the club you intend to go to (if they have one) to see if it has any promotional flyers or an email address to add yourself onto the guestlist (for free/reduced entry).
Some of London’s museums and galleries have free art film screenings – it is best to check their websites for full details.
SeeFilmFirst is a great website to sign up to for alerts on free, reduced or special film screenings. Some of the screenings may take place at times that are perhaps not suitable for everyone (6pm on a weekday or early on Sunday morning) but it’s definitely a good way of getting to see some films for free.
The best bet for some free music in London is to head to a lower-key music venue, be that a local pub or bar, earlier on in the week. Some venues have music nights where there’s no entry charge, with up-and-coming artists performing. (Who know’s – perhaps you’ll catch a performance of the next big thing and you’ll be able to say, “I was there!”)