- Claire Vorster
London Insider. Incredible Free Things To Do
The best things in life are free. If you are heading to London any time soon, here's your insider’s peek at things to do; either cheaply or completely free. And if you weren’t heading to London… you may be after reading this.
“No city in the world has more free stuff to do.” lonelyplanet.com
Discover, Explore, Be Inspired
All of London's top museums are absolutely free. Pretty much anything you like, from any time in History. Ever. Here’s our top picks with handy links so you can plan your itinerary.
Natural History Museum
Museum of London
V&A Museum of Childhood
Imperial War Museum
Cool Places, Open Spaces
London has an abundance of very cool open spaces. There is always a myriad of sports, music, theatre and family events happening.
St James's Park, well connected, neighbouring Buckingham Palace.
Hyde Park, London's most famous park.
Regent's Park, home of London Zoo and much more.
Kensington Gardens, Princess Diana lived here, great for children. Richmond Park, home of The Royal Ballet and largest of the Royal Parks, housing hundreds of deer. Green Park, very central, very beautiful. Victoria Park, great East London expanse and wonderful for kids. Battersea Park, just across the river from stunning Chelsea, can’t be bad. Greenwich Park, panoramic views and The Royal Observatory.
Art For Art’s Sake
Giant sculpture, Rambrandt or simply coffee in an exquisite setting. We’re sure you’ll find your perfect place.
National Portrait Gallery, Who’s Who in paint. Vast likenesses of Henry VIII, family and court plus portraits of dozens of modern celebrities and notables.
Tate Modern, one of the world's great modern art galleries. The cavernous Turbine Hall is filled with an ever-changing giant sculpture.
Guildhall Art Gallery, scenes from the City's history. A statue of Margaret Thatcher’s statute stands guard. The basement houses the remains of the Roman amphitheatre.
Wallace Collection, Rembrandt, Titian, Van Dyck, plus the famous Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals. The restaurant in the central atrium must rank among London's most exquisite gallery dining spaces.
Although many of London's museums and galleries are free, it's a little harder to find theatre, cinema or other great things to do that don't come with a ticket price. So we’ve done the legwork for you with this handy roundup.
1. One hotspot for completely free performance is The Scoop. This amphitheatre seats 800 and is right beside City Hall, near Tower Bridge. During summer months, almost every evening, you’ll find live music, plays, film screenings and even keep-fit classes.
2. Former home of the architect of the Bank of England, Sir John Soane's Museum includes period furniture, paintings by the likes of Hogarth and, most memorably, the sarcophagus of Seti I. Often cited as a secret small museum, queues can form for the popular candlelit evenings, held on the first Tuesday of each month, from 6pm-9pm. You'll never see a museum quite like this anywhere else.
3. Get lost in the Barbican estate, one of Britain's best examples of the architectural style known as brutalism. A complex of baffling walkways, hidden gardens, slopes and steps. Here the pedestrian is king and eventually you'll find the picturesque water in front of the Barbican Centre, a remarkable arts venue. The Curve Gallery is always free to visit, specialising in oddball but approachable exhibitions. The rooftop conservatory is another highlight.
4. Nicknamed "The Journalists' Church", St Bride's is justly world famous. The story of St Bride's is inextricably woven into the history of the City of London. The current church was built in 1672 by Christopher Wren following the Great Fire of London.
St Bride’s famous steeple is said to have inspired the first tiered wedding cake, in happy resonance with the church's name. The crypt conceals a fascinating exhibition of extraordinary excavations which uncovered the foundations of all six previous churches on the site, dating back 2000 years.
5. For the mathematicians among you - if you saw 5 items each day at The British Library, it would take you over 80,000 years to see the whole of the collection! Anyone can visit this titanic Library for free and there are plenty of diversions.
First among them is the Treasures exhibition, which displays literature as cool as Magna Carta and original Beatles lyrics. The world's earliest dated printed book, the Diamond Sutra is also sometimes on display. A quirky bookshop and excellent cafe with free Wi-Fi add to the attraction.