Museums – London is a bloody expensive city so its almost a surprise that all of their major museums have free entry. There are many different ones scattered all over the city and they are all of an exceptional quality. A whole trip to London could be based around visiting their free museums. Some of my favorites are –
The National Gallery – At the back of Trafalgar Square the National Gallery and its attached Portrait Gallery hold works of art by Van Gough, Monet, Da Vinci and many other huge names. One of my favorite places to go for a lazy wander.
Victoria and Albert – The V&A for short, is the worlds largest museum of decorative arts and design and its collection spans over 5,000 years. It holds the largest amount of renaissance items outside of Italy and has metal work, pottery, costumes, drawings, photographs and sculpture from all over the world.
The Natural History Museum – This one is probably my favorite and I believe that days can be spent in this amazing building. There are always long lines out the front so try and get there early in order to spend your time best. Or try the entrance at the right hand side (closest to the V&A) which I have always found easier to get in by. The main hall alone is a sight to take in, with huge columns carved with animals and plants and monkey skeletons swinging across the roof, not to mention the huge wale hanging from the ceiling.
The Science museum – These last 3 are all side by side and the science museum is probably the smallest of them. It has a great section about space travel and how modes of travel have changed in the last hundred or so years.
St James’ Park – This is my favorite park in London. Right in the heart, next to Buckingham Palace, it is much smaller than Hyde Park but is crammed full of beautiful flower gardens, water fowl and squirrels. Grab a bench and watch London pass by in front of you.
Hyde Park – Hyde Park is huge, it stretches from Notting Hill in the north west to Oxford St in the north east and the south spreads across Kensington. For the most part the park is vast and is grassland scattered with huge trees but nestled here and there amongst the space there are gems to be found. The Diana memorial fountain, Peter Pan’s statue, The Prince Albert memorial and Kensington Palace are all scattered around (mostly at the west end).
The Sky Garden – This is my most recent discovery. You do need to book yourself a ticket in the elevator but it is free to do so and will take you up 36 levels to 360 degree views of London in a beautiful garden setting. There is also a bar up here where you can spend up to ₤2000 on a bottle of Hennessy whiskey, if you so wish.
Primrose hill – Primrose Hill is located to the north of London with its nearest tube stations being Chalk Farm and Swiss Cottage. This viewing spot on a clear day will give you a beautiful view of central London, bring along a picnic to get out of the bustle of the city for a bit!
Scouting the Thames – Want to do something a little different? The Thames is tidal and at low tide you will find lots of ladders and sometimes even stairs leading down to its admittedly fairly dirty pebbly beaches. Down on the beaches what should you do? Scout for relics of times gone by! You wont be the only one, people with metal detectors are down there all the time looking for coins, bullet casings and other things. Most likely you will only find fragments of pottery but the experience is fun and to chat to anyone else down there brings out fun stories.
A Sports match in a pub – Obviously to have a drink in a pub will cost you a couple of pounds but to just watch the match is free. Even if you don’t follow soccer or rugby or cricket, the atmosphere for a big game is something to expeience.
Big Ben striking the hour – Big Ben is adjoined to the parliament buildings, something impressive to be seen in their own rights, get there when the icon of London is striking the hour to tick that box.
The changing for the guards – Another essential in London is Buckingham Palace. During summer every day the guards change at 11:15am, involving a parade down Birdcage walk and Spur Road with a marching band and horses and everything! Outside of the summer months the parade only happens every second day so make sure to check you have the right day. A definite must do.
Cross the Millennium and Tower bridge – London Bridge is straight and gray and boring. Tower bridge is the big one with towers at each end and opening in the middle that you have seen in all the movies. People often get them confused. Millennium bridge is the thin twisty one for pedestrians only and was the one that twisted and broke due to Dementors in the Harry Potter film. Both are great scenic points to cross the river.
St Paul‘s cathedral – This building miraculously survived WW1 and 2 and still stands tall above the city. Entry is free and if you manage to be there during a service you will get to hear its beautiful acoustics.
Markets – Obviously the main point of markets is to go and purchase something, but the atmosphere itself is also worth going for. You can easily immerse yourself in the feel of a London weekend without spending a dime! If you have good self control that is.
Camden – Camden markets started in 1974 and are today still hugely popular. The outdoor markets originally ran just along the canal but now spread far throughout the area of Camden. The area is worth a visit mid week but it is the weekends that really come alive, and by alive I mean ridiculously crowded so be prepared for a bit of push and shove if you brave them!
Portobello Road – Portobello Road Markets are famous for their vintage shops, flower markets, food from all over the world, and of course, the movie ‘Notting Hill’. Saturday is the busiest day when the antique markets open up, they are my favorite part of the market to visit, so many gems waiting to be discovered!
Borough – The Borough markets are a recent discovery of mine thanks to a friend. They are a purely food market and it is a great place to get lunch. There are a few stalls that sell fresh produce as well but it is more a place to get a ‘street food’ feed. This stuff is gourmet though. Although it is all fast food, you will need to give yourself plenty of time to allow for the difficult decision of choosing just one thing!
Brick lane – Brick Lane on a Sunday is where it’s at. Stalls sell second hand goods whilst buskers play vibrant music from around the world. It is a chaotic jumble of clothes, furniture and various ethnic food stalls. You never know what you will find, from collectables to old magazines to leather goods. It’s pot luck but it’s always fun.
Is there anything you can recommend for a free day out in London? I’d love to know!