London on a Budget

by Lisa M

London is one of the world's most beautiful, but expensive cities, so any chance to save money is a good thing. Luckily London does have plenty of free things to do. If you enjoy a museum browse, fine art, parks, or green spaces, you won't need much of a budget to see it all.

The best way to see the sights is by walking if you are able.  London attractions are gratefully very near each other and walking from on to another is easy for even the most casual walker. Travelling by bus is a good option too, you get to see more than using the tube. Get an Oyster card to give you cheaper travel on buses and tubes. An Oyster card is an electronic, prepaid card, you can top up at underground stations, you pay a £3.00 deposit, or you can buy a card online before you leave home.

Here are samples of some of the many, many things available that are within walking distance or a short bus ride to each other or to centrally-located accommodations:

Museums

Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road SW7

There are 36 free galleries to see here, including dinosaurs, animals, and ancient treasures. This is terrific for adults but is also very engaging for children.

Science Museum, Exhibition Road SW7

The home of human ingenuity, see award-winning exhibitions, iconic objects and stories of incredible scientific achievement.  Again, kids as well as adults will enjoy spending time in these friendly confines.

Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road SW7

This is THE place to go to see ceramics, furniture, fashion, glass, jewellery, metalwork, photographs, sculpture, textiles and paintings from the age of...you guessed it, Victoria & Albert.  Plan to spend a day to see it all, it's a large and engaging space.

Sir John Soane's Museum, Lincoln's Inn Fields WC2

The historic house, museum and library of 19th century architect Sir John Soane is full of amazing treasurers, and we mean FULL!  Wall to wall, floor to ceiling full of antiquities from all over the world. At Soane’s request, the house has been left untouched since his death – almost 180 years ago!

The Wallace Collection, Manchester Square,W1

The Wallace Collection is a national museum in an historic London town house in Manchester Square. There are 25 galleries of French 18th-century painting, furniture and porcelain and a huge armoury collection and takes about 4 hours to thoroughly enjoy.

British Museum, Great Russell Street & Montague Place WC1

This museum is now one of the largest in the world.  Home to the Rosetta Stone, ancient Greek ruins like the Parthenon, and many, many other treasurers.  Spend a day or a week here, you still won't get to see it all!

Museum of London, 150 London Wall EC2

This museum tells the story of London and it's people from prehistoric times to present day.   Everything is well laid out in chronological order.   A fascinating insight to the English capital and its long, illustrious history.

Galleries

Tate Modern, Bankside SE1

International and contemporary modern art set in the former Bankside Power Station.  The industrial feel of the architecture only serves to enhance the variety of avante garde modern art exhibitions.  Plan to spend a little time on the 6th floor where you can enjoy lunch or dessert and picturesque views of St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millenium (locally known as Wobbly) Bridge.

Tate Britain, Millank SW1P

 Houses the United Kingdom's national collection of British art.  If you love Constable and his contemporaries, you'll LOVE this day set along the north bank of the Thames

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square WC2

The National Gallery houses one of the finest collections of paintings in the world. There won't be enough time to see everything.  Period.  Choose your favorites and immerse yourself in what you love is our best advice.

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place WC2

The National Portrait Gallery houses a collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people. The Tudors, the Hanovers, The Windsors...they're all come to life within these halls.  Plan on half a day to view and learn about the British monarchy.

Churches & Cathedrals

To be clear, the major churches in London, while among the most beautiful examples of religious architecture in the world, are NOT free.  In fact they can be downright expensive.  However, there is a way to get into these beautiful houses of worship AND enjoy some of the most beautiful music your ears will ever hear:  Choral Evensong.  We will be writing more about what Choral Evensong is but suffice to say for our purposes here, it is an evening choral service usually held between 5 and 6 pm, lasting about 45 minutes and it's free to the public.  Do yourself a favour on this one and attend at least one Choral Evensong.  You won't regret it.

Markets

Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street SE1

This one of the oldest and one the largest of London's market, selling International and British produce. The smells wafting from the food stalls are amazing and will be sure to tempt you!

Greenwich Market, 5B Greenwich Market SE10

This an indoor market with stalls selling food, fashion, jewellery, antiques.  Something for everyone.

Old Spitalfields Market, 16 Homer Square E1

A daily market, in the East of London, which over 70 retail stalls and street food traders.

Columbia Road Flower Market, Columbia Road E2

Columbia Road overflows with bucketfuls of beautiful flowers every Sunday. From 8am-3pm

Camden Market, Camden Lock Place NW1

Camden Market is the largest market in London, open 7 days a week.

Portobello Road Market, Portobello Road W10

The world's largest antiques market, with over 1,000 dealers selling all kinds of antiques and collectibles.

 

Parks and Green Spaces

St James's Park, SW1

Close to Buckingham Palace, the Mall and Horse Guards Parade.  Enjoy a stroll along the lake, look out for the resident pelicans. 

Green Park, SW1

Between Buckingham Palace and Piccadily, Green Park with mature trees and grass gives a welcome retreat from the city.

Hyde Park

Set right in the heart of London, you can try horse riding, boating, tennis, or just have a good walk, relax and unwind.  Kensington Palace is nearby is you'd care to pop in for tea with Wills and Cate.

Kensington Gardens W2

Go to the Serpentine art gallery, have a walk around the Diana memorial garden, lots of things to do and see in this adjacent-to-Hyde-Park stroll.

Holland Park, Ilchester Place W6

This has large areas of woodland with wildlife, sports facilities and play areas. 

Regents Park, Chester Road, NW1

Regent's Park is the largest grass area for sports in Central London and offers a wide variety of activities,  an Open Air Theatre, the London Zoo, gardens and a boating lake.

Hampstead Heath, Hampstead NW3

This is situated about 3.5 miles from Trafalgar Square, it can be easily reached using the Underground to Hampstead Heath station or 24 Bus.  This is one of London's most popular open spaces.

Shopping Areas (obviously only free if you're just window shopping!)

King's Road, Chelsea, SW1

Shops, art gallaries, movie theatre, places to eat, a Saturday morning food market

Victoria Street, SW1

Shops, movie theatre, places to eat.

Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, W1A

Popular shopping destination selling luxury gifts and hampers. Personally We think it's better than Harrods, slightly less touristy, and the tea selections are hard to beat.

Whatever you enjoy doing, London has something for you and don't need to break the bank to see all it has to offer!