No one can argue with the fact that London is an expensive city – between rent, provisions, getting around and a couple of pints a week, it hard to find room in the budget for some fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a bit easier if you’re a student. With an NUS Card, or even just your college ID, you have access to discounts at the Cinema, your local Grocery Store, Tourist attractions and many other places. But that will only get you so far won’t it? But have no fear, my dear, there are ways to circumvent a lack of cask flow. If you do your research and plan right, you can have a fun or culture filled day, without spending a penny. Here’s 10 ways to help you start:
1. Visit a Museum/Gallery: London has several wonderful museums. From the expansive Museum of Natural History (that’s one of my favorites – I spent the entire day there once – They even have an animatronic T-Rex!) to the National Gallery or the Tate Modern. You can get your fill of History, Technology or Art, just for the cost of bus/tube fare. Here’s Time Out magazine’s list of museums you can visit for free – Museums in London. But remember to check ahead, there may be admission for particular exhibits/attractions.
2. Check out a TV Show taping: I went for a taping once for a BBC Show. It was quite a great experience. It’s amazing to see just how they film an ensemble comedy (and how many times you have to laugh at the same joke ; p). But you might be more inclined to check out a News Show or maybe a Quiz? Who knows, if they have audience participation you may even get your 15 minutes of fame. Apply now and go watch TV being made at the BBC – BBC Tapings
3. Take A Walking Tour: There are several exciting walking tours you can take in London. You can get entails on any hostel site or on Time Out. Most of them cost a few quid though. However, Sandemans New Europe does FREE tours of London every day. That’s right, it’s absolutely free. You’re welcome to tip your guide at the end, but that’s on you. You can book the tour for any number of people, so whether you’re on your own, with a few friends, or taking the entire extended family (that’s a lot of people if you’re Indian like me ; p), it’s all good! Book Now
4. Check out the Street Markets: There are some fantastic street markets to check out in the city. While they all tend to have the standard tourist goods, like Bobby Hats, Sunglasses or Fedoras, they also have their own uniqueness. For example, the Portobello Road Market is rather known for having quant antique shops and even stalls where people sell some really cool old stuff. Camden Town is another well-known market, the down side of course is that it’s a perfect tourist trap. Still, it has some nice cafes and stalls that are worth checking out, even if you don;t buy any of that rubbish. If you’re a foodie you should definitely check out Borough Market. It has a reputation as one of the best food markets in the city and you can find choice local and international produce.
5. Catch a free Concert: There are many venues throughout the city where you can sit and enjoy an evening of music with your mates. If you’re into rock I would suggest one of the many pubs in Camden Town, where there are regularly local bands playing in the evenings and entry is usually free before 10-11 PM. If you’d like to enjoy something a bit more classical head over to The National Theatre where they regularly have free events open to the general public, first come first served of course. Another option is for you to check out the Royal College of Music. All of their events, unless stated otherwise, are free.
6. A Free Comedy Gig: There are dozens of comedy clubs in the capital (Alliteration. Love it!) that host free nights. They feature regular local comics as well as new comers and fresh faces. So check out Angel Comedy in Camden Walk, which features the best of the open mic circuit as well as a professional headliner. Or check out the various free shows offered by The Comedy Bin.
7. Visit A Park: If you find yourself experiencing a beautiful sunny day (they’re rare, but they do happen), you might want to get out and take in the green. So why not visit one of the exquisite, and for the most part, massive parks in and around London. They are beautifully maintained, with mini-attractions like play areas, statues and carved shrubs and some even have some wildlife. You may have to rent a car or take a bus to some of them, but a day out of the city might be just what the doctor ordered, because trust me, if there’s sun, Londoners will flock to the Parks to get some much-needed Vitamin D. Here’s Time Out’s helpful list of London’s Major Parks.
8. Star Gaze: Head on over to the Astronomy Centre, located in the Royal Observatory to see the history of the universe in 4 minutes or touch 4.5 billion year old meteorite (yes you can actually touch it!). The Astronomy Centre and galleries are open daily from 10 to 5 and admission is free.
9. Watch A Movie: There are quiet a few organizations that organize free film screenings on a regular basis/hand out free tickets to screenings in the city. You just have to do your homework and be quick, and a little bit lucky. The Radio Station LBC 97.3 FM hands out tickets for monthly screenings by its LBC Film Club. In the past they’ve done popular titles such as The Hangover, Frost/Nixon and RocknRolla. So check back regularly. Or sign up to Free Movies UK to get the chance to attend preview screenings of new movies at your local cinema.
10. Explore: Last but not least, just get off your butt and walk around. There are so many beautiful and breathtaking sights to see in London. Some might have an admission cost to see the inside, but they are beautiful to look at even if you don’t go in. Go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; see St. Paul’s Cathedral; walk along the river Thames; go visit Shakespeare’s Globe. There’s literally no end to the things you can see.
Well I hope this small, but nowhere close to exhaustive, list of things helps some of you branch out and load up on some fun, without putting any additional drain on your purse strings. I hope you’ll buy me a pint one day with the additional beer money ; )