London has a reputation of being one of the world’s most expensive cities to visit. However, the city is also one of the most tourist friendly ones, offering a plethora of activities which can all be enjoyed gratis. From dozens of parks open to everyone to museums to open air markets – a holiday in an expensive city can turn out to be the best bargain you could have signed up for.
1. The Beautiful Parks
A privilege unknown to Indians due to the lack of space in the urban cities, you will find several huge and beautiful parks in London. From sunbathing and picnics in the summer, to brisk, refreshing walks in the winter, there's always a reason to visit one of London's parks. And the best ones don’t charge a fee to enter. Huge and centrally located, the Hyde Park is one of the best parks of London. With over 4000 trees and a lake, you can enjoy a lazy stroll or move fast cycling, skating or skateboarding. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk is 7-mile walk through Hyde Park and its neighbouring parks to see famous buildings and locations associated with the Princess.
Adjacent to it is the Kensington Garden, which houses the Kensington Palace. Another famous Royal park is the Regent’s Park designed by the famous architect John Nash in 1811. Within the Regent’s park lies the oldest zoo in the world, the London Zoo. The Primrose Hill within Regent Park gives you great views of the city particularly enjoyable for a picnic. It’s also surrounded by some of the city’s nicest bars and pubs.
2. The Museums
One of the world’s best museums are located in London and most of them don’t have an entry fee. The National Gallery has breathtaking tapestries that started with just 36 paintings but now has over 200 paintings. The Tate Modern and Tate Britain have exceptional collections of art. Tate Modern displays art by some of renowned artists like Matisse, Picasso, Rothko, Warhol and Bourgeois for free. Tate Britain holds the largest collection of Britain art in the world from 1500 to the present day.
You can also hold some gold at the Bank of England Museum or come face-to-face with a roaring T-Rex at the Natural History Museum. All this at no cost at all!
3. Change of Guards at the Buckingham Palace
The gates of Buckingham Palace might seem crowded forever, and one of the reasons is the Changing of the guard ceremony. Maintaining an age-old tradition, in the morning (Please check the schedule on their website for the month), the old guard from Buckingham Palace changes to the new guard from St. James Palace. The hour-long ceremony is one of the greatest glimpses of the workings of the British Monarchy. Do come in early to get a good standing spot to view the ceremony
4. The Markets
There are a number of markets you can visit in London. Chinatown on Sunday evenings is lit up, celebratory and always an entertaining prospect. Covent Garden with its beautiful boutiques, cobbled paths, open-air restaurants and some entertainment are great to spend afternoons and evenings at. For the gourmet freaks, the Borough market is a must visit. Producers from all over the country bring a range of fresh produce to the market, including fish, meats, vegetables, ciders, cheeses, breads, coffees, cakes and patisseries.
Wanna go the offbeat way! The Sunday Upmarket and Backyard Market at Brick Lane are slightly offbeat with independent designers putting up stalls, as well as food stalls that give you free tasting. Besides these, there are a number of city farms you can visit like Vauxhall city Farm for the free donkey ride, and Mud Chute Farm with a fantastic children’s playground. The Mud Chute Farm is also home to British rare breeds, horses and ponies plus a pets' corner, with animal encounter sessions.
5. The Somerset House
Somerset House, now an exciting venue for arts and culture was once home to three Catholic queens. This famous Neoclassical structure overlooking the river Thames hosts various cultural and artistic workplaces. The courtyard of the Somerset House, also covered in one of the famous Yash Raj films, have an array of jets dance in an orchestrated sequence, with added coloured lighting at night.
In winter, this courtyard is converted into an ice skating rink with ice skaters and various ice skating shows. The beautiful lighting and christmas decors give it a beautiful view.
6. Laughter Costs Nothing
Why should you pay to laugh? You can enjoy a giggle at Angel Comedy Club, which offer comedy every night of the week or you can also beat the Monday blues at Stratford East's free weekly comedy night.
7. For Culture Vultures
London offers a host of cultural activities for FREE!
You can actually pick a BBC show and apply to be part of an audience for various TV show recordings. Another place worth a visit is Neon Wonderland God's Own Junkyard. This is a visual feast of bright neon lights. These people have salvaged and restored signage that is no longer being used to create an oasis of light in the middle of East London's Walthamstow.
For the artist freaks, London is full of interesting Outdoor urban art. Take a peek at London's public and street art, including works by guerrilla artist Banksy. Bansky’s art has been there for more than a decade. Some of them relate to hard hitting political facts while some are extremely funny.
Another must visit is the British Library where you can feast your eyes on literary treasures like the Magna Carta and original Beatles lyrics at the British Library. You will also come across Shakespeare’s First Folio and Drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci.
8. Weird and wonderful
If the above activities aren’t enough you can marvel at the weird and wonderful stuff you will find around London.
- Marvel at the Jar of Moles at the Grant Museum of Zoology.
- See the over-stuffed walrus at the Horniman Museum.
- Be wowed by the Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies at the British Museum.
- See pickled creatures in jars and fascinating deformed skeletons at the Hunterian Museum.
- Go to the Wellcome Collection to see a bunch of marvellously weird objects, including an ancient mummy, Napoleon's toothbrush and Darwin's walking stick.