It is no secret that London is a crazy-expensive city. You have to pay through the nose to go to a museum or to have lunch. Even burgers are expensive. So finding something to do and somewhere to go where you do not have to spend is not something that only cheapskates do, but it is also something that many others do as a way to keep their sanity. If you can find something that you can enjoy for free, it is like sticking a finger up somebody’s arse.
So what are the things that you could do in London for free? Surprisingly, there are a lot. So why pay GBP100 for four people to get into a single attraction when you can pay nothing and still enjoy yourselves?
1. Visit an art gallery. There are several major art galleries in London that you can visit without paying a fee. Check out the contemporary art at Tate Modern, and the British art works dating back to the 16th century at Tate Britain. You can also find out who’s who in London’s history at the National Portrait Gallery, or you can go to the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection.
2. Go to the museum. Like national art galleries, a lot of the city’s major museums are free. Get into the Museum of London, the Geffrye Museum, and the Horniman Museum and see what they have in store for you. Can you find out where you could see a stuff walrus?
However, if you are looking for something unique, go to the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre where you can find 2,000 objects that are related to anaesthesia. Or perhaps visit the Fan Museum, where you can find fans that go as far back as the 11th century. You can also visit the Kirkaldy Testing Museum, where you can find the 350-ton “All Purpose Testing Machine” created by David Kirkaldy.
Lastly, you can check out the Old Operating Theatre, which is a real operating theatre and the only one remaining in the city. You can even volunteer to be operated on.
3. Changing of the guard. The changing of the guard is an experience that every visitor in London should experience. Be sure to stay outside the front gates of the Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle for the best views.
4. Watch a movie at the British Film Institute. There are four cinemas in the British Film Institute and you would need to pay to watch a film here. But they also have a Mediatheque, which holds the Institute’s film and DTV archives. You can watch these films for free. For instance, watch a royal wedding from the 1920s here.
5. Go to the parks and gardens. London may be a rainy city and, for the most part of the year, it is true. It is wet and grey and it can get very overcast. But there are great gardens and parks here where you can get a respite from all that greyness. Check out the Diana Memorial Playground, the Peter Pan Statue, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. But if you want to see the most beautiful spot in London, then go to Regent Park and visit the Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens.
6. The Seven Noses of Soho. In 1997, Rick Buckley created plaster of Paris reproductions of his own nose. He then proceeded put up these reproductions under the CCTV cameras that back then were just starting to appear on the streets and buildings. The initial number of noses was close to three dozen, now there are only 10.
7. The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Visiting Trafalgar Square, you would notice that there are four plints at each corner of the square. The first three plints carry the sculptures of Charles James Napier and Henry Havelock, while the third features the equestrian statute of George IV. The fourth plinth has been empty for a long time because there was not enough money to create the William IV equestrian statue. That remained so until 1999, when the plinth was used to display Mark Wallinger’s Ecce Homo. After that, two more art works were featured on the plinth, Bill Woodrow’s Regardless of History and Rachel Whiteread’s Monument. A commission was then formed to decide on what artworks would be displayed on the fourth plinth and these are changed periodically.