Don’t let people put you off with tales of how expensive London is. There’s an incredible array of things to do throughout the city without spending a penny. I have selected fifteen free things to do and see while you are here in the capital.
Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy
Sir John Soane was an architect and avid collector of antiquities and art. He merged three houses on Lincoln’s Inn Fields to be his home and museum which he left to the nation in 1837.
Expect to be stunned by the building itself as well as the exhibits, which include the sarcophagus of Seti I in the crypt and Hogarth paintings in the picture gallery. An absolute treasure trove and well worth a visit.
London Roman Baths
Down a side road, through a tunnel, press a button for a light and you too can find the well-hidden Roman Baths in central London. The first thing to note is that these baths are actually very unlikely to be Roman. Most likely date back to the 16th or early 17th century, but genuinely believed they were much older when discovered in the late 18th century.
The Metropolitan Railway, world’s first underground railway began conveying passengers in 1863 with lines constructed using a method called ‘cut and cover’. As the name implies, this involved digging a deep hole to house the underground tracks, and then covering over.
The route of the line between Paddington and Bayswater required the demolition of 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens. It was decided to build a 5ft-thick facade which matched the houses either side of the break. The original locomotives on the Metropolitan and District Line were powered by steam. Although they were fitted with condensers, engines still needed open air stretches of track to disperse the fumes. Walk around to Porchester Gardens you will find a wall with some graffiti written ‘Our hearts are around us’. Look over the wall and all will be revealed.
Clowns Church Service
The first Sunday in February is the annual clowns church service at All Saints, corner Haggerston and Livermere Roads, Hackney. Clowns attend a church service in memory of Joseph Grimaldi. The clowns usually perform for the public after the church service. Arrive early as the press photographers come out in force and take up a large section of the church. When the clowns leave the church, they are usually kind enough to perform for the waiting public in the adjoining church hall. The performance usually lasts around an hour and is great for families. The hall is always packed at the start, but the press do leave and then you can enjoy a family show for free.
Notting Hill Film Locations
The 1999 film “Notting Hill” is set in the district of London by the same name where a bookshop owner played by Hugh Grant meets a famous American actress played by Julia Roberts. From Notting Hill Gate Tube Station, 103 Notting Hill Gate you have the Print Room formerly the Coronet Cinema. Afterwards onto Bella and Maxs’ at 91 Lansdowne Road, Rosemead Gardens, Gina’s house and then Portobella Road Market. To finish off you have, The Travel Bookshop now a gift shop, the coffee shop now a hair studio and finally Tony’s Restaurant now a gift shop. To do this tour you would need to be a big fan of the film. All the Locations are close by and it takes about an hour to do.
Princess Diana Memorial Playground
The Diana Memorial Playground is located next to Kensington Palace, the former home of Diana Princess of Wales. It’s a fabulous children’s playground for kids up to 12 years. There are loads for kids to do in the Diana Memorial Playground including playing on the enormous wooden pirate ship. Princess Diana loved children and this playground serves as a fabulous legacy for future generations. The Diana Memorial Playground opened on June 30, 2000 and is a clean, safe, fun place for children under 12 years to play freely.
A London palace that’s free to visit? It does exist! Fulham Palace was never a Royal Palace, but it was home to Bishops who were treated just as well. Inside the palace is a simple museum and you can enjoy dressing up and colouring pictures. Take a picnic or grab something from the upscale café and lounge on the lawn. Afterwards head into the landscaped gardens at the far end and use your lunch box to collect fallen bits of ‘nature.’
Victoria and Albert Museum
Without doubt the world’s best decorative arts museum, the V&A , as it’s generally known, has been open for over 150 years and contains an incredible 4.5 million items. The first floor focuses on Asian, Japanese swords, ancient Chinese ceramics and some European art. Also, you will find plaster casts made from Michelangelo’s David. You might like to note that the fig leaf created in the 19th century was to protect the sensibilities of Victorian visitors. The Ardabil Carpet in the Middle East-focused Jameel Gallery is the world’s oldest, dating from Iran in the 1500s.
The Crypt and Chapel at Saint Pauls Cathedral
Although there is an entry fee to the cathedral itself you can still get to see something for free. Head up the cathedral’s main steps and enter on the left-hand side. Inside you’ll find the line to buy tickets but keep to the left and you can enter St. Dunstan’s Chapel for free at any time. This is open for prayers all day but is well-frequented by visitors too. The chapel was consecrated in 1699 and is named for St Dunstan, a Bishop of London who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 959. The Churchill screen/gates divide the refectory and the crypt so can be seen for free when visiting the cafe/shop/restrooms. The crypt is the largest of its kind in Europe and is the final resting place of a number of prolific Brits including Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren himself.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Sir John Soane was an architect and avid collector of antiquities and art. He merged three houses on Lincoln’s Inn Fields to be his home and museum which he left to the nation in 1837. Expect to be stunned by the building itself. In addition you will find which include the sarcophagus of Seti I in the crypt and Hogarth paintings in the picture gallery. An absolute treasure trove and well worth a visit.
The British Museum
The British Museum opened in 1753 and has prided itself on remaining free for all that time. It houses more than an incredible 7 million objects and it would probably take a week to see everything. Also the collection of Egyptian and Greek antiquities is without a doubt amongst the largest and best known in the world. Part of the collection consists of the controversial Elgin Marbles. They were brought back from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin whilst he was serving as Ambassador to Constantinople. Subsequently they were bought for the museum by the English government.
Just around the corner from Covent Garden lies the centre of London, Trafalgar Square and its pinnacle attraction Nelson’s Column. Behind the column is the National Gallery, founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. Its collection belongs to the government on behalf of the British public. It is among the most visited art museums in the world, after the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Just off Trafalgar Square, lies Covent Garden, a hotbed of modern cafes and restaurants. In the summer is the best time to visit as the place really comes to life. Street musicians and street artists of all genres turn up to show off their very best to entertain the passing crowds. Public participation usually happens when they are asked to help the artists with their performance.
Changing of the Guard
Without doubt one of the best ceremonies in the city. The Changing of the Guard takes place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 10.30am outside Buckingham Palace. Dressed in full uniform, bearskin hats and red tunics, the Queen’s Guard stomp around in time to music in a display of awesome pageantry. Afterwards they switch responsibilities with one another.