London is a hugely popular place to go for a city break, but everyone knows that it’s a really expensive destination for a holiday, right? Actually, not necessarily.
Of course, if you go shopping at Harrods and splash the cash at some of the city’s fanciest restaurants, then you’re going to make a dent in your bank balance. But there are lots of things to do in this metropolis that are completely free and also really great fun.
Here’s our top five list of ways you can enjoy your city break without spending any more pennies than you want or need to.
1. Go on a tour of famous buildings
London has such a long and varied history that it is covered in buildings from an array of different periods. You will find plenty of photo opportunities if you simply wander around with a map and a camera – selfie stick optional.
Don’t miss St Paul’s Cathedral and the opportunity to sing ‘Feed the Birds’ on the iconic steps, the Royal Albert Hall and Nelson’s Column. However, you should also look to take in more modern landmarks including the London Eye and the Shard as you walk along the Thames.
Consider making a list of less well-known buildings too, as there are lots of hidden wonders around London. The All Hallows church is right in the city centre and features a 1,000-year-old arch as well as a tiny museum in the crypt that houses birth records for the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn.
Of course, no trip to London would be complete without a look at the Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, where you can watch sessions if you reserve ahead.
2. Wander around the markets
London’s markets are a tourist attraction in themselves and you can see everything from food and flowers to antiques in various locations around the city. Borough Market is particularly notable as it has been around since the 13th century and is open Thursday to Saturday. Of course, you might be tempted to get your purse out, but the produce is undoubtedly much better value than what you’d find in any supermarket.
3. Take in the museums
A number of years ago, the government decided that entry to most UK museums should be free – and the result is that you can wander into scores of different institutions to look at what they have to offer without paying a penny. It really is incredible and London offers some of the best museums around, so you can really get your money’s worth (or not, as the case may be).
Don’t miss the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery and the British Museum to start with, but you can also find plenty of different ones to suit all interests. For example, the Hunterian Museum celebrates the work of scientist John Hunter and features skeletal remains, anatomical curiosities and insights into various diseases that will delight anyone who likes this type of thing.
You can also find free events at The Scoop, Southbank and Lricester Square, even though they’re not strictly museums.
4. Get fresh air in the parks
It might be seen as a bustling metropolis, but London has a surprising number of parks scattered around that make a perfect destination for a walk in any season, or a picnic in the summer. There’s a zoo in Regent’s Park, while Greenwich Park houses the Royal Observatory.
However, you could simply enjoy taking the time out to stroll around in the fresh air, particularly if you’re keen to get a break from the crowds on Oxford Street and in the Tube.
You could also take a look at some of the more unusual offerings in the parks, including the Victorian memorial in Postman’s Park. This was created in 1900 and is dedicated to people who died trying to save others, which is sure to prove inspiring if a little sobering.
Alternatively, listen to other people’s views and consider airing your own at the famous Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. Anyone can take to their soapbox as long as they’re not planning on spouting anything offensive and it really is fascinating. Why not take a stand and see if you can convert passersby to your favourite hobby or persuade them that your sports team really is the best?
5. Go celebrity spotting
London is among the best cities in the world for seeing famous people, as it’s a hub for entertainment, music and a variety of other industries. Your first port of call could be Buckingham Palace to see if the Queen happens to be popping out, or Kensington Palace where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge reside with their children.
If the royal family prove uncooperative, you might want to try walking past the Chiltern Firehouse, a brasserie in Marylebone that has welcomed famous faces including Bradley Cooper and David Cameron. The Ivy is another top celeb hangout, although it will of course cost you to eat there.
Other areas of London that are ideal if you’re a celebrity enthusiast include Margaret Street, where a number of acting agencies have premises, Mayfair, Soho, Piccadilly Circus, Primrose Hill and Leicester Square. Hopefully, you should be able to spot someone you know and you might even get the chance for a photo opportunity if you’re really lucky.
So, there we have it. Although Lodnon can be an expensive city, you can spend several days enjoying attractions that are completely free of charge without feeling as though you’re missing out.
And if you save money on things to do, then you can splash out a little more on luxurious accommodation like the Park Grand Hotels London, whose portfolio includes the beautiful Paddington Hotel.