London has earned for itself the reputation of being a very expensive city. However, the British capital city offers plenty of exciting attractions, cultural activities and entertainment options to those who travel on a budget.
Accommodation: arrange a home swap
Home swapping is increasingly popular and allows home owners from all over the world to enjoy totally free accommodation. With a large number of home exchange offers available in London it is an ideal way to scratch hotel costs from your London vacation budget. Find your home swap in London.
Museums and art galleries
London’s museums and art galleries are reputed all over the world for their rich and varied collections. Yet, there is another interesting thing to know: over 200 of them do not charge entrance fees from their visitors.
Home torich collections of Egyptian and Greek antiquities, the British Museum has its doors open to history buffs and art lovers. The guided visit, which is also free of charge, takes about an hour. However, if you want to see everything, you might end up spending a whole week in the museum. (www.britishmuseum.org)
Those who want to find out how the city has evolved along the history, have this chance with Museum of London. The largest museum dedicated to a single city in the whole world, the Museum of London documents the British capital’s history from its beginnings to the end of the 19th century, but modern exhibits continue to be added in its specialized halls.
Art lovers will appreciate the chance to admire the works of famous international artists inside the National Gallery (www.nationalgallery.org.uk), and to take a look at the portraits of kings and queens, nobles, but also scientists, explorers, and other great figures history of Great Britain’s history in the National Portrait Gallery (www.npg.org.uk), situated just behind the first one.
London also houses the largest museum of decorative arts in the world. You don’t have to pay a penny, but you will certainly enrich your knowledge in fields like craftsmanship, fashion and photography while visiting Victoria & Albert Museum (www.vam.ac.uk), situated on Cromwell Road.
On both banks of the Thames, you will find the wings of the Tate - two art galleries housing largest collection of British art since 1500. Tate Britain and the national collection of modern and contemporary art, from the Impressionists up to present at Tate Modern (www.tate.org.uk).
Open-air concerts and theater performances
London is known for its theater halls, but tickets prices are usually sky-high, unless you buy months in advance and get a really good deal. Tourists who want to get a sample of the British drama can look for open air performances (in the town squares, especially during summer time).
The Globe Theater (a reconstruction of the old building in which Shakespeare worked) sells low cost tickets to those who accept to stand during the whole play. Music lovers have much more options to satisfy their cultural taste in the British capital as the musicians of the Royal College of Music or of the Royal Academy of Music often give free performances. London’s churches and cathedrals also host free of charge concerts. Therefore, all you have to do is check the week’s schedule. (www.shakespearesglobe.com and www.ram.ac.uk).
Also known as the Houses of the Parliament, Westminster Palace’s interior can be visited for free and you can also assist to a meeting of the British Parliament provided you book your visit in advance (www.parliament.uk/visiting/).
Changing of the Guard
This is a must-see, especially for first-timers. You can watch this impressive military parade every day around noon in front of Buckingham Palace or, if you are fond of equestrian parades, go to St. James’s Palace. The place is less crowded than Buckingham and the show is certainly worth the trouble. If the changing of guards is considered one of the compulsory things to do in London, at James's Palace you will attend an even more impressive show.
Parks and Gardens
London’s parks and gardens are not solely green spots where you can relax away from the urban hustle and bustle. They also provide you with great ways to penetrate the British lifestyle and culture. If you are planning to go to Hyde Park on a Sunday, don’t miss the Speakers’ Corner. Even if you don’t have the oratorical skills to get into an argument, you can watch the other participants and you will certainly have an unforgettable experience (www.royalparks.org.uk).
London is filled with picturesque town squares. Some of them (Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, for instance) are famous all over the world, others are less known. Nevertheless, they are good spots from where to admire the city’s architecture, or where to relax while watching the crowd and the street performances.
In addition to it’s world famous shops and department stores, London is also home to some fantastic markets where you can find a unique bargain or enjoy some delicious food on the go. Here’s a few of our top market recommendations:
- Borough Market: situated in London Bridge, Borough Market is a foodies dream. With dozens of stalls offering an array of top quality ingredients and ready to eat treats. The market is open all week but go on Fridays – Sundays for the most choices. Top tip: check out Monmouth Coffee shop next to the market for a top cup of fresh coffee. (www.boroughmarket.org.uk)
- Spitalfields Market: situated in between Liverpool Street station and Brick Lane, the now spruced up Spitalfields Market is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon looking for unique and stylish bargains. You’ll find everything from clothes, records, food and trinkets. (www.oldspitalfieldsmarket.com)
- Brick Lane Market: London’s trendy Brick Lane comes alive on Sunday’s with market stalls springing up selling all sorts of goodies. An excellent area to spend a day exploring the market stalls, shops and restaurants. Top tip: Brick Lane is also famously home to many Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants. (www.bricklanemarket.com)
- Columbia Road Flower Market: Just up from Brick Lane is the Columbia Road Flower Market. Also open on Sundays and a great place to continue exploring this fascinating part of London. (www.columbiaroad.info)
- Portobello Road Market: Portobello Road is a street in the Notting Hill in west London. Portobello Road Market is said to be the world’s largest antiques market where you can find every kind of antique and collectible. (www.portobelloroad.co.uk)
Home Base Holidays: travel the home exchange way
Home Base Holidays is a London based home exchange holiday service. Find your home swap in London on the Home Base Holidays website so that you can enjoy totally free accommodation in London (www.homebase-hols.com)