Visiting London is expensive, but through some clever planning, one can have an unforgettable time and see some inspiring sites on a budget.
Whatever the exchange rate, London is not getting any cheaper. It’s not a favourable destination for visitors on a tight budget, but here is a list of some of its most famous galleries and attractions that won’t cost a penny.
London Museums and Galleries With Free Entry
From Modern Art to Classics, Abstract Art to Expressionism, the Tate Modern is not to be missed. Take a day to explore its many floors and end it all off with a coffee at Café 2, overlooking the River Thames. Location: 53 Bankside, just off the Millennium Bridge. Underground: Southwark, Mansion House, St Paul’s.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Take in the majestic exterior of St Paul’s before entering its impressive interior. For those not afraid of heights, take the 259 steps to the Whispering Gallery and above this, on the outside of the dome, 378 steps up, is the Stone Gallery and even further up, 530 steps, is the Golden Gallery, which offers panoramic views across London. Although it sounds daunting, it’s well worth the effort. Location: Ludgate Hill. Underground: St Paul’s.
Now here’s a gallery that offers a lot, but is visited by few. Escape the crowds and take a breather at the Saatchi Gallery. An open mind is required – this is contemporary art at its best. Location: Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, Sloane Square. Underground: Sloane Square.
Every Londoner knows Camden and its many markets; it’s a world all on its own. Walk the streets and take in its interesting people, funky shops and intriguing smells. Food, clothing, souvenirs, shoes, bags, jewellery, music, you name it, Camden’s got it. After all the visual stimulation, enjoy a cocktail at one the pubs overlooking the river. Underground: Camden Town.
National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery
These galleries are very popular; either visit early in the morning or late afternoon. The National Gallery houses some of the most famous artworks in history, from Michelangelo and da Vinci to van Gogh and Cézanne, whereas the National Portrait Gallery showcases over 1 000 portraits featuring men and women who have shaped British history. Take a break at one of the gallery’s cafés or alternatively, enjoy lunch al fresco at the famous fountain in Trafalgar Square. Location: National Gallery: Trafalgar Square. National Portrait Gallery: St Martin’s Place. Underground: Charing Cross.
The British Museum
Take a trip through history at the impressive British Museum. According to the map one collects from the reception area, the museum was founded in 1753 and its collection spans over two million years of human history. It includes collections from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Ancient World. The museum’s interior is spacious and the collections are absolutely breathtaking. Look out for the reading room, where one can savour a moment to take it all in. Location: Great Russell Street. Underground: Holborn, Russell Square, Tottenham Court Road.
Camden Arts Centre
One would assume this centre to be located in Camden, but it is not so. This offbeat centre is situated in the beautiful area of Hampstead. The centre is quiet and off the beaten track, perfect for those wanting a more downplayed art experience. The exhibitions change often, so one can expect to see a range of artists from across the world. There are rooms available for those wishing to read or draw in peace. Location: Arkwright Road. Underground: Finchley Road, Hampstead.
Get away from London’s hustle and bustle and enter this unexpected oasis in the centre of town. The lake, ponds and gardens lie in stark contrast to the concrete buildings; the perfect spot to relax and forget the rat race. Get refreshments from the Waterside Café and take it to one of the outdoor tables overlooking the lake and fountains as well as St Giles’s Church – the last resting place of Milton. Location: Silk Street. Underground: Barbican.
Transport in London
Getting around London is quick and easy via the Underground or by bus. It is best to purchase an Oyster Card on arrival and top it up with money as required. Transport for London provides up-to-the-minute info on road works, delays and alternative routes. It is well worth it to check out bus routes as buses are cheaper than the Underground, however travelling by train (Underground and National Rail) is still the quickest way to get around. Transport costs should be worked into one’s budget, as those pounds go quicker than a coffee at Starbucks.