London may be one of the world’s most enjoyable cities, but it could also be one of the most expensive. However, there are plenty of ways to discover what the capital has to offer visitors without spending too much.
Enjoy Art for Free
London has certainly a rich history as one of the top art destinations and is home to many of the world’s leading galleries. While some do charge for entry, many of the larger national galleries have free entry to most of their displays.
Whether you enjoy modern art or respect the Old Masters, there is a free gallery that will feature plenty of works for you to enjoy.
The Tate Modern is the most popular art gallery in Europe and is home to a great collection of art that dates back to the start of the 19th century.
Visitors can find the gallery on the site of the former Bankside Power Station. The development even makes use of the power station’s old turbine hall to display large-scale art installations and it is really a great space to visit.
In terms of works on display, most 20th-century movements including surrealism and pop art are represented with various works by influential artists like Matisse, Dali and Picasso. The best bit is that these pieces can be viewed without any charge to get into the gallery.
Tate Modern is open from Sunday to Thursday between the hours of 10.00 and 18.00. On Friday and Saturday, it is open between 10.00 and 22.00.
The nearest stops to the gallery are Southwark (Jubilee Line, 600 metres approx.), Blackfriars (District and Circle Line, 800 metres approx.) and St Pauls (Central Line, 1,100 metres approx.)
For a more sedate experience, the National Portrait Gallery is ideal. The gallery is home to pictures of famous people from all walks of life such as politicians, scientists, painters and poets.
Visitors can see the only portrait of Shakespeare that was painted during his lifetime, and there are plenty of other famous faces on display including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, Wordsworth and Byron.
The gallery not just focuses on famous people from history, but plenty of modern-day people represented including The Beatles and Sir Richard Branson.
The National Portrait Gallery is located in St Martin’s Place and the nearest underground stations are: Charing Cross 230 metres, Leicester Square 195 metres, and Embankment 490 metres.
If you are visiting the National Portrait Gallery, then it is worth combining it with a visit to the National Gallery which celebrates more classical art and displays pieces dating to the 13th century.
Art fans will love the chance to get up-close to the Holbein’s The Ambassadors and Constable’s The Hay Wain – all for free admission.
The National Gallery is open every day between 10.00 and 18.00, apart from Friday, when it is open until 21.00.
One of the newer galleries in London is the Saatchi Gallery, which aims to celebrate the work of up-and-coming artists – yet it still has a zero admission fee for the majority of its collection.
Since its opening, the gallery has become a key attraction for art fans visiting London and welcomes around 1.5 million people each year.
The Saatchi Gallery is open seven days a week from 10.00-18.00, with last entry at 17:30. It is located in the 70,000 sq ft Duke of York HQ building on King’s Road, Chelsea, which is three to four minutes walk from Sloane Square Underground station (District and Circle lines) and ten to twelve minutes walk from Victoria (Victoria, District & Circle lines).
From Sloane Square tube station, walk along Sloane Square before taking King’s Road at the far end.
Alternatively, buses 11, 19, 22, 49, 211 and 319 run to King’s Road, while 11, 137 and 211 stop at Lower Sloane Street.
Enjoy the free museums
There is a staggering number of museums in London and many don’t charge for entry. Offering a great place to spend the day, especially if the weather is not too great.
Since a government initiative in 2001 many of the top national museums removed entrance prices and now they see an increase in the number of people that come through their doors.
Museums not charging admission include the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the National History Museum.
On sunny days one of the cheapest ways to enjoy London is to head outside and explore. The city has some great buildings, a river (River Thames) as well as huge lush green parks – most of which can be enjoyed without having to hand over any money.
For example, Marble Arch is one of the free attractions in the capital. Designed in 1827 by John Nash, the famous structure was originally created to be the official entrance to the Cour d’Honneur of Buckingham Palace, but it was relocated in 1851 to its current location at the junction of Oxford Street, Park Lane, and Edgware Road.
Marble Arch underground station is on the Central line and is very close to the monument itself, which can be reached by walking from the station. The monument is also close to another free London attraction -Hyde Park – which is home to the famous Serpentine Lake, the Serpentine Gallery and the Diana, Princess of Wales fountain.