How to enjoy London without spending a penny

Going on holiday to a major city is very enjoyable, but often it ends up costing quite a lot to explore all that is offer. However, one of the great advantages of visiting London is that there is so much to do without spending any money at all.

Take in some art

London has a world-famous reputation as one of the best centres for all forms of art, so you may expect entry to the city’s leading galleries to be quite pricey – but this is not the case.

Whether you enjoy modern art or respect the Old Masters, then 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 houses a comprehensive collection of art dating back to the start of the 19th century.

It can be found on the former Bankside Power Station, and its huge turbine hall is used to display large-scale temporary installations – which are often breath-taking simply because of their sheer size.

Famous 20th-century movements such as surrealism and pop art are well-represented, with works by some of the most influential artists, such as including Matisse, Dali and Picasso – without any charge for entry into the majority of 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.)

The National Portrait Gallery is altogether a more sedate visit and features some fascinating images of famous people from all walks of life – including politicians, scientists, painters and poets.

One of the highlights on display is what is believed to be the only portrait of Shakespeare that was painted during his lifetime.

There are also portraits of many monarchs like Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, writers such as Wordsworth and Byron and many modern-day icons 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.

Close to the National Portrait Gallery is the National Gallery which celebrates classical art, with work on display dating back to the 13th century.

The highlights include Holbein’s The Ambassadors and Constable’s The Hay Wain and the gallery has been open since 1838 – with entry being free from a number of years.

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.

The gallery has become very popular and attracts around 1.5 million people each year, with it providing a great venue for first-time exhibitions.

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 (District and Circle lines) and ten to 12 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.

Discover the free outdoors

Of course London is home to some of the world’s most well-known landmarks and you can often take a closer look without having to spend any money.

One example is Marble Arch – designed in 1827 by John Nash – the structure was originally designed 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, where it acts as a link between Bayswater and Marylebone.

Buckingham Palace
Marble Arch underground station is on the Central line and is a stone’s throw away from the monument itself, which can be reached by walking north up Great Cumberland Place. 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.

Get educated for free

There are plenty of museums in the capital that offer free entry and provide a great way to spend a day learning about something new.

Since a government initiative was introduced in 2001 many of the top national museums removed entrance prices and benefitted from a surge in visitor numbers.

Make sure you visit at least one of London’s top museums during your stay, with a long list to choose from including the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the National History museum.

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