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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Experiencing London for Free

“The Shard” from the Tower of London

London is an expensive city. There’s no way around it. Everything costs more, and I’m not just talking about how you don’t get free refills on soda like you do in the States. It’s simply that everything and anything in London is more expensive; take what you’d spend on something in America, change the $ sign to the £ sign, and then tack on a quid or two beyond it even. Then you’ll have what you’d pay for food, which is approximately 21% more than in Colorado, where I live, or 66% more overall for costs of living.

Despite the city being so expensive, there are ways to get around and see the sites on the cheap. Free even. You just need to know where to look. And so to help, here are a few ideas I came up with on my recent trip across the pond…

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

It isn’t exactly affordable to go into Buckingham Palace – when it’s open for tours, that is – but it costs you absolutely nothing to see one of the most impressive military ceremonies ever, the Changing of the Guard. It is free and offered several times weekly, if not daily. All you need to do is get there early, pick a good spot, which I talk about in a previous story, and enjoy the show. From there you can even take the time to stroll through some of the most beautiful city parks in the world; St. James’s Park, Green Park, and more are all right in the neighborhood.

Outside the National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square

The National Gallery

It is all, of course, a matter of opinion, but The National Gallery is one of the best art museums in the world. At least to me. Sure, there are other fantastic places – like the Louvre or the Met – but in London there is no better. From Michelangelo to Da Vinci to Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Cezanne, and more, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better art museum in all of London, maybe even the world. And the best part, unlike its counterparts in Paris or New York, it’s all free! All you have to do is walk through Trafalgar Square, which is another worthwhile free stop, up some stairs, and on into the museum. Photography is not allowed, so be sure to take your time, wander leisurely throughout the halls, and take it all in.

The crowd around the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum

The British Museum

If history is more your thing, or just as much so as art, then The British Museum is the place for you. With all kinds of amazing pieces, particularly from Greece, Egypt, and elsewhere in the region, you’ll easily be able to spend a full day and not be bored. Each floor, each room, and around each corner there is sure to be something else that will make your jaw drop. So take your time, enjoy the museum, and think about all the money you’re saving, since all of these amazing pieces from around the world are absolutely free…even the famed and popular Rosetta Stone.

The Sun Shines on Westminster Abbey

The Westminster Neighborhood

It isn’t cheap to go into Westminster Abbey. It’s quite expensive, even. But it costs you absolutely nothing to see the famed church from the outside or to tour the chapel next door. And just as easily, you can admire Big Ben and Parliament all you like. It costs you absolutely nothing. And each of these buildings are better known for their exterior architecture than inside. So stop by each, admire their beauty, and lounge on the lawns on a sunny – yes, I know they’re rare – and warm afternoon in London. And when you’re done, stroll up Whitehall to No. 10 Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister. It’s not actually possible to see his door, but at least you can enjoy the circus outside at the security checkpoint.

The Entrance to the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter Movies

Tour Famed Movie Locations

A lot of movies have been filmed in London. Too many to count. Some of my favorites, at least because of the books, are the Harry Potter series. And when you’re done at Downing Street, you can walk just up the road to Great Scotland Yard, a small alleyway off Whitehall, and stop to see where the entrance scenes to the Ministry of Magic were filmed. And if you continue north, right on through Trafalgar Square and beyond the National Gallery, you can stop in Leicester Square before cutting over to Piccadilly Circus to see other locations. And, once again, it costs you absolutely nothing!

Standing on Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

No matter your reason for being in London, you have to take the time to see the Tower Bridge. It’s an icon for all of England, impressive on so many levels, and, most importantly, it’s free. It costs absolutely nothing to walk out on the bridge, and enjoy the hustle and bustle of one of the most popular tourist locations in town while looking out over the River Thames. It also offers a great overview for The Tower of London, which, while worth the cost, is quite expensive to enter. But you can see a lot of it, at least the exterior and the famed Traitor’s Gate, by walking around the outside and checking it out from other strategic vantage points.

The Millennium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral

The Southwark Neighborhood

On the south side of the Thames River, just to the west of the Tower of London, is Southwark. It is home to the Tate Modern, a free art museum, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, which costs to go into but is free to admire from the outside, as well as The Millennium Bridge. So, grab a seat on the wall above the river, and watch everyone run hither and thither, busily spending cash, while you take it all in for free. It’s worth it, too; the people watching in Southwark is fantastic and worth an afternoon in and out of the Tate.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

I have only touched on all of the free things to do in London. Without a doubt there are a great many more ways to enjoy a free day, or at the very most an inexpensive one, seeing the sites and taking in the atmosphere in one of the most interesting cities in the world. Do you have other free or inexpensive ideas? If so, please share them. The more ideas the better, particularly for my return journey!

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6 Comments on “Experiencing London for Free”

  1. The Guy January 3, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    I’m from Yorkshire in the north of England and also find London very expensive in some respects. If you are in the tourist spots then you pay fortune, try to take a few steps off the popular spots if you need a drink or snack.

    Walking around is free, rain or shine. Plus remember that the museums are free it is only the special exhibitions which have a fee.

  2. midlifewanderlust1965 January 4, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    With a bit of planning you can enjoy a inexpensive time in London. Like all great cities London is a great place to walk around and explore.

  3. rayh526@msn.com January 4, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Quite interesting……..now maybe I can keep a few quid in my wallet when I visit next Sept. ’13
    Ray

  4. Sofia January 18, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    Great things to do! I quite enjoy visiting the local markets in London, they’re so full of life and variety of people.

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