If hotel and food prices are London's big disappointments, here's the good news: the best things in London are mostly free. It is possible to spend a fortnight here and not pay a cent for admission to anything, including galleries, museums and historic buildings. And you won't miss out on much. The Guardian newspaper published a list of tips in July 2009, which is worth perusing. See also HERE for some general and very specific money saving tips.

FREE CONCERTS: loads of free summer concerts, open air films etc. along the river, at the National Theatre, Coin Street and near Tower Bridge by the 'Beehive' office of the London Council. See here  for details. There is a late cafe/bar/lounge at the National Theatre until 0100. Take a stroll from the Wheel to Tower bridge and pick up the brochures - the area is buzzing at night, especially on the far side of Tower Bridge. Also, in season, free outdoor screenings at Canary Wharf Check the listings magazines for other free events - there are a load each year in Trafalgar Square organised by the Mayor and his crew.... They coordinate and subsidise lots (and we mean lots) of other free events as well - see HERE

There are lots of great free events up and down the UK - eg: if you are early and crafty enough you can get to Liverpool for about £5 and enjoy the Marshall St Festival (150 bands - Late August bank holiday) which is entirely free. All it takes is a bit of planning. Museums - Most of the Big museums are free - that includes the Science, Natural History and Imperial War Museums, The British Museum, The John Soane Museum Museum of London. The Department of Culture has invested millions - raised by gambling tax and other taxes, to keep Britain's museums free - don't miss out! Places that do charge usually have a free period or day eg. The Old Naval College in Greenwich is free on Sundays after 15:30. See our museums page for full details.

Galleries - Virtually all free, including the National Gallery, Both the Tate galleries. Those that do make an admission charge usually have a free day (eg The Courtauld), or a free period (the Guildhall, from 15:30). Full details on our Galleries page

Salsa - Free Salsa (latin dance) lessons all over the place. Bar Salsa on Charing Cross road on Wednesday evenings from about 7pm (Salsa suffers from manana-syndrome and classes never start on time): gives a 30 minute introduction to each of Lambada, Merengue and Salsa, there's a club afterwards with bands. More on our Entertainment page

History - There's plenty of history for free in London - although most of the Royal Palaces make a charge, there are plenty of historic buildings and houses that don't (Sir John Soane's museum is housed in his 18th C house for example) and London's rarely explored churches are exquisite (you can even visit Westminster Abbey, which makes a charge, for free if you attend evensong services there). We recommend you do spend a little money and visit either the Tower of London or Hampton Court.

Punch and Judy Sorry, we're being irreverent, but the political business in the Houses of Parliament can seem that way some times - it's surprisingly rowdy. Admission when the house is sitting is free - you queue up outside (see our itinerary page for details) but you won't get into Commons much before 16:30 - better to go later in the evening when the queues have gone down. There are different procedures if you're a UK resident or from overseas.

Skate Two free skate cavalcades (Wednesday and Friday nights about 2000 -2200) are an excellent way of spending an evening, for free (see our activity page for details). Also free skating lessons on Wednesdays for beginners.

Shopping Ok, the prices in London are often astronomical, but the London shopping experience is still largely free. Harrods' Food hall is a cornucopia of Victorian victuals, Camden and Portobello road markets are attractions in themselves, and you can wander down Bond Street anytime fantasizing about that distant relative and her will.... See Markets and Shops pages!

Theatre - Theatre in London is one of the few reasonably prices things we have to offer, nonetheless, there's plenty for free. From the street entertainers in Covent Garden (under the porch of the Actors' Church where Britain's first Punch & Judy show was performed) to the innumerable festivals, there's lots going on. Free foyer events at the South Bank Centre and Barbican are usually of the highest standard. For the theatre of life, head for the markets.

TV Shows The BBC needs audiences for its shows - tickets are available for recordings of TV programmes at TV Centre, in White City and for radio shows at various venues. Email them with a list of dates and an address to send tickets to (this is pot luck) if you're booking way ahead or or fax them on 0208 576 8802. You can also look what's available and book online, for free BBC Symphony orchestra concerts, TV shows etc etc HERE. That said it has happened that the BBC has put adverts in the Job Centres (for unemployed people seeking work) offering money to attend some shows - mainly talk shows. Tickets for commercial productions (including those that end up on the BBC can be got from or tel: 8870 0111. You can also visit TV Recordings.com which allows you to book AND print free tickets for TV shows online. If tickets are available you can print them off at any time and just head off for the show, even on the day of the record. You know if you have got your tickets instantly...no waiting around to see if they turn up in the post. Some good comedy shows available.

Music - Again, the price of concerts in London is, considering the high quality, very reasonable (from July to September you can see the world's best at the Proms for £5 a ticket) with huge subsidies (all tickets for the BBC orchestras are cheap, thanks to the TV licence fee and a government grant) but still there's a lot for free (for example the BBCSO hold free concerts at the BBC Maida Vale studios -tickets for which can be obtained by calling BBC Audience Services on 020 8576 1227 - just don't cough as it's being taped for radio transmission).

Recent free events at the Barbican and South Bank have included concerts by the NY Phil, London Philharmonia, Top Jazz and folk bands. Grab a programme. Occasionally you'll catch a famous band busking or recognise someone you saw busking last week on MTV (Fairground Attraction started out as buskers).

The Royal Academy of Music runs a 'Free on Friday' programme of concerts with 'the performers of the future' ie: their students under the baton of some top conductors (viz: Sir Colin Davis, Sir Charles Mackerras and Barry Wordsworth). They start at 13:05 in the college on Marylebone Road, by Baker Street Tube. For details visit their Website.

The quality of regular buskers in Leicester Square is very high (the local council charges £400 a week for the pitches) - Covent Garden actually auditions for its buskers as quality control. Many pubs have a good reputation for free music. See our music pages

Free Bus tour The Bus tours we mention on our A-Z page can cost a family £50. However by combining a few scheduled bus routes you can see the same sights, and if you've got a travelcard (Zones 1 & 2) or an Oystercarc, then it's 'hop on hop off'.  Two routes (9 and 15) use the old fashioned 'Routemaster' double decker buses which Londoners love and are featured in all the classic films.

First download this free map HERE

Why pay £50 for a bus tour of London when you can do it for the cost of a travelcard?

LONG VERSION At Liverpool Street take the Number 11 bus which runs through the City, past the Bank of England, past St Pauls Cathedral, Fleet street, The Strand, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall past 10 Downing Street and Horseguards, Westminster past Parliament and the Abbey, then through Victoria including Westminster Cathedral, close to Buckingham Palace, through Pimlico to the Chelsea Hospital and Physic Garden, Sloane Square, King's Road through World's End and finishes up on Fulham Broadway.
From here a short interconnect via the Number 28 bus takes you to Olympia where you can catch the number 9 bus back into town. That follows Kensington High Street, past Kensigton Palace and Gardens, Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, up Piccadilly, though Piccadilly Circus, to the Strand, where you hop off and onto a number 15 bus to the Tower of London. You can, of course do the route in reverse, or simply start at the Tower instead of Liverpool street, in which case you take a number 15 Westwards and change for the 11 on the Strand (perhaps popping up to Covent Garden in between buses).

SHORT VERSION From the Tower take bus #9 - these are heritage Routemaster buses with drivers and clippies (ask them about the best place to change to the 15...), and are usually vintage vehicles. Change at the Strand for a #15 bus to the Royal Albert Hall. The route takes you from the least liveable Royal Palace (The Tower of London) to the most liveable (Kensington Palace) where Lady Diana used to reside. Heritage buses run every 15 mins and you can use normal tickets/passes on them. You'll pass a lof ot interesting places en route including St Pauls, The Monument, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly, Harrods and the Museums -see the free downloadable map (above).

Walk London isn't quite as unspoilt as Paris so we advise to get the best out of simply wandering round you follow one of our walks. They cover all the sights, and some hidden corners - see our itinerary page for details.  

Guidebook to what to see and do in London

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