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Top 10 free things in London

by Michael on January 30, 2017

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London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit, with some museums costing over $20 for a ticket. But with a little planning the tourist can find plenty of free things in London that are still outstanding.

1)      Westminster Abbey

What’s this doing on a list of free things in London? We approached Westminster Abbey and were shocked to find an admission price of 16 pounds, about $26. For a family of four it would cost over $100 to go to church, granted it’s a famous church, but still. . .

But you can visit Westminster Abbey for free. Five nights a week Evensong services are offered at 5pm (3pm most weekends). This service isn’t highly publicized. To attend the service, walk over to the iron gate by the main entrance to the Abbey, not the side entrance used for paid admissions. Guides wearing bright scarlet capes and stern expressions stand blocking the gate. Tell them you’re there for Evensong and they step aside while cheerfully welcoming you.

The 45-minute service is beautifully rendered by the Abbey choir. There is not much time for strolling about the Abbey after the service but you do get to see enough. In many ways, Evensong is preferable to walking around the Church with hundreds of other visitors during the day. The visitor gets to experience Westminster Abbey for what it was originally designed, worship and prayer.

Click the link for more information and current service times: Westminster Abbey Evensong services.

2)      The Wallace Collection

Free things in London Wallace Collection London

We love museums that can be visited in about an hour or so; with many interesting items on display but whose size isn’t so daunting that we feel like we’re missing most of it. The Wallace Collection, housed in a historic London mansion, is one of those museums. It was owned by five generations of collectors, including a few Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, before becoming a public collection.

The collection has a little something for everyone: 18th-century French masterpieces and furniture, Galleries of Old Master paintings including Rembrandt, medieval religious manuscripts and a sterling collection of swords and armor.  The museum surround an open-air courtyard restaurant for snacks and afternoon tea.

Website: www.WallaceCollection.org

3)      Royal Air Force Museum

Free things in London RAF Museum

The RAF museum is about a 30-minute Tube ride from central London. It has an incredible amount of planes and helicopters on display in four large hangars. As airplane geeks we’ve been to many aviation museums and this may be the largest. One building is devoted to RAF’s derring do in the World War II Battle of Britain. Antique plane enthusiasts will enjoy the collection of pioneering airplanes in the 1917 Grahame-White Hangar, the UK’s first aircraft factory. If you are traveling with young kids there is LOTS of room to run around and burn off some energy.

Website: www.RAFMuseum.org

4)      Museum of the City of London

Free things in London Museum of London

Photo courtesy www.TravelCultureMag.com

Long before the kings, queens and Big Ben, London was a prehistoric settlement and then a Roman outpost. This museum takes the visitor on a time travel tour from the city’s distant past up to the present day. A combination of displays and interactive exhibits hold the attention of all ages. Feel the heat of the Great Fire of 1666, attend an 18th-century garden party and stroll through Victorian streets before going to the movies in the Roaring Twenties and hanging out with Mick Jagger and Twiggy in the 1960’s. The museum’s location gets visitors in the mood: a starkly modern structure built along the remains of ancient Roman Walls.

Website: www.museumoflondon.org.uk

5)  Victoria and Albert Museum

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto courtesy of Walter Lim, Flickr

If decorative arts is your thing, the “V&A” is the place to go. This mammoth museum, located in swanky South Kensington, has some of the world’s largest collections of fashion, textiles, ceramics, jewellery (the “Veddy British” spelling), furniture and glass. Channel your inner designer by viewing the stunning collection of drawings, many of which provide insight on the design process. If you still have the energy, they have wonderful paintings as well.

Note: Although admission is free, the V&A can be a little overwhelming. If you prefer to have someone point out the best things to see, we recommend this V&A Highlights tour from Viator.

Pin it!A clever travel hack to see Westminster Abbey for free, plus a list of great free museums

 

 

A few other free things in London:

6)  British Museum – Massive collection of over 8 million objects. www.BritishMuseum.org

7)  National Maritime Museum – The largest maritime museum in the world with pride of place going to Admiral Nelson, including the bloody uniform he was wearing when he was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar. www.rmg.co.uk

8) National Army Museum — Great Britain has a pretty long military history so the Army Museum is a sprawling complex detailing battles going back centuries. I did find one glaring gap though. Their army didn’t seem to be involved in any activity between the War of Spanish Succession that ended in 1714 and the Napoleonic Wars that started in 1795. It seems a little skirmish that occurred in the American colonies has been forgotten.
Web Site: http://www.nam.ac.uk/

[Note: The National Army Museum is temporarily closed until spring 2017 due to a major retrofit.]

9)  The Wellcome Collection – The ghoulish may be interested in this medical collection which includes various body parts and antique medical devices. www.WellcomeCollection.org

10) Tate Modern – We’re not that into modern art, a pile of bricks that looked like they were left by a worker was one of the displays. But if you’re into that sort of thing this is the place to see them. Here’s information on visiting the Tate Modern.

Bonus Pick:

11) Abbey Road – Don’t forget to be a Beatle for a day and cross Abbey Road. It’s free and a lot of fun. Here’s information on how to cross Abbey Road.

This list highlighted 11 free things to do in London. Here’s a list of the 25 best things to do in London.

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28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

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Jen August 3, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I found this blog while looking for information on North Korea, where I will soon be going on holiday. It looks like you two are having a fantastic trip!

As a Londoner, I just wanted to pick you up on the comment that “some museums cost over $20 a ticket”. Whilst it is true that some museums charge a fortune, these tend to be gimmicky, themed places (e.g. Madame Tussauds or London Dungeon), we Brits are proud that the vast majority of our museums offer free entry to all visitors, aside from admission to visiting exhibitions. So, off the top of my head, I suggest that thrifty tourists visit the Science Museum, Museum of London, Museum of Docklands, St Paul’s Cathedral (like Westminister, just pop in for a service), the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Tate, Natural History Museum, the National Gallery, the Museum of Childhood… I could go on!

Aside from that, we have numerous markets where you can spend hours looking at all sorts of things, without spending a cent! Try Brick Lane, Spitalfields, Portobello Road, Columbia Road, Leather Lane or Broadway Market for starters.

Michael August 3, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Hi Jen,

Thanks for all the suggestions. We tend to avoid the touristy places like Madame Tussauds that you mention, but with the current exchange rate many regular sites cost over 20USD, Westminster Abbey being a prime example. Enjoy your trip to North Korea, it’s a fascinating place.

Jerry August 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm

When visitin Abbey Road don’t forget to contact you friends as they have a webcam there and hey can see your clearly crossing. Just Google Abbey Road Webcam

Michael September 25, 2012 at 8:29 am

It’s pretty fun to watch.

Barbara Weibel May 4, 2013 at 10:01 am

Thanks for this – very helpful. I did want to mention that the “pile of bricks” you mentioned with regard to Tate Modern looks like that because it is a former power generating plant. Puts it in a bit different perspective when you know that.

Larissa May 4, 2013 at 10:15 am

Agreed about the Power Plant bit, Barbara. But there was also a gallery exhibit inside that was, literally, a pile of bricks. :/

Angela March 20, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Thanks for the tips. I am planning my first visit to London this spring, and I like the idea of visiting Westminster Abbey for Evensong — it should be a terrific experience, and much better than the £36 I was expecting to pay for my husband, son, and myself during crowded visitor hours.

I also hadn’t heard of the RAF Museum — my 6 year old would be very interested in that one!

Cynthia March 17, 2017 at 4:57 pm

Hi, read your great comment about visiting Westminster Abbey for free, and would like to know where exactly is the entrance to Evensong services. I would really appreciate your advise. Thanks,

Cynthia

Michael March 17, 2017 at 11:56 pm

I think it was a side entrance.

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