By James Swift
January 13, 2015
We here at Urban Stay are always thinking of unique things for guests in our serviced apartments to enjoy while staying with us. The best part about a serviced apartment is the freedom and “sense of home” it provides, and nothing says “home” like knowing where to go and what to do! London can be an expensive place though, even if you’re saving money by booking one of our City apartments instead of a hotel, so we’ve come up with a list of what we consider to be some of the best FREE things available in our gorgeous capital city!
1) Free Music at Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre is located at Waterloo and is the home of the Royal Festival Hall, The London Eye, and a fun fair for the family. It is also home to many public events held throughout the year. One of the things that makes this area special though is the aforementioned Royal Festival Hall which aside from hosting many plays and various other performances year-round also has musicians play for the public daily inside its large lobby. There’s a few places to grab some food and drink and it’s completely free for the public to enter, relax, and enjoy!
The UK is one of the only countries in the world that offers museum entry for free. Any of the national museums are open to the public daily and are always free. One can wander the Natural History Museum then pop over to the V&A before ending the day in the Tate Britannia – all free of charge! This is the best way to learn more about British culture and history and one cannot help but also appreciate the experience of the grand architecture making each museum impressive and unique. A great day out for the whole family, the museums of London are not to be missed!
3) Art Galleries
London is known for its art scene and there are plenty of art galleries scattered throughout the entire city for free public consumption. The most well known is the Tate Modern, but there’s also the Design Museum near London Bridge and a whole host of local galleries in trendy Shoreditch showcasing the most cutting edge art the city has to offer. These are all free to enter and enjoy which makes London quite possibly the world’s centre for public art!
4) Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard
We couldn’t leave our Queen’s modest accommodation off of our list, and one of the most well known aspects of her living quarters are the dedicated Beefeaters standing guard outside. Every odd-numbered day throughout the year the public can watch the ceremony of the “Changing of the Guard” starting at 11:15am. This is an ages-old British custom and is one of the most iconic public offerings available in the capital. For any visitor to London this is not to be missed, and the best part is that it’s completely free!
5) Open-Mic Nights
London is internationally well known for its music scene, and one of the best ways to enjoy the best up and coming artists is by popping into a local pub, grabbing a beer, and enjoying the music from the next big-thing – all completely for free (well, beer notwithstanding of course)! Not every pub will host live music, and some will have proper music nights that may incur a cover charge at the door, however most that offer open-mic nights open it up to the public completely free of charge. This is the best way to enjoy and evening on the cheap, while experiencing the heart of the capital’s music scene.
6) Street Markets
Street Markets in London are ubiquitous throughout the city. Whether a first time visitor heads straight to the iconic Camden Market, or the more experienced local goes down to the Columbia Road Flower Market there are street markets to enjoy throughout the city offering just about anything one can imagine! Borough Market at London Bridge is perfect for food and drink while Greenwich Market will provide the latest handicrafts from local sellers year-round. Spitalfields Market has the clothes and jewelry that will keep you en vogue and then for something a bit more secondhand there are literally hundreds of different “car boot sales” happening in just about every borough of the city on any given day. The best part is? Yup, you guessed it…they’re all completely free!
7) Speaker’s Corner
Nothing is quite as well known and uniquely “London” than Speaker’s Corner. The most well known (yes, there are indeed more than one!) is located at the northeast corner of Hyde Park. This is the former location of the infamous Tyburn Gallows used for public executions up until 1783, and has hosted many speaker’s who will talk to the public on whatever they choose – so long as it’s not deemed profane. There have been many other “speaker’s corners” in London, Finsbury Park, Clapham Common, etc., however it is the northeast corner of Hyde Park that is the most famous and is certainly not to be missed! Though people aren’t speaking there every day, there’s a fair chance that by taking a wander past a visitor may get the chance to enjoy this free London experience…we should note that we do not necessarily endorse anything anyone says there however!
8) St. Paul’s Cathedral Evening Song
St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most iconic buildings in London. Somehow it has stood the test of time and remains one of the most popular tourist destinations year-round. Anyone can walk the perimeter and appreciate the detailed craftsmanship that went into creating this beautiful and imposing cathedral, but most people have to pay upwards of £15 pounds to get a look inside. A little known trick though, available for anyone, is to attend the Evening Song which occurs daily starting at 17:00. Visitors are granted access to the main worship area where a chorus performs moving songs in the heart of the beautiful dome. Whether religious or not, the beauty of the interior coupled with the emotive performance is something not to be missed You can feel a bit smug too knowing that visitors who came just an hour before had to part with their cash while you got in for free and got a performance out of it!
Absolutely one of the best aspects of living in London are the large and plentiful parks available for the public. Sure, we don’t get to enjoy them year-round as the autumn and winter months make sitting outside all but completely unbearable. When the sun is shining though these parks come to life! Every park has something a bit different too. Whether it’s large open green space you’re after in Hyde Park or Green Park, something a bit more leafy and designed like St. James’ Park, or if you want to escape entirely and forget you’re even in the city whilst traipsing through the forest at Hampstead Heath, there is a London park for anyone.
10) Iconic Neighbourhood Exploration
This may seem a bit of a cop-out to place in our list of things to do for free in London considering it’s a tad obvious, however we at Urban Stay believe that this is one of the best free things to do in London and is not to be missed. There is literally no other city in the world with such a plethora of culture, style, vibe, and feel available in different neighbourhoods scattered throughout the city. Sure, you can enjoy the museums and aforementioned activities, but there is nothing available in London that will give you the sense of what this city truly is better than wandering through each and every district. Soaking up the atmosphere of the West End on a Friday night before wandering the Camden Market on a lazy Saturday is only a taste of what to expect! The village feel of Blackheath contrasts with the fast-paced city life of Bank which is completely different from the foreign wealth on display in South Kensington. Knightsbridge contrasts with Belsize Park which offers a north London feel to contrast with the Chelsea feel of the west. This list could go on and on and on, and that’s the best thing about London! There is literally so much to experience just by enjoying a local neighbourhood that one can never see it all. Samuel Johnson has oft been quoted “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford” – and a day or two exploring our wonderful city will give any visitor the same impression. This is an experience not to be missed, and one that is enjoyed at no cost at your own time. No wonder a simple exploration of our beautiful city made the list!
Well, there you have it. As many serviced apartments as Urban Stay has available for our guests, London has things to see and do. Granted, many things in London must be paid for but as you can see some of the best things our city offers can be enjoyed by our visitors completely for free! When you stay in an Urban Stay serviced apartment we want you to feel at home, and now when you are in London you can enjoy any of the countless experiences on offer without breaking the bank. We hope you enjoyed this list and perhaps have some ideas for your next trip too! When you think of London, think Urban Stay. Our serviced apartments are the best place to call home while enjoying all that our wonderful city has to offer and we hope you enjoy experiencing this list while enjoying your stay with us.