While 2020 was a year to forget, there’s still hope for a better 2021. As the countdown to the end of lockdown continues, discover the best things to do for free when London reopens.
- Go tate-a-tate at two of London’s arthouse giants
The Tate’s two sites, a former power station on the South Bank (Tate Modern) and riverside in Pimlico (Tate Britain) make for a dramatic setting for Britain’s top modern and contemporary art. Enjoy permanent both venue’s collections featuring both international and domestic artists such as Matisse, Francis Bacon and Patrick Heron. At the Tate Modern, visitors arrive through the original, jaw-droppingly cavernous turbine hall, home to colossal, temporary installations. At Tate Britain, take in some of London’s best views of the River Thames before exploring the many enclaves of art at its best.
- Get in the carnival spirit in west London
One of the best things about London is its annual street party, the Notting Hill Carnival. A celebration of Caribbean and African heritage, Europe’s biggest party takes place at the end of August (Bank Holiday Weekend) and spans two days. Follow the musical carts or find a spot to watch them go by. Either way, the carnival is an assault of the senses from the flavour of all the food on offer to the colour from the array of costumes dancing all around you.
- Enjoy Parklife in north London
London has its fair share of parks and green spaces. However, Hampstead Heath is the best of different worlds. Its countryside feel and urban setting make it one of the capitals most popular destinations for sunbathing, ball games, picnics and stargazing. The huge green expanse in north London has wooded areas, lakes, bathing ponds, tennis courts, rolling hills and some of the best views of London from Parliament Hill. What’s more, ‘the Heath’ even boasts a small zoo located in Golders Hill Park.
- Get muddy at one of London’s city farms
You don’t have to leave the capital to experience the joys of a farm. Hackney City Farm in east London is home to a range of animals, including poultry, sheep, rabbits, bees, pigs and some donkeys. South of the river, Vauxhall City Farm is London’s most centrally located urban farm. Stop by for free to visit the farm’s residents, including horses, guinea pigs, rats, rabbits, ferrets and alpacas. When you’re done petting the animals, swing by the ecology garden, riding school and grab a bite to eat at the onsite café.
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- Discover Ancient Egypt in central London
The British Museum is packed full of art and artefacts telling the stories of cultures and empires from around the globe. It’s a good thing entry to the museum is free, as one trip might not be enough to take in all of its worldly wonders. The Egyptian galleries are a great place to start, with treasures including its world-famous collection of mummies and tombs. After that, the expansive Central Court, with its stunning glass roof, would be worth the price of admission, if there was one.
Fun fact: Roughly 80,000 objects are on public display at the British Museum at any one time. This is only 1% of the whole collection.
- Sample the world’s cuisine in London Bridge
London’s Borough Market is over a thousand years old but the food here is as tasty and fresh as ever. While the dishes on offer aren’t free, the samples are there for the tasting. Wander around the maze of indoor food stalls and chat to everyone from master cheesemakers to fried duck fanatics. Open Monday to Saturday, don’t miss out on your chance to explore one of London’s best-kept secrets.
- Get the fresh catch in east London
If you like fish and you’re an early riser, then Billingsgate Fish Market should be on your London ‘to-do’ list. Billingsgate is not your typical food market. First of all, it opens at 4 am and is closed by 8.30 am, all before many Londoners wake up. Secondly, it’s where London’s top restaurants go to get the best fish to serve later in the day. Stroll around, take in the unique fishmonger banter and explore the best in seafood, all while being above ground. If you’re peckish, order breakfast at one of Billingsgate’s cafes. Think eggs royale with freshly caught cod instead of salmon. Yum.
- View the Capital in 360 degrees
You have to pay a premium for cocktails in one of London’s glamorous skyscraper bars, but you can enjoy a 360° view over the capital and beyond for free at the Sky Garden, 155 metres above ground. Inside a huge glass dome are three storeys of lush landscaped gardens, with observation decks and an open-air terrace. Book in advance online.
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- Laugh out loud for free
There are several free comedy clubs and nights in London and the Angel Comedy Club is one of the best. Located above the Camden Head pub in Islington, this comedic institution plays host to all comics from experienced acts trying out new material to complete novices and everyone in between. There are shows every night, starting at 8 pm but it’s advised to arrive up to two hours in advance. Yes, it’s that popular but definitely worth the wait.
- Get your groove on at night
If you’re looking for something free to do in London at night, look no further than Sofar Sounds. The idea is simple, sign up for free and receive tickets to music gigs hosted in everyday living rooms, gardens and rooftops. While most of the acts are up and coming, Sofar Sounds is a great way to see tomorrow’s stars before they’re popular. If you have enough space, you can even sign up to be a host too.
- Explore the best of London’s canals
London’s canals are the perfect place for a stroll, a sit-down or just to people watch. And there’s no better place than Little Venice. As well as stunning streets and picturesque views, Little Venice also boasts some of the most interesting independent theatre venues in London. Catch award-winning fringe comedy from the candlelit tables of the Canal Café Theatre, or the Puppet Theatre Barge, a real canal boat theatre. In the summer, head to nearby Sheldon Square’s amphitheatre which puts on a series of events for all ages.
- Get in shape for free
London City Runners is the biggest free running club in the capital. If you’re new to fitness and well-being, no problem. City Runners is proud to welcome every type of runner, from total novice to veteran marathoners. Runs take place three times a week (Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings), starting at 130 Druid Street in central London. Getting motivated to exercise can be hard work but being in a group situation could be just the boost you need. There are three different speed groups at each session, so every level is catered for here.