Wednesday, August 15, 2012

London on a Budget

I'm not saying that I'm cheap or anything, but I'd rather not spend too much money while in London this coming week. I've been researching a lot about things to see and do in London and I have come up with this list of free things to see and do while on my visit.

London’s hotels and restaurants tend to be on the expensive side, however, no city in the world has more free attractions and things to do! In addition to world-class museums without ticketed admission, there are the parks, canal walks, super markets, and maybe some "royal-spotting." I originally started this post with the plan of showing the top twenty list from  Lonely Planet of free things to do in London. I decided that there were some necessary changes, additions and removals to be made, so here's my list of the best and cheapest things to do in London. I have made some of my own edits to the provided list from Lonely Planet and for the most part, these are things I want / plan to see.

Borough Market - Around since the 13th century, the Borough Market is stuffed with food-lovers and all you need for a memorable grab-and-go breakfast or lunch. 
British Museum

British Museum - One of London’s top attractions, and absolutely free. When I was in London the last time, I visited with my Mother and Brother. Probably the most memorable part of the museum for me was this photo. Also, they offer 20- and 50-minute "eyeOpener tours" for free too.
Houses of Parliament - The Palace of Westminster, home of ‘Big Ben’ (the Clock Tower), is a neo-Gothic wonder from the mid-19th century. And it’s full of houses: namely the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Museum of LondonMost visitors don't know about it making it one of London's best kept secrets, this museum offers a walk through London’s various incarnations — from Thames Valley geological history, to Anglo-Saxons and 21st-century bankers.
National Gallery

National Gallery - This museum holds 2000 Western European classics by Van Gogh, Renoir, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo all of which make the National Gallery a serious art stop.
National Maritime MuseumThe museum's focus is on Britain’s seafaring past, including the bullet that felled Horatio Nelson, a replica of Ernest Shackleton’s life boat.

National Portrait Gallery - Before Google or Wikipedia, the English came here to put a face to the name of a who’s who list in history.

Natural History Museum - Those Victorians sure liked to collect and catalogue. This is the result, an outrageous collection of all things nature in a lovely Gothic Revival building from 1880. A diplodocus dinosaur skeleton watches the entrance. Farther in comes a T-Rex and the Darwin Centre, with 450,000 jars of pickled specimens.

Photographers’ Gallery - Wonderful contemporary photo collection in the West End benefits from its new two-floor space – where the gallery’s been since 2008.

Science Museum - Highly informative and entertaining Science Museum fills seven floors with interactive exhibits.

Serpentine Gallery - Looking like a 1930s-style tearoom in leafy Kensington Gardens, this gallery is a lovely spot to take in one of London’s most important contemporary art collections, with works by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and the like.

St Paul’s Church - Not to be confused with St Paul’s Cathedral (a big attraction that comes with a ticket price), this church on the western flank of Covent Garden Piazza is known as the ‘actor’s church‘. The first Punch and Judy show took place in 1662, and there are memorials for Charlie Chaplin and Vivien Leigh, the most famous faux British Confederate of all time.

Tate Britain
  Tate Britain - The older half of the Tate duo (the modern bits moved downriver in 2000) is no stodgy sister. Here, permanent works focus on British masterpieces from the 16th to late-20th centuries. Look for one-hour thematic tours and 15-minute talks on painters and paintings, all part of the admission price: nothing!

 Tate Modern - Speaking of which, this mod half of the Tate, hiply set in the Bankside Power Station on the Thames, is one of the city’s most beloved attractions. Special exhibits cost £8-10, but you can spend a lot of time enjoying the museums permanent (and free) collection of 60,000 works (Pollock, Warhol, Rodin, Matisse.)

Tate Modern
 Temple Church - Da Vinci Code fans, make this church – with origins dating to the 12th century – a must-see in London, for its role in a key scene. It’s a distinctive place, built by crusading monks, with a traffic-free oasis of green spaces amidst the buildings in the City.

Victoria & Albert Museum - Open since 1852, its 4.5 million objects – like the stunner entry chandelier by Dale Chihuly – make it, very simply, the world’s best decorative arts museum.

Whitechapel Gallery - Home to ten galleries in an art nouveau building first opened in 1899, the Whitechapel mixes up is themed exhibits between established and emerging artists. Picasso’s Guernica was first displayed here in 1939.

London Parks & GardensQueen Mary's Rose Gardens in Regent's Park is a favorite stop for many but I have also been recommended St. James's Park as it offers one of the best views of Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (side by side) are enormous and include the ever popular Diana Memorial Playground and the Peter Pan Statue.

Changing of the Guard - Let's face it, no visit to London is complete without seeing this military tradition. The Queen's Guard in London changes in the Forecourt inside the gates of Buckingham Palace at 11.30 AM every day in the summer and every other day in the winter.

South Bank - It really is amazing how many London landmarks you can see along this stretch of the River Thames including The London Eye and Tate Modern. You can download free walking tours of the South Bank area from Walk This Way.

Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square - Trafalgar Square is one of Britain's greatest visitor attractions and was designed by John Nash in the 1820s and constructed in the 1830s. This iconic square has many sights to see including Nelson's Column and the National Gallery. It is both a tourist attraction and the main focus for political demonstrations.

Street Performers - The West Piazza of Covent Garden Market has street performers to entertain you every afternoon. Good acts can draw huge crowds and the performers love to get audience members to help them with their act.

Portobello Market
Street Markets - London is well-known for its popular street markets. The most popular are Camden Market  and Portobello Market, followed closely by Greenwich Market. And we all know how I feel about going to markets!

Westminster Abbey - No, this main attraction is not always free BUT you can see inside Westminster Abbey for free because The Abbey never charges people who want to worship but they rely on admission fees from visitors to cover running costs.
The Barbican Centre - a concrete maze with elevated walkways, surprising gardens and water features, an unexpected conservatory, a special library and the free Curve Gallery. You’ll often find free music or performance in the foyers and there’s plenty of space to sit and people watch.

The Barbican Centre - a concrete maze with elevated walkways, surprising gardens and water features, an unexpected conservatory, a special library and the free Curve Gallery. You’ll often find free music or performance in the foyers and there’s plenty of space to sit and people watch.

Oxo Tower - If you take the lift at Oxo Tower up to the 8th floor, you can walk through to the public viewing platform for stunning views over the Thames. This is free to visitors and you don't have to book a table for dinner.
Take a Duck Tour - I haven't taken a tour on one of these bright yellow, World War II amphibious vehicles but I am told that they are a great way to see the sights by road and on the river. At the time of writing, the 70 minute tour costs 17.50 GBP for adults and departs from Waterloo (behind the London Eye), and enters the river at Vauxhaul Bridge. Address: Chicheley street
Shakespeare's Globe - for 8.50 GPB you can have a 45 minute guided tour of Sam Wannamaker's beautifully resurrected Globe Theatre. The open air theatre has been rebuilt with careful consideration to every minute detail as it would have been in the 1500's, including the lime, sand and goats hair plaster, green oak beams and pine benches. This is the only building in London, since the great fire in 1666, to have a thatched roof, an Act of Parliament was passed to allow this. The original theatre was built with a thatched roof but cannons fired for sound effects set the building on fire and it had to be rebuilt with a stone roof.
Cleopatra's Needle - Cleopatra's Needle is the ancient Egyptian obelisk, engraved with hieroglyphs, situated on Victoria Embankment and guarded by two bronze Sphynx. The Pharoah Thotmes III first had it erected in Egypt in around 1500 BC but it was given to the British people 1819 when Admiral Nelson was victorious over the French at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Inside the pedestal on which it stands, some contemporary (for 1819!) objects have been interred forever. These include, a Standard Foot (12 inches), and pound (16 oz), copies of newspapers, almanacs, a railway guide, a complete set of British Empire coins, and Bibles in various languages.
Wellington Arch - Built in the 1820s Wellington Arch was one of a pair by the architect Decimus Burton, celebrating and commemorating Britain's victory over Napoleonic France - the other one is, of course Marble Arch. Originally built as the entrance to Buckingham Palace it is now possible to pay a £3 entry to climb to the top for views over the Royal parks. There are three floors inside telling it's fascinating history. The Arch was once topped with a statue of Wellington on his horse (the largest horse statue ever commissioned) but it was highly unpopular and when the arch itself was dismantled and moved (due to a massive road improvement scheme) in 1912, it was seen as an opportunity to replace it with the "Quadriga" a four horse chariot at full speed, driven by the Winged figure of Peace - by sculptor Adrian Jones.
Royal Observatory / Astronomy Centre - The award-winning Time galleries, featuring the celebrated Harrison timekeepers, explore our need for accurate timekeeping and the role it plays in our everyday lives. The galleries are located in the north part of the Observatory site, in Flamsteed House, the Meridian Building and the Great Equatorial Building. Please note that charges apply for this part of the site. (8 GBP) Entrance is FREE to the interactive Weller Astronomy galleries, located in the Astronomy Centre in the south part of the Observatory site. Touch a 4.5 billion year-old meteorite, watch how the universe was formed, unravel the mysteries of the cosmos with help from our on-screen experts, and guide a space mission.
The Camera Obscura - The Royal Observatory, Greenwich houses London's only public camera obscura.  It is located in a small summerhouse on the Observatory courtyard next to Flamsteed House, and is open to the public during Museum opening hours. The camera obscura uses a lens and rotating mirror to project a close-up real-time moving panorama of Greenwich and the Thames, the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Naval College. The image is projected onto a circular table and looks best in bright weather. To see the image properly, visitors need to spend a few minutes in the camera obscura to allow their eyes to adjust to the darkness.
Smaller museums that are free admission are Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Hunterian Museum, the Bank of England Museum, Bloomberg SPACE, Brunel Museum, Cuming Museum, Geffrye Museum, Grant Museum of Zoology, Guildhall Art Gallery, the Hampstead Museum, Hogarth’s House, Kenwood House, the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Fulham Palace, the Museum of Childhood, National Army Museum, the Old Royal Naval College, the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, the Queen’s House, the RAF Museum, and the Wallace Collection.

Costs Money, but Worth the Visit

Buckingham Palace - Buckingham Palace - probably one of London's most famous buildings and etched in the collective memory of millions the world over as the scene of "That Kiss" between Charles and Diana on the balcony on 29th July 1981. For more history about the actual building please check the website Buckingham Palace.
(14 GBP) Sea Life London Aquarium - The London Aquarium is home to one of Europe's largest collections of global marine life and the jewel in the crown of the 28 SEA LIFE attractions in the UK and Europe. Situated in the heart of London, the experience takes visitors on an immersive and interactive journey along the Great Oceanic Conveyor.
(12 GBP) London Eye - The majestic white wheel presiding over the Thames at Waterloo is a globally recognized London landmark. So it’s strange to think the Eye was originally supposed to come down after five years following its erection as part of the capital’s millennium celebrations. From inside one of its pods, you get flabbergasting views over London. Peek into the Queen’s back garden, marvel at the Shard skyscraper or just follow the snaking line of the glittering river.
(14.30 GBP) Hampton Court Palace - The Knights Hospitallers of St John Jerusalem acquired the manor of Hampton in 1236 and used the site as a grange - a center for their agricultural estates – where produce was stored and accounts kept. Excavations and early documents suggest that the Knights had a great barn or hall and a stone camera (room) that they used as an estate office. There was probably very little, if any, residential accommodation. 
(12 GBP) Kensington Palace - When William III (1689-1702) and Mary II (1689-94) came to the throne, the sovereign's principal London residence was Whitehall Palace. For purposes of state and ceremony, it remained the official center of the court during their reign, but neither the King nor the Queen enjoyed the thought of living there. William suffered from chronic asthma and the damp riverside location of Whitehall threatened to weaken his already delicate health.
(4.50 GBP) Kew Palace - The history of Kew Palace has humbler origins in the first half of the previous century. In 1631 Samuel Fortrey, a successful Flemish merchant, built this smart, brick villa beside the Thames. For his new home he chose the site of a former courtier of Elizabeth I, perhaps that of her favorite, Robert Dudley. (The undercroft of the building survives from this time.)

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