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London, one of the most expensive cities in the world, has a ton of free delights to offer. Which ones will you explore?
The best things in life are free! It is hard to imagine this, especially when you visit one of the most expensive cities in the world. If you are an Indian tourist visiting London, each time you spend pounds, the currency conversion from rupees to pounds can make you feel like you are paying through your nose. On my many visits to London, I discovered that although London is pricey, it also has plenty of fabulous free attractions! Hard to believe? Read on and find out how you can enjoy this vibrant, multicultural and magnificent city!
Walking is not only free and healthy, but it is one of the best ways to soak in the sights and atmosphere of any city. You can download the street map, use it as your guide, and walk the streets of London, which are pedestrian-friendly and clearly sign-posted. By walking, one experiences more of the culture and the mood of this city.
You will be surprised how much more you discover (charming English pubs or hidden lanes) and how many main sights you can cover. E.g. Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, China Town, and Piccadilly Circus, are all located within close proximity of each other.
London has some of the world’s best museums, which are an absolute treat for museum lovers. Some of the major museums open to all are the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum, National Maritime Museum, Imperial War Museum, Royal Air Force Museum, Museum of London and The Museum of Childhood. The first three museums can be seen in a single trip as they are within walking distance of each other.
If you are an art lover you would not want to miss the amazing display of world class artworks at some of the art galleries like The National Gallery (at Trafalgar Square), Tate Britain, and the Tate Modern. (No tickets required!)
Some spectacular Royal Parks/gardens open to the public are the Regent’s Park (It has the Queen Mary’s Garden with an astonishing collection of roses), St James’ Park, Richmond Park, Hyde Park (The Diana Memorial Fountain is located here), and the Kensington Gardens. Hampstead Heath is one of London’s best open and green spaces with fantastic views.You can have a picnic, play games, spend some time with the ducks in the lakes there, and feed them too.
Some of London’s free and must-see attractions are Southbank – London Eye, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, River Thames, Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge, and the Buckingham Palace (from the outside). You can get yourself photographed against these stunning backdrops. You can also get a souvenir picture standing besides the red telephone box on the streets of Central London!
Some free events which are not to be missed are:
• The changing of the guard ceremony which takes place every morning, just outside the Buckingham Palace.
• The spectacular display of fireworks during Diwali just outside the beautiful Swaminarayan Temple, and during New Year’s Eve at Southbank. On New Year’s Eve, tube travel is free between 11.45 pm to 4.30 am.
• The Notting hill Carnival, which is Europe’s biggest street carnival. It is celebrated every August on the streets of West London with a Caribbean theme, steel bands, and calypso music.
• Chinese New Year celebrations in Trafalgar Square and Chinatown is another must-see event. Everyone is free to join the celebrations!
Remembrance Day (or Poppy Day) is in memory of those who gave their lives in the First and Second World War, and for paying tribute to them. It is a formal parade of the Royal family members along with the former and current servicemen and women. The event is free to attend, and is a unique experience.
You can spend some pleasurable hours wandering around London’s markets and departmental stores, and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. Borough Market, Portobello Road Market, and Camden Market are the most popular. Selfridges and Harrods are high-end department stores. Visiting their food halls is an absolute must.
The luxury and gourmet food, chocolate and confectionery ranges are mind-boggling and a feast for the eyes. Food lovers will get a ‘food museum’ experience.
You can taste some free yummy nibbles, especially around Diwali and Christmas, in some of London’s shopping centres and supermarkets – assortment of nuts, chocolates, biscuits, cheese, rice cakes, mince pies, juice and wine being some of them!
You can go window-shopping in the busiest shopping areas – Oxford Street and Regent’s Street, or some of the luxury shopping areas -Knightsbridge, Bond Street, and Mayfair. These can give you an extraordinary experience. You can spend an entire day looking at high-fashion designer wear, luxury gifts and goods, the latest international brands ,and a wide range of high-end beauty, cosmetics, and jewellery.
Some shopping centres and luxury departmental stores offer makeovers – hair styling and make-up at no cost. So, if you are looking for fun, or want to look your very best, you can decide on the look you want and get yourself a makeover.
One can get great entertainment from street performers (without any charge) displaying their talent to hundreds of passers-by every day. They are seen at some of the underground tube stations, Southbank, and Covent Garden (a top attraction). Some of the most common ones you will find are musicians playing musical instruments, opera singers, jugglers, and acrobats. Some are also seen dressed up as statues or mimicking famous personalities like Charlie Chaplin and some cartoon characters.
If you are looking for a quiet place to work or to browse books (without borrowing), certain public libraries have free entrance.
Certain newspapers are available for free at London’s tube stations. If you are travelling in the morning, you can pick up a copy of a newspaper just before boarding the tube at London’s underground tube stations.
It is the largest Hindu temple in London.You will be astounded by the exotic design, workmanship, and the peaceful atmosphere. There is no entrance fee.
If you are in London around Christmas time, your trip would not be complete without a visit to Central London to see the Christmas lights and window displays in department stores. If you want to soak more of the festive atmosphere, you can choose to go to Christmas markets in Southbank and the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, which have a free entry.
You can listen to Christmas songs playing in the background and sung live with musicians. You can enjoy the crisp winter air as you walk leisurely around the Christmas markets full of traditional Christmas decorations, accessories, and handicrafts. You can even meet Santa in his grotto. If you are lucky enough to visit when it is snowing, it is even more attractive.
Wherever you may be in London, if it is snowing, don’t forget to build a snowman!
No matter how many times you visit this city, you can never get enough; it has something new and exciting to offer each time. Although I am back, I left my heart behind in London. As Samuel Johnson mused, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
This post was first published here.
Image of London via Shutterstock
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