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London that won’t break the bank

Magnificent Nunhead Cemetery

London may be known for being one of the most expensive cities in the world but what a lot of people don’t know is that there are loads of totally free activities to fill your days and nights, leaving you with more pennies to save for your next trip. London’s museum and galleries have been free for some time now but there are lots of other cheap, cheerful and less-well known attractions just waiting to be discovered. So here it is: an insider’s top five tip-off to get you started (and when you’ve got through these, pick up one of the many free newspapers given out on the underground to give you even more ideas).

Free music: St Martin in the Field is an evocative church steeped in history and an oasis of peace right in bustling central London found right on the northeastern corner of Trafalgar Square. The peace, however, is interrupted at lunchtime as the rafters resound to free Beethoven, Bach or Vivaldi performances, continuing a tradition begun here during World War II. Not too far away on the Southbank, anything from jazz or piano solos to soul and swing trios can be heard for free most evenings in the National Theatre’s foyer. 

Free food and spirituality: escape to India right in the middle of London at the largest Hindu temple in Europe. A masterpiece of Indian stonework built from imported Italian marble, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden welcomes everyone, devotees and tourists alike, to venerate the statues of deities such as Ganesh and Krishna and then to sit down and enjoy delicious home-cooked curry after Saturday evening prayers.

Views of London from Primrose Hill

Free views: if the sun is shining head out to either Primrose Hill, in the north, or Greenwich Park, in the east, for some amazing views across London. Take a blanket, a picnic and a bottle of wine and pitch up at the top of Primrose Hill to look out over London Zoo and Regents Park and down to the London Eye. There is also a kiddies’ playground if you’re there with your family. Greenwich, the birthplace of Henry VIII and the home of the Greenwich Meridian, not only has spectacular vistas to Canary Wharf and the city but you can also look to the sky, with the Royal Observatory, and across the sea, with the National Maritime Museum. 

Free theater: the Lord Mayor’s office stages various free gigs throughout the summer including plays and comedy performed at The Scoop, a presentation area right on the Thames  River opposite the Tower of London and in view of the symbolic Tower Bridge. If you’re more politically minded, why not try Speakers Corner in the northwest edge of Hyde Park. Here, the likes of Karl Marx and George Orwell, as well as more every-day souls, have stood on their soap boxes to challenge, persuade, and educate the crowds for over 150 years. 

Free guided tours: housed in a beautiful Neo-classical building and hosting music and open-air cinema in the summer and ice-skating in the winter, every Thursday and Saturday Somerset House will also lead you, for free, down secret Tudor and Georgian staircases transporting you to a bygone London-era. Looking for even more history? On the last Sunday of each month there are free tours of Nunhead cemetery in Southwark, one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries of Victorian London, where there are outstanding monuments to some of the eminent citizens of the day.

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