Travel doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think, and even some of the most expensive destinations in the world have some amazing free sites and activities to keep even the tightest of budgets happy.
Backpacking around the world or even taking a short snap year somewhere can be an expensive business if you don’t stick to a budget, and doing that can be a lot more difficult in some countries than others. But there are ways of minimising your expenses when travelling, and one of the best ways is to take advantage of all the free things there are to do in any given place.
In the first of this series I want to concentrate on London, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Many visitors struggle to see much of this city without spending a small fortune, especially for visits that last any length of time. But despite having a cluster of the United Kingdom’s best tourism draws, London can be done on a budget, and there are even plenty of hidden gems for you to see and experience for free.
5. Platform 9 and 3/4
For anyone travelling with young children (or just massive Harry Potter fans) who can’t actually get to the out of this world Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden, then this attraction in Kings Cross station is an absolute must see. The fact that it is absolutely free is just a huge bonus. Contrary to its moniker it isn’t actually a platform, it is located near the entrance of the Western departures concourse and is easily located from the main entrance. In essence it is basically just a sign and a luggage trolley seemingly going through the wall, there are staff members taking ‘official’ photos that are for sale in the very expensive Harry Potter shop just around the corner, but they allow you to take as many photos of your own as you like beforehand and there is no pressure or hard sell to buy their official ones. You simply queue up, choose your house scarf and pose for the camera!
4. Tate Britain.
The lesser known but much better alternative to the Tate Modern (unless you are a big fan of modern art), this free gallery houses British art and masterpieces from the 16th to the 20th Century.
3. Horse Guard parade.
If there is one thing Britain does spectacularly well it is pomp and ceremony, and that is evident in the magnificent traditions of its armed forces. If you want a glimpse into these traditions head to Whitehall, where the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard takes place every morning at 1100 hours, or 1000 hours on a Sunday, but these are subject to change. These are also the grounds where the annual trooping of the colour takes place.
2. St. James’ Park.
St. James’ park is the vast Royal park at the very heart of London in between Buckingham palace and Whitehall. A vast swathe of greenery set in between some of London’s most famous landmarks and is at the heart of London’s ceremonial pageants. But far beyond that it is a tranquil, beautiful park filled with elegant walks, trees and flowers, perfect for a relaxing stroll or a romantic picnic.
1. British Museum.
There are so many unique and amazing museums in London, from the grand to the downright quirky, but this one absolutely has to take the crown, and the best thing is it is absolutely free! Spend an entire day exploring this vast museum filled with treasures and artefacts from many of the world’s greatest cultures, including the famous Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone.
Bonus tip! Head to the market.
I know shopping isn’t technically free, but window shopping is and London has some unbelievably wonderful and iconic markets that are tourist destinations in their own right, so if you get a chance don’t miss out on spending at least a few hours exploring Camden market (near the zoo which is quite handy for a full day trip) or Covent Garden. And if you are visiting in December then there are a whole smorgasboard of amazing Christmas markets in London that rival anything in Europe.
I hope you are enjoying this ‘free things to do in …’ series and find it useful, if you have any specific requests then please let me know in the comments section below. If I have been there then I’ll add it to the list!