Life

Free things to do in London

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When a man is tired of London he is tired of life, so the cliché goes. But the capital certainly can seem an overwhelming place if you're strapped for cash. That's why we've put together a selection of great things to do in London entirely for free. From gin tastings to life drawing classes, makeovers, recitals, cabaret and more, the city is positively oozing with secret delights and hidden treasures that you can enjoy without spending a penny. So throw your wallet to the wind and get footloose and fancy free as you check out these fabulous freebies...

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  • Attend a trial at the Old Bailey

    Where: Central Criminal Court/Old Bailey

    When: Ongoing, Monday - Friday 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm

    Watch justice at work in one of the most famous courts in the world. Seeing a trial unfold might not be everyone's idea of fun but it does offer a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the British legal system and with bigger trials, the opportunity to see history in the making.

    Public galleries are open every week day for viewing of trials in session - click on the link below for court listings.

    justice.gov.uk

  • Join the Friday Night Skate

    Where: All over London

    When: Every Friday evening

    London can seem an intimidating place to don your roller blades - but not if you're part of a giant marshalled group of skaters. That's exactly what happens with the Friday Night Skate, a weekly 10-15 mile street skate that takes in routes all over the capital, from Camden market to the riversides of Putney and Barnes village. Check the website for times and meeting points.

    lfns.co.uk

  • Enrol at gin school

    Where: Charlotte's Bistro in Chiswick

    When: Every Monday at 6:30pm (5pm on Bank Holidays)

    Gin is having a throwback moment right now and there's no better way of cashing in on the trend then popping by Charlotte's Bistro in West London. Every Monday night, a different boutique producer - from Cambridge Distillery to new premium brand Pinkster Gin - will be on-hand to talk through their particular variety of the good stuff and offer up free tastings. Bottoms up!

    charlottes.co.uk

  • Wind down with evening meditation

    Where: Covent Garden and The City

    When: Every Thursday and Friday

    Fancy accessing some inner calm without denting your credit card? Inner Space, "London’s oasis of calm and insight," offers free seminars in relaxation, positive thinking and creativity, among other things. Its evening meditation classes run every week and are the perfect way of washing off city stress.

    innerspace.org.uk

  • Donate an urban pot plant

    Where: Gibbon’s Rent, London Bridge

    When: Ongoing

    Help transform a long-forgotten alleyway into a slice of urban paradise by donating your support - and a pot plant - to the Gibbon's Rent project near Bermondsey Street. Lauched in June 2012 as part of the London Festival of Architecture, the enterprise is a great way of getting everyone involved in creating a secret oasis of green.

    architecturefoundation.org.uk

  • Book an Illamasqua beauty lesson

    Where: Illamasqua School of Make-Up Art

    When: Every day

    In need of a fresh look? Get dolled up in style with cult cosmetics brand Illamasqua, who offer free 10-15 minute transformations at their flagship branch on Beak Street to "transform your alter-ego on-the-go."

    illamasqua.com

  • Don't miss First Thursdays

    Where: Galleries and museums of east London

    When: The first Thursday of every month

    If you love modern art, installations, live performances and more then east London on the first Thursday of every month is THE place to be. Over 100 galleries, museums, art studios and tours open their doors for free until 9pm, in an eclectic celebration of all things culture. Ones to watch include free life drawing classes at Shoreditch Studios and Italian artist Giuseppe Penone's Spazio di Luce (Space of Light) exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery.

    firstthursdays.co.uk

  • Get groovy at the Kit Kat Kabaret

    Where: Cellar Door, Aldwych

    When: Every Thursday evening from 4pm

    Calling all swingin' cats and urban toe-tappers: this weekly freebie of decadent jazz cabaret is sure to delight. Based in Cellar Door, a tiny bar underneath Aldwych, it sees seductive swing duo Kitty La Roar & Nick Of Time (who first found fame at one of Hugh Heffner's legendary Playboy parties) take to the floor for a night of pure entertainment.

    cellardoor.biz

  • Climb Big Ben

    Where: Big Ben

    When: 9.15am, 11.15am and 2.15pm Monday - Friday (except Bank Holidays)

    Get up close and personal with one of London's most iconic landmarks by jumping aboard a free tour of the Elizabeth Tower - better known as Big Ben. Clamber up 334 stone spiral steps to the top of this 154-year-old Behemoth and hear Big Ben strike the hour, while feasting on views of London and the Thames from your vantage point 62 metres up. You can also take a peek behind the clock faces, to the mechanism room within.

    parliament.uk

  • Pop by the Marylebone farmers' market

    Where: Just off Marylebone High Street

    When: Every Sunday morning

    London is not short of farmers' markets but this is a particularly nice one. Located just a moment away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street yet with a distinct village-y feel, you can spend a very happy Sunday morning amid fresh flowers, organic cheeses and artisan breads - and with the waft of friendly chit-chat and just-c00ked burgers in the air. Plus, Regent's Park is just a stone's throw away should you want somewhere nice to feast on your purchases.

    lfm.org.uk

  • Discover modern masterpieces in the Square Mile

    Where: Broadgate

    When: Ongoing

    Few people know it, but the Square Mile is home to one of the most impressive collections of modern and contemporary art in the City of London. Culture vultures can't go wrong with Broadgate's free tours through this veritable hotbed of artworks, from Danny Lane's glass sculpture Colour Eclipse (pictured) to Jim Dine's wall-mounted bronze torsos and more.

    broadgate.co.uk

  • Get lost in the Horniman gardens

    Where: Horniman Museum, Forest Hill

    When: Daily, 10.30am - 5.30pm

    The Horniman Museum in South London is home to a spectacular 16-acre garden with an abundance of exotic flora and fauna to explore. When you're done admiring the wild flower displays, sundials and the art deco-style bandstand, you can always head indoors where a number of free exhibitions await - the African Worlds collection of sculpture and decorative arts is one of our favourites.

    horniman.ac.uk

  • Get fit with weekly park runs

    Where: London parks including Hampstead Heath, Dulwich park, Crystal Palace, Highbury Fields and more

    When: Every Saturday at 9am

    If you want to shape up or train for a big event, these free 5km runs are great for maintaining fitness. They're open to everyone and take place in parklands across London (and around the world). All you need to take part is a pair of trainers and bit of stamina - sign up on the link below.

    parkrun.org.uk

  • Hit Friday Late at the V&A

    Where: The Victoria and Albert museum

    When: The last Friday of every month (except December)

    Forget scrambling to see a painting amid a gaggle of school kids - this is how museums should really work. On the last Friday of every month, the V&A is open until 10pm with live performances, debates, late night exhibitions and guest DJs. Entrance to the museum itself is free, although some events may be ticketed.

    vam.ac.uk

  • Fly a kite on Parliament Hill

    Where: Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath

    When: Anytime of the year, as long as there's a fair wind!

    The crest of Parliament Hill affords beautiful views over the city of London and is littered with kite enthusiasts, especially on clear days. Whether you're a kiting pro or a total rookie, there's nothing quite like the sheer exuberance of grabbing a kite (you can buy them from around £6 in local shops) and giving it a spin amid the throng of dog-walkers, joggers and buggy-pushers on Hampstead Heath.

    cityoflondon.gov.uk

  • Explore London's waterways by bike

    Where: All over London

    When: Anytime of year

    From Regents Canal to Little Venice and the Thames to London Docklands, the capital is a vertible treasure trove of scenic cycling routes. So what better way to wile away an afternoon for free than by hopping on your bike and exploring them? Transport for London has helpfully compiled a list of off-road cycle routes (see the link below) and if you're minus a pair of wheels, Boris bikes can be hired from just £1 for a half hour ride.

    tfl.gov.uk

  • Chill out with a lunchtime recital

    Where: St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square

    When: Every Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 1pm

    St Martin-in-the-Fields' free lunchtime recitals is a tradition that reaches back to the start of WWII and offers a platform for emerging young artists. Wallow in the historic setting of this landmark London church as you soak in its wonderfully diverse selection of music; upcoming performers include Ben Schoeman, one of South Africa’s foremost pianists, and a recital from Russian cellist Mikhail Lezdkan.

    smitf.org

  • Step back in history with the Lea Valley walk

    Where: Waltham Abbey to Limehouse Basin

    When: Anytime

    This rustic but lengthy walk (it's 18 miles in total) offers a wonderful snapshot of Britain's industrial past and is peppered with idyllic-looking houseboats on Limehouse Basin marina. You can choose to start or finish at the Olympic Park and wallow in past glories of London 2012. It's pretty much the king of walks.

    walklondon.org.uk

  • Picnic in Greenwich park

    Where: Greenwich park

    When: Anytime

    You're spoilt for choice for picnic spots in London but if you like sweeping city views combined with historic buildings and a great, relaxed ambiance, Greenwich park ticks all the boxes. Bring your own food or stock up from goodies in the nearby Greenwich market, then find the perfect patch to eye the river and urban skyline. If you have a bit of spare time afterwards, take a look round the Old Royal Naval College, where you can visit the magnificent Painted Hall, described as the "finest dining hall in Europe."

    royalparks.org.uk

  • Grab your copy of Stylist magazine!

    Where: Major transport hubs and French Connection stores across London

    When: Every Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning

    Want the latest in travel, fashion, beauty, current affairs and more, all rolled up in one fabulous freebie? Then get stuck in with your latest issue of Stylist; simply grab a copy along with your favourite guilty pleasure snack (triple chocolate brownie anyone?), find your perfect reading spot - be it train, plane or a sunny patch of the park - and enjoy!

    stylist.co.uk

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