Ten ways to enjoy London on a budget
Hannah Bills offers a wealth of ideas for free attractions in and around the capital
Wednesday 05 November 2008
1) 2008 Bonfire Night Fireworks
Check out the Blackheath fireworks in south-east London on 8 November - the event usually hosts around 40,000 spectators. The heath location is famous for the tales of plague victims, who some say were buried under this ancient historical ground. Also, Wat Tyler and his Rebels are remembered by ‘Wat Tyler Road’. Across the heath, Greenwich Park is one of the famous hunting grounds of the notoriously grisly King Henry VIII. Brace yourself for the November chill in one of Blackheath’s many pubs and bars before the celebrations start at around 7.30pm
2) A visit to Borough Market
Okay, if you want to buy an array of produce you’ll have to loosen your purse strings. Best to eat before coming here, so you are not tempted… Still, there is a plethora of taster samples to take advantage of. Christmas music recitals at Borough Market start on 4 December. Charities and local schools will take part and the BBC3 Choir of the Year will perform on 6 December.
3) TV recordings at the BBC
You’ll need to act quickly to pip other people to the post with this one. Advance tickets to BBC show recordings such as 8 out of 10 Cats and Strictly Come Dancing can be obtained from the BBC’s website. For more information or to sign up to text alerts, look at www.bbc.co.uk/tickets.
4) Take in an amazing view
For a spectacular view of the capital, there are a number of free options. Stroll over the Charing Cross pedestrian bridge for a view of Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye and to the east, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf.
For a romantic, night-time view of the city, walk along the South Bank to the Oxo Tower and take advantage of the eighth floor viewing platform. Or try Greenwich Park, from where you’ll be able to see St Paul’s Cathedral and beyond.
5) Holocaust Exhibition, Imperial War Museum
This one’s a must-see for all ages; you’ll take something away from this free exhibition, and I’m not referring to the bountiful war-inspired stock from the Imperial War Museum’s gift shop either. 21st-century Britain can afford to be better educated on the effects of racial intolerance.
6) The obvious child- and adult-friendly museums
The Natural History Museum, Science Museum, V&A, British Museum, Museum of London, Docklands Museum… the list goes on. Learn about 19th-century couture fashion, astronauts and explorers, the Great Fire of London, diamonds and diseases to name but a few of the current exhibitions.
7) The Comedy Café
There’s a free ‘Open Mike Night’ at this Hackney haunt every Wednesday; everyone is welcome to witness the highs and lows of aspiring comedians.
8) Strolling in the city
Take a long walk through a London park; take in Selfridges’ fabulous Christmas windows; people-watch while sipping a hot chocolate in a pavement café; take a riverbank walk or get your camera out and capture the capital on film.
9) Free music to cater to all tastes
If you’re a more classically minded individual, catch a performance in Southwark Cathedral or St Martin in the Fields, or for a more contemporary take on things try the Barbican centre, the South Bank or watch the performers in Covent Garden Piazza.
10) Walking tours
If you’re still a splurger, £7 buys you a place on an insightful tour with a trusty London Walks guide - check out www.walks.com for more information. However, if the credit crunch is biting hard, pre-arm yourself with a library book on Jack the Ripper and walk around those notorious torch-lit Victorian alleyways in Whitechapel… Perfect for a spooky (and no doubt rain-lashed) night out. The best thing is, you’ll be able to walk entirely on your own terms, and you can even finish the night with a cheap curry on nearby Brick Lane; some restaurants cut their prices to get rid of fresh food stock at the end of the night.
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